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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.’
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.