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As all places of interest westward of Minehead are described in previous chapters, we may now turn our steps in the opposite direction. In this case both road and rail help the visitor to explore the country. The railway is convenient for the seaboard places as far as Watchet, and places near the main road, which runs farther inland, are well served by the Taunton and Bridgwater buses.

The main Bridgwater-Minehead road has been much improved, the most dangerous comers having been cut off and narrow parts widened. Blue Anchor, Kilve, Quantoxhead and other small villages are reached by little branch roads from this. Great care is necessary on emerging from them on to the main road.


A pleasant half-day may be spent by booking to Blue Anchor from Minehead and walking from there (about 11 miles) to Old Cleeve. But the road (part of the Taunton or Bridgwater bus route) is very interesting. Leaving Minehead by Friday Street and Alcombe, and passing Dunster on the right, continue along the main road to—


Carhampton is the home of the West Somerset Foxhounds. It has an ancient history and according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was the site of a Danish victory in the year 833. The Church, restored in 1860, possesses a magnificent painted fifteenth-century screen of eleven openings, stretching across the whole breadth of the building. The registers, in which there are some quaint entries, date back to 1634, while in the porch is a list of vicars from 1297. Near the Lych Gate is The Butcher's Arms


which has the date 1638 worked in sheep’s knuckle bones in the cobbled floor. The custom of wassailing the apple trees is still observed each Old Twelfth night in the orchard of the inn.

From Carhampton, a lane turns off on the right to Withycombe, a picturesque little village situated under the extreme end of the hill running out of Dunster Park, which is known as Withycombe Beacon. Withycombe Church has a low massive tower, probably the oldest part. It is a small building, with a good screen. There are two nameless monuments, one in a window recess on the north side being apparently that of a lady in the costume of about the thirteenth century and holding in her hands a heart case, with the narrow end upward. The effigy on the other side represents a layman, also of the thirteenth century, and is probably another case of heart interment. There is a yew and the foundation of an old cross.

In this parish is Sandhill, one of the many old manor-houses in the district, now a farm. It was the home of the Wyndhams, and is a fine old house, said to be haunted by the ghost of one Madame Joan Came, a witch, who is reputed to have made away with one or all of her three husbands. She was buried in 1612, and the brass to her memory is still in the vestry of Withycombe Church. Her spirit, however, could not rest, and when the party returned from the funeral Madame Carne was back at Sandhill—frying eggs and bacon! She was finally “laid” in a pond some distance from the house, but not securely, for her spirit approaches nearer to the farmhouse by a “cock-stride” every year, so that it may be assumed a second “laying” will in time be required. The story is typical of many such legends in the neighbourhood.

Return to the main road, from which a visit to Withycombe is a digression, pass through the hamlet of Bilbrook and take the turning to Old Cleeve at Dragon Cross, named after an inn which once stood near. The Dragon House Hotel dates back a thousand years and was in use as a guest house during the Cistercian occupation of the Abbey. Though modernized into a comfortable hotel the building retains its character and original features.


Sport and Entertainment.—Bathing, boating, cricket, bowls, tennis, angling, hunting and motor-coach excursions. The Bowling Club, with a ladies’ section, adjoins Doniford Road. The Tennis Club is in Govier’s Lane. Visitors welcomed.

Watchet may be reached from Minehead by rail or road, 8 miles. Motorists go by the main road, turning off at Washford Cross just by one of the B.B.C.’s high-power Transmitting Stations, whose grey buildings with beautifully kept gardens and aerial masts 500 feet high stand out strikingly.

Watchet is a busy little seaport town, with a population of about 2,600, and having large paper mills. The harbour was almost destroyed in 1900, and much damage was done to shipping, but the inhabitants pluckily rose to the occasion, got the town formed into an urban district, and have since rebuilt the harbour. There is an esplanade, and a breezy pleasure-ground, recreation and War Memorial Ground close by. The climate is bracing. Good sea fishing, bowling, tennis and cricket are available, and the Quantock Staghounds and West Somerset Foxhounds often meet within easy distance of the town.

Watchet is of great antiquity. It was certainly a port before Bristol was known. The Danes, who harassed all these coasts, landed at Watchet, then Wacedport, on various occasions between a.d, 918 and 997. A spot called Battlegore, between Watchet and Williton, is said to have been the site of a pitched battle between Watchet men and the invaders in 988, and here are still to be seen large tumuli and two enormous stones. The local story is that the stones were cast from the Quantocks by the Devil and a giant who had engaged in a throwing match, but from excavations carried out in 1931, which revealed a third stone, it was considered that they originally formed a dolmen and the tumuli were found to be Bronze Age barrows.

In Saxon times Watchet had a mint, and issued its own coins. Later, the town was represented in Parliament and had a Mayor,but all these glories have departed. Watchet was to a limited extent concerned in the war between King and Parliament.

On each side of the harbour are fine cliffs, in some places beautifully engrained with red and white alabaster from which local sculptors fashion attractive bookends, ashtrays and the like.