You’re unlikely to spot any parrots on the River Parrett Trail (although I won’t rule it out entirely) but you will pass through gorgeous old villages, enjoy views across the Somerset Levels and see plenty of birdlife.
The River Parrett Trail is 47 miles long (76 km) and follows the River Parrett from the source all the way to its mouth in the Bristol Channel. The trail begins in Chedington, Dorset, where the Parrett is little more than a collection of springs, but soon crosses into Somerset, where you’ll remain. Somerset is fondly known by hikers for its historic fingerposts, traditional route-markers for travellers of yore.
This hiking trail has little in the way of elevation gain, particularly in the latter stages if you’re walking south-to-north. The trail also splits, which can be confusing. This happens most notably at Lower Stratton in the first stage. Here, the trail goes both north, through South Petherton or north east, through Norton-sub-Hamdon and up to Ham Hill. I’ve planned this stage via Ham Hill as it provides wonderful views which are worth the climb.
At almost 50 miles (80 km) long and largely low-lying, this hike could be done in anything from two to five days, depending on your fitness and proclivity for lengthy picnic stops. I’ve settled on four days for this Collection. Each stage starts and ends in a settlement where you can find accommodation and food and, if not, transport in/out. The exception is the end point which is a nature reserve on a spit. However, you can walk back to nearby Combwich and catch a bus to Bridgwater.
While the River Parrett Trail is largely rural, it passes by more than enough market towns and villages for you to stop off regularly to explore or to get a hot meal. You’ll often find yourself in fields with grazing livestock and a distinct sense of dampness underfoot. This is the Somerset Levels, after all, an area renowned for flooding. As a result, this is an adventure best completed in the warmer months when the rivers stay within their banks. Nonetheless, fields can be squidgy through the year and waterproof boots and/or socks might just become your best friends.
Reach the start at Cheddington by taking the number 6 bus from Crewkerne (which has a mainline train station and plenty of parking) to Mosterton and then the B4 to Chedington. Alternatively, catch a taxi from Crewkerne. At Steart where the trail ends, the easiest way to get out is to walk south west to Stockland Bristol, about 3 miles (5 km), and catch the number 14 to Bridgwater with its superior bus connections.
For the first half of the trail, this stunning landscape is rife with named trails including the Liberty Trail (komoot.com/collection/1070229/ancient-villages-and-historic-hills-the-liberty-trail) and the Monarch’s Way (komoot.com/collection/911739/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-1). Don’t be too concerned if you see these waymarkers as they share short sections with the River Parrett Trail which has black and yellow waymarkers.
The first stage of the River Parrett Trail is 13 miles long (21 km) and has the most elevation of the entire route, although this is mainly due to Ham …
Stage 2 follows the River Parrett closely and takes you across the impressively flat Somerset Levels. You’ll see innumerably grazing animals, plenty of birdlife and more drainage channels than you …
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This section of the River Parrett Trail is about as flat as you can get without walking across a pancake, making its 13-mile length (21 km) easy on the thighs. …
This stage of the River Parrett Trail leads you from the market town of Bridgwater right out to its eponymous bay on the edge of the Bristol Channel. This is …