Weather: 🌧 with a bit of 🌫early on
Feeling Today: 👍
So Far: 862.56 miles, 281:24 hours
Dave and I knew today was going to be wet; and it was! I dusted off my waterproofs and wore them from the outset and for the duration. Dave is hard and a bit Welsh (and therefore accustomed to rain) and wore shorts. This wasn’t a bad approach as my waterproof trousers simply funnelled the persistent rain into my leaky boots.
So it was a day of dampness. Whilst we drip-dried out a bit over lunch at the Sexey Arms (probably the least sexy pub in Somerset) in Blackford, we were drenched again within minutes of setting off and the squelching on every footstep returned, regardless of fresh socks. Our B&B hosts have generously, but perhaps unwisely, set up a clothes drier in the middle of the kitchen for our wet socks and let us put our sodden boots in front of the Aga. A bit too close to a food preparation area in my opinion – but at least we kept our pants to ourselves!
With nowhere to eat out in the village, and after a long wet day, our host, Vicky, kindly cooked us supper and this masked the aromas of wet feet for a bit. Dave and I complemented the chilli with beer and wine from the Coop.
We saw very little of the Mendips today as our first hour or so was shrouded in mist. It cleared as we descended into Cheddar, but we didn’t hang around to investigate the town – or the cheese, and instead followed a road out to the south. This took us across our first part of the Levels before rising again onto the Isle of Wedmore (an island during heavy flooding, I assume).
Too much of today’s walking was on roads (’causeways’ on the Levels), at times quite busy with traffic. We also passed through a golf course, by a quarry and a solar farm, and through more conventional farmland. We touched the village of Wedmore, where King Alfred signed a peace agreement with the Danes.
If you ignore the network of drainage ditches that run along the causeways and field boundaries, the Somerset Levels look surprisingly like any other part of the country – similar field configurations, crop and livestock mixes, hedgerows and trees etc. The ditches and connecting channels and rivers present quite an obstacle to planning tomorrow’s route as crossing points are few and far between. We spread the maps out this evening and we’ll have to go into Bridgwater to get over the River Parrett.
It’s clear that the groundwater or sea level is lying just below the surface – the water doesn’t seem to flow in the ditches but just sits there. It’s everywhere when you look closely.
Regular followers will know I’m always going on about Himalayan Balsam – I’ve seen it in just about every area I’ve walked through – including the Levels today – and I know already that it’s rife in Devon and Cornwall. Anyway, there’s an article about it in the Telegraph today. There needs to be central government funding and a concerted and coordinated strategy to control it.