Kilve and East Quantoxhead

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The last time Zoe and I had been out for our monthly walk and pub lunch had been early March. We met up again last Friday, for a socially distanced walk. This included some of Somerset’s dramatic coast, and ended not at a pub, but with us sitting on a church wall eating a packed lunch. Zoe’s husband Bruce joins us sometimes, and he did so this time. That was fortunate, because, although the walk was a straightforward one, and I had its broad outline in my head, I was not familiar with the area, and I had managed to leave the plan at home. Bruce using the OS map on his phone was able to sort out the occasional detail.

The weather forecast was for sunny intervals and a moderate breeze. In the event, the sun was not around, and the breeze certainly was, along with a sea mist. But it was great to see my friends again, and the sea. The last time I saw the latter was the Atlantic Ocean, off the Moroccan coast, early in March. How long ago that all seems now, yet how grateful I am to have had that holiday which set me up so well just before lockdown.

It was only a short walk, along the coastline from Kilve through Quantock’s Head and on for a further kilometre, inland for a kilometre, and then back, parallel to the coast through East Quantoxhead, back to the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Kilve, and thence coastwards back to our cars. No prizes for guessing that the range of hills around there are the Quantocks.

Zoe mentioned that there was a wave-cut platform here, sadly covered by the high tide. Nigel Phillips has written a wonderful book called Somerset’s Coast, a Living Landscape, in which he says that this particular area is well-known for the ammonite fossils which can be found here. He also mentions the birds and flowers to look out for. Indeed the whole book is a guide to the geology, fauna and flora of the coastline, lavishly (as they say, and it’s true here) illustrated with his own photos.

We stayed up on the clifftop, buffeted by the strong breeze, which fortunately was not too cold.

From here on, we were sheltered from the breeze by a blackthorn hedge
An inlet,
… which turned out to have some interesting sedimentary geology.
I had to look this up when I got home. It is wild madder, relative to the plant the roots of which used to be used to make red dye.
Court House, East Quantoxhead. It (or rather the land on which it stands) has been in the same family since around 1070. They used also to own Dunster Castle, further west along the coast. The present building is mainly 17th century.
Looking back from near our highest point, one can make out…
… the construction of Hinkley Point C, nuclear power station.
How to open a kissing gate when you don’t want to touch it with your hand
As we turn inland we come across a family picnic, next to the stile.
How to open a stile gate when it has a latch and you don’t want to touch it with your hand..
A row of elms, a rarity these days.
The wild flowers of the outward walk were replaced inland on the walk back with farm crops. Here broad beans
The back of Court House. I see its gardens were due to open under the National Gardens Scheme on 19th July. I wonder whether that will go ahead.
Nigel Phillips mentions that swallows are to be seen around here.
Approaching East Quantoxhead village
All proper villages should have a duck pond.
And the parish church nearby. 14th century Grade II listed building.
The stables of Eric and Nell.
Acanthus, aka Bear’s breeches, alongside the stream. A garden escape?
From the coast we had been able to see this vast flat area, that looked sort-of like a lake but clearly wasn’t as it didn’t shine. It turned out to be this field of flax, impressive but dead to wildlife.
That’s more like it.

And we arrived at another 14th century church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, the parish church of Kilve, where we ate our lunch – very socially distanced. The wall was warm to sit on, having held on to, and releasing to our benefit, the heat of previous days.

Hopefully it won’t be another four months before we meet up again.

Barrington Court

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I’m not complaining, but there is just one problem in having to book a time in advance to visit a National Trust garden (because of totally reasonable social distancing precautions). It is that you can’t decide to go spontaneously, depending on the weather. But I was lucky last Friday. I had not been able to get a ticket for Barrington Court in the morning, when I had originally wanted to go, and the only spot available was mid-afternoon.

In the event it poured with rain in the morning, was dry, if pretty overcast, in the afternoon, and started raining as I drove home. As I say I was very lucky. Moreover, as a member of the National Trust, I would not have suffered if I had decided not to go, as my visit was free of charge. I wonder if they refund paying non-members who on the day choose not to go because of really bad weather?

There are two main buildings at Barrington Court, a sixteenth-century house, built to a characteristic Elizabethan E-plan, and, immediately beside it, a seventeenth-century former stable and coach block, in red brick, now Strode House, which normally includes, among other things, the restaurant. The gardens still show much of the influence of Gertrude Jekyll, in Arts and Crafts style. There are in addition various 1920s outbuildings.

From the car park. Reception is closed, but two ladies check your ticket, explain that there is a one-way system, and remove the barrier.
On the way to the kitchen garden
Moreover, with no restaurant functioning at present, there is no outlet for the crops.
There is no explanation of who this is, nor of the owner of the head he has (presumably) just removed.
Hopefully the restaurant will be open again, and able to use these pears before long.
These buildings in normal times are used by craftsmen and women to display and sell their wares, and to run workshops.
Two-way system along this avenue. The house lies outside the plan of the visitable part of the estate.
Swinging right, to go over the moat, and approach the back of the magnificent Tudor house.
Strode House to the right
This is just the ‘dreary’ back of the house.
Before going round to the front, I am tempted by this gateway to go into some parkland.
This gateway leads me back into the formal area of lawn in front of the houses.
I dutifully follow the mapped one-way system, and walk round the lawn before approaching first…
… Strode House,
then the west wing,
and then the (south) front door, through which one would normally be able to pass. But never mind the 500-year-old house. The thought that the fabulous Mark Rylance was passing through this door just a little more than five years ago (for the filming of Wolf Hall) was enough to give me the shivers.
Gables, finials, twisted chimneys and mullioned windows.

After this I had to retrace my steps along the broad avenue. At this point I had an unfortunate encounter with a silly woman and her jumping up dog. ‘Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you, he’s very friendly.’ Never mind that he was indeed jumping up at me, obliging her to come close to me, that she still didn’t manage to control him and the only way he would remove himself (his name was Watson) from me was to point hard at his owner, who had by now withdrawn herself from my immediate space when I protested, and shout ‘GO AWAY!’ What is it about such owners who think it’s OK for their dogs to jump up, that you shouldn’t mind having your clothes mauled, and that you should love the antics of their dogs as much as they do?

I was quite discombobulated by all this and had to take myself in hand as I made my way to the formal gardens.

Until 1920 this area was a cow yard, and these were calf sheds, aka (I have learned today) bustalls.
On my way back to the car park, one of several lions guarding the outbuildings.

As a coda, I just have to share my huge pleasure at having been able recently to get together twice, with different sets of friends to make music, live. Not over Zoom, not joining in someone else’s recording, but actual live music-making as it used to happen BC. Well, not quite exactly as it used to happen, because this was al fresco. On Sunday we were five, that is two singers and three viol players. On Monday we were four singers, this time gathered in my garden,

and I have a brief video record of it here.

Lytes Cary Manor

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In England, many National Trust properties – gardens only – are now open to the public once more. You have to book, they only allow a few people in at a time, two-metre social distancing, the current regulation for the whole of the UK, is insisted upon, and one-way systems are superbly organised. Booking is opened on Fridays for the following week, and to book for Lytes Cary Manor I logged on at 9.00 on the very first day that booking was open. I was held in the ‘virtual waiting room’ for 80 minutes. But I got the two tickets I wanted for the day and time I wanted.

Lytes Cary is only a few miles away from me, and is my nearest NT property. The house is consists of two parts. The older part, mainly Elizabethan plus a 14th century chapel, is open for visitors (normally, that is). It is a only small, but delightful. The larger part, now mainly in Arts and Crafts style, was added in the eighteenth century onwards, and is available for lettings. Indeed, in both 2013 and 2014 I hired it in early spring for four-day music-making house parties. One evening in 2013, Geoff (2nd left) took this photo of us all at dinner.

Back to the present. Thursday was overcast, but the 30% chance of rain worked out according to the odds. That my bridge partner, Daphne, and I had brollies with us must have done the trick. There were very few people in the grounds – the National Trust is being very cautious! They made it impossible not to follow their one-way system. Almost without comment, here are the pictures I took.

Much of this is the holiday let.
The general public do not normally have access to his part of the garden as it belongs to the let.
But they do to this.
Identification of this in comments would be appreciated. Even Daphne, a very keen gardener, did not know.
The drawing room
The visited part of the property.
Looking back at the younger part
The two parts of the house are clearly identified here. The very oldest part, the chapel, is the part jutting out towards the left-hand side

My next NT visit will be to Barrington Court, on Friday next. Logging on at 9.40 this morning (Friday), I didn’t have to wait, but all the slots bar one had gone, so it will be an afternoon visit for me. Daphne and her husband are planning to go there the following day. They managed not to have to wait – by logging on at 6.00 this morning!

The Newt in Somerset, May, with a friend this time

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I wasn’t planning to visit The Newt in Somerset again this month, but the meet-up rules had been relaxed, and I was due to pass over my previous camera to my bridge partner, Daphne. It had been she who had told me about The Newt when it opened in 2019, but my one planned visit there in August had been thwarted by bad weather (which led to my London friend Mary and I going to the nearby Haynes International Motor Museum instead).

Daphne and I had not seen each other since 5th March, the last bridge club meeting before my Morocco trip. Greeting each other with a socially distanced hug, we exchanged carrier bags via the boot of my car, and started up the entrance path.

The Newt is now charging again, but Daphne and I were already members, so we were able to bypass the ticket building to get in.

Near the top of the path to the ‘Threshing Barn’, it was sad to see that a magnificent beech tree was being removed. It was diseased on the inside apparently.

There is still a theoretical one-way system, and we were channelled through the barn.

Along withe the charges have been restored the gift shop, and the ability to buy beverages and ice-cream.

We partook of neither, and indeed our intention was to avoid the most frequented parts of the gardens. We turned off left therefore to the Marl Pit and the Marl Pit Copse.

I have just realised. This is built to the same design as the neolithic Sweet Track, dated very precisely by dendrochronology to 3807 BC, and situated perhaps 20 miles away on the Avalon Marshes/Somerset Levels.

On a day that was to become very hot indeed, it was wonderfully fresh, with the sunlight trickling down through the trees. I hadn’t explored this area on my two previous visits.

We continued into the deer park with no real expectation of seeing any deer, but we did just get a glimpse.

We went on to the walkway to Museum of Gardening, itself closed of course. In any case I’m told you must allow at least two hours to do the museum justice. It has a refreshment area to keep you going.

Looking down from the walkway…
… which Daphne is doing.
It sinews around.

From the museum, we walked to the end of the grounds of the Newt, though beyond is still part of the whole estate. I do not recall this dovecot (if that is what it is) beyond the boundary being there in January. It is built in the same style, stone and roofing as the rest of the new build at the Newt.

We ambled back. (Ambling is now allowed as ‘The Rules’ no longer require that you be outdoors only for essential shopping, and exercise.)

Until I saw this photo, taken, obviously, by Daphne, I thought my hair must need cutting.
The Kitchen garden, the almost invisible so-called Bathing Pond (that is apparently what it was used for, but not now), the Long Walk, and Hapsden House, now a luxury hotel.

Returned from the Deer Park, we ventured a little into the more crowded ‘pretty’ areas, but did not plunge in.

This was filled with tulips on my last visit, three weeks previously. I wonder what will be there on my next visit.
We stayed at the top…
… and walked along this people-less path …
… to the Cottage Garden.
Once through the arch I looked back

Finally there was the ‘Woodland Walks and Mound ‘ area, which I had not seen on previous visits.

I almost got my ducks in a row.

We climbed The Mound, of which I forgot to take a photo. It’s basically an upside-down pudding bowl with a gentle spiral path to get to the top.

But the top was a little crowded so we didn’t stay long.

It was time to go – once I had bought my Newt in Somerset cyder (sic) – leaving by the one way system exit, which meant passing the diseased beech on its other side. It had lost a few more branches, which were being removed one by one. No ‘Timber….!!!!’ was to follow i was told when I asked. It might have been worth staying to watch if so!

Daphne and I had had much digital and telephone contact in the twelve weeks since we had seen each other, but there is nothing like actually being with a friend and together doing something you both like. And now restrictions are to be relaxed further as from tomorrow, another bridge friend is immediately taking advantage of that and has invited three of us round to her garden, not of course for bridge – which would not be within guidelines, sensible, or practical – but for a good old chinwag, socially distanced of course. We will even each take our own beverages.

Permitted Walk 5/The Newt in Somerset – May

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When I bought my season ticket for The Newt in Somerset late in January, I had intended to go every month or so to see how things changed through the seasons. The month of May should have brought me to my third or fourth visit. However, in present circumstances, I had just assumed that it was not open now.  But a few days ago, something prompted me to look at their website. To my delight, I found that the gardens were open, but not the house. (Given that the house is a luxury hotel, charging at least £450 a night, this would be no great hardship to me.) No other buildings, including the gardening museum, were open either, except the farm shop. And the website informed me that they were limiting numbers of visitors.

Imagining, with a lessening of lockdown in the air, that shortly the place would become very popular, especially as they were not charging for entrance, and that I might have to queue unless I arrived early, I decided to be at the gate at opening time the very next morning. And so I did, after a bit of a drive, (permitted under the police guidance given a week or so previously that any driving for a walk must be less than the time taken walking). At 10 a.m. there were just 5 other cars in the car park and I had the vast place almost to myself for a while.

These trees were of course bare in January. The path from the car park leads up to the entrance
The temporary one-way system leads you through the barn-like entrance, whose glass sliding doors were fixed open both sides for maximum air circulation.

The meeter-and-greeter explained that they were (able to?) open because of the farm shop, so I felt obliged to patronise it (no hardship, wonderful stuff). Because she had said there was a one-way system, I bought things at the beginning of my walk, which put me under some pressure for the rest of my time there because I had bought some soft cheese. Having suffered food-poisoning a long time ago through something not being adequately refrigerated, I have been acutely concerned ever since not to repeat that experience. As a result, I did not spend as much time in the gardens as I would like, anxious to get my cheese home and into the fridge! (In the event it was still nicely chilled when it found its chilly refuge.)

Having shopped, I took a peek into the cactus house whose outsize plants had inspired me at the beginning of the year to compose – with the help of the expert who sold its elements to me and planted them – my own little windowsill cactus garden. (I knew that old unused casserole would come in useful sometime.)

Photo taken about a month ago
The cottage garden

As I stepped through the gap in the hedge into the Victorian Fragrance Garden – and I know these are emotional times – my eyes welled up at the sight before them. Hitherto, the supermarket had been the furthest I had ventured from home.

Seeing a socially distanced staff meeting going on brought amusement and dried my eyes. The woman is holding a laptop and apparently explaining things.

I didn’t go into the kitchen garden. I think I may have been being obsessively cautious, but it would have meant touching the gate catch. Which I could easily have done without risk, as I had my surgical spirit with me.
Wildlife area
Red campion

I next entered the vast Parabola, devoted to the apple, which alone contains 240 varieties, and there are more elsewhere.

Most of the blossom, as in my own garden, had disappeared, with some exceptions.
Water welling up constantly
Each area is named for a British (English? I must check next time) county. Decades ago I lived in a Somerset Walk, in Berkshire. Now I live in Somerset.

It was another French gardener, Patrice Taravella, who designed these gardens on behalf of the South African billionaire who bought Hapsden House (the hotel) and its grounds in 2013. Here is an informative 2019 article from the Financial Times.

I am not displeased with this photo of an immature male Broad-bodied chaser.
The café is shut of course.
I do hope that it is not just other priorities which have left this pretty intruder on the steps.
I assumed the drinking fountain had been turned off, though I would not have been tempted in present circumstances to accept the invitation to ‘Buvez-moi’
But no, it was foot pressure which activated it.

I left the Parabola (named for the shape of the walled apple garden) and found myself back near the entrance. But I did not want to leave before 11.00.

Shop staff and a couple of visitors awaiting the start of the two-minute silence for VE 75 Day. I was pleased to be in (very socially-distanced) company at that hour.

There is much, much more to see at The Newt. The parkland has yet to be opened at all, scheduled for ‘the summer’ but who knows now. There are other parts of the gardens and woodland I have not yet seen, and I hope that it will not be too long before the History of Gardening museum is re-opened, though it may be a while before, whatever the regulations at the time, I feel confident enough to go into any building unnecessarily. Perhaps that’s a pleasure for next year.

They had set up a temporary alternative exit to maintain the one-way system, which seemed to involve walking down the tradesmen’s drive. I diverted to take a peek at just a little woodland first.

The old marl pit.
Not a bad tradesman’s entrance/exit
Reminded me of the pencil gate at Millfield pre-prep that I had seen the day before.
The one-way system in action, as fresh visitors arrive on the parallel path in the distance.

That permitted walk really did my soul good! Back in a month or so’s time, all being well, and perhaps then I’ll buy some Newt cyder (sic) – but at the end of my walk.

Permitted walk 4

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Shamefully, I hadn’t been out for a walk for 18 days. Well, there’s just so much to do at home. Not ‘got-to-do’, that is, though there’s some of that, but ‘want-to-do’, with so much on offer, sadly nearly always via a screen of some sort. Bridge lessons. Chances to sing. Keeping up with the news on a rolling basis, (news junkie that I am) – it’s all so fascinating, especially the science of it all. Cooking, something I don’t usually do! In order to use stuff up at the end of my fortnightly cycle of shopping, finding what I might make with given ingredients – there’s always a recipe online to cover any combination. And knitting – I’ve nearly finished my second garment since lockdown started. Given that I only knit – and that in 4-ply, for those who understand these things – when I’m watching television or listening to something (podcasts, radio), I must be doing more of that these days. So much to divert oneself, without going out. (Just this morning, I’ve been recording myself for the BBC! Singing with the BBC Lockdown Orchestra, no doubt with hundreds, maybe thousands, of others, for a video to go out on TV and radio on 14th. A steep learning curve as to the pop song, which I didn’t know, and the technical side of it – great fun.)

With no reason to go out beyond my garden, I realised that I was becoming almost afeared to go out, so just forced myself to make the effort the other day. Only that little walk up to the prep school and back. I hadn’t seen the lane for a month to the day. And what a change that month had made. So lush!

But firstly, I was pleased to see that the local park had been reopened.

My route was lined with cow parsley for most of the way. And with bird song! I was nearly deafened – it was wonderful.

Just enjoy the walk with me.

I’ll ask Mendip Ramblers to see if they’ll clear this when they’re allowed. A month ago I was thinking that this would give me a possible alternative part-walk, but field maple (I think) has taken over.
That white sheen – what is it?
Zoom. I thought so – dandelions. Pity, I missed the major blooming in the month gone by.
Herb Robert
Germander speedwell
They appear to have lost their two little friends for now, just a third full-sized pony at the end of the field – and a magpie.
Horse chestnut
Most bluebells are going over now
Now these would make a lot of rainbows!
This sign has been there since pre-lockdown…
The Tor (which is the hill, not the tower on top as many seem to think) just stolidly surveys all, as it has done for tens, hundreds, of thousands of years.
Buttercups
There are more caravans now alongside the River Brue, since the Government has obliged local authorities to provide sanitation for travellers during lockdown.
Hawthorn
When these thistly dandeliony things appear in my garden, wildlife-friendly or not, they are (carefully) yanked out. But in setting they are rather splendid. I think it’s sonchus asper, Prickly cowthistle.
One of my favourite views on the walk. So peaceful.
I meant to take the White dead-nettle but, while I was framing the picture, I noticed the shadow of something else, which pleased me.
On my return, I couldn’t help noticing that there were six council employees on the road next to the park, nor could I help asking what was going on. They were felling a dead tree at the side of the park.

And – nothing to do with my walk – I had to take a photo of this diddy, apparently one-person, recycling van which ‘did’ my house shortly afterwards. Most of our waste services have been kept going these last weeks, and those that haven’t are shortly being restored. Well done and thank you Somerset Waste Partnership.

The next walk was something completely different …

Permitted walk 3

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My Sunday was nice.

First thing, the Microsoft system reminded me of a photo I had taken 15 years previously, to the day. I posted it on Facebook, with the following text.

“The Kennet and Avon Canal about a mile from Hungerford, where I had left my car. Living in France at the time, I was there to visit a bench I had sponsored in memory of my parents who had loved the canal, and had, little by little, walked it end to end. What I didn’t know as I took this photo was that the couple in the left hand boat were Timothy West and Prunella Scales, and that the former had just jiggered his ankle slipping down a damp grassy bank. Five minutes later I was steering the right hand boat, the owners of which were helping the Wests run their own boat.

“Once we had all arrived at Hungerford, the couple, Prunella having secured the boat, transferred to my car, and I drove them to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. They were much more interested in talking about me than themselves, and it emerged that the night before they had dined with the Norringtons. Roger had been a major influence on me musically decades earlier.” And here’s the photo:

I went out for a much longer walk than previously in the afternoon. I had realised that a busy road near me, which could get me to the River Brue, should not be so busy in the present circumstances. I often forget to put a watch on, but didn’t this time – and found that it was still showing Greenwich Mean Time, three weeks on from the clocks going forward.

I live on a modern estate on the edge of the Somerset Levels. Looking right as I walked out of it, along a cul-de-sac Wearyall Hill is to be seen. Traditionally Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff here.

The River Brue used to run where the road serving the estate now runs. But over the centuries, the watercourse has been much modified, through drainage of marshy ground and pragmatic straightening. Near me, the river is almost entirely canalised, work done in the thirteenth century by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey. Here I have crossed the road, and into a field, and looking back I don’t think I had ever previously noticed just how splendid some of the trees now lining the road are.

I’m shortly at the ‘busy’ road which will take me down to the Brue, and yet again I’m envious of those living in houses up on Wearyall Hill for the lovely view they have across the Moors.

I turn left, and see what they can see, the Polden Hills in the distance.

The busy road dips to begin with, and sometimes in winter it is flooded, so closed. It is only at about 7 metres above sea level here, although some 20 miles or so inland, and if rainwater cannot drain towards the sea, because the land is so waterlogged and the many water courses too full, it just stays here. (By the way, while I had thought the road would be empty of traffic, and indeed it is empty in his photo, it was in fact quite busy, though not to the extent that I felt unsafe.)

These, to my left, on a field which is frequently flooded, reminded me of the 17th century (or earlier) song, ‘The Three Ravens’, though these are crows.

Ahead, the embankment which contains the canalised Brue,

and the road has to rise steeply at Cow Bridge.

I go over Cow Bridge and turn right, off the road. Others had had the same idea, but it was just about possible to keep the appropriate distances.

To my left a rhyne (pronounced ‘reen’), with the which the landscape is riddled for miles around. Landowners are obliged to keep them maintained so that water may flow freely.

Cows to my right,

and sheep to my left.

I arrive at Clyce Hole measuring station,

or is it Clyse Hole? The Environment Agency doesn’t seem to know, though the OS map and the EA flood warning website seem to favour the latter. The water level is low, so the weir is impressive.

It is a popular wild swimming spot, and there were several families there, swimming, paddling, sunbathing…

After this point, I met no-one else on this side of the river, though there were people – and dogs! – out for their walks on the other side, (though not in this picture).

Peacock butterfly

Ah. I hadn’t thought about stiles, and touching them. Hm. Should have brought my surgical spirit spray, (I have no hand gel) especially as I keep lifting my camera to my face. Oh well, next time. But it’s nice to have such easy stiles! There were several of them from now on. And from now on the river seems to be following its original contours.

A most unprepossessing bridge, apart for its name, Pomparles (pronounced PompArlez) Bridge. Until pretty recently it was called Pons Perilis, the dangerous bridge. It carries the main road, causeway, from Glastonbury to Street, and indeed the bridge and the river mark the boundary between the two.

And frankly, that road seemed to me to be almost as busy as ever. Fortunately, I was able to remain down in the field instead of walking along its wide pavement,

until I came to a rhyne.

There was escape to my right, and I had to walk along that pavement for 100 metres or so.

From there, on the outskirts of the urban part of Street, I saw its parish church across the field.

Having turned left,

it would have been very unsociable of me not to call a bridge friend on the phone and invite him to come to the window and wave. But I found I hadn’t got his number on me, so I did something I had never done before in my life – I rang a doorbell and ran away! But only ten yards. B. emerged from his back garden and we chatted for a few minutes. I left with his permission to publish his photo and a request to pass on to other bridge contacts to keep safe.

I diverted from the logical route for a couple of minutes to take photos of the 14th century church,

and the much missed Strode Theatre. It is a fully equipped theatre, (I went on a back-stage tour last year and was very impressed) which must be unique. With the Clark (shoes) family behind it, it was constructed in 1963 to serve not only as a theatre, but as as the local school hall and a not-for-profit cinema. It has been much developed since. (I say ‘much missed’ only because I had three ticket for films for 26th March to 30th April which have fallen the way of all gatherings in recent weeks. Like everyone, I look forward enormously to such places re-opening.)

The joint car park. I’ve never seen it not only empty but shut before.
Housing now, I’m hoping a later edit will state the purpose of this clearly once industrial building. Later: It was the Avalon Leatherboard Company in Street. The company, which was associated with Clarks, made board for use in insoles. Stephen Clark, having made his way up the company, became its manager in 1941 and turned it fortunes around to profitability. (Thanks for info to Liz Leyshon, longtime, now ‘retired’, manager of Strode Theatre.)
I wondered what that grey rock thing was.
It ruined out to be a bull. It moved!

I could have crossed another field and returned back along the Brue, but I chose to take a road which, in normal times I drive along, there and back, about three times a week, but which I had never walked. This for two reasons: to enjoy the avenue of trees, which remind me of similar in France, and on the outside chance I might see a pair of swans.

Later: According to the obituary his sister wrote in 2011, the previously mentioned Stephen Clark ‘said his proudest achievement was planting an avenue of poplars along the road leading from the mill to Glastonbury.’
Buzzard
Bluebells (Spanish of that ilk)
Not swans but better than nothing

The road had been nicely empty, with just the occasional cyclist or two, but I was beginning to think that I was not going to see any swans, when:

Two metres from the road, on what appeared to be a nest. I quickly moved to the other side of the road. She clearly is not fazed by traffic – and at times it can go very fast along here – but she showed just a slight alarm at me. Not for long though, as she settled down again.
Just how beautiful is that?
Looking back. Later: someone has recently seen the pair together at the nest. I had looked around for the mate, but could not see him.

Left again on to Cow Bridge Road, and the sight of Glastonbury Tor accompanies me home. My house is somewhere in there.

I found it striking that there there had been so much foliage on the trees compared with those in my first picture 15 years ago, taken at the same latitude, on the same day of the year.

When I got in, I baked a cake. What’s so strange about that? It’s just that I never bake, the flour was ‘best before’ June 2017, the bicarbonate of soda ‘best before’ 1998 (I bought in it the UK before I moved to France in 1995, and brought it back from there in 2011), and the vanilla essence didn’t even have a B B date on it, as it was older than that system! The cake was/is delicious.

Permitted walk 2

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The next time I did my permitted walk, using the same route as previously, I was challenged by Susanpoozan’s comment on my last post to look for other views. Not difficult in fact – I just had to look to my left on the homeward walk, rather than to the right! Nothing spectacular like Glastonbury Tor to see, but some very agreeable sights, nevertheless.

First, a look along the busy road marking the turn-round point, in the other direction.

The footbridge is a private one between the main grounds (right) and some of the residential accommodation (left) of:

That is one open day that will not be happening.

On my way back, the first thing of note that I saw on my left were these splendid gates, the main vehicle entrance to the school.

They were firmly shut, as sadly were these:

As I passed, I turned my camera right, to see what those ‘lonely’ horses were up to. I could only see three of them.

Opposite, to my left was the way in to the equestrian centre. I must see if I can explore it one of these days…

This time though, I went straight on:

Chaffinch. I can be sure that’s what it is as I saw its back as it flew to this point.
In the distance, the Polden Hills, the lowest of the five elevations in Somerset
A tangle of ivy and ash
I could claim to have worked hard to include a fly in this picture of the identifying ash twigs, but it wouldn’t be true.
Lamium (maculatum?)
A hedge hacked in the winter starts to sprout and become handsome again.
Carrion crow
This is Somerset, so we have rather a lot of apple orchards.
Lesser celandine – of which I have thousands in my garden as well.

This stile, leading to a path between a private property and a field, could offer a variant on my walk, but it’s complicated – see two pictures on.
I turned my eyes and camera rightwards again, to see how the sheep were doing.
This lane, to my left as I walk home, goes down to a small river (in fact a canal, cut in the 13th century). It would make variant on the walk, and I have done it in the past, but the caravans, both near and over to the far left (directly beside the river), are lived in by ‘travellers’, and I am a little nervous of going along there on my own.
Not everyone likes dandelions, but I do.
White dead-nettle – lamium album
And five minutes from home, a splendid blackthorn tree
Detail, as the painting people say.

Permitted walk

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I’m fortunate to have a country lane at the end of my road, and it makes a nice 40-minute walk there and back to a main road. Outward yesterday I only took one picture, but on the way back I decided to capture a variety of views of Glastonbury Tor.

The one photo I took going out was of these ponies. The previous time I had been by they had been well-spaced in the field. This time they looked so sad, and I imagined that they were feeling deprived of human company, though I was sure that they were being well fed and watered. I stood and talked to them for five minutes.

On my way back though, a young lady was leading two more ponies back into the field. I told her – at a distance – of my romantic notion. She said that the three had indeed been eagerly waiting at the gate – but for their two companions to be returned. And indeed, I could see the joy of the three as all five gambolled (is that a good word for ponies?) off around the field together. Apparently, their lives haven’t changed a jot since lockdown, and their carers are working just as before. So what do I know about equine behaviour?

My first view of the Tor was taken from the deserted main road at the far point of my walk.

Now having turned round, these views are all to my right:

But my next picture was not of the Tor. I was entranced by this scene and stood and watched for a short while.

Zooming a little led me to think there were figures at he top of the Tor, which is on National Trust land.

Yup. It was probably quite blowy up there.

I wouldn’t be tempted to go up the Tor because the way up is, sadly, all concreted and lots of steps now, and passing people would bring one too close to those going in the other direction. (Quite apart from the fact that I puff a lot when I make the effort!)

I also admired the sky – which is often covered in contrails.

I did want a picture of the JCB, and if I wanted the Tor as well I had to put up with the building.

Where my road joins the lane there is a public park.

It remained just to take the Tor from the one corner of my garden where I can see it – when there aren’t too many leaves on the trees.

What are those white blobs?

It’s difficult to imagine what else there remains to write about right now…

Morocco 7 (finale)

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Having visited the ancient Anti-Atlas on Thursday, on Friday 13th March, our last complete day, we were off to the High Atlas mountains. These were much younger – formed by uplift over only the last 60 to 10 million years! We only went into the ‘foothills’, but they seemed pretty high to me, and they were certainly beautiful.

But first we stood in the garden of our temporary home, as some had heard the Black-crowned Tchagra. Sadly, we didn’t manage to see it at this time, but I took a picture of a Common Bulbul, (they’re everywhere), possibly the one which sang outside our windows every morning.

Some of the food serves at the Atlas Kasbah is grown in its garden.

Our first stop revealed some extraordinary folding, caused, as for the Anti-Atlas, by the crashing of the African plate into the Eurasian one. (That is still going on – the Alps are still getting higher. My 2007 OU geology course taught me that the Mediterranean will in due course disappear!)

Another dried-up river bed to the left

The next stop involved a short upward stroll.

The next, a longer stroll along a nearly dried-up river bed, in Paradise Valley. First a few steps downstream.

Moorish Terrapins
Red-veined Darter
Blue-eyed Pincertail

And then upstream, the flow having transferred to the other side of the road by going under it, and then apparently either diverting under the geological feature or just drying up, the rest of our walk being alongside a dry river bed.

Anticline
Blue Rock Thrush (Collins Bird Guide: ‘blue colour difficult to make out at long range, mostly looks all dark.’ Indeed!)
A Barbary Ground Squirrel, a long way from the ground, on the wall opposite
Black Wheatear
A geological fault
Black Wheatear
Mohamed waiting for us

There followed a long, climbing, drive to our lunch place.

We ate our packed lunch in the Café Restaurant Le Miel. (Again they were happy for us just to buy drinks.) We were meant to wonder at the Cascades of Imouzzer. But they have not had the slight trickle of water for at least two years. (Here is a 3-minute video I found on YouTube about the Imouzzer region, made in 2015 when there were still trickles of water over the Cascades.)

Having eaten, we were driven up to much nearer them, for botanical reasons, but it gave a chance to look at the rocks more closely. From this angle, to me they look like a bearded old man, sitting with his wide sleeves dangling, his hands resting on his knees.

Looking down at the village where we had eaten

Two flowers were particularly sought.

Narcissus cantabricus, the White Hoop Petticoat Daffodil. It’s tiny. I loved the way the sun was shining through its petals.
Polygala balensae, a milkwort – very pretty flowers and very fierce thorns

We moved on to this rather unprepossessing spot, at 1300 metres altitude, (whose whereabouts we were told never to reveal, even were we able, because hordes of twitchers would drive away the bird we had come to see).

Which we did, at a great distance:

Tristram’s Warbler, normally only found at higher altitudes

Finally we moved to perhaps the most beautiful spot of the whole week (though that’s a difficult pick), high, high, high, at 1550 metres, in the (still only) foothills of the High Atlas. First our attention was drawn to several examples of the Moroccan Day Gecko.

And in due course to this dwarf iris, the Barbary nut (the tubers used to be eaten).

How’s this for a rockery garden? All natural of course.

And for the rest of the time, at this our last stop, we just enjoyed the views, and a slight, cooling breeze.

On the next day, Saturday, 14th March, we did not need to leave the Atlas Kasbah for Agadir Airport until late afternoon. Half the group had a cooking lesson in the kitchens, and the others went out with Philip and James, to review the first morning’s sightings, and to see some more. (They saw a Black-crowned Tchagra at last.) I did neither. I had not yet managed even to read the hotel’s own information folder, and really wished to do so, nor had I had a chance to wet the new swimsuit I had bought a few days before coming away. So, having achieved the former, I was then obliged to spend time here.

With its views outwards

and inwards.

For a long while I had the whole pool to myself. (In the event the water was too cold for me actually to wet the swimsuit.)

We ate the tagine our colleagues had prepared in the morning at lunchtime, and the afternoon whiled itself away. In due course we said a reluctant goodbye to those who had been looking after us so well, the more so for knowing what we were going back to.

I had a window seat again on the plane.

I feel so blessed that I was able to take that holiday, for which I had been longing for months, before the clampdown enforced on us by this horrible virus, Covid-19. As I said in the first post in this series, Morocco had already banned flights to and from 25 countries the day before we left. (We ten travellers knew about France, but not about how many countries the ban extended to. Our leaders did. Philip was looking at his screen constantly for news.) Two days after our return they added the UK and others to the list.

Now the Atlas Kasbah is shut down, like pretty well the whole world. Here on my own, thankfully with the company of my felines, I’m grateful for the telephone, and all the media, which allow me to be in touch with friends and family and the wider world. I have this extraordinary sensation of fellow-suffering, not just with those I know, in the UK, family on both coasts of the US, friends in France, the company both employed and holidaying which I so enjoyed in Morocco, but also with every single one of the world’s 7,800,000,000 people. Every single one of us is having to contend with the same fears and concerns and ignorance about the future, most of our fellows without even the resources that we have in the first world. I’m going to avoid a cliché, but this is something we do all, every single one of us, face together.