Well on the way to St Aldhelm's
"The village of Doulting is situated approximately two miles east of Shepton Mallet, on the A361 to Frome and 210m above sea level. It occupies an elevated position on the edge of the Cranmore Ridge with views out over the Sheppey Valley to the west. It is founded on extensive areas of Doulting Stone, an Inferior Oolitic Limestone, which is used extensively within the village, as well as for rubble walling, copings, plinths and window surrounds throughout the Mendip area."
Such are the hard facts about the place, as recorded on an official Mendip District Council document.
Another quote that sounds rather more alluring comes from a tract dating from the 1840s written by an MA Denham of Piercebridge near Darlington. "Near Doulting is still shown St Aldhelm's Well of wonder-working water", a quote that suggests a tradition of holiness and healing in the village.
A little history – Doulting dates from the 8th century when King Ine of Wessex gave the local estate to Glastonbury Abbey after his nephew St Aldhelm died in the village in 709AD. In his honour, the local spring, also the source of the River Sheppey, was named St Aldhelm's Well.
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A pleasant mile-or-so of fieldpaths and we find ourselves in Chelynch. There is not a great deal to attract the casual visitor to this quiet backwater, but anybody looking for an off-the-beaten track cottage well away from tourist honeypots could do a whole lot worse.
The only real attraction here – but it is far too early in the walk to darken its doors – is Poachers Pocket, described as "a traditional pub set amidst beautiful rolling Somerset countryside". With gardens that afford stunning views of this landscape, and roaring log fires in the winter months, maybe a swift half is on the cards.
Quiet lanes and fieldpaths bring the walk to the Old Frome Road and the Waggon & Horses pub.
At over 900 feet above sea level, this must be one of the highest pubs in the area, although it is difficult to feel any great sense of height with the location being on an undulating plateau rather than an isolated hilltop.
A former coaching inn, the Waggon & Horses offers wholesome home-cooked food as well as a couple of local ciders. Be warned, however – both are rather strong and soporific.
Beyond the Waggon & Horses, Three Ashes Lane, a secluded byway, leads on to the Foss Way. This Roman road ran from Lincoln to Exeter, passing through Aquae Sulis and Corinium, Bath and Cirencester respectively, along its course. The word Fosse is derived from the Latin fossa, meaning ditch.
For the first few decades after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, the Fosse Way marked the western frontier of Roman rule in Iron Age Britain.
It is possible that the road began as a defensive ditch that was later filled in and converted into a byway, or possibly a defensive ditch ran alongside the road for at least some of its length.
The Fosse Way climbs gently onto Beacon Hill, the literal high point on the Eastern Mendip Hills. A prominent feature on the local landscape, a clump of mature beech trees at the centre of the surrounding woodland form a distinctive crown on the hilltop. Highpoints were historically sites of ancient settlement, and Beacon Hill is no exception. Excavations have revealed finds from Neolithic and Bronze Age times, as well as evidence of the Romans who came this way.
The tree cover does inhibit the outlook from this lofty hilltop but, detour to the right just inside the woodland, and you will find a seat with a view that extends across vast swathes of Central Somerset, with Glastonbury Tor being but one landmark.
If the prospect of strong cider at the Waggon & Horses does not appeal, then this would be the perfect point for a picnic along the way on this walk through the pastoral landscape of East Mendip.