Sunday 26th June 2016
Ignoring the Mendip Challenge from the start of the month; I don’t think I’d been to Priddy since July of last year.
I didn’t feel like driving too far and, being a Sunday, I prefer to be able to arrive home in the afternoon, so that I still have the evening to myself, ahead of another working week.
Like many of my walks in this area; it started at Stockhill Forest, with its abundance of free car parking spaces. As I arrived, changed my shoes and got myself ready, there was a small group of ‘kids’ (teenagers) preparing to set off on an adventure of their own. Presumably, they were training for their Duke of Edinburgh Award?
From the forest, I crossed the road and then the Mineries. If there was one certainty of this day, it was that we you weren’t going to see any sunshine. There was an autumnal temperature amidst the wind and I’d already swapped my fleece for a coat, ahead of the rainfall that seemed so inevitable.
Beyond Priddy Mineries, I arrived at the main road passing through the village. Following this for short distance, past Underbarrow Farm; I turned right and across a succession of familiar fields.
I think it’s well documented that the weather can have an affect on one’s mental health. Does that also apply to cows? Not one of them moved. Yet, when I walked here a year ago, they wouldn’t leave me alone.
Continuing north up East Water Drove, I then turned left to cross further fields in a north-westerly direction to join Nine Barrows Lane. Horses were a little curious of my presence but ultimately, attempting to seek some form of shelter, or so it appeared to me.
Further down the road, I turned off to pass beside the church, as a couple of people emerged from inside. This was no later than 10.30am… Was it an early service or, were they preparing for the next hour? I often walk past small churches in rural locations like this, only to find them deserted.
I soon arrived at Priddy Green in the centre of the village, with its iconic willow hut – restored and rebuilt only a few years ago, after it was burnt down. A small group of walkers set off from the location at this time, after moments of consulting their map.
Here, I would leave my familiar route and head west to join the West Mendip Way. I couldn’t recall having seen this metal kissing gate – immediately after the stone stile – only a weeks earlier.
I took this to the road that continues downhill in and to Rodney Stoke. I remember walking up this a few years ago… I wanted to find a trig pillar that I hadn’t discovered before. Ahead of that, I spotted a discarded mattress close to trees on my left.
To my left a little further down the hill, I spotted the unmistakable covered reservoir, which was highlighted on my map. Ahead of this, the views overlooking Somerset – one of my favourite reasons for walking in this area – were beginning to open up:
Opposite the reservoir, there’s a farm track that appears to lead straight to the trig point of Westbury Beacon. Initially, it crosses private land, with the securely locked and lined with barbed wire… I didn’t fancy an attempted trespass with that moving tractor being so close.
But Westbury Beacon is designated access land and so, I remained optimistic that there might be a way through from the next field, where a trio of horses could be found.
This entrance has one of those metal five-bar gates with a kissing gate at one end. It was unlocked and, with a little hesitation, I began to climb up ahead, keeping the boundary close to my right.
I soon arrived at wooden kissing gate in the corner, with a field of long grass beyond… But it looked as though others had walked through recently and left a somewhat discernible trail… It was a good day to be wearing trousers!
To my left, the fenced off area was apparently a butterfly sanctuary. Not that I saw even one on such a dull day.
There was a tumulus to my left and, ahead of that, a farm shed. I suddenly felt uneasy, with the fear that someone may emerge from the shed and challenge my presence… Pausing for a moment, I listened closely but could hear no sound and continued with the hope it would remain empty.
Just beyond the shed and there was the trig pillar:
I had to do a double take, with a lack of sunlight and somewhat camouflaged against the dry-stone wall.
To the west, you could see as far as Brent Knoll.
Northwards, I could clearly see the ‘wireless station’ near Charterhouse.
Further west, I could see Brean Down with Steep Holm beyond.
It was at this point where I also stopped to take photos for my recent backpack review. But for the pair of dilapidated buildings, there would’ve been an unobstructed panorama on view.
I’ll end part one here and fill in the remainder of this walk soon. From here, I’d be looking to make my return to the east.