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July 14, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Friday, 10 July 2015 – Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury

The sunshine followed us to Cheddar for a walk along the top of the gorge. Last time we visited, we were unable to find the public footpath route up into the hills, but this time we found it. Up Lipiatt Lane, left into Lynch Close and there it was at the end – a small sign with an arrow pointing to a gap in the trees.

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The steep and uneven climb over limestone and tree roots brought us to the watchtower at the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

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I ventured up the iron steps to get some terrific views over the surrounding countryside, including the quarry and the reservoir.

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From here we followed the marked route, ascending further and further until we reached a break in the trees to reveal some magnificent views of the gorge and countryside.

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In places, the drop as so sheer, it made my legs tremble even though I was a metre from the edge. It’s almost impossible to capture the depth of the gorge in a photograph. I tried the video function on my camera, but it still doesn’t do the scale any justice.

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We returned at this point, mainly to preserve Harvey’s stamina as we were planning to walk Glastonbury Tor again in the afternoon. Once beck to ground level we returned to the Wishing Well Tearooms for another excellent Ploughman’s lunch.

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Once in Glastonbury, we took the bus to the foot of the Tor and walked from there.

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Though breezy, the wind was warm compared to earlier in the week. The sun showed off the tower in all its glory, and we sat on the slopes, drinking coffee and soaking up the views. It’s so peaceful up there, you simply relax into the splendour.

And that’s it until the next holiday.

July 14, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Thursday, 09 July 2015 – Burnham and Brean

To celebrate the glorious weather we spent the day on the coast, starting with a gentle, meandering journey down Somerset’s B roads to Burnham on Sea. To me, it’s a town on the coast rather than a seaside resort. Despite the long sandy beach and promenade, there’s barely any hotels and little commercialism to support a resort.

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It’s a pleasant place with some interesting buildings, including a church with a leaning tower, but there’s little to draw and sustain visitors. It boasts the smallest pier in Britain, so I gave it the smallest visit – I walked straight past.

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At the northern end, dogs are allowed, giving Harvey the chance to run about on the sand, much to his delight.

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From here we headed north along the coast, passing through Bellow and Brean to Brean Down. Brean has more holiday parks and mobile home parks than you can shake a stick at. One after another, they line the shore with their regimented rows, allowing the occasional house to intrude along the way.

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Brean Down is a limestone headland that juts into the Bristol Channel.

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It’s a steep climb up some steps to the top, but the views are magnificent.

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There’s Weston super Mare to the north and Brean to the south, with views to the Mendips in the East.

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Despite the intense sun the temperature was bearable and Harvey walked with us to the end of the Down and back before we settled on the beach for a rest and a touch of sun.

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July 13, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Wednesday, 08 July 2015 – The Mendip Hills and Cheddar Gorge

We headed north across the Mendips to Blagdon Lake.

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It’s a reservoir in the valley below Blagdon town, perfect for dog walking.

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With the trees resonating with birdsong, and a path following the meandering contour of the lake, Harvey set off with his nose to the ground. The insect life was teeming with butterflies, lacewings, and all manner of grasshoppers and beetles, calling from the grass.

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Tranquil and soothing, it was a great start to our first full day on the road.

We rolled into Cheddar Gorge from the north, weaving between the towering limestone cliffs into the bright and breezy town.

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Car parking was at a premium until we discovered the council one, just beyond the main drag. At £1.50 cheaper for the day, and only 100m from the main car park in the commercial strip, it was great value. Off we set, looking for somewhere to eat.

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The Wishing Well tearooms looked attractive and offered a ploughman’s lunch that took my fancy – much healthier than the fry up of yesterday. They welcomed dogs so we went inside. I’m no fan of brie, but the Somerset variety we were served was delicious, as was the coleslaw, making this one of the best ploughman’s lunches I’ve eaten. Full marks for friendliness and food, and flapjacks to go for later.

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We walked beyond the strip to sample the gorge from ground level. The cliffs tower overhead, once a giant cave, carved out by a river. It’s almost impossible to imagine how a river can carve such cliffs out of solid rock.

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After a stop for coffee and flapjack, we made our way back, stopping to check prices for the caves. You have to buy the whole package, including open top bus tour, entry to both caves, the museum and up the steps of Jacob’s Ladder for a walk along the top. However, you can just do Jacob’s Ladder and the walk for about a quarter of the price. You can also borrow a map from the National Trust and walk up into the cliffs along public footpaths for free. I’ll leave you to work out what we intend doing when we return on Friday.

We stopped at Cheddar Reservoir, with views of the Gorge in the distance, for a final walk for Harvey.

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It’s been a lovely day without the unpredictable rain threatening to spoil everything. Tomorrow and Friday should also be rain free if the forecasters are correct.

 

July 13, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Tuesday, 7th July 2015 – Glastonbury

The unpredictable weather continued to disrupt our attempts to plan a day out. After some shopping in Wells we headed to Glastonbury. I loved the town the very first time I walked its colourful streets, fascinated by the new age shops, selling everything from crystals to karma, healing to mysticism, and like the food all organic.

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I loved the people with their unkempt dreadlocks, strolling around in combat fatigues or brightly coloured, tie dyed dresses and tops. Most had dark tans, hand rolled cigarettes, and a nonchalance that often bordered on arrogance, as if they’d found the best way to live. Maybe they had. This time, the new age influence – both shops and people – seemed diminished. The colourful shop facades remain, but there seem to be less of them. One or two places, like an organic supermarket and various vegetarian/organic eateries, remain. But, overall, the idiosyncrasies that brought the place to life have ceded to tradition and normality.

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I still love the heart and soul of the place, but we came for Glastonbury Tor, the hill that towers above the town. Our plans to save Harvey’s little legs by catching the bus to the foot of the Tor failed as the driver has a lunch break between one and two. We set off on foot, walking the half mile to the public footpath that makes the steep ascent to the tower at the top.

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The north wind howled and whistled across the top, and the rain threatened to return, but these didn’t spoil the epic views across the countryside.

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While I keep an open mind about mysticism and spiritualism, I couldn’t shift the feeling that we were being watched …

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July 13, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Monday, 06 July 2015 – Street and Wells

With more rain predicted from midmorning onwards, we headed to Street for some shopping. The idea was to leave the site seeing for the dry periods. First stop, the recreation ground so Harvey could have a good walk before we headed for the shops. Mission accomplished, we parked in Street and I took first turn in the factory shopping village. It soon became apparent that things had changed since our last visit three years ago. The Nike and Adidas shops had gone. In fact, sports shops were in short supply. I found a deal on Adidas shorts in Sports Direct, but that was it. The rest of the village held little or no interest for me. I was not alone – the few customers I saw wandering around didn’t seem to have bought much either. Carol fared no better, making the same observations.

With light rain falling, we headed back to Wells for lunch and another glimpse of those lovely swans.

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The rain continued to fall for two to three hours, so we read and relaxed before venturing back into Wells for a coffee and cake.

 

July 13, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Sunday, 05 July 2015 – Wells

Lazy day today with a walk into Wells for a good look around, starting with a cone at the Bishop’s Palace.

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From the palace, we headed to the imposing cathedral with its twin towers and ornate carvings. There were no computers to help the people put this amazing building together.

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Wells is England’s smallest city, which might explain why the centre feels more like a provincial town. No covered shopping centres and concrete facades here – just old buildings with a cosy elegance of their own.

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Local shops and restaurants line the market square. The pavements are made of stone, not concrete flags. And there’s a gentle, unhurried feel about the shoppers.

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Lunch in the Crown started with a table in the beer garden, but the cigarette smoke drove us indoors. I’ve nothing against people who smoke, but I don’t want to smell it while I eat these days. After lunch, we headed back to base as the forecast was for rain in the afternoon. The local cows seemed to sense it.

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Five minutes after we set foot in the house, the heavens opened. We were treated to rain like stair rods, followed by a shower of hailstones before calm returned.

 Later, we headed out once more down the path but detoured up Tor Hill. It’s a pleasant climb through the woods, breaking out into a meadow at the top, but the trees blocked any view of Wells below. It didn’t matter – Harvey was enjoying every moment, and so were we.

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July 13, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Saturday, 04-07-2015 – Wells

We took a leisurely route across country, stopping at Midhurst for lunch, and Wilton, near Salisbury for tea and tiffin. We rolled into Wells, Somerset, just after three o’clock and found the cottage first time. It’s fantastic – located in the furthest corner of the estate, it looks out onto fields and woodland.

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It’s modern, furnished to a high standard throughout with oak furniture and fittings dominating.

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We have all mod cons, including dishwasher and washing machine, hob and oven, built in fridge freezer, and a first floor balcony where you can sit and watch the world go by.

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The cottage is generous in size, spotless and flawless – probably the best we’ve stayed in. The owners even left a bowl of water for Harvey and a small box of dog treats.

After a recovery cuppa, we opened the gate in the back garden, walked over a drainage culvert that runs down the back of the houses, and headed down the path past playing fields and woodland. Harvey trotted along off the lead, sniffing out the local wildlife. The cathedral soon came into view with its familiar twin towers.

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We crossed Tor Rd and took the path the runs along the back of the Bishop’s Palace.

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Here we saw a family of swans with eight cygnets on the bank of the moat, enjoying the afternoon sun.

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On the return journey, we stepped off the path to walk through Tor Woods, owned by the National Trust. There are walks and steps up to the top of the hill, which has views across Wells, according to the notice board. If it’s hot, we can shelter Harvey under the trees. He won’t mind that with all the squirrels around.

 

May 3, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Friday, 1st May 2015 – Broadway, Stow and Stratford

We headed south to Broadway, where the honey coloured buildings stretch along the old A44 in a postcard setting.

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The wisteria was in full bloom, clinging to the old building as the masses of purple flowers threatened to drag the branches down.

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Sensing Harvey’s dislike of the urban environment, we followed the Cotswold Way into the hills for a short stroll among the sheep poo.

After a hearty lunch of freshly made baguettes, we drove to Stow on the Wold for a cup of tea.

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Sitting on top of a hill, the town boasts the same buildings of character, but suffers from the stampede of cars and coaches in the town square.

Refreshed, we returned to Stratford for our final afternoon and our favourite wander down the River Avon to the iron railway bridge and back.

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This time the swans were on their nests, and our favourite heron stopped a posed for a couple of photographs.

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Harvey wasn’t the least bit interested in the wildlife as he explored the smells of the country.

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During a brief rest for a cup of coffee, an inquisitive robin took an interest, perhaps hoping we had food.

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Alas, Harvey doesn’t share his treats. Neither is he patient when it comes to photographs, as we took a last shot of our home for the past week.

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Despite the unseasonably chilly weather, we’ve had dry days, more walking than you can shake a stick at, and a dog energised by the presence of squirrels in the adjacent Holy Trinity Church. We’ve revisited a number of our favourite places, found some new to explore, but mainly chilled in one of the prettiest towns you could hope to visit.

I hope the photographs have done it justice.

May 3, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Thursday, 30 April 2015 – Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton

Off to pastures new with a visit to Packwood House, which has a fascinating topiary garden.

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Like most National Trust properties, Harvey’s not allowed in the gardens, so we took individual peeks before heading off to walk around the estate.

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These walks in the countryside are always peaceful for us, and great fun for Harvey as he sniffs out the local wildlife. The highlights were the glorious swathes of bluebells in the woodland and the cute spring lambs.

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We took lunch on the patio, watching the sun and clouds alternate as they have all week, blown along by a chilly north wind. At times, it was more like winter than spring.

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Baddesley Clinton is a couple of miles away and features a moated house and more walks through the estate.

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Unfortunately, due to the dog ban, we couldn’t get to the café for tea and cake, so we returned to Packwood. After a very nice cream tea, we returned to Stratford.

May 3, 2015 / Robert Crouch

Wednesday, 29th April 2015 – Stratford

After a lazy start, a heron greeted us as we strolled along the river into town.

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It’s such a scenic walk, lined with weeping willows, and views over Holy Trinity church, the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, and the bridges that straddle the Avon.

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After a spot of shopping in town, we lunched at The Mucky Duck.

The alternating weather of clouds and sun continued as it had over the previous two days while we walked out of town along the River Avon, past fields of young wheat, mounds of recently harvested turnips, and hedgerows of hawthorn about to bloom.

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At the iron railway bridge on the Greenway, we crossed the river and returned on the opposite bank.

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The overnight rain had soaked straight through the cracked earth, leaving the ground hard and unyielding.

Harvey developed a new technique for this walk. When he found a smell that warranted a good sniff, he took his time. Once finished, he raced back to join us before repeating the process. He’s certainly enjoying himself as he always does here.