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The Leland Trail

[King Alfred's Tower; Image from Wikipedia 02.11.2021; By Jürgen Matern - own work (JMatern_060808_1518-1521_WC.jpg), CC BY-SA 3.0,]

The 28 mile (45 km) Leland Trail is waymarked from King Alfred's Tower at Stourhead (on the East Somerset border) to the village of Stoke sub Hamdon, beneath Ham Hill. It follows the route taken by John Leland (1503-1552) on one of his antiquity-hunting 'Itineraries' commissioned by Henry VIII.

The Leland Trail intersects with the 625 mile footpath of the Monarch's Way at Ilchester; this follows the escape route taken in 1651 by Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. It also links with the 28 mile Liberty Trail, the route taken from Ham Hill to Lyme Regis in 1685  by villagers joining the Pitchfork or Monmouth Rebellion against James II. In addition, it joins the 50 mile River Parrett Trail at Ham Hill; this runs north to south, from the mouth of the River Parrett on the North coast of Somerset to Chedington in Dorset.

The walk starts at King Alfred's tower, built in 1768 to mark the end of the 7 years war and the accession of King George III, it is said to be close to where Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Saxons in May 878 before conquering Danish army at the Battle of Edington. The Leland Trail passes through Bruton and continues to Castle Cary, where the 14th century market cross would have existed in Leland's day. After that the route goes to North Cadbury then to South Cadbury and Cadbury Castle. Leland identified Cadbury Castle Hill Fort with Camelot, and says of it:

At the very south ende of the chirch of South-Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle, apon a very torre or hille, wunderfully enstrengtheid of nature, to the which be 2. enteringes up by very stepe way: one by north est, and another by south west. The very roote of the hille wheron this forteres stode is more then a mile in cumpace. In the upper parte of the coppe of the hille be 4. diches or trenches, and a balky waulle of yerth betwixt every one of them. In the very toppe of the hille above al the trenchis is magna area or campus of a 20. acres or more by estimation, wher yn dy verse places men may se fundations and rudera of walles. There was much dusky blew stone that people of the villages therby hath caryid away. This top withyn the upper waulle is xx. acres of ground and more, and hath bene often plowid and borne very good come. Much gold, sylver and coper of the Romaine coynes hath be found ther yn plouing: and lykewise in the feldes in the rootes of this hille, with many other antique thinges, and especial by este. Ther was found in hominum memoria a horse shoe of sylver at Camallate.The people can telle nothing ther but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat.

After this the trail passes through Queen Camel, West Camel and passes Yeovilton airfield on its way to the Roman Town of Ilchester (Roman Lindinis).

From Ilchester the trail passes through Montacute and goes across Ham Hill, with its panoramic views, to the finish in Stoke-sub-Hamdon. The following map, accessed from the GPS-routes Leland Trail website (02.11.2021), shows the route from Kissmedown Lane to its end in Stoke-sub-Hamdon.

 Downloadable PDF file of the Leland Trail available from the VisitSouthSomerset website HERE and also below:


Next you might like to read my notes about the Blessed James Fenn, the Martyr from Montacute, or check out Montacute snippets for my notes on different topics