Our first Friday walk was postponed for a couple of weeks so that we could go to an exhibition, not open yet on 7th January, in nearly Somerton. My friend Zoe was delayed arriving at my place because of a traffic diversion, and I filled in time wandering around my icy garden, where I saw:
two last roses of summer, and some new shoots,
part of the hedge I have had cut right back, the future of which is pending discussions with neighbours yet to move in (both sides of it having been much neglected for the last three years),
a few starlings at the top of a further neighbour’s silver birch (some of the dozens which invade my garden when I have put out the day’s food),
last year’s water lily trapped under the ice of my pond,
and some heather.
Our short walk was for Zoe to see a nearby view which I have only quite recently discovered.
And from the bottom a look back at Glastonbury Tor across a field which had been very boggy, with streams of melted frost.
We then went on to the ACE Arts centre in Somerton to see The Red Dress. I cannot explain the project better than the first four paragraphs of the home page of the Project’s website.
“The Red Dress Project, conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod, provides an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are marginalized and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.
“During 12 years, from 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 73 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 259 women and 5 men, from 29 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work. The rest of the embroidery was added by 128 willing participants /audience at various groups/exhibitions/events.
“Embroiderers include women refugees from Palestine; victims of war in Kosovo, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; women in Kenya, Japan, Paris, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, USA, Russia, Pakistan, Wales, Colombia, and the UK, as well as upmarket embroidery studios in India and Saudi Arabia.
“Many of the women are established embroiderers, but there are also many pieces created by first time embroiderers. The artisans were encouraged to tell a personal story they would like to share, expressing their own identities and adding their own cultural and traditional experience. Some chose to create using a specific style of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years in their family, village, or town.”
Kirstie Macleod and another woman were working on it while we were there. We wished we could have seen it more spread out, but that would have left insufficient room for visitors, especially given the need to keep a distance. I took an awful lots of pictures. Here are some.
Towards the end of our visit I was beginning to be quite moved, thinking of all the women who had worked on the Dress.
At one point I turned to Zoe and remarked that you’d need a week to study it all in detail. Kirstie was in earshot, and said, ‘A year. I know this work intimately, and I’m still discovering new things.’
I might go back. It’s at Somerton until 29th January, and continues its tour around the world for another ten years.
New Year’s Day, Saturday. After a leisurely breakfast, I made my way to the home of my new friends from dinner the evening before, Pete and Marion, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, on the edge of the countryside.
They have enviable views – and lovely animals.
They also had chickens.
Coffee and chat partaken, I walked back to the Neuadd Arms, not sure whether in fact I could be bothered to go out for a walk, or whether I would spend the rest of the day in my room with knitting, reading and TV – but that would have been to waste an opportunity.
But the weather was brightening a little, rain did not seem to threaten, and I had really no excuse not to complete the eastern circuit proposed in the Town Walk leaflet I had used the previous day. I would have a choice of lengths at one point, and I took my walking pole from my car this time!
The route took me first past the station. Llanwrtyd Wells is fortunate still to have stopping trains, running on the Heart of Wales line between Swansea and Shrewsbury. “The railway crosses two impressive viaducts at Knucklas and at Cynghordy and goes through six tunnels, including one on the magnificent run up to Sugar Loaf. Over 30 stations are served by the line, some of which are request stops.” (Website.)
The next train from Platform 2 will depart in two hours’ time.
Four stopping trains a day in each direction, Monday to Saturday, two on Sunday
The old board must have been there in 1961 when Diane and I used the station.
The walk leaflet instructed, ” Carry on past the station, following the road as far as the entrance to the Abernant Lake Hotel on your right, now operated as an outward bound centre for children.” The centre was barely visible though the trees. At this point that I had to decide whether to do the additional loop to the walk. As otherwise that would have made for a very short outing indeed, I chose to go on. This involved leaving the road, and taking a path towards a railway crossing and Glan Irfon Farm. As I struggled with the gate into the field a couple happened along and asked me if I was looking for the path. I wasn’t at that point, but they helpfully pointed out the correct direction, which was not what I would have taken, so that was very useful. I was meant to head for the very middle of this picture.
I stopped, looked and listened as instructed. With only eight trains a day along the track, the risk was low.
‘Soggy’ was yesterday’s word. ‘Squelchy’ was today’s. At one point the waymarked path invited me to climb over a very rickety ladder stile, sloping away from me, and then to cross a small fast-flowing stream, probably a dry ditch usually. I was not sure that I would be able to do the latter, even with my pole, and having done the former, climbing back over would have been attempting to straddle a rickety ladder stile which would then be sloping steeply towards me. Discretion being the better part of valour, I sought another way to the farm, which fortunately proved not to be too difficult, other than much more squelch, and to involve opening a civilised gate.
Sheep were everywhere I went in this part of Wales. Cows were rarer.
Around this time I saw a couple of little egrets flying around, but was unable to capture them with my camera. No trouble doing so when it’s sheep.
I became aware that the sun was trying to break through and took this photo over my right shoulder.
I passed through and by Glan Irfon Farm. Its courtyard had some interesting accommodation units, residential I think.
These black-faced sheep seemed much more interesting, and interested, than the others, as I made my way towards another railway crossing to return to the road.
No stiles this time, but a gate to get to the line, with a catch which definitely required a GCSE equivalent in engineering.
To leave it, I reckon you needed an ‘A’ level equivalent! OK, you can – once you know – easily see that the thing blocking the horizontal slider can be slid itself…
A few feet away was this curious object. I have no idea what it is, but I have found (when I was looking for more information on the accommodation) that the railway crossing has its own web-page!
Brilliant sunshine for a minute or two.
And a beautiful tree.
But the sun didn’t last, as I approached the road and looked back.
From now on – and I had a good 40 minutes yet to do, entirely on roadways – I was concerned about rain, as strong winds, those harbingers, came and went, and came and went, accompanied by dark grey clouds.
But I did stop for a few minutes as I saw one, then another, red kite soaring high in the sky. This is the best photo I could get, of just one.
Which being enlarged as much as I dare gives:
I was quite pleased to enter the built-up area of town,
after which the road crossed a tributary of the River Irfon, the Nant (stream) Cerdin.
After the jollifications of the previous evening, I was almost alone in the restaurant for my evening meal (though others were having a meal in the bar).
I slept really late the following morning, two hours longer than I normally do. Although this meant I left for my drive home later than I had intended, I was pleased as it must have reflected my relaxed state.
I thought that I had been in the Brecon Beacons during my stay. I have since realised that in fact I was between the Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains. My drive took me back over the Mynydd Eppynt part of the Beacons, which I had not really appreciated on the outward journey, rain, greyness and dark just making me want this long, winding road to come to an end. But it was an altogether different story on my return. It was amazingly beautiful! I could have taken so many photos if the road (which incidentally is through the largest military training area in Wales) had allowed me to stop. Eventually I came to a breezy viewpoint where I could take these two from the same spot, at about 90 degrees from each other.
An otherwise uneventful journey had me home, despite the later start than planned, by lunchtime. It was, as ever, so good to see the cats again.
Back in my room, I perused the Llanwrtyd Wells Town Walk map I had bought at the hotel’s reception, which appeared to be doubling as the local tourist office. Given the weather – it had been mizzling all the while I had been out exploring – and the weather forecast, I decided not to be too ambitious for my afternoon’s exercise, and just do the western half of what was proposed, one way along the River Irfon and back the other.
A wooden footbridge took me over the river, and set me on my way westwards. It was not long before I was in the countryside.
I could hear a pheasant in a wood to my left, caught a glimpse of it, but was unable to take a satisfactory photo.
I soon left the road, and found myself on a very soggy path beside the river,
which improved somewhat from time to time.
The prescribed route left the river for a bit, and I started to curse myself for having left my walking pole in the car. It was very slippy underfoot, and
just past this rise I slithered onto my back. My small backpack took the worst of the fall, and only my dignity was hurt, as I was obliged to turn over on to my knees in order to get up, thus muddying the knees of my trousers. Good job I had a spare pair (of trousers that is) in my room. I found a sturdy fallen branch to steady me on the rest of the way.
I arrived at St David’s Church, in old Llanwrtyd. “The Celtic cross inside the church [which I couldn’t visit as it was closed] suggests that a church has existed on this site for 1440 years.” (leaflet). From Wikipedia I subsequently learnt a lot more about old Llanwrtyd, including, “The name Llanwrtyd combines the term for church (“llan”) and an otherwise undocumented personal name Gwrtud or Gwrtyd, but the earliest reference to it “Llanworted” appears only in 1543. It is speculated that the original dedication of the church has been replaced by the present one to the more famous saint in whose diocese it was during the Middle Ages. The name is more traditionally derived, however, from ‘Llanddewi wrth y rhyd’ (David’s church by the ford). The church is held to have been founded by St David in the 6th century. The curving boundary around the west side of the churchyard and its location beside the river supports the contention that it was established well before the Norman Conquest. “
There being a bench conveniently placed, it being 1 o’clock, and I being halfway round my circuit, this seemed to be as good a place as any to eat my two biscuits and an apple, all I needed after the full English (vegetarian) breakfast I had had. This was my misty view. (I escaped ‘proper’ rain entirely on this walk.)
The road bridge took me back over the Irfon, and I looked back.
After a while I came to a footbridge marked on the map. As I had to leave the road at this point, I was a little worried that I was intended to cross the river using this apparently flimsy structure.
But I didn’t, and in any case it was less flimsy than it had appeared.
The river turbulented on. (Yes, I’ve made that word up.)
And the path continued to be very wet at times, but here its base was gravelly, so much less slippery. I was grateful nevertheless for my branch.
“The springs here were first discovered in 1732 by Theophilus Evans who claimed to have discovered the healing properties of ‘Ffynon Droellwyd’ (The Stinking Well) when suffering from scurvy”. I approached the Dol-y-Coed Hotel which “was once the centre of leisure including tennis courts and bowling greens in the Dol-y-Coed Park.”
Except that it turned out to be no longer a hotel, but the premises of what is now the town’s largest employer.
I was unable to find out what this building near the hotel is – perhaps it’s ‘just’ a private home that likes dressing up. I wondered whether it was a care home, but can’t identify it if so.
Back at the hotel I waited until it was fully dark to slip out in order to take some photos of the town’s Christmas lights. Sadly the street lights distract the camera more that they do the human eye.
This notice at the entrance to the hotel, the start of the evening’s Mari Lwyd torchlit procession, gave due warning. I had already been advised to move my car away.
The hotel’s restaurant was full for the New Year’s Eve dinner, and I had been asked if I would share a table with five locals who had booked in. I could see that this would help the proprietors, releasing the solo table I would have been at, but hesitated quite a lot, for Covid reasons. However I agreed, was reassured as we assembled that the others had taken LF tests that day (as I had the previous day), and I had a very pleasant evening in the event. Two of my companions were a couple who had moved to the area from Kent four months previously, two had moved there from Essex six years previously, and the other was Huw (I do hope he spells his name like that!) the Milk(man), who had been doing the job for 34 years. He had a lovely kind face, and I was told he was real social worker to his customers. He can work up to a 15-hour day, and does so seven days a week. I’m sure he has a fund of stories.
We were to assemble for the Mari Lwyd procession at 10.30 in the Town Square, outside the hotel. A band had started up well before we finished our meal, after which I collected my outdoor gear and camera.
It was tipping with rain, and I hurriedly snatched these poor pictures.
The rain, the crowds, the torches, the anticipated inability to cope with umbrella and camera – not a to mention a torch had I chosen to – I near panicked, and chickened out before the 90-minute procession set off.
Nor did I even stay in the hotel’s bar with my table companions. I went to my room and saw the new year in watching ‘When Harry met Sally’!
But I had been invited to the Kent people, Marion and Pete’s, for coffee the next day, and I was looking forward to that, and to meeting their menagerie.
First Friday of the month, so it was time for my next walk with Zoe, and her turn to organise. She chose the nature reserves and environs of Uphill, which is just south along the coast from Weston-super-Mare. For uninteresting reasons my camera was hors de combat for most of the time, so these photos were taken on my phone, with one exception. Despite apparently threatening skies, the weather was kind to us, not too cold, not too windy, and the sun even came out for a short while.
From where we had parked our cars, we set off across a not very interesting golf course, and arrived at the beach. Despite my September holiday in Cornwall, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I had been on one, (though in fact I had crossed one at Marazion, as I walked back from St Michael’s Mount). We looked north to Weston.
We looked out to see the sea. Which we couldn’t, but saw Brean Down,Steep Holm, (owned by the Kenneth Allsop Memorial Trust) and, faintly in the mist, Flat Holm (which I’ve just learned is part of Wales, and managed by Cardiff Council).
And we looked, and then walked, south.
At about the level of Brean Down we left the beach but continued parallel to the sea.
You’d think that the mound ahead gave the area its name, but “The manor is recorded in Domesday Book as Opopille which derives from the Old EnglishUppan Pylle meaning “above the creek”. The Pill is a tidal creek which joins the River Axe near where the river flows into Weston Bay to the north of Brean Down. The Pill is connected to the Great Uphill Rhyne which drains the moors to the east of the village.” (Wikipedia)
Whatever it is called, there is somewhat less of the hill left now. The sun came out as we reached the old quarry…
… and the old limekiln. The panel explains that this was a particularly fine example of the species, which were mainly built between 1780 and 1850, and that at the time lime was used for liming acid soils, as a basis of mortar, and for whitewash.
The nineteenth century powder house was considerably further on. Its explanatory panel told us that explosive stores were usually situated well away from quarries, in case of explosions caused by sparks or other sources of flame there.
At one point I looked back over my right shoulder to see Brean Down, now well behind us.
Ahead the sun was low and bright, almost too much for the eyes, as it reflected off the briefly tarmac-ed path. I mused on the fact that you would never have taken a photo straight into the sun at the time of my grandmother’s Brownie 127.
In the course of our relatively short walk we found ourselves on at least three different nature reserves: Uphill Hill, Walborough and Bleadon Levels. At this last, we turned right in the direction of the sea, for a hundred yards – or metres – or so. Had we continued south at that point we would have taken this path.
It would have been foolhardy to attempt to cross the saltmarsh to get nearer the sea.
We started northward again toward Brean Down.
Taking great care to avoid puddles – specially as I had forgotten to put my wellies in the car – it was nevertheless possible to raise one’s eyes to look inland from time to time, and to see Uphill Hill, the quarry, the Old Church of St Nicholas, and a beacon lit for various national celebrations. It is what remains of an old windmill, and probably 18th century, says Wikipedia.
Ahead lay the dock area which we had passed on the way out.
I obliged my camera into action to zoom in on these very small ducks which flew into our view. They are teal.
Beside us in due course appeared the creek (right to left) used, when the tide is in, by boats wishing to leave the dock. That silty mud, swept down the River Severn from the Welsh mountains, is why walking on some parts of the beaches in the area is so dangerous.
This sliding wall of concrete beyond the dock is explained …
… by its label.
We stopped at a café by the docks for a coffee, and in my case a custard tart as well.
It was a 15-minute walk back to our cars through the village, during which this pretty bridge from road to a private garden caught my eye.
On my drive home across the Somerset Moors (Levels), trying in vain to avoid a long detour caused by a road closure, I noticed first an enormous erect pillar, with further bits bits lying on the ground by it, which I assumed was to end up as a new wind turbine – nice and blowy I thought in that vast open space. I couldn’t stop to take a photo, but as I went along I saw more of them, more elaborated, and it became clear that, while they were indeed to do with the generation of electricity, they were not some new design for producing power by centrifuge, (I’ll patent that I think), but a new model of electricity pylon.
In due course I was able to stop for a photo.
More information, by the National Grid, about these new T-shaped pylons can be found here, including a two-minute video of one being erected. It shows how monstrous they are in size – though they are apparently a third less tall than the traditionally lattice shaped pylons. They will carry electricity produced at Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station.
Thanks to the British Pilgrimage Trust, I have now been able to include a plan of the Glastonbury Way, and not just provide a link to the Way’s Facebook page to see one. (Sadly it does not include the Board numbers, being concerned rather with spiritual points of interest.)
In September, Zoe and I had walked Part 1, nearly all of the western half of the Way, cutting out just a little from each end for the sake of convenience. Likewise in November we cut the very beginning of the second part, joining it as it turns east off the central ‘square’ portion.
I took fewer photos this time. The scenery was very attractive, but there was not a great deal of variety. The overall length of the walk was about the same, as can be seen.
The views to the north across an outpost of the Somerset (Levels and) Moors, all along the west-east ridge that is Paradise Lane, are lovely, and it was difficult not to overshoot – photos that is.
According to the weather forecast, we should have lost the sun by now, but we didn’t for another hour or so.
‘Gog and Magog [I quote from the app] are the only surviving exemples of the Avalon Oaks. These were a group of oaks that were mostly felled in 1906. One of these great oaks possessed a diameter of 10 feet 9 inches, (3.35 m) and a circumference of 34 feet 4 inches (10.5m). This suggests an age of at least one thousand years. Gog is now expired having been damaged by fire in 2017. Magog survives and provides a living link with our mediaeval past.’
It was a hard slog up the long Stone Down Lane, parallel with Paradise Lane, and this is the only photo I took on the way.
Once arrived at the Tor, we decided not to go up, but to take the alternative route round it.
Once round the other side, we came to the Chalice Well area. One of the houses had a most beautiful fuchsia at the side of the road. I took lots of photos of the bush, and chose this one.
This is not in fact the Chalice Well, which is accessible only behind a pay wall (as it were!) This is the White Spring and Temple. Whenever I have passed it before it has had many ‘alternative’ people there, and I have not ventured close.
The description of the formal Way ends here, but those who parked their car near Glastonbury Information Centre, where the Way starts, would have ten minutes further to walk. It was eight minutes or so in the opposite direction to my house. We noted this panel on the side of a house on the main road we had to cross.
We headed away from Glastonbury for our ‘pub’ lunch, and found that our destination in Butleigh no longer served food at lunchtimes. That led to the serendipitous discovery of a very nice coffee shop there, which served much more than its description suggested.
Not meaning the way Glastonians do things, (that’s way beyond my comprehension!) but a waymarked walking route created a few months ago, with finance from the Towns Deal, and expert contributions from Glastonbury Town Council, Mendip District Council, (soon to be abolished, as Somerset County Council becomes unitary) and a host of volunteers.
My friend Zoe and I have done it in two parts as our first Friday walks in September and November, and I thought I would write the two walks up in consecutive posts. (It was Zoe’s turn to organise our October walk.)
The Way starts at the information office in the centre of town, but it suited us to start from my house on the edge, and to pick it up somewhat before Point 2. (The Way’s Facebook page of the Way is headed by a map. There are two sets of numbers, mostly coinciding but not always. I think the alternative set is something to do with the ‘mystical’ side of Glastonbury, which does tend to escape me. My references are to those preceded by ‘B’,which I think stands for ‘board’.)
As it happens, we walked back to my house after lunch past the official starting point at the Information Centre, and here is Board 1. A plan of the walk is bottom left, and that day we did (most of) the western circuit.
The walk is described in some detail in an app, (‘The Glastonbury Way’) which also gives all the information supplied on the boards, in writing and aurally.
We joined the Way at Wearyall Hill, (sometimes written as Wirral). The origins of the name are unknown, possibly coming from the legend that Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury bearing the chalice used at the Last Supper. He is said to have arrived by boat (Glastonbury then being an island, or perhaps a peninsula, in the middle of marshy, swampy land) and, weary, he planted his staff in the ground, which became the famous Glastonbury Thorn, of which a sprig is given to the monarch on Christmas Day to decorate her breakfast table.
At the end of the ridge which is Wearyall Hill we came to Board 3.
At useful, and usually rather scenic, points along the Way there are welcome seats.
Down from Wearyall Hill, you can still see the Moors (aka Somerset Levels), the fairly recently opened Premier Inn to the right, and on the left the old Morland (‘Bauhaus’) factory, now known locally as the Zigzag building, which is in the process of renovation and new purposes.
Some features on the Way have been around for a long time.
We then took:
though it’s not even straight.
Pomparles Bridge crosses the very busy main road linking Glastonbury to Street, It’s name is a mutation of Pons Perilis, assumed to mean bridge of peril, (though if it does, it must be a mediaeval abbreviation of the classical latin word, ‘periculis’.) The app tells us that ‘Its name is related to Siege Perilous, the seat at King Arthur’s Round Table kept for the knight destined to find the Holy Grail but fatal for any other occupant.’
The River Brue was incredibly low that September day. I have never even seen the grasses above water level, let alone laid down like this.
Nor have I seen elsewhere any sign saying in effect ‘beware of the badger works’! This was after we had crossed the busy road at, fortunately, a lights-controlled pedestrian crossing.
‘Bride (pronounced ‘Breed’) was one of the most widely worshipped goddesses in Celtic Britain.’ Archaeology shows that there was a small chapel on the site of Bride’s Mound, and also a cemetery dating from Romano-British times. 12th and 4th century writings say that St Brigid of Kildare visited Glastonbury in 488 AD, and spent some time here.
At this point we were following the river bank, and theoretically we should have been able to follow signs right, across to Bride’s Mound, subsequently retracing our steps, but we couldn’t find those signs. Pity, because in 10 years, I have not yet seen the Mound.
It was extraordinary to see the banks of the Brue so deep, due to lack of water. Water levels across the entire Somerset Moors and Levels are incredibly closely managed by the Somerset Rivers Authority.
Came a point where we were a little perplexed as to where to go, as there appeared to be a kink which did not appear on the plan. But we trusted to the waymarks and all was well.
Willow Walk is well-named.
A lovely spot for a picnic lunch we thought – though we were planning to eat at a pub.
The explanation for the creation of the pleasant spot however was sad.
It was perfectly possible to read Board 8 – but impossible to take a photo of it in its entirety.
We shortly came into a light industrial area, and as we neared the centre of town, we cut a little away from the Way’s official route, to make more directly for our lunch place. We passed my doctors’ surgery.
And ended up at the ‘Who’d a Thought It’, just off the Market Place, where we had a good lunch, and also a discussion with the innocent waitress as to whether it was really necessary to wrap our cutlery and paper napkin in horrid little plastic ties, single use to boot. (I will get around to that Glastonbury Mural Trail some time.)
The walk back to my house took us through the Market Square. The official route, in effect starting part 2, would have taken us up the High Street, off right in this photo. I have blogged on that previously.
A couple of weeks ago, I took another friend to visit The Newt in Somerset. Peter was down from Manchester to lead a singing workshop, which I was organising for the South West Early Music Forum the following day. Three times postponed because of you-know-what, initially from April 2020, but that’s a whole other story.
Apples are always the principal theme at The Newt, but especially so at this time of year, as the display in the Threshing Barn illustrated.
They featured in the window of the farm shop as well. Their apple juice is delicious.
(Given that I have already posted so many pictures taken at The Newt in Somerset, I have limited the number posted here.)
We learned that the Japanese Garden would be opening a week later.
Next we walked up the Mound, where we saw a few Shaggy Inkcaps.
Still plenty of colour, though we’re well into the autumn.
Peter noticed the curious ‘steps’ in the chimney stack.
Into the Scented Garden.
The mischievous frogs were disappointed that there were no small children around to squirt water at, though clearly some adults have been by, setting off the sensors.
Access to the (very) luxury hotel, Hadspen House, is prevented by the gate out of sight below this image. Actually they’ve just opened another luxury hotel, called The Farmyard, adjacent.
We were impressed by the great variety of cucurbits growing in their tunnel. Over the year, I have seen these grow from tiny unidentifiable plants, into large flowering ones, and now fruiting ones.
I wonder if the tunnel will be used for the same purpose next year, or for something different.
After an excellent meal in the Garden Café, we walked though the Deer Park.
Walking back through the woodland, we did get a fleeting glimpse of a couple of fallow deer. This is the best I could do, photo-wise.
Back to the entrance/exit via the old Marl Pits.
Another happy visit to The Newt in Somerset. We had to leave – we had things to do relating to the following day, written up here for those interested.
Anyone following the Chelsea Flower Show this autumn (it’s normally held in spring) will be familiar with the name, Yeo Valley, makers of organic dairy products. Their organic garden won the People’s Choice Award for large show garden this year, not bad for first-time participants.
I had visited their garden, with my friend, Zoe, previously – it is situated roughly halfway between the homes of each of us – but the weather had been miserable on that occasion, and we didn’t get as much from the outing as we might have done. Our birthdays fall close to each other, and, for our October birthday ‘first Friday’ monthly walk, we decided to visit the garden, and make a day of it, visiting other places in the area afterwards. We went on the second Saturday, as in October the garden only opens to the public on Saturdays, and this was forecast to have better weather than the first.
In fact the weather was gorgeous. The autumn mist above us allowed the hazy sun to bless us early in the morning, and had disappeared entirely by lunchtime. My camera clicked away – I couldn’t restrain it. In the order I took them:
On 23rd November, I shall be ‘going to’ this talk by Sarah Mead and designer Tom Massey, on how the Show Garden came about.
At midday our allotted time was up, and we had seen just about everything there was to be seen. Zoe knew of a great fish and chips place, Salt and Malt, by the side of Chew Valley Lake, just a short distance away. Alas, I took photos of neither the view nor the fish and chips, but both were very good.
We drove round the Lake to the next car park, intending to do the short ‘Grebe Walk’, which would take us firstly through some woodland, and then along the lake to see, theoretically, grebes among other birds.
But on the return leg we saw nothing but reeds in the lake at that end. Whether this was deliberate cultivation for wildlife reasons, or because of Covid-related (or other) neglect we could not tell.
We walked on beyond the car park to see what we could see. We couldn’t get closer to the lake than this.
Zooming my camera showed me that the boats were colourful.
And, looking back, gave me the chance to see some unidentifiable birds.
We had no desire to find ourselves back at the fish and chip place, so turned back to where our car was parked, with a view to winding down from our day’s outing. The drive back to Zoe’s, where my car was, took us along a quite busy road, which serves as a dam of the lake, and which is actually a reservoir owned by Bristol Water, the fifth-largest artificial lake in England. The lake is also a nature reserve and an SSSI.
There were many people leaning on the rail, but the birds were unfazed.
Zoe and I had not quite finished putting the world to rights, so before I got into my car, we had a cup of tea in her garden, and I admired the mini-woodland she and her husband are creating there.
I was homeward bound on Saturday, 11th September, but could not let pass the opportunity to visit on the way this world-renowned project. I had a booking for 11.00. My satnav the evening before told me that I would need 90 minutes to get there, which surprised me somewhat, but I allowed two hours. As I left my BnB at 9.00 it was saying I would need 65 minutes – the difference between Friday evening and Saturday morning traffic I suppose. But thank goodness I had all that leeway. There were huge hold-ups on the A30, due I think to road closures elsewhere, with traffic being funnelled on to this road. In the event I arrived just 10 minutes before my ticket’s time.
It was quite a walk between my car park down to the entrance – but not so far that I qualified for the shuttle bus. Just one more car park up and …
I find I have 108 photos, and have found it incredibly difficult to make a selection. I have only managed to cut them down to 58 – sorry – and they give only a glimpse into what was to be seen.
Here’s the plan from my pre-ordered guide. I should like to have been able to sit down and study it in greater depth before going round, but things were well-labelled.
Basically, I wandered around the Outdoor Gardens and then the Crops, which I think is how it is intended you should, then visited first the Rainforest Biome, followed by the Mediterranean one (only about a third the area, but with a few more species), then went along the Avenue to the Core. I seem to have missed the Zigzag through Time, and I don’t think I did justice to the Invisible Worlds.
My photos are largely without commentary.
I think this next picture is my very favourite of the day.
This queue (note one person peeling off left)…
… was for this. Good fun!
There was a link corridor, with shops and café, to the …
About 15 minutes into the Rainforest Biome, there was a notice warning people who were finding it too hot to turn back, as it was another 30 minutes to the exit. (A one-way system was in operation with little byways roped off, presumably because of Covid.) The Mediterranean Biome was also hot, in a lovely dry Mediterranean way, but I was very pleased to find this almost unpatronised drinks bar near its exit. Time for a chilled elderflower cordial.
Frim time to time there was a swooshing sound from above. I had just days ago watched Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on television on a zipline, and thought, ‘How I would love to do that!’. And here would have been my opportunity! If I had known in advance about the possibility here, I would definitely have looked into it. As it was, I picked up a leaflet when I left.
‘Infinity Blue’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Seed’ were the two main attractions in the Core.
‘Infinity Blue’ from an upper floor. In about a decade it may be lowered into the sea as a reef habitat for marine life. (It’s not crooked, my camera was.)
Up a lift, across a bridge, and it was back to the entrance/visitor centre/exit…
… for a coffee before setting off on the rest of my journey home. I was amused to see this old coffee making machine on display, sadly not in use.
How to reflect on eight such days? I was absolutely shattered for a while after my return, but so happy to have spent my time so fully. Cornwall is a such a beautiful place, with so much to explore and experience. I tried, and I think I succeeded, not to let an underlying fear of Covid spoil my enjoyment, though it was unnerving to see so many people, freed of legal obligation, appearing to believe that if they did not wear masks indoors the risk was only to themselves, not to others. But it was heartening also to see how many did wear masks, especially those serving, in whatever setting.
I have to go back. I have to make that helicopter trip. I have to use more those various guides to archology, geology, walks, built places to visit. My Eden Project ticket is valid for a year! (I could – perhaps – go on that zipline…) I’m already thinking that I may take another holiday in the county next June, perhaps based at Hayle this time.
Thursday, 9th September was to be the high point – literally and figuratively – of my time in Cornwall, fulfilling a lifetime ambition. Two months previously I had booked a helicopter flight to the island of St Mary’s, on the Scillies. As I checked over its arrangements on the Wednesday evening, I had had a shock, which I should have anticipated, given the weather. All helicopter flights that day had been cancelled, because of fog both at Penzance and on the Scilly Isles. I was also beginning to worry seriously about what I would do there once arrived, given the forecast of about 80% rain on St Mary’s for much of Thursday.
However, having also checked my right to a full refund, when I woke up on the day I found myself really hoping the company would cancel, given that weather forecast. It was also very misty in Penzance.
Dead-on 9.00 the company called me. They weren’t yet cancelling but were running huge delays, so [since I was booked on a day trip, not going over to stay] they were offering me the choice of rebooking, free of penalty, or receiving a full refund. I accepted the latter, obviously, and felt hugely relieved, my disappointment having already been overcome the evening before. I would have to fly in a helicopter for the first (and probably only) time in my life on some other occasion.
What to do instead? I could have occupied myself in my room, knitting, reading, listening to the radio, but they didn’t seem like ideal holiday pass-times. I decided to take a risk with the weather (not forecast to be quite so bad on the mainland) and to go to Godolphin (National Trust), to spend time indoors in the large house there. It didn’t need pre-booking.
The surface of the sea in the harbour was like a mirror as I passed, but sadly it was not possible to stop to take a photo.
It turned out to me much less house than I thought, so it was as well that the weather also turned out to be much better than forecast. At the exit of the car park was a notice board suggested various walks in the wider estate, so I decided to start out on the orange walk before making for the house and its grounds.
But I turned back when it started to drizzle, not least because I wasn’t really properly shod or dressed for a damp, muddy walk. (The drizzle soon stopped, fortunately.)
Checking in to the charging part of the property, I was given a ticket for the house for 1 o’clock, an hour off. Coffee (studying the plan – yes, I like plans and maps),
and a wander round the more formal grounds filled in the time nicely.
I knew I had been to Godolphin Housein 1973, (though I could remember almost nothing of the visit), with some of my non-participant helper colleagues on the International Musicians Seminar, so I was somewhat surprised to learn from the welcoming guide that the Trust only took the house over in 2000. I checked out with her – yes, the previous owner, painter Mary Schofield, née Lanyon, did show people round sometimes. My memory also told me that the house was bigger when I visited – the Wikipedia article says that it was once much larger, but does not say when it was reduced.
The guide explained that the house was only open for visits like this when it was not let out as a holiday ‘cottage’, details here. Going round the house I was reminded by its style how some of us had rented my local NT ‘cottage’ Lytes Cary, for music-making holidays in 2013 and 2014.
When I came to this final room, called the King’s Room I believe, I thought how wonderful it would be for music-making with friends. It displayed large paintings by West Country painter, Robert Organ, a friend of John Schofield, (Mary’s son presumably).
30 minutes and the house was thoroughly ‘done’. The exit from the one-way system was into the King’s Garden, where I sat for a few minutes, just enjoying the quiet, and contemplating what to do next.
I returned to my car, and asked my satnav what attractions there were in the vicinity. ‘Helston Railway ‘ it replied. Super! Take me there, James, I commanded. After a few minutes it led me to a firmly closed gateway to what appeared to be a private property. I could not get an internet signal to find out more about the attraction. OK, thought I, I’ll go to Helston itself (car and I were several miles away) and find out more.
With a signal in the Lidl customer car park on the outskirts of the town, I found out that Thursday was one of the three days each week the volunteer-run railway was, um, running, and that I had in fact been very near to it at those gates.
But they were miles back, through narrow country lanes, and time was rolling on, so no way was I returning. I decided instead to go to the coast, to Porthleven just 2 miles away. It was heaving with people, but fortunately I found somewhere to park right by the harbour, allowed just 30 minutes. Given the crowds, I reckoned that was all I’d want.
These photos reveal neither the great crowds of people nor the touristy souvenir and other shops trying to tempt them, apparently successfully. I walked firstly along the left hand quay.
Returning along that quay, I waited a while to clear this view, over my right shoulder, of as many people as possible.
‘Bal Maidens’ were those women and girls who broke up the metal ores, after their menfolk had mined them.
When I walked along the right-hand quay I was not tempted to take pictures, as the crowds were really heavily gathered there, around the many tourist shops and cafés. The road rose sharply, and I took this looking back.
Past the last houses there was path off to the left, and I found myself once more on the South-West Coast Path. Indeed, technically, I had been on it all the time.
Perhaps it was as well that there was nowhere to sit, because it was time to turn back and recover my car from its 30 minutes’ permitted time.
My final picture was a zoom in on this building, which I have since discovered is the Bickford-Smith Institute, which opened in 1884 as a gift from a former MP.
I confess to having been 10 minutes late back to my car, but that is how long it took to be served with an ice cream. As can be seen from the photos, the sun was out when I arrived, but it had gone by then, and as I drove back to Penzance, there was sea mist rolling inland.
So many possibilities for Friday, my final full day: including a walk in the Lizard area; further exploration of the Tin (= north Penwith) Coast; the Penlee Art Gallery; or a drive well north to Lanhydrock (to follow up Captain Thomas Agar-Robartes MP, of the memorial hall in Luxulyan).