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Although they lack the drama of nearby Exmoor, the Quantocks present some superb walking opportunities © Mike Charles, Shutterstock
This 12-mile ridge, wedged in between Bridgwater, Taunton and Minehead, is an alluring mixed landscape of ancient oak woodland, secluded combes and open heathland stalked by red deer and wild ponies.
Designated England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, the Quantock Hills tend to fly under most people’s radar, possibly because of their proximity to Exmoor or possibly just because they’re just not that well known. Either way, this 12-mile ridge, wedged in between Bridgwater, Taunton and Minehead, is an alluring mixed landscape of ancient oak woodland, secluded combes and open heathland stalked by red deer and wild ponies. It’s fabulous, and still mostly untouched, walking and riding country with numerous scenic trails, among them the long-distance Coleridge Way, named after the great Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the one name you’ll come across time and again here in the Quantocks. Coleridge lived in Nether Stowey, one of the Quantocks’ few sparsely populated villages and hamlets. It was here too that I went to school, so the Quantocks very much resonate with me, yet the irony is that I was largely cocooned within my own little world so never really got to explore them, save for the occasional trip down into the village for supplies. The boundary of the Quantocks AONB actually extends to, and includes, a short section of the coast, embracing Kilve and its famous fossil beach.