Time for another visit to a National Trust place. When I booked, for last Wednesday, 10th November, the forecast was for a 14% chance of rain. By the time the day came it was more like 50%. But we were lucky. Driving though showers to get there, I feared another rain-sodden visit, as to Park Cottage, but not a drop of rain fell during our wanderings, (unlike the journey home).
Montacute House is the most splendid of houses to visit in the area, (paceBarrington Court, which runs it a close second, and whose gardens I also visited recently) much used as a filming location, including for the recent television version of Wolf Hall. While the house was not open to the public, under current lockdown regulations, the gardens were, and we had them almost to ourselves.
As you drive there, you have a tantalising glimpse from the road of the long drive and the house at the end, but cannot stop. Here it is from the other direction.
I had forgotten to pick up my camera as I left home, but am quite pleased with the service my phone gave me, and by the time Daphne and I met up at this point, I had already taken photos of the displayed map,
of the amazing house front,
and of the crest emblazoned thereon.
We ambled round the gardens together, looking inwards and outwards.
The back of the house is even more impressive than the front.
A gate entices you into the formal, walled garden,
of which I select just one photo.
We were soon on the other side of the wall once more.
Daphne could not stay much longer, with a delivery to receive at home, but found time to have a takeaway coffee bought from the café (I had to improvise a mask, my nearest being in the car). We sat on a bench, which was just long enough to enable us to be socially distanced, with the view at the top of this post ahead of us.
I was not in a hurry, and had never walked round the village before. The car park was not closing for another 30 minutes, so I took the opportunity to rectify that lack.
If the house at the far end of this row looks a little wonky, that’s because
I felt so good after that visit, and all evening. With all the electronic means of communication and entertainment that I have at my disposal, I had not felt at all lonely during this or the previous lockdown, but I had not realised how much good some real face to face conversation with a friend – enhanced by a beautiful setting both during and after – would do me. That was great!
Fancying a short late morning walk in the Quantock Hills, I googled and found this, thanks to Quantockonline.com
Ideal. Nice length, water, and a picnic spot with a viewpoint. Splendid. Hawkridge Reservoir was built about sixty years ago to provide water to Bridgwater. Technical details here.
50 minutes away from my home according to the satnav. I arrived after 75 minutes – yes, more roadworks. It’s August.
I had some difficulty identifying the car park. I saw a broad entry to what was evidently a car park, but it had no panel saying it was for the public, so I drove on. I found nothing after a couple of hundred metres, so turned back and parked in the one I had seen, where there was just one other car, and this view.
The instructions said to go to the road and turn west, past a cottage on my left. So what did I do? I confused my east with my west. (My excuse was that, on both Ordnance Survey map and the plan, the car park is shown south of the road when in fact it was north – but I should have been more alert!) That cost me ten minutes. Having corrected my direction I found no cottage to my left, and made my way back to the car park. Faffing about for a while more
increased my loss of time to at least 30 minutes, until I realised that, according to the plan, my starting point should not have been at level of the the reservoir’s dam, but more than halfway along its length. ‘They’ had evidently changed the location of the car park since the plan had been drawn, and my OS map was also pretty old.
No public access to the top of the dam.
Hooray, I now knew where I was, at Point 4 on the plan, not Point 1.
These are either scaup or tufted ducks. They are just minuscule dots on the previous picture, and some fishermen in a boat are not much larger.
The weather forecast having predicted only a 3% chance of rain, I had not taken any rain protection. So it was as well that as I reached the bottom of the slope and this splendid sweet chestnut tree,
and found myself at this stile (check – yes!), when the rain came I was entering this wood.
It was lovely hearing the rain but feeling not a drop of it.
By the time I reached this gate and bridge it had stopped.
Through some private land, now labelled Ebsley Cottage.
Emerging into ‘wilder’ territory once more, I was delighted to see this Scarlet Pimpernel. It is not rare but I had not seen any for a while.
At Point 6 I got a bit cross with the walk description. Quite clearly according to the plan one was to turn left, south-westish. There was a field to the right, but its boundary was on the left, with a wire fence between field and a coniferous wood. But the words said, ‘follow field boundary on the right.’ What was one to do? I turned left and had the boundary on my left. I was TO the right of the fence. The alternative would have been to turn north, up a slope and have another field boundary on my right. And I’d have got lost again.
I now also had the reservoir to my left. Only fishermen (fisherpeople?) have access to the water’s edge, and beyond, on to the water. This is their clubhouse.
I had to turn away to my right for a bit (Point 8), and, as I turned sharp left a minute or so later, was delighted to be able to rest my elbows on a stile to take photos of this yaffle, aka green woodpecker, at a great distance, as it looked for insects in the grass. I took many photos, and couldn’t decide on the best, so here are two.
As I encountered these, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Zoe who is always very cautious around cattle. With her words in my ears, I moved well south of them.
A lovely view ahead, spoiled by an ugly deforestation scar.
I turn round – they’re keeping an eye on me.
Above the scar is a flock of sheep.
A look back at the reservoir.
By the hedge there was a couple eating a picnic. Had I been nearer to them I would, with an explanation, have asked permission to take their photo, but an exchange of what the cliché calls ‘a cheery wave’ sufficed as greeting.
Down to the minor road, and to where I was to leave the circumnavigation of the reservoir to go up to the lime kiln, the viewpoint, and the picnic spot, for my late lunch.
I felt better about the scar now. And was not at a personal level as disappointed as I might have been. I was ready for my lunch, a Great Climb would have been ahead of me, (I have not mentioned hitherto that it was very hot) and I did not have my walking pole with me to help me down the later descent.
I walked on, thinking I should now see the space where the original car park would have been. Instead – yes – I found THE car park, a glorified lay-by, which had I continued another 300 metres I would have found. It had a nice view of the reservoir,
with some swans and a grey heron,
an information board,
and some people, in and out of cars. I walked on,
found the cottage, and the stile at Point 1, and sat on it to eat my picnic, with a lovely view,
and a better view of the swans.
The grey heron had moved to join its cousin, a little egret.
Difficult to get decent pictures at that distance, but there were also great crested grebes,
mallard ducks (?)
and the chance to get a better picture of the egret.
Back at my personal starting point in due course, I thought this quarry, way in the distance and over to my right, must be Callow Rock Quarry, near Cheddar, the entrance to which I have passed many times on the road, but never seen.
This panorama from ‘my’ car park takes in Wales, Brean Down and much of the Mendip Hills, including the above quarry.
It was time to move on to my other visit of the day.