After a pleasant ‘first Friday’ walk with my friend Zoe, starting and finishing in the village of Wrington in North Somerset,
on Sunday I visited Milton Lodge Gardens, just north of England’s smallest city, Wells. It is open to the public three times a week, but this time it was in aid of the National Gardens Scheme.
The weather was lovely, and the outing was popular, so I had to use the overflow car park, from which this was the view, with Glastonbury Tor, whence I had come, a pimple on the horizon.
Right near where I had parked, was this curious depression, explained in a note nearby to be a ‘triple entry pond’, unique to Mendip, and likely to date from the late 1700s. It was constructed to capture naturally draining water from the Mendip Hills, and used to channel water underground to nearly stock fields.
According to Wikipedia, “Milton Lodge was built by Aaron Foster in 1790 and descended in his family until it passed, by marriage, into the ownership of the Tudway family in the mid 19th century. The Tudways had lived nearby at a house, known as The Cedars, which was built in the 1760s by Thomas Paty, and had bought up much of the local land. In 1909 Charles Tudway moved the main family residence to Milton Lodge, with The Cedars being used during World War I as a military hospital and later by Wells Theological College and Wells Cathedral School” [which it still is].
The same source goes on to say that, “The garden was laid out in 1903 by Capt Croker Ives Partridge of the Alfred Parsons garden design company for Charles Tudway. It consists of a series of terraces planted with mixed borders including a collection of roses and climbing plants. The terraces include Yew hedges, ponds and fountains. The traditional English vegetation is supplemented with Mediterranean plants which are able to flourish due to the microclimate of the site. The upper terrace includes four canons from the Napoleonic Wars are on display.”
My Candide app suggested that this, of which there were several examples in the Gardens, might be a Flowering maple, (which is not a maple at all but an abutilon), but I’m not quite convinced, while failing to find a better suggestion…
The Gardens go just beyond the big hedge.
As I had walked from the car park, the way was lined with wild garlic, ransoms. I did not take a photo, but need not have worried about there being no further opportunity.
I was tempted up this tiny path to my right, (the terraces being to my left),
and was rewarded with this.
I returned to the main path, went down a few shallow steps, and found a few more ransoms.
As I said, the Gardens go down to just beyond the big hedge.
At the end of this path was a large area of wildflowers.
On the edge of the wildflower area was this knobbly tree, which I have failed totally to identify,
even given the clue of its leaf shape.
Just by the tree was a bench, one of several in the Gardens. I partook for a minute or two, surveying the lowest terrace
As I stood up, something made my eyes turn skywards, and I was thrilled to see this red kite. It is now some 30+ years since they were reintroduced into the Chiltern Hills. I had seen some in Scotland in 2011 following their reintroduction there, and I knew that they had spread westwards from Oxfordshire into Somerset. But this was the first I had seen here.
I walked through the tea area to explore the middle terrace.
Turning round I spotted a bench hidden on the other side where I thought it would be nice to take a cup of tea.
Tea and cake duly bought, I found ‘my’ bench still unoccupied, with this to my left,
this to my right,
and this ahead.
As I returned to my car, it was all too tempting to take an arty photo of the Cathedral, where I shall be singing at a memorial service in a week’s time.
Several months ago, I had seen publicity for a Klimt ‘Immersive Experience’ – whatever that might be, but it looked interesting – to take place at a yet to be declared venue in London. I toyed with the idea, but with no idea of where in London it might be, and therefore how long it would take me to get from my arrival in the capital by train or bus, I decided against. However, when I saw, a few weeks later, that there was to be a Van Gogh ‘Immersive Experience’, also at an unknown venue, but somewhere in Bristol, that seemed more doable, so I booked for last Thursday. When the venue became known I was very pleased, as it turned out to be near to Bristol Temple Meads railway station, so not only doable, but doable direct by one bus from near my home.
Not that near though. I should have allowed 20 minutes to walk to my bus stop. As it was, I left 3 minutes later than I meant, but I would still have got to the stop on time. The bus overtook me when I was still three minutes’ walk from the bus stop. I ran, and ran, and ran, very cross that it seemed to have arrived early. I made it, even having to wait for a couple of minutes while people in front of me paid their fares. The bus left exactly on time, so I couldn’t really complain. (It took seven minutes for my breathing to return to normal, so unfit am I.)
Still, I then had 80 minutes to just sit and enjoy the countryside going by. I got off at Temple Meads, and went into the station to buy a sandwich, passing this statue as I went.
It was rather less controversial than another statue in Bristol, now in its more rightful place in a Bristol museum. (That one was mentioned by Neil McGregor in a lunchtime slot on BBC Radio 4 a few days ago, and also came up in questions at a talk by David Olusoga that I went to in Street recently. He pointed out that statues – of whoever – were rarely put up because the subject was widely admired at the time. They were erected by a few of his (sic) rich friends. And the historian Mary Beard had told him that the Romans regularly just changed the head on statues to reflect changing interest.)
The venue, called the Propyard, was located about half a mile, 0.6 km, away, in what was clearly a former industrial part of the city. To get to it I had firstly to walk along Cattle Market Street alongside the station, which led into Feeder Street. I noted a rather clever traffic/illegal parking management scheme there, of particular interest because Bristol have been advising my local authority on a somewhat similar scheme to be installed in Glastonbury.
I also noticed (interesting) graffiti all the way along. The Propyard’s Facebook page calles it an art trail.
Here, to my left, three waterways converge. To my left, the River Avon (New Cut). Ahead of me, from where a pleasure boat is emerging, the Floating Harbour (the original course of the Avon until 1809 as this article explains), and to my right, a cut opened at the same time, called The Feeder.
I walked along Feeder Road, The Feeder canal to my left, and was pleased to see after not too long a big ‘PY’ on the side of a building which turned out not to be the Propyard, but immediately beyond it.
This is the Propyard, a former warehouse, once used by the MoD for testing torpedoes! It opened as ‘a space for contemporary arts, music, food, and culture’ in July last year.
To be honest, for the first half hour, I could not see what all the fuss about this ‘experience’ was. Panels of straightforward facts about, and analysis of, Van Gogh’s life and work, obviously no originals, with just more modern touches, like the ability to download the panels onto one’s phone via an app. I felt a bit sorry for the young children around. And the constant noisy music was annoying me.
This short film was interesting. It was about Van Gogh’s liking for and use of bright colours. It concluded with the theory that he was colour blind, and needed bright colours to be able to distinguish between one tone and another. I have looked into this since, and found a number of articles dating from 2012, about a Japanese artist-philosopher, Kasunori Asada, who has applied his Chromatic Vision Simulator to Van Gogh’s work and reached the startling clour-blindness conclusion.
A fair chunk of the exhibition was devoted to discussion on VG’s many versions of sunflowers in a vase.
There were a couple of dioramas of his works. The child in this one is real, and her brother joined her a few seconds later, when they proceeded to romp on the bed. Something for children at last!
At last the Experience began to kick in. After the fairly conventional exhibition, one walked through this small room…
I recalled the publicity, which has people standing around in a large space surrounded by Van Gogh themes on huge walls, phones in their hands. I took dozens of still and moving pictures; here is a tiny selection. I also just sat and watched for long periods. The whole show, which seemed to go through the various phases of his life, lasted perhaps 25 minutes.
I looked immediately to my right to see this, but it was also diametrically opposite.
I left when the show reached where I had come in, and in the next room decided not to accept the invitation to create my own masterpiece by crayoning in between the lines.
Nor to buy anything in the very well-stocked (and to my mind expensive) gift shop. But I did recognise the right-hand painting as being on a jigsaw I had given at Christmas.
The way out was through the bar. Ah, I hadn’t needed to buy a sandwich at the station – but then I wouldn’t have seen Brunel’s statue.
When I had been researching how to get to the venue, Bing Maps had told me that I could get off my bus a stop early, and walk alongside a waterway to get to Feeder Road, so that seemed like a good idea for my return journey. This was how it began.
Having gone under this bridge I looked back. The River Avon is low, the tide being out (or the waterway being managed – I have no idea).
Spoiler alert, I should have crossed this bridge to get back to the main Wells Road and my bus stop, but it didn’t even occur to me, it came so soon.
I was enjoying my rural urban walk.
I thought that this moorhen was pulling up some weed, but closer inspection reveals that it is scratching itself with its green leg.
‘This must be my bridge’, thought I, ‘I hope there are some steps up to it.’
There were, but I came out not on the main road as I expected, but a short side one, leading on to it. ‘Nice new flats’ I thought, ‘Don’t remember seeing those from the bus, but then I was sitting on the other side and looking out the other way.’
I looked for a bus stop, and when I got there, I didn’t see my number bus listed. Fortunately I had brought my book of Bristol street maps with me. And found that I had clearly come out not on the Wells road, but that for Bath. The two had diverged some way back. I hoped there was a short cut through for pedestrians.
Followed by this.
Followed by this.
And the climb hadn’t finished yet.
Nearly back at the Wells road, I looked down a side street. The first bridge I had passed under as I went along the river can just be seen in the very middle of the picture – if your screen is big enough.
A minute or so later, at 15.47 precisely, having tottered up all that way, I was at the bus stop at Totterdown. The timetable said the bus I wanted was due at 15.47. I saw no bus disappearing into the distance and very much hoped that it was just late, otherwise there would be a 30-minute wait. It was, and five minutes later I was able to rest my weary legs for another 80 minutes.
An interesting day! I wonder if some of those graffiti artists are colour-blind?!
Last Friday was the first of the month, so was the day for Zoe and I to meet for a walk and pub lunch. My time to organise, and I had long had this one in mind, but had put off for a bit as it was said to be extremely muddy.
I was a little late to our rendezvous. My satnav took me on neither of the routes I had thought likely, but across the Somerset moors on single track roads and droves. I had been following a slow lorry for ages, unable to overtake it, when it just stopped. A brief toot on my car horn to tell them I was there produced an irascible reaction and the ‘loud assertion’ that they had the legal right to stop for 20 minutes, though they would only take a few minutes, but if I weren’t careful they’d take longer.
I texted Zoe to say I would be late and why, and when I looked up I saw this through my windscreen.
As they finished the particularly rude man came over and apologised. I think his companions must have had a word. We went on to have quite a civilised brief chat.
I was further delayed by; an old man whose delightful King Charles spaniel just would not obey him and move over; a kamikaze pheasant; and then a flock of swans. By this last I was on a normal road, but just had to stop for a photo.
A woman leaning on a fence watching them said that there had been as many as 50 swans there, and that this was just a few of them. I would have loved to have stayed longer just gazing – especially as we were on a bridge over a waterway – but I didn’t want to keep Zoe waiting any longer.
We met at Aller Church, which is, according to the notes, ‘the historic site where Alfred the Great and Guthrun the Dane signed a treaty to end the Viking rule in Wessex in AD 878’. (Oh yes, I’d been further delayed by the fact that the church is out in the countryside, well away from the village centre, which threw me.)
The walk turned out not to be at all muddy, was very flat, and in plan roughly a triangle. The day was sunny and cold, with at times a brisk wind. The first leg followed the Middlemoor Rhyne, down to the Sowy River.
Zoe is the arbiter of whether to walk by cows is safe, and she deemed this lot to be fine.
All waterways on the Somerset Levels and Moors are heavily managed.
It so happened that just a day or so later I saw on local social media a reference to, and an explanation of, tilting weirs. It comes at about 43 minutes into this BBC ‘Countryfile‘ programme.
We arrived at the River Sowy and crossed over.
Research since implies that this structure is named a throttle because it is indeed designed to meet this Wikipedia definition of the word. ‘A throttle is the mechanism by which fluid flow is managed by constriction or obstruction.’
(Why do people feel the need to vandalise such signs?
In fact the River Sowy is totally artificial. And recent. It’s a 7.5 mile (12.1 km) flood relief channel to take overflow. From the Somerset Rivers website: ‘Construction of the river commenced in the mid 1960’s with completion in 1972 and was designed to relieve the flooding of the River Parrett at Langport and Aller Moor. A pilot scheme to test the feasibility of passing water from the Parrett to the Kings Sedgemoor Drain was undertaken in 1951 with the construction of the Langacre Rhyne. This followed the lines of a similar relief channel recommended in 1853. After the floods of 1960 a new scheme was proposed but rejected as being too costly. However a revised scheme, the existing Sowy River, was approved in 1963.1
“References: 1. The Draining of the Somerset Levels – Michael Williams” I have this book. It’s fascinating.
This is the Sowy, looking west, our intended direction.
The River Parrett was just yards/metres further on from the Sowy, and we walked along its embankment. Sadly, it was impossible to get the two parallel rivers in one photo. The Sowy is just over to the right, and somewhat lower.
The Parrett meanders. Oath Hill to the right.
The notes said to cross back over the Sowy by a footbridge. We wondered, nattering as we had been, whether we had missed it, but a rather unexpected style of bridge hove into view in due course. As we went up the steps we reckoned it was the steepest part of the walk thitherto.
At the other side was a rather exaggerated waymark.
But we were pleased to be able to see the next one, even without arrow, as the route was far from clear. And, while the terrain here was not muddy, it was definitely boggy.
The ‘bridge’ over the rhyne there was decidedly dicey.
Behind the village is Aller Hill.
No wonder we had not been able to see the church for which we were meant to head.
Lunch at The Pound Inn in the village rounded off a pleasant morning, enhanced by those pretty puffy clouds which never seemed to put us in the shade.
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.
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.
The National Trust tour I had pre-booked for the Sunday afternoon of my Cornwall holiday was of the Levant Mine and Beam Engine, in the St Just area on the north coast of the Penwith peninsula. As requested by the Trust, because of the earlier start of the Tour of Britain, I had allowed plenty of time to get there, and, also at their request, parked not at the Mine itself but a 20-minute walk away at Geevor mine, open to the public, but not NT property.
It was a very grey day, with rain threatening all the time.
As I had thought, the Tour of Britain had no impact on access, having passed surely three hours previously – but thank you, National Trust, for having alerted me to it! I had therefore, even allowing for the walk to Levant, some 30 minutes in hand, so I wandered around the desolate landscape for some while.
I was surprised to see how little nature had taken over from the abandoned terrain, but later learned that Geevor had only closed in 1991.
Vince was our volunteer guide, a geology teacher of both aspiring mining engineers and of A level students. (In reply to a question from me, he said that the future’s in lithium, indium and gallium apparently, although the first two are running out, especially indium, essential for our touch screens to work, and that will be all mined out by 2030.) From his style, I would guess that Vince is an excellent and passionate teacher.
He gave us full and fascinating explanations, and was also a mine (sorry) of historical anecdotes. I was very conscious that I would manage to hang on to very little of what he said, which is perhaps fortunate, since this post would be very long if so. But I do recall that he said that mining in this area had started some 4500 years ago. Beaker people from Switzerland had brought the skills here, but it was not known how they had acquired those skills. Here is a full account of mining in Cornwall and Devon.
Vince explained about lodes and the way their valuable constituents separated themselves out, into tin, copper, arsenic and silver, and how they went for miles out to sea.
After a while, Vince took us to the beam engine, and handed us over to Peter, the engineer, who explained how steam was raised and worked the engine. For various reasons I was able to follow little, and just concentrated on the sheer beauty of the thing, and loved seeing it set in motion.
Ahead was the Miners’ Dry. a huge room where the miners dried out at the end of a shift. But before that, Vince explained why some parts of the land were so dangerous.
When a shaft was closed, it was just covered with wooden boards which were grown over and just rotted in due course. Tread on one of those areas and…
In its heyday this was the Miners’ Dry:
Just the floor remains now, with the Compressor house chimney beyond.
Next and last we descended to the start of the the man engine shaft. The man engine was an ingenious but very dangerous mechanism for lowering the miners to their working areas. It broke in 1919, killing 31 people, after which mining the lowest levels was abandoned.
Botallack mine (also National Trust, though not part of this tour) was just a kilometre further down the coast. I was shattered, and had a 15-minute climb back to the car park ahead of me, so I decided I would not join a couple who were planning to visit, but returned to my car tired, but very happy, at the end of two excellent days.
I had planned nothing yet for the Monday, but had lots of competing ideas.
The last (and indeed only) time I had been in Penwith, the very tip of Cornwall, including Lands End, was way back in 1973. For some years now, I had harboured a desire to go back. I made it as far as north Cornwall in 2013, on a geology field trip, and for some years had been gathering together material on furthest Cornwall. So when, last January, I abandoned all thought of a wildlife holiday on the Continent, I booked a week in a BnB in Penzance. Already availability was low; I think many other retirees had the same thought as I had – grab the first week the schools are back.
On my journey down, the augurs were good. Just minutes from home, as I took Bella to the cattery (Tilly was left well provided for at home, as she is not vaccinated) as I drove through Meare there was a young woman walking along the pavement with a large owl on her arm! I was not quick enough to stop and take a photo, sadly.
Traffic down the M5 was heavy but rarely slow, and I arrived at my planned lunch and walk stop just before midday. One of the many bits of paper I had gathered was about the beautiful and interesting Luxulyan valley, in North Cornwall. As I pulled into the village, I had needed to find just two things: a loo and coffee, preferably in that order.
No difficulty in finding either. For the second, just yards/metres away from where I was able to park my car, was a Memorial Hall,
where a ‘Plant swap and butties’ event going on. (I was later to find out more about Captain Agar-Robartes, a local MP, who had been killed in 1915 while trying to rescue a wounded comrade, during WWI.) There they were very happy to serve me a coffee for £1.
I didn’t stay inside to drink it. The room was small and noisy, and a dozen apparent locals were sitting around, not a mask between them, and one of them was holding forth on political matters in an extremely loud voice. I sat outside on this rather beautiful bench, which took me straight back to my week in Huissen, singing with an international choir in commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.
Three people passed by in the road, and two of them said hello. Friendly place, Luxulyan.
From my reading, I knew there was a beautiful walk along the valley, and was delighted to find a description of one in a ‘Short walks in Cornwall’ booklet I had just bought.
I set off,
and soon came across this well,
which pleased me for itself, and because it confirmed I had taken the right direction from the church.
The walk soon left the country lanes for footpaths through the woods, alongside leats for much of the time..
In due course I arrived at the Treffry Viaduct, wondering what it (had) carried. I now know that ‘firstly it carried the mine trucks over the valley and secondly it carried the water used to power the water wheel at Carmears. ‘
Overall, I don’t think I have ever said ‘Wow’ so frequently during a walk, not just for the viaduct, but also for the huge blocks of granite and the wonderful views…..
I had said to myself that I would stop to eat my sandwich at the first available place to sit after 1 pm. At 12.58 this came into view, the first bench I had seen (and indeed the last on this walk). I decided not to obsess over two 2 minutes!
The view as I ate.
Whwn I set off again, there were several temptations to wander off either side of the path but I resisted them.
The gap to the left where the 9-metre diameter water wheel had been was unmistakeable. It wound wagons up the incline
From here the water ran to drive it, a tiny trickle today. The Carmears incline was to haul crushed minerals up the slope.
Looking back at the furthest point, (I’ve come from the left and must return on the right) except that the instruction was to continue for a short while down to a bridge over the incline.
This was the turning point of the walk.
There were several ruined buildings on my route.
But this is the top of the wheel machinery.
Not only were stone sleeper supports visible all along the incline, but also the occasional rail support
and even rail.
The walk continues to follow the track, as far as the viaduct.
‘At the end of the viaduct turn left and go up some wooden steps to enter a field.’
And then it all went wrong. I could find no wooden post at which to turn right. But I did find a stile and hoped it was the right one. It was, later confirmed. But I should not have been able to take these next three photos.
When I had what I reckoned from the map was about 20 minutes to go to get back to the church, I realised that something was wrong: no longer did the terrain fit the description. I tried take a common sense approach, knowing that my car was north, (the sun was out) but it proved impossible. Long story short, it was with mixed feelings that I found myself back at the end of the viaduct, pleased to know exactly where I was, but unsure how not to make the same error again. I had literally gone round in a circle. I climbed the steps again, nervous of how to escape the vicious circle!
I took the stile again, and decided to ignore what I had previously taken to be a junction at which I was to turn right, and – phew – this worked. A much more obvious junction soon appeared, and all went smoothly from then on. I was very pleased to see this waymark, indicating, as I hoped, the church from which I had started off.
The ice cream I bought at the village shop was well-deserved, I thought.
The M and S food hall on the outskirts of Hayle, 50 minutes away, was my next planned stop, and from there it was only 20 minutes or so to my BnB. Or should have been. Traffic was incredibly slow through the town, through which I was forced to take an unexpected diversion, for reasons which will become clear in my next post. I went out for a very short wander on foot around 7.30, but likewise the theme of that is more appropriate to my next post…