Walk Day 24 – Cleeve to Gordano

10.3 miles today.

The flights out of Bristol airport start at 6am so no lie-in today. I packed up and got moving as soon as the site owner had collected their money.

The first part of the journey was on roads and I stopped early to get breakfast at the Box Tree cafe at Cleeve Garden Centre. The cafe didn’t open until 10.30am so no food, but I did get a coffee thanks to Helen who worked there. Thank you for going over and above the call of duty and for your contribution to PCRF.

A bit further on I spied a pub. ‘Food’ said the notice. ‘Breakfast” thought I. ‘We start serving food at 12’ said the barman. Ho hum. Keep walking.

Then I found Brockley Stores

which sells food that has been made by people not machines. My mini quiche was wrapped in paper and put into a paper bag. The ginger cake was also plastic free, and they had a great range of different fresh foods. Well worth the stop.

My walk continued through Backley

with a stop at the Post Office for my log book to be stamped, and a chat with people in the queue, then to the ‘Spar’ for Lucozade, and then it was time to get on with walking.

Through Nailsea, and another coffee

up the hill to Wraxhall

And more amazing views, then across the footpaths of the Gordano round

to the M5 service stations where I am currently relaxing.

Thank you to those I met and chatted with today; to Richard and Alan for your donations, and to Margaret and Larrie for the welcome cup of tea and detailed route knowledge.

I arrived.

Tomorrow looks like being a long day and I am now carrying some over-use niggles, so am looking forward to a few days rest after Chepstow.

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Walk Day 22 – Wedmore to Cheddar

Saturday 21st Aprìl 2018

5.6 miles. 245.59 total.

A much shorter day today, mainly because I had always planned to take two days to travel between Bridgwater to Cheddar.

The day started by meeting the keeper of the chickens and the gardener, Sue, wife of Phil who had shown me the site last night. We had a discussion about socks, cancer, and what to do with a broody hen. (I had thought being broody was a good trait for an egg-laying mammal.)

It had been an interesting night. Firstly the farmer of the field right next to me had sprayed the field at sunset. My tent was about twenty feet from the tractor at one point so I was concerned about being run over (didn’t happen) or of being poisoned (who knows.)

Then I heard crackling and rustling and sniffling and snorting and I wondered if it was badgers or asthmatic rabbits. Obviously I couldn’t see so had to imagine.

What did become obvious overnight is that my shoes, which smell of swamp, are investing everything with their stink, so out tbey went to ‘air’ overnight I.e. collect dew. The grass was long so it made no difference and my tactic of wearing waterproof socks in the morning proved yet again that there is no such thing as a truly waterproof sock.

As I set off, confident that my soggy feet would be dry in an hour I could see the clouds coming in.

Wedmore is a pretty town,

I stopped for breakfast, my Post Office stamp, and to put on waterproofs because, you’ve guessed it, the rain came down.

However it was easy walking with more gentle countryside

and eventuality the sun reappeared and I arrived at Cheddar.

With plenty of time to spare I thought a b&b room would be a nice treat – with hot water and a bathroom – I feared I was getting swampy all over. No room at the inn, at least not in my price range.

So I visited the church, took some photos and sat down to decide where to go next.

Through a series of chance meetings I ended up with an offer of a bed for a night – thank you Hilary – information about a better, closer campsite, and even a lift to the door.

Don’t worry I’m retracing my steps in the morning.

And while I was catching up on emails in the last of the sunshine Andy and Alexa who are in a glamping pod opposite made me coffee. How good is that?

We’ve had thunder and lightning since then but I have found hot showers am now confident that it is only my shoes that smell 🙂

Walk Day 21 – Bridgwater to Wedmore

Friday 20th April 2018

15.33 miles. 239.99 total.

A much longer day than expected because I had, mentally, placed the capsite I was aiming for at the halfway point between Bridgwater and Cheddar. More like three quraters, and the sun shone. And I got burned.

First I crossed the M5, then across flat reclaimed land drained by ditches.

Through the royalist village of Chedzoy with its beautiful church (rather a lot of crowns on show) and a reminder that we once had civil war.

I said the morning office and travelled on through more villages.

I crossed Kings Sedgemoor Drain

The name of the head teacher here made me smile Mr Bird).

Farmer’s are permitted to plough footpaths as long as they make good afterwards. This farmer was harrowing as I arrived and I dodged the tractor to cross the field.

Shortly after the village of Woolavingon with distant views of Brent Knoll

I caught up with Ed. He is also on a long walk and had camped in the same field as me last night, but he hadn’t been followed around by the chickens as I was.

Our paths coincided for around five miles and it was pleasant company that made walking easier.

We parted company at Mark, which I am told by Helen McGinty, is the longest village in England. Thank you for your contribution to PCRF Helen.

I slogged on and eventually arrived at my destination, once again the only camper. Sunburned and very knee-sore, it was good to stop.

My immediate neighbours are badgers and chickens.

Rest Day in Bridgwater

Thursday 19th April 2018

A few miles of walking today – unplanned. Google and the local bus services are not synchronised. The absence of any information at the bus stops meant that I used Shanks’ Pony instead.

I found the library and a park, and filled myself with food. Otherwise a lazy day.

This is the campsite. As you see the chickens are hoping I bring food.

Walk Day 20 – West Bagborough to Bridgwater

Wednesday 18th April 2018

13.33 miles. 214.66 total.

It shouldn’t have been such a long day but it was hot and dry so I took time to make sure I packed a dry tent. And then it took me an hour or so to adapt to walking. And I got hot.

I saw my first butterflies today.

I made my first proper navigational error today and walked three sides of a square before realising my error. And having walked up the very steep hill (contour line 110 to 235) with wonderful views

and then down the very steep hill, I was reluctant to retrace the route so found a temporarily flatter alternative.

And it was blessed.

I followed the Macmillan Way West through Cothelstone Park

and found the little church where I had a short rest.

Then back to the hill stuff climbing around the side of Cothelstone Hill and across Merridge Hill to Buncombe Wood and a most excellent cafe/restaurant called The Pines. Proper home-made food. My salmon and spinach quiche was delicious.

None of tbose were on my original route, so it was a fortunate mistake.

It was a day of panoramas.

The walking after that got flatter and the long stretch into Bridgwater was alleviated by seven trampolining children. Apologies if I’ve got number wrong but it was very funny seeing the bodies bouncing up over the fence as I walked towards them. So thank you to Henry, Oscar, Heidi, Marius, Chloe, Ross, Jessica and assorted adults and friends for your welcome, your donations and the tea. It was good to sit down, and I envy your ability to do back flips.

I enjoyed seeing Durfield Reservoir over the hedge.

The final walk around the canal and across the river to my campsite was much less salubrious and I arrived just as the sun was setting.

It’s a rest day tomorrow.

Walk Day 19 – Brendon Methodist Church to West Bagborough

Tuesday 17th April

9.9 miles. 201.33 total.

4am. Yesterday I finished at Brendon Methodist Church, then got a lift to Washford. It’s possible to get back to Washford by public transport but no further. If I were to walk from Washford to my next destination the journey is the same length. But… My rules say I will walk every step from Lands End to John O’Groats so I need to get back to yesterday’s stopping point.

There are two choices:

Continue to the original plan but walk from Washford to BMC and on to Raleghs Cross to complete yesterday’s route, then start walking today’s route. Cost – 5 miles extra today.

Stay in Minehead tonight, leave my kit and take a circular walk from Washford to BMC return today. 10ish miles without a pack. Cost – 1 day, which would have been a day off in Bridgewater.

I’m now going back to sleep on it.

By 10am the solutìon had presented itself. My chauffeur kindly dropped me off at Brendon Methodist Chapel.

The mist was just starting so I paused to don full waterproofs. Just in time. There was a lot of road walking today and when I did get to use footpaths they were soggier and muddied than any so far. By the end of the day I rinsed mud out of my shoes and socks. Thick floppy sticky mud, runny slippery mud, red mud, black mud, more red mud. The stonier footpaths were streams.

However… trail shoes get wet but they dry relatively quickly (no chance of mine drying anytime soon; it’s still raining) and most stuff washes through.

The scenery is changing gradually and there are good views to be had.

Today’s treat was walking through a forest and listening to the West Somerset Railway steam engine in the distance. This part of the route even went under the railway track.

I keep meeting nice people 🙂

As I got close to my destination I moved out of the way of a car, only to meet the driver again at the top of the hill. After discovering that the last ‘pub’ was now a b&b her offer of tea and biscuits was very welcome. As was the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes. Thank you Cathy for the refreshment, company and your donation.

Just around the corner I was stopped again by someone wanting to check that I knew where I was going. The couple turned out to be knowledgeable about my destination an’t only confirmed I was on course, “But the path is quite muddy but they too made a donation to PCRF. Thank you Carolynn Moore.

It was only about half a mile later that I found the campsite, a field with the nicest garden shed containing toilet and washbasin. It even had bath mats and was spider free.

I had the site to myself and was able to hose the mud off and out of my shoes.

And here are some animals. Just because.

Walk Day 18 – Wheddon Cross to Brendon Methodist Church

Monday 16th April 2018

9.26 miles. 191.43 total.

I was heading for Ralegh Cross but without anywhere to stay, and the pub told me they were closed for two days. My alternative options were looking unappealing when a co-incidence and some lateral thinking, a car journey to Washford and a bus trip left me at Butlins at Minehead. Creativity at it’s best.

The weather today was perfect for walking with cool breezes and sunshine. My extra mileage was created by an attempt at re-routing to Washford that I then had to backtrack quickly (as in, running uphill with full kit) to meet the car. I reached Brendon Methodist Church, a little short of my planned finish at Ralegh Cross before contact was made.

Lots of photos today because the weather was so much better.

Last night I stayed at the recently refurbished and modernised Exmoor House B&B at Wheddon Cross. It was extremely comfortable and thanks to their drying room I was able to pack everything dry this morning, including the tent. Result. And a special thank you to Teri and Austin for offering to taxi me back to Exmoor House tonight and tomorrow. That was kind.

Also to Andy Lea for his donation to PCRF.

Now to spend the evening relaxing and replanning tomorrow’s route.

Walk Day 17 – Pinkery to Wheddon Cross

Sunday 15th April 2018

14.4 miles. 182.17 total.

Very few photographs today. I’ve been protecting the phone. But at least I have network coverage again after 2 days of no signal.

The combination of rain, mist, cold wind meant that the many cyclists on the Exmoor Beauty cycle sportive saw much less of the beauty of the area than they might have wished. The same was true for me.

Today was always going to be mentally challenging because my preferred route didn’t match any accommodation so I had a short day yesterday followed by a longer day today. And I got my food and drink wrong so became overheated (despite the all-pervading wet), dehydrated and very shaky.

I’d hoped to get breakfast in Simonsbath but was 2 hours too early for opening time at the hotel and decided to plough on to Exford feeling quite hungry.

Luckily by the time I arrived, feeling quite ill, the food was in full flow. The carvery was perfect for my needs and a couple of pints of liquid and some treacle tart soon turned me back into a functioning human.

The pub was the halfway point for the cycle ride and I heard one of the retirees say “Too cold, too wet, too windy, too tiring. I quit” I echoed his thinking, but with another 5.5 miles to go today quitting was not an option.

Thank you to Mervyn Flood for your donation to PCRF.

I put the waterproofs on again and trekked/sloshed/mud-wrangled the last section to Wheddon Cross.

Once again I’ve landed on my feet with a modern and comfortable b&b with a drying room that is filled with wet tent and soggy clothes.

Hopefully they will be dry by morning, and people keep telling me the weather will improve next week.

Walk Day 16 – Brayford to Pinkery

Saturday 14th April

6.8 miles. 167.77 total.

I left Brayford at the start of an unusually warm day. In less than half a mile I stopped to remove layers just at the start of Exmoor National Park.

During my walk up many more hills I passed a horse rider, a cyclist and a runner and it reminded me that these wonderful places are enjoyed by many.

I took lots of photographs of the changing landscape and colours as the sun shone, then clouds rolled in and the wind speed increased.

Exmoor was wild and boggy and at some point I left Devon and entered Somerset.

When I eventually arrived at the Pinkery Centre for outdoor education it was to find an untouched landscape.

The most sheltered spot I could find for my tent was still very windy and cold, but the sunshine left a warm feeling until dusk.

Luckily I was warm enough until morning…