Today’s route went along the main ridge of the Quantocks. I’ve not walked in this area before and it was a lovely introduction – ridge walking is always nice and this was another rewarding day. There was a fair amount of road walking to begin with, on a road which on the map looked tiny and quiet but which seemed to be the main commuter route between Monksilver and everywhere else – a lot of pressing myself into the nettles and brambles at the side of the road and praying that I wouldn’t get flattened. A few fields, and then just before the railway I encountered a field with about 20 bullocks in it, who saw me and started running towards me for no apparent reason. They were joined by more bullocks from the next field, until there were 30 or so, all cantering towards me with no sign of slowing. Just as I had resigned myself to being trampled (my feet and knees in no condition to outdistance a healthy bovine), the herd all drew up short, about 10 feet away – it was only then that I noticed the tiny electric cord fence between myself and the animals. Weak with relief I scuttled past, to cross the railway line and enter Bicknoller.
Bicknoller is a lovely village with a great little shop – it would have been even better if the lady behind the till had spoken to me rather than continuing to gossip to her friend uninterrupted – and I sat outside and drank orange juice and water until I was ready to continue. From Bicknoller the route climbs rapidly (up the imaginatively named Hill Lane) through a wooded combe and then onto the Quantocks ridge itself. There were great views back over the valley and wild deer and ponies grazing on the slopes.
A lovely walk along the ridge, before coming into a grove of mature beech trees on the National Trust land at Crowcombe, before a short climb up to Wills Neck (the highest point on the ridge), with more stunning views which my phone doesn’t do justice to!
The rest of the day was a bit of an anticlimax, and it was hard to come down off the ridge and descend towards Bridgwater knowing that ahead lay a long flat day on the Somerset levels. There was a bit more road walking, mainly my choice to save time, before coming into Goathurst, which is a very pretty village but one where virtually every cottage seems to have at one time been a functional building: ‘The Maltings’, ‘The Chantries’,etc. I had a brief water-and-boots stop before heading towards Bridgwater on a footpath through fields.
However, in what I am now coming to realise is something of a pattern on this trail, the route into Bridgwater at the end of the day petered out in a network of featureless flat fields and stream crossings. I have christened this end-of-the-day path-finding, which seems often to involve getting lost/nettled/brambled/sunk in ankle-deep bog, the ‘Andy Robinson Shuffle’, in honour of the writer of the End to End trail! The right of way was blocked at several points by electric fences; when I did manage to locate the footpath, which proudly proclaimed that it had been established by the Sedgmoor Walking Society, it was almost impassable, consisting of deep ruts hidden by waist-high grass and reeds. I staggered around, cursing, before emerging into open fields, at which I gave up, abandoned the map and used my Blackberry’s rudimentary mapping system (it only shows roads, but at least you know where you are heading!) to find my way into the centre of Bridgwater. All in all though, a satisfying day’s walking, and after a steak and a large glass of wine I felt ready to tackle the onwards route to Cheddar and the Severn.
Highlights: Being up on the ridge again, for the last time until Wales; the very beautiful beech trees at Crowcombe; the little girl near the Quantocks car park who was wide-eyed when I told her I had seen ponies and deer; a glimpse of the very improbable Temple of Harmony just outside Goathurst; passing by a signpost to ‘Luxury Yurts’ on one side and ‘Reindeer Chalets’ on another at a glamping farm; the relief of walking on grass again after a few miles of roads; narrowly missing being run over by a team of cyclists; feeling hot, dusty and tired at the end of the day.