Welcome to LEJoG Day 22
Day 22 pre-amble
Boys and girls of a certain age will probably remember these adverts and instantly understand the context of the post title. For any readers under 40, a brief explanation follows. A man or woman displays his or her supreme talent to a young child, who responds with mild appreciation, but sets the adult a challenge: “I bet you can’t put a Fruit Pastille in your mouth without chewing it.” The adult declares their certainty that he or she will be able to pass this rather puny-sounding test…. but of course they do not, because “with that real fruit the only thing you can do/with a Rowntree’s Fruit Pastille is chew (ah ha ha)”.
That line is the conclusion of the ad. In the build-up, as the child gives them the full-on hard, sceptical stare, and the basketball star or majorette realises they’re suddenly out of their comfort zone and out of their depth, you can hear the words of the song:
“gotta chew, gotta chew, gotta chew…”
Well today there were no kids around, but I’d set myself the challenge of reaching Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol. According to the SWSW guide it was 20 miles, a long day (especially in this heat) but manageable. However – no point keeping you in suspense – I did not make the bridge. I thought I could suck the pastille dry and just swallow, but failed to complete my challenge. The reasons will become clear. And the place in which I decided to abandon my target for the day, was called…
Chew Magna. And that’s by no means the only Chew you’ll come across today.
Honestly, I hope you appreciate the thought that goes into these post titles. 😉
LEJoG Day 22 (Monday 25 June 2018)
Cheddar to Chew Magna (14 miles)
Cumulative: 307½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 15 minutes. Average speed: 3.29 mph. Weather: Hot, virtually cloudless, almost no breeze all day.
Practicalities: Checked out of Gordons; went with stepdad to local supermarket to stock up on liquid and extra food ahead of a long walk. The three of us headed for Cheddar Gorge. My parents wanted to see it and I thought it would be a complete waste to come here and not use it as the start of my day’s walk.
Before leaving I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this sign outside Gordons, the first I’d seen since the Pre-Amble:
181 miles complete, 693 miles to go… hmmm, not strictly accurate for me
Final word on Gordons: the breakfast was sumptuous. I had strawberries with natural yogurt on my muesli for possibly the first time, and have made this for myself at least 3 times a week ever since. Not sure how I managed for 20-plus years with just milk.
Start: Gordons, Cheddar, 10:35am. End: Cemetery gate, Chew Magna, 4:00pm.
The first observation is that Cheddar Gorge and Caves is expensive to enter. I have no complaints as I haven’t explored much local tourism on this walk. If I’ve earmarked something as unmissable, I’m happy to pay whatever they ask. Not sure my parents feel the same: I think they struggled to find adequate signage on their way back after we parted. We climbed the 274 steps of Jacob’s Ladder and then turned left, continuing to ascend the gorge.
This was the first clifftop walk since the South West Coast Path. It was rough underfoot in places and I was the only one with proper walking boots. My parents were quickly frustrated. I waited for them to catch up several times, somewhat torn between wanting to enjoy the views, wanting them to enjoy it and get their money’s worth, and knowing I still needed to walk 20 miles in the day. As the header photo shows, the views were tremendous. I would recommend walking the gorge to anyone who can afford the entry fee. The heights and limestone surroundings made this easily the closest thing I’d yet seen to my most familiar stomping ground, the White Peak.
After about an hour’s walking my parents decided to head back down. Arranged to meet in Bristol so they could drop off my bags before returning to Gordons, where they were staying for a second night. I followed the SWSW route as closely as possible, not wishing to add extra miles unnecessarily. Coming down from the summit, you cross the B3135 and go straight ahead on a clear path towards Velvet Bottom. I enjoyed this section: open country with hills on either side, mostly following one contour and able to make quick progress. Eventually you cross a minor road near the village of Charterhouse and follow an enclosed path as far as the B3134. Again go straight ahead and pick up the road to Compton Martin.
Instead of going straight ahead at the footpath (see linked SWSW map), I followed the road to the right, turning left at the crossroads and passing ‘The Wrangle’. Then I tried to rejoin the red line but couldn’t find a gate or path out of the field and returned to the road. Did rejoin the SWSW route right in the middle of Compton Martin, immediately before turning right and heading north on another very clear enclosed path. This path crosses the River Yeo and comes out on another minor road, just short of Woodbridge Farm.
At this point the path into the next field became much less distinct. I decided I didn’t fancy it and would head to Chew Stoke via roads. Turned right, passing Moat Farm on the left, and walked all the way to the junction with the B3114. This is actually an excellent option for anyone. The road is very wide and has good pavements and verges. You should not be in any danger from traffic. Crossed over to the right hand side of the road in order to walk closer to Chew Valley Lake. You can read more about that here. No-one’s going to claim it was Buttermere or anything, but for a short while it made for a very pleasant change of scenery. I don’t think I’d come across any inland bodies of water remotely that size in the previous 21 days.
Stopped for lunch by some trees near Herons Green Bay; started again at 3pm. Still believed I could complete the 20 miles, but was estimating a finish time close to 7pm. On arrival in Chew Stoke, I looked at my map and SWSW guide and decided that the route to Dundry via Chew Magna was not direct enough for a day as long and hot as this.
So I was going to head there via a minor road proceeding due north. It was the end of the school day and traffic was heavy for such a compact village. And I’m afraid this road had no verges at all, and plenty of bends that, although not tight, were not worth the risk. Turned back after having to stop 3-4 times in a couple of hundred yards, and headed straight for Chew Magna via the B3114 (runs past school so plenty of pavement), where I would take stock.
Arrived there at 4pm, already having completed 14 miles rather than the expected 11 or 12. Based on the SWSW I still had 8 or 9 miles to go, and based on previous experience that was probably an optimistic estimate. It seemed best not to push myself too hard in 25-degree heat, so I sat on the bench near the cemetery gate and made my second emergency call of the weekend to the parents. This time to ask if I could be picked up and driven to my hotel in Bristol. If I’d left it later I would probably have ended up doing the same in a smaller village that was harder to find and to park in, and also been more likely to upset their plans for the evening.
After the walk
So it was that they picked me up about an hour later and dropped me off at the Ibis Bristol Temple Meads. Watched some of Iran v Portugal in the World Cup and had an evening meal.
The following morning I checked out and caught the train home from Temple Meads.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
This episode of the West Wing Weekly, during the early section of the walk after Cheddar Gorge. Nothing more after Compton Martin.
Picture (taken 25 June 2018) looking out west from the top of Cheddar Gorge (Cheddar Reservoir in the centre).
Next: Day 23 (27 July 2018)… in which My Listening Pleasure begins a sustained renaissance.