Time to Climb

This Sunday will be a day I’ve been waiting for, as I’ll finally get to lead the walking group on one of my personal favourite routes. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed each of the previous two walks I’ve led but the ascent up to Crook Peak has been a firm favourite since my first journey almost a year ago. I look forward to seeing how the others take to it, especially for those who may not have even heard of it (several members of this group are relatively new to Bristol). I’ve extended the original route I found by about 5 miles, if my memory serves me correctly. I hope the extra climbs and the endeavour aren’t too much.

Once again, Brent Knoll Hill fell immediately in to my sights upon reaching the car park.

Last Sunday, in spite of a sore throat and a runny nose, I dragged myself down to Axbridge so that I could confidently complete the second half of this route, after a little mis-direction on my first attempt to negotiate the woodlands west of Cheddar Gorge

Footpath in the south-east corner of the car park on the A371.

I returned to the area (cutting out the unessential first couple of miles through Compton Bishop) knowing now not only where I wanted to go but also the route I needed to take. This car park is located on the A371; a short distance from the A38 turn-off, a short distance from Axbridge itself. A little bit of Google Map analysis lead me to suspect there was a footpath leading down in the south-east corner and, as it happened, yes, a short drop down through a path of woodland led me to a lane that otherwise leads up on to the Strawberry Line.

Walking the High Street in to Axbridge, Somerset.

After renegotiating the tangled road junction that lead me astray me last time, I soon found myself following a distantly familiar narrow street of coloured house leading on to Axbridge’s Medieval Square.

Medieval Square in the centre of Axbridge.

That’s the church I failed to spot on my first attempt at pre-walking this route.

Stairway to… The A371!

From the churchyard, a set of steps lead up and on to the A371, around the back of another building, complete with its own basketball court!

I don’t have any photos of the road to show you. It’s a major route in to Cheddar (and then, down in to Wells) from the A38. My thought was; how many people would want to see an image of a busy road? 😉 It’s very busy and I had to wait a good five minutes before taking a chance to cross the moving traffic. It baffles me that there are no islands on this road and yet, there’s a footpath on the other side… With cars averaging 50-60mph, I am a little concerned as to how long it’ll take to get a group of people across to the other side but it’ll save walking further along grey, black and tarmac.

Very soon, I was hiking up a familiar track in to the woods where I’d taken a slight wrong turn on my previous visit. I felt assured that I knew what I did wrong and also, where I needed to go this time. I thought I was following the map exactly as it was drawn out infront of me…

The beginning of a ‘never-ending’ path.

But the image you see above is one that lasted for a good fifteen minutes… I followed the fence to my left; I could hear the cars passing below but visually, they weren’t getting closer. As the boundary curved around to the right (west) and my “path” suddenly vanished, I began to rush in the hope that I would find something that tell me I had not taken a wrong route… Eventually, I emerged on another uphill path, assuming it was where I wanted to be but somewhere further down the slope. I decided to hike back up in order to find where I should’ve turned off (I didn’t want to have to return for a third pre-walk) and that’s when I eventually found this…

It was completely bewildering. I now assume as though this is close to the top of Fry’s hill, as a transmission tower lay only a short walk up the hill. But how on Earth did I get here?! Not only had turned 270° but I’d ended up north of the path I vacated, without knowingly having passed it!

A spectacular view of Cheddar Reservoir.

This view of Cheddar Reservoir is so spectacular that I’ve had thoughts of altering my intended route to allow this portion in. But after studying my OS map, I still can’t figure out exactly where I was or how to get there again without physically walking it… It was almost like something out of an episode of LOST – or, one of those films where people can’t find their way out of a forest…

Transmission tower at the top of Fry’s Hill in Cheddar.

It might’ve knocked a mile off my set route and, if this one doesn’t go down to well or something, I could always make a minor alteration should I chose to walk this way again in 2014.

I knew this tower well and that the familiar limestone quarry from the last walk was only on the other side of a large metal gate. All I wanted was to return back down the hill to where I made my earlier mistake. I needed to get it right but I didn’t want to trek down a route I was going to walk up later. There was another route but the path was overgrown, on a day where I’d chosen to wear shorts…

It clearly wasn’t a popular route and I even slipped on my backside (well, side of my backside) while trying to pass safely over a large, smooth rock. Beyond the undergrowth, I followed a moss-covered wall down to another junction and it wasn’t long before I found myself where I wanted to be (even still, I wasn’t quite seeing eye-to-eye with my map but hey, I arrived in the right place).

It took me a while to figure out my next steps but I ended up passing through a kissing gate and along a narrow section between trees that didn’t appear to be clearly illustrated on the OS map. I passed the eerie construction you see above and then a larger farm building before following the intended bridleway down to the A371.

In a word, I’m finally completed my route and now, all I needed was to return to my van and head home. For which, I decided to return to the vertical stretch that last a good 20 minutes; looping around past the same quarry and on in my search of the Strawberry Line, which I decided I would use to return to the car park.

The West Mendip Way, running east from Winscombe to Shipham.

Passing a field I tried to negotiate last time, I noticed that the cows and bulls were absent. Sheep could be seen to the west but they were far away and harmless. So, after using my digital camera like a pair of binoculars with digital zoom(!), I went off down a not-so-hidden path that would lead me on to the West Mendip Way. But, it was rocky. Unconformable and, when I reached the next route heading west, I found that only wet mud and puddles offered a change of terrain. It didn’t excite me and so, I’ll be sticking to Callow Drove Track on Sunday, passing through Shute Shelve Farm before crossing the A38.

When I reached the main road, I crossed over, continued down the Strawberry Line towards Axbridge, where I noticed a convenient foopath leading to the car park without a climb. It was time to move on and, with sickness still plaguing my body and mind, I decided to head home… In spite of the fact that I still needed to revisit Crook Peak itself in order to establish a definite route downhill and directly to the car park… Instead of ending up a ten-minute walk down the road.

But I completed that on Sunday, after visiting Weston Woods for the very first time with a friend of mine who also enjoys walking, meditation and many similar things. So, I’m all ready to go this Sunday and I’m looking forward to it, whatever the weather! 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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