Welcome to LEJoG Day 21, and a silver anniversary
Day 21 pre-amble
Nothing to do with Sgt Pepper teaching a band how to play, five years too early. No, just that I fiddled this weekend to ensure that the day I woke up in Glastonbury was exactly 25 years after my arrival at the festival site for this. Hello to my tent-mate JW, wherever you are.
I wish I’d kept the NME ‘Rage Against The Latrines’ T-shirt I came home in, as I can’t even find an image online. You can see that my fondness for puns started long ago. Indeed, given the journalistic background of the man discussed on Day 18, it’s quite feasible that he was behind that particular one.
My main reason for going was to see Suede, a band I was completely obsessed with between March and June 1993. I also remember being “down the front” for the first time in my life for Belly. Ended up playing their debut album ‘Star’ a lot that summer. Not many other band memories (certainly not compared to 1997).
I had tried cannabis for the first time a couple of weeks earlier. JW and I indulged more than once over the weekend. A confession which has turned out to be unexpectedly topical in the week of writing this post. I firmly believe this is the only time I will ever echo some of the thoughts of that particular MP. Actually I don’t regret it. I do however regret continuing with it in the shared student flat later that year and over-riding my much stronger desire to experiment with other things. However, at the time I was writing diary entries like “Glad? Stoned? Very.”
LEJoG Day 21 (Sunday 24 June 2018)
Glastonbury to Cheddar (17 miles)
Cumulative: 293½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours. Average speed: 3.40 mph. Weather: Very warm/hot, virtually cloudless, very little breeze.
Practicalities: Checked out of the hotel and arranged to meet parents at the foot of the climb to Glastonbury Tor.
Start: Hawthorns, Glastonbury, 10:35am. End: Gordons, Cheddar, 4:45pm.
It’s not on the SWSW route, but I always planned to climb Glastonbury Tor at the start of today’s stage. From the Hawthorns I headed along Bere Lane (A361) and met up with my parents at the start of the footpath near the junction with Wallhouse Lane. It’s a short but steep climb, most of it on steps. It certainly doesn’t compare with the average cliff on the South West Coast Path, but it’s not a stroll either. It’s a short journey to the top, but the return on investment is vast:
Full view of St. Michael’s Tower, at the top of Glastonbury Tor
Looking north from the top of Glastonbury Tor, towards the distant Mendip Hills
We stayed on the Tor for over half an hour, drinking in the view and the general aura of contentment and positivity on a beautiful Sunday morning. One young couple spent the entire time doing yoga. This was certainly closer to what I expected of Glastonbury than the piss artists of Saturday night. Eventually I had to clamber down the other side of the mount and rejoin the SWSW. Arranged to meet my parents in Cheddar – this time they would be staying in the same hotel.
If you’re following the map, this section involved turning left along Stone Down Lane, right at the fork, then left down Wick Hol and Bove Town before turning right into Wells Road, avoiding walking along the busy A39 for as long as possible. I took the link road marked in yellow and then went back down the A39 before picking up the minor roads: it is possible there is a footpath at the end of the cul-de-sac opposite the ‘PW’ sign which would lead on to the A39 and avoid the double-back. Then, rather than follow the exact combination of minor roads shown on the SWSW map, I stayed on Common Moor Drove and picked up Godney Road ASAP, avoiding what looked like an unnecessarily convoluted route via Great Withy Drove.
Godney Road is that rare thing en route: a Roman road in nature if not provenance (I haven’t checked – it might actually be one). There isn’t much traffic and the verges are plenty wide enough if you see or hear something. But it’s a bit of a slog nonetheless. I should also say it is completely flat all the way to Upper Godney, where there is – as you might expect – a very slight rise.
Continuing along very similar roads, only with a few bends to negotiate, you soon branch off on a footpath near Longstring Farm. After crossing Perry Lake Lane there is a climb through a rough and seemingly pathless field (stick to the hedge on the right). Then a marked path runs just west of the village of Yarley. It was at this point I checked the score in England’s World Cup match against Panama. They were already 4-0 up, approaching half-time.
At the end of this path there was a rusty gate. Neither the lock nor the rope on the gatepost would budge, so I had to clamber over. This was the first rusty gate I’d come up against. Just about my only thought for 30 seconds or so was “don’t cut yourself, tetanus, tetanus, tetanus”. I got over, then held on a fraction of a second too long as I jumped off at the other side, and cut the palm of my hand.
Now I obviously carry a first-aid kit and recommend that any distance walker does likewise. My supplies had diminished over time though. The gauze/bandages weren’t sufficient to stem the blood for long enough to achieve decent wound management. In the end I applied several weakish plasters and put my right hand in a transparent plastic glove. Within 15 minutes of starting up again I could see red all over the inside of the glove, and I was out of plasters.
It was a minor injury. I wasn’t overly concerned, except about the T-word and seeing a doctor as soon as practicable. Back to the route, I followed the path out of Henton and past Knowle Hill, then diverged from the SWSW in order to follow the road direct to Easton. I think I trusted roads more than footpaths and didn’t think I was losing too much ground between here and Westbury-sub-Mendip. Stopped in Easton for food and water, and to attend to the wound. Turned out it had actually stopped bleeding and the plasters were holding. The redness was from the plasters not the wound itself. Such drama, readers. I saw a doctor and had a booster shot after returning home, you’ll be relieved to know.
Now heading NW on the A371 in very hot weather, this was probably the lowest point since the Oakenford Farm crisis on Day 19. There was a lot of stopping for traffic in order to cross to a wider pavement or verge. Once at Westbury I tried to follow the route via Westclose Hill but didn’t find the path and returned to the A371. Then there was managed single-file traffic around a road-works which caused a bit more inconvenience. To be honest though, praise where it’s due: the drivers of Somerset were very patient and polite, there were no funny looks, audible rebukes or angry gestures. I’m a driver myself – I try my best not to piss them off.
Now, at Rodney Stoke I left the SWSW behind completely. The route map on the LDWA website apparently chooses to follow the road rather than clearly-marked footpaths. In fact this is the LDWA’s mistake – if you consult the downloadable directions out of Cheddar you can see that the SWSW as devised by the Bristol Ramblers follows my route exactly (in reverse).
What you should be doing on the LDWA map is turning right along the lane opposite the pub in Rodney Stoke. Then follow it all the way round to the left (this is easily the hardest uphill of the day). Eventually you will enter the Nature Reserves, first Rodney Stoke and then Draycott Sleights. After a lot of road walking, this is a really welcome last hour of the walk. Passing Carscliff Farm on your left, you will follow the waymarked West Mendip Way to the edges of Cheddar.
Finally, having reached Bradley Cross Lane, rather than following the footpaths I headed NW along The Lippiatt, then turned left at the end into the main road. Gordons Hotel was on the right after less than 100 yards. Again this route is different to that shown in red on the linked SWSW map.
After the walk
Hot, sweaty and flustered again – today’s distance was about 2 miles further than expected. Ate and drank with my parents at the White Hart. Walked around for a while, although their visit as well as mine was really geared around visiting Cheddar Gorge the following morning, and there was little else of interest on a Sunday evening. Very pleasant village though. It was my first time staying there, having only ever driven through once, back in 2009.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Another blank, partly due to walking so much on roads in Glastonbury, near Godney and on the A371 between Easton and Rodney Stoke. Fear not, from Day 23 onwards I really make up for it…
Picture (taken on the morning of 24 June 2018) of the approach to St. Michael’s Tower, atop Glastonbury Tor.
Next: Day 22 (25 June 2018)… in which there’s a premature abandonment!