Letter from Exmoor: Exploring the Old Mineral Line in the Brendon Hills

Thanks to Rosi Davis of Exmoor House in Wheddon Cross for this Letter from Exmoor!

Discovering the Old Mineral Line, Brendon Hills, Exmoor

It seems hard to believe now, but the Brendon Hills on Exmoor were once a centre for iron mining. Whole settlements were constructed for miners and their families, although most of the houses and industrial buildings have since disappeared or remain only as ruins. There was also the West Somerset Mineral Railway (or Old Mineral Line), which was built to take iron ore to Watchet Harbour, ready to be shipped to Newport in South Wales.

The route of the old railway included the Incline, a very steep slope down which wagonloads of iron ore were lowered by means of cables; the empty wagons were hauled back up again. The remains of the Winding House, which housed the machinery for this, are by the side of the road near the Beulah Chapel, shortly after you turn down the road towards Wheddon Cross.

Beulah Chapel is interesting in itself. Standing at the road junction of the B3190 and the B3224 near Raleghs Cross, it is all that remains of a mining village where at one time several hundred people would have lived. The congregation were Bible Christians, a North Devon and Somerset splinter group of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

Some suggested Old Mineral Line walks

From the car park just off the B3190 near Raleghs Cross, you can take a short walk through the woods to see the Incline, continuing if you like towards Comberrow and Roadwater.

At Chargot Woods, a few miles from Wheddon Cross, there are walks taking in the Bearland Flue chimney (which was, literally, a lifeline for the miners) and the former site of Langham Engine House.

There’s an easy walk between Washford and Watchet along the route of the Old Mineral Line. In the Market House Museum at Watchet you will find a lot of historical information and a fascinating collection of old photographs.

To discover more about this amazing chapter in Exmoor’s past, visithttp://www.westsomersetmineralrailway.org.uk/welcome/