Varied terrain with some great birds and views
IN 1956, THE diverse and beautiful Quantock Hills were the first area of England to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The word ‘Quantocks’ probably means “settlement by a circle of hills” and derives from the Celtic word ‘cantuc’ meaning ‘rim’ or ‘circle’. The hills have been occupied since prehistoric times, archaeological finds such as Mesolithic flints, Bronze-age barrows and Roman coins, indicating successive populations. Quantocks country is varied, so hosts a good variety of species. High, tussocky moorland, rich in gorse and heather, affords distant coastal views and plummets steeply into wooded combes with fast-flowing streams. This walk encompasses these contrasts. It is a fabulous route in an area that isn’t particularly well-known for birdwatching but may produce some treats. In the wooded combes there is a chance of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers – and, if you’re very lucky, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker may put in an appearance, which would be a delight to see. In summer, Nightjar may be found across the moorland of Beacon Hill, near the start/end of the walk. There is also a good chance of seeing Red Deer – our largest wild land mammal. And, although not quite as attractive, on a very clear day, the far-distant hulk of Hinkley Point nuclear power station can be seen!