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Exploring Mells in Somerset

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published December 1st 2017
Marvelous Mells- a Historical Village
Exploring Mells in Somerset

A staircase to nowhere. Part of the now ruined Fussels Iron Works, which was once a hive of Industry in the Nineteenth Century.

Mells is a beautiful and unspoiled Somerset village and is tucked in the countryside, just twelve miles from Bath. The village alone offers plenty to see and do, but I love Mells most because of the stunning riverside walk that leads towards the vibrant market town of Frome. This walk takes just over an hour there and back if taking it at a gentle pace (and allowing time to explore the river). Whatever manner of walk you fancy, with vibrant green trees, historical buildings and a burbling river, there is bound to be something for everybody.

Happy and Historical Mells Village

The Post Office, Shop and Cafe are at the heart of Mells, and I always park my car alongside the river, on an open stretch of grass. The cafe serves homemade, fresh food and drinks, and is run by local volunteers Within the community. This friendly place is ideal to stock up on supplies for the walk or to have a leisurely lunch before starting the excursion. With its book swap and free WiFi, you may well be tempted to go no further (but you should!) I always begin my walk with a coffee and cake a the cafe.

Post Office
The village shop, Post Office and Cafe all occupy the same building, and are popular with locals and those coming to visit. The Talbot Inn can also be found, by walking a few hundred meters to the left of the Post Office.

Book Swap
A cosy nook in Mells Cafe, where you will be tempted by the book swap in the window.

To begin the walk, face the Post Office and head down the road to the left, following the road sign for Great Elm. Beware of the traffic along this stretch, but do not fear, you will soon turn right to follow the public bridleway, which is about 300 meters along the road. Passing through the gates of Mells estate, you will see and hear the river to your right, and see trees and plants that flourish due to the abundance of water. I am always struck by how deeply green and glowing the plant life is here, and how it seems to almost visibly blossom and grow.

A row of trees marking the beginning of the river walk. It is an easy route to navigate, if you keep the river to your right as you begin.

Riverside Walk and Fussell's Iron Works

Once strolling along the path by the river, you will see evidence of Mells' History almost everywhere you look. This river once powered and cooled the 'Fussell's Iron Works', which made all manner of garden and construction industry tools. The river itself was shaped and diverted in order to serve the works, and you can see several sluice gates and channels still today. Although all rusty and ruined now, it is easy to see the impact and importance that this organisation once had. The Industrial Archaeology also makes a wonderful opportunity for some exploring or creative photography.

A long abandoned sluice gate, perhaps udes to power the waterwheels that served the iron works.


From this point, explore and enjoy responsibly. The ruined buildings and riverside are wonderful to explore, but the river is fast-flowing, and the Iron Works could be potentially hazardous. Children and pets should be supervised at all times. This is not a maintained or restored site, and is very slippery in Winter months.

When explored carefully, the iron works offer immense fun and wonderment. The very pathways of the place are alive with history, and dotted with blue/black smooth stones, formed from iron waste in the furnaces fires. There is flowing water everywhere, as the river seeks a way through and around the buildings and foundations. At times, this magical place really does feel like an abandoned city or temple, rather than a once thriving factory. I find it an exciting and fascinating place.

The Iron Works
Oval 'kilns' and overgrown workshops, alongside the river Mells.

Blue/Black Ironstone found along the path. The smooth patterning shows it was once molten, when scraped out of a furnace.

Once off the path, there are a number of ideal places to perch on a wall and have a picnic. The sound of the water is very soothing, and there is something very attractive about stopping in such an atmospheric and unusual place. At times, exploring the buildings is almost like a film set, with water spouting out of the riverbank and disappearing beneath foundations. I was wearing tall wellington boots, but still got a little soggy when having a wander, so do come prepared with appropriate clothing.

The river, which is slowly reclaiming the Iron Works.

Part of the meandering river, bursting through what could once have been a small dam.

The main path begins to turn to the left after the Iron Works, and there are the beginnings of gardens and paddocks at this point. I always turn around when I reach the gates and house sign of 'Treetop House', which marks the halfway point to Frome town. As this is a 'there and back again' walk, it is possible to carry on, or turn back, from whichever point you choose. The return walk always seems to take a little less time when I have explored the works on the first leg.

Turning point
'Treetops' house, which is a gentle 20 minute walk from the start of the riverside path in Mells.

Retracing your steps to the village (the river should now be on your left), you could consider a quick detour to enjoy the rest of the village. The Talbot Inn is an award-winning Pub and offers superb food and drink. I always enjoy walking past Mells Hall, once part of the massive Mells Estate that surrounded the village.

One place I always visit though is the resting place of the famous World War One poet Seigfreid Sassoon, who is buried to the righthand side of St Andrews Church. I find his poetry about the lives of soldiers in the trenches immensely moving, and I am similarly moved whenever I see his headstone in the tranquil and serene graveyard. Mells truly is alive with History and Heritage.

The final resting place of the soldier poet Seigfried Sassoon. Today, the graveside was decorated with Poppies for remembrance, and a bouquet of flowers from an appreciation society. Mells seems to have a deep connection with writers, as it was apparently very well loved by the American novelist John Steinbeck.
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Why? Stunning Somerset village with a rich and exciting history, community spirit and idyllic atmosphere.
When: All year round
Phone: 01373 812 251
Where: Mells, just twelve miles from Bath City Centre
Cost: Free to park and walk.
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