The Jewel in the Crown
When you come to live here in West Somerset, sooner or later you will be asked if you have seen North Hill; the jewel in the crown. The first time I saw it was when the girls and I had arranged to have our first day out together but I carelessly fractured my leg and had a full length plaster cast and didn’t want to budge. Margaret wasn’t taking no for an answer and I was piled in the back seat of the car (we were only three in those days) and shown this delightful place, where we had our first picnic.
Visitors get their first glimpse when they reach Halsway Hill on the A358 from
To the left is moorland – in summer a purple and gold patchwork of bell heather and western gorse; with vistas over Dunkery Beacon it is the perfect picnic place. On the right is the
A large area of North Hill is known as Camp Hill because from 1890 to 1914 it was a summer training ground, first of the Old Volunteers and subsequently the Territorials.
In the early forties the road was metalled and from 1942 to 1945 the area was used as a tank training ground. After the war the National Trust was about to break up the road and allow the hill to return to its original moor land state but, thanks to the intervention of local councils this unique access was preserved and can be enjoyed by all, regardless of mobility.
Some years ago I was compiling an A to Z of West Somerset and met Harry Dootson one of the soldiers billeted on the hill. He had come down from
‘It was the most beautiful place I had seen. I thought I was in heaven.’
He was posted abroad but later returned to Minehead.
‘I saw many interesting and lovely places but none as beautiful as my first view of Minehead from North Hill. To ensure my residency I married a local girl.’
Selworthy Beacon is 1013’and footpaths lead onto Hurlstone Point down to the beach and the unspoilt
‘But what if you’re blown over to
‘I shall just look back at the place where I was really happy.’
Summer evenings are special on the hill and favoured guests have the perfect digestif, being whisked to the end of the road and quaffing coffee and liqueurs whilst watching the sun slowly sinking into the sparkling sea.