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.
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.
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.
Yesterday was the second of my resumed monthly walks with my friend Zoe, though sadly the pub lunch at the end will not resume until next month – hopefully. We started from my house, and followed a route I had done once before, many years ago, but which I had not felt able to do more recently as I didn’t want to venture alone along that part of the route which lines the River Brue. It is now populated with somewhat scruffy residential caravans, past which I would not wish to go alone. There were many more caravans than shown here.
The walk was a little longer than planned, as what we did for a time clearly did not fit with what was on the OS map. I had had no problem with this when I had previously done the walk. Perhaps we were just chatting too much. I think I know now what went wrong, and am tempted to go and check it out sometime, but…
The walk was on a very local patch of the Somerset Moors, a.k.a. the Somerset Levels, though technically those are off to the west, bounded roughly by the M5 motorway. Over the centuries from Roman times they have been progressively drained, turning from marshes into pastureland. (The Draining of the Somerset Levels, by Michael Williams is fascinating on the subject.) They abound in ditches and rhynes (pronounced ‘reens’) and if you can help it you don’t set off across a field unless you know for sure that you will not be cut off at the other side by a water course too wide to leap across. (Moors, levels, rhynes explained here.)
A much enlarged clip from the above picture will show how the local authority is meeting the obligation placed on it by the government to provide sanitation for the caravan dwellers during the pandemic, as part of its campaign to get the homeless off the streets. This is to end after 17th May.
Glastonbury Tor accompanied us throughout.
Having passed this caravan I turned round to take a photo of the mattress lying among the branches of the tree, and the solar panel.
No wonder the road patches had seemed fresh!
Difficult not to stop and watch little lambkins. West Pennard Hill in the background.
When we caught sight of this swan it was way off, but when it caught sight of us it swam purposefully in our direction.
And swam purposefully away from us once it saw we had nothing to give it.
It was around here that we started to suspect we weren’t quite sure that we were where we thought we were. Still, it’s a nice bridge, of sorts.
We stood looking at this flock for quite a long time. After all, we had to make sure that each of the four lambs dispersing from playing together managed to find its right mother.
It this point I thought we were on Ponters Ball, a local earthwork of unknown age and purpose. Glastonbury is, in effect a peninsula, surround by Moors, formerly marshes. This earthwork marks the fourth, non watery, side of the peninsula. The earthwork did not particularly impress Zoe, who had not heard of it before I drew it to her attention as we made our arrangements.
In any case, I was wrong. This was Ponters Ball, reached ten minutes later. Looking southwards,
and here northwards. Zoe was a little more impressed. And from here on we knew exactly where we were.
Some furry creature has come to a sad end, at the hands – or more probably claws of a feathery creature
We were well and truly on the homeward stretch now, here entering the grounds of Millfield Preparatory School.
Tennis practice. And we also saw equestrian practice, but were too close for comfortable photography … and the battery of my phone – I had not bothered with my camera as I didn’t expect to take any photos – was running out.
Just enough juice to take one last picture of the Tor.
Unlike most of my friends, I do not feel impelled to get out into the fresh air every day. It needs the promise of a pretty garden or some such, or really nice weather, (or need for essential purchases) to get me further than my garden. Possibly it’s because from my front window I have a big sky, at times with hundreds of starlings streaming past, and the Polden Hills in the middle distance, to feast my eyes on. Possibly.
But last Sunday, the conditions were almost fulfilled. It was chilly but bright. And I told myself I ‘ought’ to get out, at least for a short walk, so I did. A few weeks ago a friend had shown me a footpath near my house, which in principle I knew existed but access to which I had never sought out, and I decided to take it, this time with camera.
At the end of my road. My goodness. Bristol Water are going at it! This is a good half mile from the works I had seen the other day, and in the other direction from my house. They’ve been working around here for months.
I’m always sad walking up this lane. It’s exactly two years since my lovely little cat, Luciole aka Lulu, was found on its verge, the victim no doubt of a speeding motorist.
Permit me a rant. I think I just about understand, though I don’t necessarily sympathise with them, why house owners don’t like cars turning in the wide space aligned with the pavement outside their houses. But one at the entrance to a field?!
I’m now up on a very busy road, which on weekdays is crammed with large speeding lorries and other vehicles. There is a local campaign to get this downgraded from being an approved freight route. Just a few yards behind me they go dangerously near actual house walls. I now have the choice of taking my life in my hands – cars come speeding round that corner, even though it’s a 20 mph zone, crossing the road to a wider pavement, and then having to cross back a couple of hundred yards further on, or staying on this side and getting squashed by a passing lorry. It’s Sunday, so I’ll take my chance and stay on this side.
That choice means I notice this intriguing gateway on the other side. I’ve driven along this stretch of road hundreds of times, but never once walked it.
Hieroglyphs on a telephone post
This is why I considered crossing the road. I think I need to send this photo to the authorities to get it cleaned up. It’s only 18 inches (45 cm) wide at the best of times .
And here is the entrance to the footpath I’ve never tried. In all those hundreds of times driving along this road, I’d never noticed it tucked away.
And once through, this:
Or this, sweeping though 270 degrees:
Aaah. (Baah?) But you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.
Walking down the hill, it’s easy to avoid the boggy bit, nicely delineated by sedge.
For this oak, it’s very definitely still winter.
From the bottom of the field, looking back…
… and forward. Now there’s meant to be a stile somewhere here…
… and here it is, tucked around the corner.
The next one looks most unwelcoming.
But fortunately there is an alternative.
The next one is almost pristine.
Here’s why. I do like it when stiles have a good upright post to hold on to.
And the next stile is a double one, over a ditch.
The trodden (and very muddy) track ahead matches the right of way marked on the map.
And I come out onto a familiar road. Theoretically I should be home shortly.
But I am delayed.
‘Oh, give it a rest kids!’
After ten minutes I reluctantly move on. I was getting a little chilled. I look back over my left shoulder.
And I look over towards my right.
And shortly pass my local park where I see humanlets gambolling. Back to school the next day after three months, save a false one-day start in January.
Yes, that way round. Yesterday morning I had to take my car to the garage for its MoT. I was not looking forward to the walk back. Only 15 minutes, but at 8.15 it was cold and damp, with that chill that gets into your bones, as they say. So I took my camera with me, which made the walk pass more pleasantly, even though it also made it last 5 minutes longer.
They called me at lunchtime to say the car was ready, and I decided to take my camera with me again as I walked back to the garage, in case I regretted not doing so. I would have done.
The garage has a very small showroom for second-hand cars. This MG reminded me of the Midget I used to drive in the mid-1970s.
I looked up towards St Benedict’s.
But didn’t go that way, turning off right into a cul-de sac. ‘That reminds me – I must put my recycling out when I get home.’ The houses in the distance are on Wearyall Hill.
The panel says ‘Keep out. This area is liable to flood’. The squirrel was unconcerned.
Across Morrisons’ car park next.
From the car park I could see the top of the RC St Mary’s church, and its hall, which I know now has a lift and, it appears, perhaps a new roof as well.
Faced with the first of many inclines where I live. That feature was something I considered hard when deciding whether or not to move here ten years ago.
Many businesses round here use the word ‘Avalon’ or ‘Tor’ in their trade names.
A pretty corner on a very busy and noisy road.
The next incline, and the Globe Inn next to the park on the right.
I haven’t walked alongside the park for a very long time. I’m sure this wasn’t here before. But perhaps the whole tree was.
When I drove to the garage at 8.15, I noticed how little traffic there was. 20 minutes later certainly not the case. A misty Chalice Hill in the background.
At the top of these steps is…
… a small green space.
But I’m walking downhill now.
Fortunately I don’t need to turn left.
Instead I’m going to walk up a path between the houses.
Another reminder that it’s recycling day.
A once-in-two-hours chance to see the little bus which goes along the principal road through the estate.
As I walk through it, I have had various glimpses of the very misty moors, the Polden Hills beyond having totally disappeared.
Chalice Hill can be made out.
But much of Glastonbury Tor, including its tower at the top, cannot.
Because I have my camera in my hand, I take three photos in my garden.
The frog spawn is nicely turning from dots into commas.
And these ridiculous primroses have been flowering, though not this floriferously, since October.
As I set off to collect the car in the early afternoon, I was pleased to find that the chill damp had gone, (though it was still very cold), and that the tower had returned to the top of the Tor.
The Bristol Water people were still hard at work. I should try to join a gang like this to find out why it is that ‘work’ so often consists of just standing around.
What goes up must go down if you’re walking in the opposite direction.
The swings in the park were in use.
And the bird had not budged as I took a closer look. Ah, so it’s made of wood, not metal.
I took a more interesting route for the last part back to the garage, and had glimpses of the Abbey.
Seeing this mural on the side of the Globe Inn …
… and its signature, gave me an idea for a possible future blog or two. I found later that there are 26 murals on the trail.
I believe this water flows from Chalice Hill.
And that it used to be the source for the Pump Room on the other side of the road in its short life as such.
Now I could see the Abbey’s octagonal kitchen.
The citation on this plaque – the lost adult glove gives an idea of its size – says: “PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC BY J HRY BURGESS ESQ RESIDENT SURGEON IN THIS TOWN 50 YEARS AND DURING HIS SIXTH MAYORALTY 1864…1865” And what is it decorating? Very appropriate for a surgeon – public conveniences, still, in ‘normal’ times, in use.
From a car park, an even better view of part of the Abbey. And another idea for a future blog.
I knew there was a Glastonbury community ‘fridge’ (not limited to chilled foodstuff) but not where it was, next to the Town Hall. (I am going out very, very little these days!)
This time I go past St Benedict’s church and the Mitre Inn.
And, very close by, The King Arthur.
Finally, a pretty row of houses opposite the entrance to the garage.
My car had passed its MoT with flying colours – but then it had only done 2000 miles in the last 12 months, and much of that was done in the two weeks before lockdown, as I drove to and from Gatwick Airport for my trip to Morocco, of blessed memory.
It was Stressful Wednesday, and I had been obsessing with the rolling news half the night (less than four hours’ sleep) and all day until lunchtime. It was gorgeous outside, and I hadn’t done my little there-and-back walk from my house for a very long time. I wondered if it was possible to distract myself for an hour or so.
It was. I can honestly say that I did not give the US presidential election a single thought all the time I was out.
Down to the end of my road,
through a small passageway to my left, up the lane to the main road where the prep school is situated, and back again. Views and details.
I spent a few minutes trying to capture hedge reflections in the puddles at the side of the road. This is the only vaguely successful image.
So I raised my eyes to the lane ahead, and thought that they’d soon be flailing the hedges.
Time to turn round.
From now on, I was facing the low autumn sun.
I was intrigued by this very new fencing on either side of this track, which on first glance appeared to be creating two paths. A closer look made me realise that in fact it was protecting new hedging. I waited for the sheep to be ushered into the right-hand field, and for the ‘shepherd’ to come back to his van, to my left. From him I learned that in fact this was his project. Living in town, he owned nine acres, and was putting native hedging around the three fields, for the benefit of wildlife. 600 metres so far. Brilliant!
I started this post early on Saturday afternoon. I broke off about three pictures ago to watch CNN, and caught the moment the result was announced. Stressful Wednesday was worth it!
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.
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 …
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).
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.)
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.
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:
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.