A long flat day today, through the Somerset levels. It’s not an area I’ve ever walked before, and given the flooding earlier this year I was a bit worried that it would still be underwater/boggy or blocked in places. But I needn’t have worried – lots of crops growing and green grass in the fields, cows and sheep grazing, and very straightforward walking mostly on (very straight) roads.
Bridgwater, like Bideford and Barnstaple (perhaps towns starting with B?) doesn’t seem like a place to linger, and despite getting lost when a solicitor telephoned and distracted me, I was soon out of town and heading towards the Levels, passing over the river Parrett (I think) and through the pretty villages of Bawdrip and Cossington.
Then onto the Levels. The landscape is curiously foreign looking – it’s so flat it looks as if it has been ironed, and only field hedges and the occasional house or barn can be seen, with the rolling Mendip hills beyond. It reminded me a bit of La Mancha in Spain, which Arran and I drove through a few years ago, but without any windmills and with a lot more water!
The foreign feel was added to by yet another day of unbroken sunshine, making the road walking feel tougher and longer than it actually was, and by the odd stand of poplars near a farmhouse. Apart from the lovely Huntspill River, the water was all in narrow ditches between fields and it was very hot indeed.
I was glad to stop for lunch in the wonderfully named Sexey’s Arms in Blackford. The barman did deflate me a little by nodding towards my trail guide, saying ‘Ah, I see you have the book. We had a guy in here last week who was running the whole thing’. Just goes to show, there’s no point in competing!
The route into Cheddar goes over some gentle hills; my route through one field was blocked by cattle, who stood so close to the gate that I didn’t dare either open it or climb over, but I managed to find an alternative route through nearby fields of stubble and rough pasture. At one point the path went round the edge of a field of nearly-ripe barley; like so many cliches that turn out to be true, it really does move in rolling waves.
The end of the day brought me (via a farm track where the right of way was blocked with a caravan, an electric fence and a dog) to Cheddar Reservoir, where I met Arran and the kids. A pleasant day’s walking, but I’m not sure I would go out of my way to walk it again!
Highlights: Turning the corner out of a street in Bridgwater to find myself all of a sudden in open countryside; huge blue skies, with small fluffy clouds; the cool shade of occasional willow trees next to the road; another great pint of Exmoor Gold (becoming a firm favourite); mirages on long straight stretches of tarmac; a long cold drink at the end of the day.