|Day 17 – April 22||Cossington to Cheddar|
|Weather: Sunny||B&B: Bath Arms Hotel (£40)|
|Departed: 09:00 Arrived: 15:30||Walked: 4 hr 52m Rested: 1 hr 45m|
|Distance Today: 14.1 mi / 22.69 km||Total Distance: 269.4 mi / 433.55 km|
|% Complete: ~ 23.95%||Pint of the Day: Cheddar Ales Potholer Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 17|
Another serve yourself breakfast to start the day, this time with access to a full kitchen. As a result I was out of guest house and at the bus stop in time for the 8:29 to Cossington. I started my walk from the spot I stopped yesterday and before long I was back on the Somerset Levels. The Levels remind me very much of Delta back home. Imagine walking down from Tswassassen (Cossington) and into Delta (Somerset Levels) towards Vancouver (Cheddar) with the Coast mountains (Mendip Hills) as the backdrop. The scale is smaller here and is much more rural, nevertheless the landscape did seem familiar to me.
For the first couple of hours I was walking along very quiet local roads, some with straight stretches up to a mile long before angling off at 90 degrees. This might be the closest thing to a grid pattern you will find in Britain. At Gold Corner pumping station I took a short-cut along a dirt track where I attracted the attention of a herd of belligerent bovines who came charging towards me making an awful racket. I theorized they were either guard cows or simply juvenile delinquents looking to cause trouble, farmyard bullies strutting around in their leather jackets and looking to impress. Fortunately I was on the other side of an electric fence so I’m thinking bring it on! I’ll have a stir-fry instead of a coffee break. Apparently they were wise to the fence so the confrontation quickly deescalated.
A little further on I met a cyclist near a footbridge and we had a chat about the Levels. He has lived in the area for 40 years and explained that at one time all of this was under water and that over the centuries it had been drained. The large canals are called “Rings” and are feed by a network of other ditches that drain into the Rings. At one time wool fleeces were transported to market via the canals but when the railway arrived they bought the m out and put an end to the competition. We were joined by a farmer who mentioned that some of the canals were dug in the 1500’s by religious sects from Glastonbury. Today the ‘drains’ are managed by local boards made up of landowners and farmers. Apparently the government now wants to consolidate these local boards into larger entities and this is not going down well with the locals.
I tried another short-cut just outside of Blackford and followed a footpath towards a farm at which point all traces of the footpath disappeared. I knew from my map I was in the right place and the GPS confirmed my position but I couldn’t find any trace of a public right-of-way. I back-tracked yesterday but I had no intention of doing so today so I went through three gates, under an electric fence and into the farmers yard where I was met by two barking dogs. When I knocked on the door a lady appeared from the side of the house and told me the path was around the side. I was tempted to ask her why all traces of the footpath had been removed but thought otherwise and carried on my way. The path led to a stile which had been removed so I struggled over the fence and into a field which I crossed only to find more electric fences and a herd of cows, fortunately these were mild-mannered and polite cows who quickly moved aside to let me pass. Further on I found a white “Public Footpath” sign had been spray painted green to make it more difficult to read. Perhaps the Ramblers Association should send some heavies down to sort out these Somerset farmers?
I took a break at the Sexeys Arms in Blackford with the intention of enjoying half a pint but couldn’t find anyone inside. I was tempted to pull my own pint but thought better and had a snack at a picnic table instead. Before long I had a surprise visit from Don who lives near Bath and who had emailed me last year when I was planning my LEJOG. Don often meets up with LEJOGers enroute, at least those who blog, and so we had a nice chat about the walk and the others who were in the area. I had altered my route slightly so I wasn’t where he thought I’d be but the local pub was a good bet and there I he found me. Thanks Don for taking the time to have a vist.
The last 6 or 7 miles were spent on a variety of local roads, bridleways, and footpaths and I had no signage issues this time. I made reasonable time although the blisters have certainly affected my speed. Normally I could easily achieve 3.5 mph on terrain like this but I barely maintained 3 mph today. No new blisters but the one on the ball of my left foot is now the size of a quarter and is pretty tender. Unfortunately blisters are a fact of life so I just have to suck it up and carry on … but I think its time for a pint of pain killer.