Monday, 15 October 2012

Backpackers Somerset weekend

Well, it was a very select three of us who turned up for this, including Dave the organiser. I arrived at the farm site at Priddy late Friday afternoon after battling my way through the traffic in Bath. Lovely city, heavy traffic. In the evening we spend some time in the Hunters Lodge pub which does an excellent pint of Butcombe (and Cheddar Ales Potholer), gravity fed, I believe. The food menu was interesting. I wasn't eating there but the menu listed some basic items, all priced at £4.00!

Next day, the other two were walking off somewhere, returning to base later in the day. I fancied a wild camp somewhere so set off alone after breakfast. From the site, I went across fields to Priddy village although there didn't seem much to it. I joined the West Mendip Way and followed this westwards to a bridleway following contour lines above Draycott, seeing no point in dropping down to the village, only to climb up again a little further along. The path then skirted Cheddar. The views here were wide ranging with Cheddar Reservoir in the foreground and the Somerset Levels spread out around and a glimpse of the Bristol Channel in the far distance.

My path then climbed up close to Cheddar Gorge and then wound down through woodland to the road at Black Rock. I last went this way in 2009 on en route to John o'Groats. The West Mendip Way then heads towards the village of Shipham although I left it in Rowberrow Warren, heading northwards to pick up the Limestone Link in Dolebury Warren. Mud was here aplenty but it was a nice route to follow. The rocks of Burrington Combe came into view. This rocky gorge was the inspiration for the hymn "Rock of Ages" by Augustus Toplady. It was by now late afternoon and I was able to collect water from a stream and I looked for somewhere secluded to pitch for the night. I came across a lad, his girlfriend and a dog with a tarp pitched. It was the girlfriend's first night under a tarp. I wondered how she'd feel about it in the morning.

I found a nice spot about half a mile further on under some small trees, separated from the path by a belt of ferns, well out of sight. It had been a lovely sunny day, apart from a brief shower in the morning. All was very quiet here, even the wildlife was almost silent.

Next morning, I was off by 8 o'clock. It was only when I reached open ground that I realised that there had been quite a frost overnight. My route took me eastwards to Compton Martin. Not far from here, I picked up signs publicising the Chew Valley Arts Trail and I found Venue 19 at Shortcombe Farm, just outside West Harptree. There was an exhibition of sculpture by Jeremy Palmer (and paintings by his wife, Pauline). I was made very welcome.

A little further on, the views across to Blagdon Lake were beautiful.

On the B3135 road, going into woodland, I picked up the Monarch's Way, a 615 mile route loosely based on Charles II's route of escape in 1651 after losing the Battle of Worcester. Parts of it were very muddy. From here, I headed back to Priddy, following a path across the Priddy Mineries, a nature reserve, an area used for lead mining in centuries past (in fact, until 1908).

The weather today was sunny with clear blue skies. Once again, the weatherman got it wrong. Yesterday's walk was about 15 miles and today was 10 miles.

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