|Day 18 – April 23||Cheddar to Keynsham|
|Weather: Sunny and warm||B&B: Manor Lodge Guest House (£39.50)|
|Departed: 08:15 Arrived: 17:00||Walked: 7 hr 13m Rested: 1 hr 40m|
|Distance Today: 20.4 mi / 32.83 km||Total Distance: 289.8 mi / 466.39 km|
|% Complete: ~ 25.67%||Pint of the Day: Butcombe Bitter|
|GPS Track for: Day 18|
Happy St. Georges Day to all my English readers!
Today I passed the quarter mark of my LEJOG in both days and total miles. I’ve also completed the big left turn and for the most part I will now be heading due north all the way to the Scottish border.
The Bath Arms Hotel serves breakfast from 7:30am and so I got an early start on what I knew would be a long day. Cheddar sits at the foot of the Mendip Hills and at the mouth of Cheddar Gorge and so the day began with a steep climb. It took about 15 minutes before I reached the first vantage point and I was rewarded with the best panoramic view of the whole trip. I could see Cossington in the distance and beyond that the Quantock Hills that I had climbed three days ago. The splendid views continued and although I couldn’t see the bottom of the gorge itself I could hear the traffic winding its way through.
After a steep descent through a woodland I crossed that road and entered the Black Rock Nature Reserve. Another beautiful spot and one I had all to myself. Black Rock linked up with Velvet Bottom Nature Reserve and this was even more impressive. Lead was mined from this area as early as Roman times and as late as the Victorian era. Nature has reclaimed the old slag heaps, dams and settling beds although the soil and water table are still contaminated. I saw lots of rabbits and butterflies but no adders (which are also common in the area).
My walk through the Mendips continued for another hour or so and at one point I was following a path claimed by three long-distance footpaths: The Limestone Link, The Monarch’s Way and The Samaritan Way. I exited the Mendips by a very steep descent through a pretty woodland … a treat on a dry day but had the path been slippery it would have been more appropriate to use a toboggan.
I took a brief break in Compton Martin and then followed the Monarch’s Way as well as several minor roads to Chew Stoke. I enjoyed a pint at the Yew Tree Inn and studied my maps to see if I could shave a mile or two off what I knew would be a 20+ mile day. I decided on a more northerly route that used a series of minor roads and bridleways. It is possible to use footpaths all the way to Keynsham (pronounced Cane-shum) but I didn’t want to put my feet through another 25-mile plod.
My new route took me through the very pretty village of Chew Magna where I noticed a number of really stunning Georgian homes. I think there’s a bit of dosh in Chew Magna. As I walked through a few farming communities I could hear and see the planes taking off from Bristol airport. The rural landscape was already becoming more suburban in appearance and the traffic on the local roads increased significantly.
Eventually I came upon Queen Charlton, a very tiny village with some impressive stone buildings, a church (with no bench!) and a very old stone cross. There are several footpaths emanating from Queen Charlton and I very nearly took the wrong one, an error that could have resulted in a lot of backtracking. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to be constantly consulting your map. Day-dreaming is not something I’ve had much opportunity to do and I’ve not listened to my iPod at all since beginning this walk.
With the correct path chosen I found myself on the outskirts of Keynsham within 10 minutes and at my B&B within half an hour. The Manor Lodge is a comfortable place right next to the train station and very near the Monarch Way which I will follow all day tomorrow.