Kilve to Minehead


A coast with striking geology, a waterfall on the beach, an old harbour and its ancient mariner, a heritage railway and lots of sea views. 


Eine geologisch faszinierende Küste, ein Wasserfall am Strand, ein alter Hafen und ein alter Seeman, eine Eisenbahn für Liebhaber, schöne Aussichten auf das Meer. 

The route, day 26

From Kilve village to the beach, then the England Coast Path to Minehead – EXCEPT for a major diversion, as high tide made the route impassable at St Audries, so a long detour inland to West Quantoxhead, back to the coast at Doniford, and via Watchet on the coast path again. Without the detour it would have been 16 miles/26 km and 266 metres ascent, but on the day it was 21 miles/34 km, 450 metres ascent. 


Vom Dorf Kilve zum Strand und am England Coast Path nach Minehead – ABER die Flut machte den Weg bei St Audries unpassierbar und führte zu einem erheblichen Umweg ins Binnenland nach West Quantoxhead, dann zur Küste bei Doniford zurück. Ab Watchet wieder auf dem Coast Path. Ohne Umweg wären es 26 km, 266 Höhenmeter, tatsächlich betrug die Strecke 34 km mit 450 Höhenmetern. 

St Mary's Church, Kilve

And did those feet in ancient time ...?
In the small 14th and 15th-century Church of St Mary in Kilve a highly colourful stained-glass window depicts Joseph of Arimathea. According to the gospels, Joseph asked Pontius Pilate for the body of Jesus and buried it in a sepulchre. The window shows these events, as well as a scene of a man with a staff stepping ashore from a boat.
Medieval legends linked Joseph with the Holy Grail, Glastonbury and myths of King Arthur, based on the idea that he was a merchant who might have sailed to Britain for the tin trade. William Blake’s poem “And did those feet in ancient time”, set to music as the hymn Jerusalem, takes the idea further by imagining that Jesus as a boy accompanied Joseph to England. The legends are associated with the coast of Somerset. Further west, on the coast path between Porlock and Lynmouth, is a holy well, where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have struck the ground with his staff to make water flow. 

This is all extremely fanciful. But the window and the church in Kilve (photos below) are charming. 

Legenden und Wunschdenken

Ein sehr buntes Glasfenster in der mittelalterlichen Pfarrkirche in Kilve zeigt Josef von Arimathäa, der laut Evangelien Pontius Pilatus um den Leichnam Jesu bat und ihn bestattete. Diese Ereignisse zeigen die Bilder oben im Fenster, darunter links sieht man einen Mann mit Stab, der an Land geht. Hier geht es um eine Legende, die englische Gläubige und Patrioten seit Jahrhunderten bewegen.

Josef von Arimathäa soll ein wohlhabender Mann gewesen sein. Zu seiner Zeit wurde Zinn im Westen Englands gewonnen und in den Mittelmeerraum exportiert – das gilt als gesichert. Man stellte sich vor, dass Josef von Arimathäa sein Geld im Zinnhandel verdiente und dafür England besuchte, sogar dass er mal den jungen Jesus mitgenommen haben könnte. Josef wird ferner mit dem Heiligen Gral, also mit dem Kelch, den Jesus beim letzten Abendmahl benutzte oder mit dem Josef das Blut des Gekreuzigten aufgefangen haben soll. Somit kam Josef mit den Legenden über König Artus und seine den Gral suchenden Ritter und mit dem von Mystikern und New Age-Anhängern verehrten Ort Glastonbury in der Grafschaft Somerset in Verbindung. Westlich von Kilve führt der England Coast Path zwischen Porlock und Lynmouth an einer heiligen Quelle vorbei. In der Nähe, heißt es, kam Josef von Arimathäa an Land und stieß mit seinem Stab in die Erde, aus der dann Wasser hervorsprudelte.

Die Legende wirkt bis heute nach. Am patriotischen Konzertabend „The Last Night of the Proms” im Londoner Royal Albert Hall singt man aus voller Kehle und mit Tränen in den Augen das Lied „Jerusalem“, die Vertonung eines Gedichts des visionären Schriftstellers und Künstlers William Blake: „And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green?“ – also, hat Jesus englischen Boden betreten? Bestimmt nicht, aber die Vorstellung berührt die Herzen.

Kilve Chantry

At Kilve in 1329 Simon de Furneaux established a chantry – a chapel in which Mass was to be sung  

for the souls of his family in perpetuity for the souls of his family by a brotherhood of five priests. The foundation only lasted about 80 yearts, and the ruins are probably the remains of the family's manor house. A local story tells that smugglers stored brandy there, then burned everything when they were found out. Alongside the building are the Chantry Tea Rooms. 

The Oil Retort House

This coast is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its geology and fossils. Strata of oil-bearing shale alternate with limestone. In 1924 a company was founded to extract oil from the shale. This is the purpose of the brick building, now abandoned with a plume of foliage emerging from its chimney. The plan was to gain petrol, paraffin and oil from the shale and use the residue for building materials. The company quickly failed and the founder was imprisoned for fraud. The Oil Retort House, a listed monument, remains.

Kilve beach – Oh for a geologist!

If I were a billionaire, I could pay a geologist to walk with me. It would also be useful to have a botanist, an ornithologist, a marine biologist and an architectural historian in the party to tell me all I need to know. As it is, I have to do a bit of research myself. Here is a summary of what I found out about the beach at Kilve, much of it from the heritage trail and natural history trail on the excellent website
The waves uncover layers of the formation known as Blue Lias, consisting of limestone and shale. The limestone appears as flat "pavements". The darker shale was formed from plankton and has a high organic content – it is the type of stone from which oil is extracted elsewhere by fracking.
Until the mid-20th century, conger eels that hid under the rocks were hunted with dogs at low tide. Fossilised bones of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs have been found on the shore. There is a local legend about a dragon that may derive from such finds. On a smaller scale, oyster fossils – known as "devil's toe-nails" – can be found.

Here you might briefly introduce yourself and explain what you do. What makes you unique, and how can you help your customers? You don’t have to write a lot. It’s actually a good idea to keep your text short, since most people don’t read very much on a screen.

The coast path, Kilve to East Quantoxhead

St Audries Bay

Holiday homes line the cliff-tops along the bay

The coast path goes along the beach past colourful rocks

At the west end of the bay is a headland with a waterfall

High tide was approaching. A beautiful spot, but ...

 with many miles to walk, I couldn't wait for low tide and had to turn back

No right of way for the coast path!

Having arrived at high tide, too late to pass around the headland, I turned back and climbed steps up the cliff to a caravan park. The sign at the bottom of the steps said "Private". If I had not ignored it and walked undisturbed through the caravan park to the road, the detour inland of about 5 miles would have been much longer. The annoying extra disance took me along busy roads. The view from the cliffs (prohibited) and across country from East Quantoxhead compensated a little.
Is it really not possible for the King Charles III England Coast Path, an official national trail, to enforce a right of way through the caravan parks?

Flowers in June

Red valerian
Rote Spornblume

Red campion
Rote Lichtnelke

Bee orchid

Viper's bugloss at Blue Anchor beach
Blauer Natternkopf

Watchet – an ancient port, an ancient mariner 

The harbour at low tide and high tide

The Ancient Mariner

"The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free."
These lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem are painted on the harbour wall at Watchet, and a statue of the Ancient Mariner stands on the quayside. More about Coleridge, who walked along this coast in the 1790s, on day 25 (Bridgwater to Kilve). The mariner brought bad luck on the crew of his ship by shooting their talisman, an albatross, which they hung round his neck as a punishment.

The coast from Watchet to Minehead

Looking east from Watchet harbour

At Warren Bay

Warren Bay

Blue Anchor beach

Blue Anchor, looking east

Approaching Minehead

The West Somerset Railway

The line from Taunton to Watchet opened in 1862, was extended to Minehead in 1874, and closed in 1971. Now it operates as a steam heritage line from Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, to Minehead.

Kilve churchyard. John Sykes measured his length here, 
9 June 2023.