Priston and the Watermill

It’s been a fortnight since I did this walk and I’ve just noticed in my Flickr photo set that I implied it included a visit to ‘Prison’ and not to a small village near Marksbury, just west of the city of Bath! All is amended correctly now. But my intention for this Sunday was to join the walking group and to venture up to Pen Y Fan on the Brecon Beacons. I was late leaving the house, I got caught by the road works and everyone had gone by the time I arrived at the meeting point. I didn’t fancy driving 70 miles each way on my own (not to mention paying £12 for my van to cross the toll bridge) so I decided to head straight home and to collect the map of a 6.5 mile route I’d printed off a few weeks earlier.

This walk begins in the small village of Stanton Prior and the start point was very easy to find, even after discovering that a few of those country lanes I drove down to get there weren’t sign-posted. You park outside the church in what appeared to be quite a ‘ghost town’, aside from the abundance of local farms. It was a Sunday morning, around 11am and yet, I was surprised to discover such a dormant church. No service. No organ playing and no other cars parked outside.

It was forewarned that this could be a muddy route and so, I spent a few minutes putting on my gaiters before setting off from the van. That first field was anything but dry but I didn’t discover anything as bad throughout the remaining duration of this walk.

But it wasn’t long after setting off before I found my path not marrying up with Geoff’s instructions. This was another one of those walks where I’d set off without an OS map for the area, despite insisting previously that I wouldn’t repeat that mistake after the downpour at Severn Beach

Through little fault of my own (as you can surely see above), I managed to completely bypass a stile as I continued downhill and further in to a field.

After scaling the lower boundary of that field without finding an alternative route across the stream, I was momentarily greeted by this calf from a neighbouring field.

Don’t go on…
…Go left!

It wasn’t until my second clamber over the correct stile that I spotted the desired footbridge through a nearby hedge. As Geoff rightly says; you’re supposed to ignore the waymark that directs you straight across the field (which the farmer also happened to be ploughing at this time) and instead go left.

Cows can be adept in the art of mindfulness.

I passed through my second field of cows after this, to which they didn’t seem too bothered.

I learned that this rising path up through woodland is known as a ‘spinney’.
Before passing Priest Barrow shortly after.

But in one of the next field, those ever-increasing un-mindful cows began to make their presence known…

First, they ran over to join the rest of their herd (safety in numbers)…
Then, as I continued past them and towards my exit gate, they made certain that I would only travel in one direction…
“Exit only. No entry.”

But they were probably just hungry, along with being very curious. Before long, I was heading down a lane to pass through my next gate on the opposite side of the road.

This is a ford!

This took me along a lovely stretch of quiet, clean countryside, eventually leading in to the village of Priston.

Passing a duck pond where they all began to “laugh” at me….
Like an end scene from Apocalypse Now, but with sheep in place of people; as the tower of Priston Church came in to view.

It’s the kind of walk where you can’t really go wrong. There was, of course, my stumble early on where I missed the stile in and amongst the overgrowth but from there, where you cross a stile or gate, you’re usually faced with only one direction to follow.

Reaching Priston and passing the local church, you soon find a pub on your left at a T-junction, which might make for a welcome mid-point stop. There’s also a very small green area beside that, which could make for an ideal lunching spot on a dry day.

This image reminds me of a scene towards the end of our Circuit of Bath walk the other week.
Rams, I believe. But much fatter than those I saw up on the Mendips.
It was a bit of a squeeze getting through this gate but credit to the man who made it for being so practically-minded.
I’d expect to see a sign like this in a horror film!
But it’s intention leads you on without bloodshed.

It’s not long after arriving in Priston that you reach the old watermill.

Priston Mill.

It’s over 100 years old and remains to be in working order.

There were no locked gates, no signs warning people to ‘keep out’ or that this was ‘private’ land so, I continued straight in to look around.

Even though the watermill appears to be working, it was sad to read that the building is now used exclusively as a host place for ‘corporate events’. Apparently, they used to have a tea shop here where you could by cakes as well, going back only a few years. I passed two other walkers (who I’d also seen before reaching Priston) but again, the area seemed so desolate and tranquil.

Nearing the end of the walk, I decided to make my late lunch stop inside the gazebo/wooden structure you can see just ahead of the watermill. I’m not sure I’d take a chance on stepping inside like this on a day where an event was clearly taking place.

Inside, I discovered a calming water feature that allowed me to meditate for a few minutes.

I was also a little taken in by the design of these benches, where the arms appeared to replicate the structure of a waterwheel without motion. To me, it suggest that these benches were anything other than store-bought or mass-produced… But who really knows!

But I had to say goodbye to this area eventually and to continue on in the final hour of this walk.

I recalled spotting that very same tree on top of the same hill only a week earlier towards the end of the Bath walk. We were only about two-miles away and I’d just noticed a sign indicating the direction towards Priston.

Along a road and west of the mill, a pair of dilapidated stone barns would indicate my next junction and the beginning of a footpath that would return me to where I parked.

Following the first path is easy but then, in the next, I had to skirt awkwardly close to the right-hand boundary, with all the crops consuming space to my left. Travelling steadily uphill as well, it wasn’t easy but it was the only path. I’ve just consulted an online OS Leisure map to confirm that I was on the correct side of the boundary.

It did give way to more splendid views of the North East Somerset countryside.

Bristol could also be seen, just beyond a shallow valley.

It’s sprouting HORNS as well!! Like the Devil!

If ever you needed proof that (some) cows are out for our blood, just look at what I passed the other side of a gate heading downhill and towards the church…

So, I returned to my van with moderately clean and dry gaiters. I was no longer in regret of the fact that I’d missed another short walk (with a longer drive) out to the Brecon Beacons. There will be other opportunities for that. The weather was glorious for such an early October afternoon.

To see the complete set of my photos from this walk, please click here.

I am thinking of leading this as a group walk over the winter. Our calendar suddenly looks quite full for the remainder of this month but I think it offers a lot of appeal. As long as the sun shines, we can stop for lunch where intended and the mill is again open to public.

Thanks for reading.

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