Macmillan Way West
The Macmillan Way West is a 102 mile long distance path forming a link between the main Macmillan Way at Castle Cary and the South West Coast National Trail at Barnstable. There is an intermediate link with the northern terminus of the South West Coast path at Minehead. By walking the main Macmillan Way from Boston in Lincolnshire as far as Castle Cary and then picking up the Macmillan Way West, it is possible to walk across England coast to coast from Boston to Barnstaple.
From Castle Cary the Way heads westwards across quiet meadowlands. Much of this initial walk closely follows the little River Cary until it goes southwards beyond the delightful town of Somerton soon to start its long journey across the open-sky country of the Somerset Levels, first following beside the River Yeo and then, from Langport, the River Parrett. The Way keeps beside the River Parrett for about six miles, following the course of the Parrett Trail, but after crossing the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, it heads into the busy little town of North Petherton.
From here the Way immediately starts to climb up on to the beautifully wooded south-eastern flanks of the Quantocks, passing the interesting Fyne Court Visitor Centre (start of the Quantock Greenway), before going on to more open country, with the outstanding viewpoint of Cothelstone Hill at its centre. The Way now drops down into the vale to follow along the partly wooded western slopes of the Quantocks before climbing up to follow part of the 'spine track' along the tops again. Near the northern end of the Quantocks the Way drops down through the village of Bicknoller and heads across valley country to the bright little town of Williton, just south of the coast at Watchet.The Way now heads west again, across gentle hill country, passing close to historic Cleeve Abbey and through the small village of Withycombe before entering the bounds of Exmoor National Park.
Climbing steeply into partly wooded, partly bracken-covered country, the Way passes through the ramparts of an Iron Age hill fort, before dropping down to the delightful and deservedly popular village of Dunster. The Way then climbs up steep Grabbist Hill and after a fine ridge walk there is a choice of routes - onwards to Barnstaple, or down northwards into bustling Minehead. The main route heads further along the ridge and then plunges down through woods to Wootton Courtenay. From here the serious business of the Exmoor crossing begins. The Way now leaves the valley and starts the steady climb up to Dunkery Beacon. From here the Way heads westwards and then south for about fourteen miles across some of Exmoor's wildest and most beautiful country to arrive at Mole's Chamber, little more than a bend in the road where a miners' inn once stood. From here the Way follows a road for a short way before dropping off the moor and following the Tarka Trail down deep wooded valleys beside clear streams much loved by Tarka's creator, Henry Williamson. The final stage of the Way follows the banks of the River Taw to the fine 16 arch bridge at Barnstaple.
Leading cancer charity, Macmillan Cancer Relief launched this footpath at Castle Cary, the former home of the charity's founder, Douglas Macmillan, when it was decalared open by Mr David Heath MP, CBE, Member of Parliament for Somerset and Frome. This new path joins up with the existing Macmillan Way which runs 290 miles south westwards from Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. At Barnstaple it links with the South West Coast Path National Trail. Since opening in 1996, the Macmillan Way has raised over £180,000 for Macmillan Cancer Relief, through the sale of guidebooks and by sponsorship money raised by walkers using the Way.
The above text is adapted extracts taken from the introduction to the Macmillan Way West Guide Book. © Macmillan Way Association. Use gratefully acknowledged.
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