The Campbell Room: Self catering accommodation for groups in Somerset's Quantock Hills

Activities and attractions

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Qantock forest: Dawn patrol

 

Whether you are an avid walker, mountain biker or nature lover, or are interested in exploring the region’s heritage or tourist attractions, there is plenty to do from the Campbell Room. This page details many of the activities and attractions that others have enjoyed, together with links to further information. For schools or university groups interested in more academic activities, we also have a separate page to help you plan educational visits and residential field trips.

Located within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, less than 10 minutes walk from Great Wood forest and just 7 miles from the coast, the Campbell Room provides excellent opportunities for a wide range of outdoor pursuits right on your doorstep.

Travel a little further and you have access to the contrasting countryside of the Somerset Levels, historic towns and villages, the mythology of Glastonbury, and a variety of country houses and gardens, nature reserves and museums. You can also visit England’s smallest city, Britain's longest heritage railway and its deepest gorge, Europe’s oldest residential street, and – if you visit at the right time of year – the World's biggest illuminated carnival. Read on to learn more about what the area has to offer.

 


Walking group

 

The Quantock Hills

The Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 39 square miles (100 square km), with the highest point – Wills Neck – reaching 384 m (1,261 feet) above sea level. The Quantocks provide very varied landscapes and in 1956 they became England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They remain unspoilt today.

The northern tops of the hills open moorland, covered in heather and gorse, and provide wonderful views extending over nine counties in England and Wales. The valleys (known locally as combes), with their small stony streams, are a mixture of ancient oak woodland, coniferous tree plantations and farmland. At their northern edge the Hills meet the sea, providing a fine rocky shore with rock pools and fossils.

 


Mountian biking
Walking on Kilve beach

 

Walking, cycling & mountain biking

Throughout the Quantocks there is an extensive network of public footpaths and bridleways that can easily be reached from the Campbell Room, together totalling around 150 miles (240 km). There are also many additional undesignated routes that can be taken through the forest and over the open moorland, making the area ideal for walking. It also provides excellent and varied mountain biking terrain, including long climbs, easy cruising and many downhill runs – often steep – dropping off the ridge through the combes.

The Quantocks are suitable for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award backpacking and mountain bike expeditions up to Gold standard and the Campbell Room can provide an ideal training base for both. However you don’t need to be super-fit to enjoy the Quantocks! For a short walk, the picturesque Ramscombe picnic field is a gentle 1.4 mile walk from the centre up the valley, and the nearby Ramscombe Walk follows an easy circular route. Our own Great Wood Volcano Walk, which starts at the Campbell Room, also provides an easy introduction. In contrast, the Quantock Greenway is split into 2 more challenging circular day walks of about 20 miles each, both of them readily accessible on foot from the Campbell Room.

Hikers interested in longer distances have the option of walking the 36 mile Coleridge Way long distance footpath, which starts just over a mile from the centre at Nether Stowey, or using the Campbell Room as a stopping point on the Macmillan Way West or the Samaritans Way South West long distance footpaths, which both pass through the Quantocks within range of the Campbell Room. Somewhat further away, a day walk along part of the 50 mile River Parrett Trail through the Somerset Levels (see below) provides contrasting scenery.

For cycle touring the centre is within reach of National Cycle Network Route 3 (Bristol to Land’s End) and Route 33 (Bristol to Seaton), which cross each other near Bridgwater.

 


Rope ladder at Ramscombe Picnic Area
Cannington Activity Centre: High ropes

 

Local adventure

Beyond walking and biking, the Quantocks offer great opportunities for many adventurous activities, including orienteering, wide games, sisal trails, bivouacing, tracking, pioneering and team-building exercises. The nearby Ramscombe picnic area (a large field on the valley floor covering around 3.5 acres) can be a good focus for such activities.

Ramscombe also provides enough space for competitions and ‘fun’ team games such as rounders, football and cricket. In addition it also has a small stream flowing along one side, barbecue areas, a toilet block and car parking.

A little over 4 miles away from the Campbell Room, the Cannington Activity Centre, part of Bridgwater College, provides several organised team-building activities including a range of low rope and high rope challenges, as well as climbing and abseiling walls. You can also try their ‘pitch and putt’ course at the Cannington Golf Centre.

Thanks to the network of bridleways across the Quantocks, horse riding is a popular local activity and Bridgwater College has an equestrian centre nearby at Cannington which is open to the public and has indoor and outdoor facilities. On the Quantocks themselves, the Quantock School of Riding also offers tuition and escorted hacking. Both are approved by the BHS.

If you prefer powered forms of transport and don’t mind travelling a little further, then check out the go-karting at the Middlemoor Waterpark, 14 miles away.

 


Butlins Splash Waterworld, Minehead
Boat trip

 

Swimming, boating and fishing

For swimmers, Butlins Splash Waterworld in Minehead offers a great selection of flumes, slides, wave machines and other attractions. For more traditional swimming head to Taunton Swimming Pool, which also has a sauna and steam room. Alternatively the indoor pool at Quantock Lodge, near the Campbell Room, can often be used by prior arrangement.

In addition to the option of hiking or cycling along the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal (see below), it is also possible to cruise the canal by boat. If this seems too leisurely, the Middlemoor Waterpark offers water skiing, wakeboarding and jet skiing on a large purpose built lake. Subject to providing adequate notice and the availability of instructors, it may also be possible to try sailing with the SYCSA at Durleigh reservoir near Bridgwater.

Anglers have good access to some excellent coarse, game and sea fishing. On the Quantocks themselves, the picturesque 32 acre Hawkridge reservoir provides facilities for trout fishing during the open season. To the east, towards Bridgwater and on the Somerset Levels, the Bridgwater Angling Association control a number of ponds, rivers and a section of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, where species include bream, carp, roach, rudd, perch, pike, tench and eels. To the west, the Taunton Angling Association provides a similar range of locations and species.

Sea fishing is possible at a number of places along the coast, or by hiring a boat from Minehead and Watchet, where it is possible to fish for bass, flounder and conger.

 


Wild ponies
Crabs at Kilve
Somerset Levels: marshland

 

Natural history

In addition to their beauty, the Quantocks are also important for their wildlife and much of the area is classified as a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. The hill tops, for example, include nearly 10% of the world’s remaining maritime heathland, while the sessile oak woodland, once pollarded for charcoal, is also of national importance.

In addition to sheep, Quantock ponies – related to their cousins on nearby Exmoor – roam over the hills, as do red and roe deer. Many other species, including badgers, foxes, squirrels and dragonflies can also be found, along with wood ants that make large nests from fallen pine needles. Buzzards, skylarks, jays and all three species of woodpecker are often seen or heard overhead, while keen birdwatchers can also spot a number of less common birds such as the wood warbler, redstart and whinchat.

Towards the south of the Quantocks, the Fyne Court Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, owned by the National Trust, offers further opportunities for exploration.

While the beach at Kilve is unsuitable for swimming, it is a good destination for exploring the life of the rock pools or to go fossil hunting; the shore between Blue Anchor and Lilstock is Somerset’s ‘Jurassic Coast’ and is recognised internationally for its geology.

In addition to the Quantock Hills, the Somerset Levels are also nearby. The area was once marshland with scattered islands – now hills – and has a rich history and mythology linked to King Alfred the Great, the Monmouth Rebellion, Glastonbury, Christian pilgrimage, King Arthur and New Age ley lines.

The Levels also offer some 250 square miles (650 square km) of rare wetland habitat including some 32 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and several National Nature Reserves. Among these, the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve near Glastonbury provides perhaps the country’s best example of wetland flora and fauna. It is also home to otters and, in autumn, hundreds of thousands of starlings flock to the area to roost. The Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve, which connects with the Huntspill River National Nature Reserve, is a popular venue for bird watchers, where around 190 species of bird have been recorded. The RSPB also has reserves in the area, at Greylake between Bridgwater and Somerton, West Sedgemoor between Taunton and Langport, and Ham Wall (home to England’s largest bittern population) near Glastonbury.

 


Montacute House
Dunster
Cleeve Abbey

 

Buildings and gardens

Within 5 minutes walk of the Campbell Room is the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Over Stowey, which featured on the 1st class Christmas stamp in 2000. It boasts several stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made in the William Morris workshop – and is also larger on the inside than it appears from the outside.

The former home of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge Cottage is situated within easy walking distance at Nether Stowey and is open to the public again following a major redevelopment. His friend William Wordsworth lived in what was Alfoxton House – now the Alfoxton Park Hotel – in Holford.

Located a few miles of the Campbell Room in the grounds of a former mediaeval priory, the Walled Gardens of Cannington were redeveloped and opened to the public in 2009.

At the southern end of the Quantocks, Hestercombe Gardens, whose designers included Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens, is recognised as one of the country’s most successful garden restoration projects. Further away, Gertrude Jekyll’s influence can be seen at Barrington Court, near Illminster, where access to the house, gardens and arboretum is possible. Montacute House features a gallery of Elizabethan artwork on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, as well as access the house, park and gardens.

Towards Minehead, Dunster Castle is dramatically located with a commanding view over the Bristol Channel, fine interiors and subtropical gardens. It’s also the home of the National Collection of Strawberry Trees. Below the castle, the medieval village of Dunster, once a centre for the local wool trade, remains an interesting place to explore, and can be visited via the West Somerset Railway. Those staying with us during the first weekend in December may also like to see Dunster’s annual candlelight festival.

Castle Street in the nearby town of Bridgwater ranked as one of England’s finest examples of Georgian architecture, and is also home to Bridgwater Arts Centre.

Other interesting properties include Muchelney Abbey, Cleeve Abbey, and the restored Grade II* listed Temple of Harmony at Halswell Park near Goathurst, based on Rome’s Temple of Fortuna Virilis. Glastonbury Tor is also a popular destination, offering fine views across the Somerset Levels on a clear day.

 


West Somerset Railway
Gough's Cave, Cheddar
Wells Cathedral
Bridgwater Carnival

 

Tourist attractions

In addition to the destinations and scenic attractions mentioned elsewhere, there are a number of popular tourist destinations within the area.

The picturesque West Somerset Railway, Britain’s longest heritage railway, runs for 23 miles (37 km) along the edge of the Quantocks from Bishops Lydeard to the traditional seaside resort of Minehead. In addition to the town and beach, the facilities of the Butlins holiday resort, including a climbing wall, go-carts and their extensive water park, are open to day visitors. It is possible for keen walkers to cross the Quantocks to one of the railway stations, in order to travel to Minehead.

At Washford, the Tropiquaria Animal and Adventure Park has a range of exotic animals, an aquarium and kids’ play areas – including pirate ships outside and a castle inside – as well as a radio museum (the building used to be a radio station). Near Highbridge, Secret World Wildlife Rescue open their centre to the public on several weekends during the spring and summer.

On the Mendip Hills, Cheddar is the location of Britain’s biggest gorge – Cheddar Gorge – and the illuminated Cheddar caves, and also provides an opportunity to buy genuine Cheddar cheese, as well as to see it made. Alternatively the Wookey Hole caves near Wells (England’s smallest city) also feature a dinosaur valley, penny arcade and other attractions. Wells, Wells Cathedral, the medieval Bishop’s Palace and gardens and Vicars' Close (Europe’s oldest residential street) are all well worth seeing.

If you are planning to visit during the first half of November, the annual Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival – the largest illuminated carnival in the World – is essential viewing. Similar carnivals featuring many of the same carnival clubs are also held in North Petherton and Glastonbury on the following Saturdays, and in other towns in the area during the week. They each feature a 2 to 3 hour procession of over 100 colourful ‘carts’ – many of them fitted with thousands of lights and powerful sound systems – and attract tens of thousands of visitors without feeling packed.

On a smaller scale, the Maunsel Lock Canal Centre, located at the mid point of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, is a good place to relax at the cafe, watch the lock in operation, or to go for a walk along the canal. It’s also at the centre of the model of the solar system that has been built to scale along the canal towpath between the two towns – the Somerset Space Walk. Even if you don’t wish to walk or cycle the full 14 mile length, Maunsel is ideal for a stroll to some of the inner planets! Alternatively you can leave your transport at either Taunton or Bridgwater, walk the canal, then catch the train or bus back to the start.

For even more countryside, Exmoor is within reach. The twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, linked by a water-powered cliff railway, are popular destinations, as is the spectacular Valley of Rocks nearby.

 


Basket making
Iron Age roundhouse

 

Museums & visitor centres

Near Taunton, Sheppy's Cider have a rural life museum covering farming, blacksmithing, thatching and coopering, as well as cider making. Also near Taunton the Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre tells the story of willow growing and basket making, industries that were once widespread across the wetlands of the Somerset Levels.

The Somerset Rural Life Museum at Glastonbury illustrates once-common farming practices on the Levels including willow growing, peat digging and cider making.

In Bridgwater the Somerset Brick and Tile Museum tells the history of this former local industry, while the Blake Museum focuses in particular on Bridgwater’s economic and maritime history, the Battle of Sedgemoor and the life of Admiral Blake, the father of the Royal Navy.

Set in a Grade II listed former watermill, the Bakelite Museum in Williton houses the UK’s largest collection of products made from bakelite, the world's first completely synthetic plastic, still being used more than a century after its invention. The radio museum at the Tropiquaria (mentioned under tourist attractions, above) provides another interesting visit.

Finally, the Museum of Somerset in Taunton — which reopened in September 2011 after a £7m refurbishment and redesign — focuses on the history of Somerset from prehistoric times to the present day.

 


Shopping in Taunton

 

Shopping

For everyday shopping, Bridgwater provides the normal range of shops and supermarkets expected of a market town. The local town of Nether Stowey has a range of smaller shops and pubs.

Popular shopping destinations include the county town of Taunton and Clarks Village factory outlet shopping centre at Street. Thanks to its long association with legend and mythology, Glastonbury has an unusually large range of shops serving those interested in alternative culture, selling items such as crystals, jewellery, essential oils and new age books.

For more local gifts, try the Somerset Levels Basket and Craft Centre at Burrowbridge near Bridgwater, the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen in Somerton, the Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre at Stoke St Gregory or, during the summer, the Oatley Vineyard near Cannington.

 


Nether Stowey

 

Further information and resources

For further information please contact us or try these resources:


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The Campbell Room is operated by YMCA Somerset Coast Group
Registered Company 3746771;  Registered Charity 1076434;  Registered Social Landlord H4245

 


 The Campbell Room: Self catering accommodation for groups in Somerset’s Quantock Hills.

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