Taking Stock Round Skilgate

Somerset Life|October 2019

Taking Stock Round Skilgate
Take a tranquil walk in the Vale of Taunton Deane where Simone Stanbrook-Byrne discovers a historic deterrent to unruly behaviour

Tucked away in the west of the county, just outside the Exmoor National Park, Skilgate is a tiny village centred on the bijou and historic church of St John the Baptist.

It is an area of small, swift streams and undulating countryside, where vast views reward those who climb the hillsides surrounding the village. The route hops over the border into Devon, but you won’t notice the join.

Pockets of mixed woodland provide a good spot for wildlife watching and have the potential for lovely autumn colour. Come back in spring when the hedgebanks are jewelled with wild flowers and bluebells colour the woodland floor.

Pick a sunny day, pack sandwiches and a flask and enjoy this tranquil walk away from the bustle.


1. Skilgate is tiny, its church is a little gem. Start the walk with a visit, noting the old village stocks in the porch. No one knows how old these are but stocks were a historic deterrent to unruly behaviour. They hang here as a reminder of times long before ASBOs were thought of. Miscreants could be detained in stocks for days at a time, fed on bread and water. The list of ‘criminals’ who could be punished by a spell in the stocks is interesting: drunks, vagabonds, rogues – and even those caught swearing. So watch your step and your language....

Leave the church and turn left along the lane. About 50m beyond the church turn right down St John’s Close. In just over 100m go right at the T-junction, then, in 60m, turn left along the drive of Hendover Farm. In another 50m go right on the signed public byway, uphill along a rough track.

2. The early ascent is steady with frequent gateway views to offer a breather. Glance behind occasionally, the views are good there too. The track goes downhill to cross a stream and continues, ducking beneath trees for a while. Keep going until it enters a field. Continue in the same direction, following the left hedge. Part-way through the field a gate on the left gives a view to Haynes Down Farm – don’t go through it. Continue to the end of the field where you find an arrowed gate and a big view ahead.


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October 2019