Posts Tagged ‘walk’

Today Nora and I went on a walk with some Twitter friends. How very modern, don’t you know. We’d already met at a tweet-up in Birmingham a couple of years ago and then, last summer, we realised that we were getting black labrador puppies at around the same time.

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Having someone to share your concerns with during those early weeks when your puppy is a widdling mystery that seems to have ruined your perfectly nice life, is a real support and I was keen to meet Lucca in person and spend some time with his humans.

Dogscrop

Like any individuals, the dogs turned out to be both different and similar. Nora (above left) is from a working background, while Lucca is a traditional ‘show’-type labrador. Even allowing for one being a bitch and the other a dog, Nora has a lighter build with a more delicate facial structure and a thinner tail, as you’d expect from the gundog strain. Both are typical boisterous, often clumsy, selectively deaf, giant puppies who had a great time play-fighting, sharing sticks and finding some inevitable water along the way. Both are totally gorgeous.

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stick

water

The walk, around the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, was about halfway along the A3 between our respective homes. There was enough tree cover that we weren’t out in the sun the whole time (which would also be good for rainy days) and the gradients were just about right for chatting humans and juvenile dogs on an unusually clear and warm March day.

gibbet hill

hyde park cornerThe area is owned by the National Trust, which means that historic landmarks like this milestone that was found by the contractors when the old route of the A3 was being dug up, are well-explained. Seeing traditional woodland activities, like coppicing and charcoal burning, make it only a slight stretch to imagine yourself travelling along here between Portsmouth and London in a stagecoach a couple of hundred years ago. The views reach as far as London forty miles away and, with a café and a large car park as a base, I’d highly recommend this as a spare afternoon’s activity with or without canine companions.

charcoal2

charcoal3

I don’t know about Lucca but Nora got home dusty and exhausted, and has barely moved since, other than to wolf down her supper.

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The winds got stronger and stronger last night until, at about quarter to three, I had to go and sleep on the sofa in the living room downstairs, as I had convinced myself that the chimney was going to come crashing down on my head while I slept in my bed. In the great storm of October 1987, the chimney of the house opposite us in London was blown straight through their roof into the house; miraculously hurting no-one, so worrying about this was not completely stupid, if a bit night-brained.Perhaps because of my lack of a good sleep and or because I must admit that, for some time now, I haven’t been in the greatest of moods, I woke up to a beautiful, if still blustery, day feeling massively negative. So to try to fight my lethargy, I took myself out for a bracing walk. I meant to go up to Lydeard Hill but the road was closed, so I carried on down to Cothelstone Manor, where I’ve never actually walked before, although I’ve stopped and taken pictures. I didn’t have my big camera with me today, so these are just phone photos but I think you’ll get the jist of what a lovely place it is.

As if to make up for yesterday’s ghastliness, the sun shone and everything looked brilliant and clean and, um, bracing. The wind was still howling. But I walked for a while, although footpaths were a bit hard to follow, electric fencing in their way here and there, which always makes me cross. I could still get round though, and made my way up the elegant drive and round to the tiny church.

Cothelstone must have been quite a thriving community when it was originally built in the 12th century to have warranted such a church – although it is tiny. It’s certainly more than a family chapel. There are a quite a large number of buildings here, some in total disrepair, some well maintained. The estate was hugely renovated in the nineteenth century, having been through many changes of fortune. Having a place like this must be such a burden – it’s certainly not for everyone. There are a number of parts that are obviously inhabited: cottages, the main house, and a secondary, quite large, house and lots and lots of outbuildings. All built out of the local red sandstone, softened by age to a wonderful, delicate pink.

Unfortunately, the church was locked but it was clearly not in any way abandoned; the porch being full of the usual watering cans, flower rotas and lists of charities. There was a also a small war memorial to those who fell in World War I. One family had lost six members and there were two names from at least four other families. This is always terrible but really does not bear thinking about the effect in a place as minute as this.

As I walked over the meadow back from a small boating lake to the road, the churchyard looked like the archetypal place that you think of when calling to mind a quiet country resting place and it was sad to think that those men had not made it back to lie here.

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When I was waiting to move to Spring Cottage, I remember being very excited about the fact that there was a footpath virtually on my doorstep. Then, when I arrived, I found it was impossible to gain access to the path at the point shown on the map, as the bank was too steep and it was blocked by all kinds of old ironwork and other rubbish. Deliberately so. My neighbours told me that it was simply too dangerous – and I had to agree with them, having once done a running jump up the bank and found myself in a nettley heap.

public footpath

I found other ways across my neighbours’ land to the path. They said they didn’t mind. Then, a few months ago, I noticed that the council had been along to clear the bank and build some steps, which I wrote about here. This made me very happy because this footpath is actually useful for me, in the way that footpaths must have originally been meant to be.

Leading directly from my lane to the stables where I go riding, it’s the quickest and safest way to get there without driving, although I admit that I’m rarely on time enough for a ride to allow for the 15-minute walk over there, and often end up driving anyway. On the other hand when I have time – it’s certainly worth the walk. The scenery’s pretty lovely.

country scenery

The other day, I thought I’d walk over there, and found the entrance to the path completely blocked by a huge fallen tree branch, weeds and other stuff that had fallen onto the steps. A path that’s not used falls quickly into disrepair and I must make a point of doing so more often. Anyway,  now I’ve decided that the upkeep of this path’s entrance is up to me and I will be going there regularly to make sure that access remains open. After all, no-one else is going to bother and I seem to be one of the few who stand to gain.

And sometimes, I meet these boys:

young steers in a field

And we have a little stand-off about who is more scared of the other…

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We have wonderful local footpaths here. There are more public places to walk not very far away and people don’t seem to explore much off the beaten track, so you never encounter anyone else, ever. There are no pylons to spoil the views, only occasional telegraph poles. There are no modern buildings apart from the odd barn; the countryside studded with a few farms, cottages and outbuildings. The nearest village is two and a half miles away, as we are in what is amounts to only a hamlet with not even a sign on the road to mark its existence.

countryside and farm

Two years ago, when I was looking forward to moving in to Spring Cottage, I was delighted that there were public footpaths virtually on my doorstep. Trying out the local walks, I was disappointed to find the nearest footpath, a little way up the road, inaccessible with a steep bank and obvious attempts to block its entrance with old ironwork and lumber. You could still reach the path from other points nearby but none was as convenient. John and Sue, whose land the path is on, told me it was simply too dangerous to leave the access to the path open at that point because of the steepness of the bank. Something I can vouch for, having nearly come a cropper on the road as I foolishly tried to scale the bank on my first walk.

So I was delighted, a few weeks ago, to find a new entrance to the path etched into the bank by Council who look after such things, in collaboration with the landowners. What is even more amazing, is that this should happen in these days of cutbacks and under-funding. I can only imagine that the money for this project had been set aside prior to the present period of austerity, so that the work could still take place.

public footpath

When I set off up through the gate, I noticed these two old, carved planks of wood, which must have been part of the junk, with which the entrance was blocked. The workmen had reverently left them there by the side of the new gate. The text on them seems very relevant to where they were found.

bits of old carved wood

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Incredibly windy today with clouds scudding across the sky and the wind whistling down the chimney. Rapidly alternating gloom and sunny breaks meant that I had to pick my moment to be outside but I was able to gather the wherewithall with which to plant up the hyacinths with no trouble. Alternatively, it could be some kind of very vile witches’ brew.

Of course, as with all things that take place in the garden, it took much longer than it should have done because I got distracted and spent an hour or so clearing moss and dead leaves from under the slats of a funny little bench, which Lady-Vendor had built into the bank at the back of the house. It’s a really stupid construction from that point of view but, on a sunny and breezy summer’s day, it’s a nice sheltered place to sit. And it’s often windy up here in the hills.

built in bench

Sad part of the day was that despite our attempts to protect them, I had to fish a dead frog out of the pond today. However, there was only one (compared to last year’s five) and we now have a little ball floating on the pond, so that, should it freeze again, we can take the ball out so that oxygen can get in and other gases escape. That’s if the ball doesn’t blow away – I keep finding it half-way across the garden.

Despite the cold, there are already some things flowering: hellebores just starting to come out and something I don’t recognise. No snowdrops yet, although shoots are starting to poke through here and there.

It was also perfect weather to gather wood for kindling. I hate buying kindling and tend to collect wood when I’m walking locally. Today, I didn’t even need to go for a walk as the winds had brought down quite a lot of branches in the garden and the lane but I went for a walk anyway.

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If I don’t leave London this weekend, I’m going to end up getting a dog. It’s either Somerset or Battersea Dogs Home for me. I’m driving myself completely mad with thoughts of this little scamp that I’m going to adopt. I’ve lost all reason. I work full-time and have two cats. Why on earth do I want to lumber myself with yet another animal that I have the schlepp down the motorway twice a month, take walkies late at night and clean up after when it eats the post? But look how nice they are…

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Very mixed weather in the south west for this weekend at Spring Cottage with Mrs Honeytree.

On Saturday we had great, sunny weather with a bit of a bite of wind and went for a walk at Kilve, scene of the You could be Johnny Depp Walk on New Year’s Day. Kilve has the most amazing beach, with alternate strips of rock which cross the beach diagonally. It is an area of Special Scientific Interest. As the rock begins to break up towards the surface, forming pebbles, you would expect sand beneath but, instead, here there is a further layer of  stone, quite different from the one above. The rock strata are oil-bearing shale and blue, yellow and brown lias embedded with fossils, although we didn’t find any. The cliffs are crumbling with atmospheric spots where fencing just tips off the side from the grassy clifftop.  Wordsworth – resident locally – called it “Kilve’s delightful shore” and it is really lovely. We walked for a few miles along the clifftop and then through fields of reeds, where I thought we were lost, back to the village. Mrs Honeytree kept making helpful remarks like: “Have you seen The Blair Witch Project?” Unnerving, as the light was starting to go.

Then, on Sunday, I had another riding lesson on Trigger with Sally. It was raining and cold but I forgot all that as I managed to trot successfully round the ring. So successfully, in fact, that Sally urged Trigger on to canter, which was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. It was a bit like a fairground ride, where you find yourself with a fixed smile on your face without even realising it. So I am making some progress at last, with my hands more obedient now, although I was still sentenced to several turns around the ring without stirrups to cure my errant heels, which leap out of them at every opportunity. And for once, I don’t seem to have ‘horse bottom’, so I must be starting to find my seat.

I left the cottage with water turned off and heating turned up, to avoid all possibility of a recurrence of a burst pipe, as the temperatures above 200 metres ae likely to dip over the next few days. Fingers crossed.

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Weekend here with Boy, who can’t stop talking about his new job and about a flat that he wants to move into with some friends, for the first time in over six months. Nice to have some family time here together, although he is hell bent on going back to London as soon as possible. Hold on to them loosely to keep them close – I must remember this…

new cabinetOn Saturday, we picked up my new cabinet from Tracy at French Gray near Dulverton. She has a lovely farm on the fringes of Exmoor, where she restores tired pieces of furniture by painting and distressing them. Something that I’ve done myself but recently haven’t had time for. It looks nice in the living room, although the accent of the room has become twee-er, but hope to set that right with my new prints.

Then we drove to see JM, who was staying with his sister near Chard, about 45 minutes south of here. We went on a lovely long walk, unfortunately in the wrong shoes, so sore toes for me. map of ChardstockIt was interesting to see how the countryside is subtly different to the Quantocks – the local stone is a lot more flinty and electricity pylons, large and small, more prominent everywhere (but I think I’m particularly lucky in that respect – go another couple of miles north from Spring Cottage and they’re everywhere), but it was lovely to see another glorious part of the south west.

On our walk we found an abandoned-looking little thatched cottage, which would have made a wonderful project for someone, in a place called Cuckholds Pit. In rather a state, with a  collapsing thatch, but it was actually also fascinating to see what cottages looked like before they were gobbled up and made all delightful by townies like me.

Supper at the Traveller’s Rest – great steak today – and they have a new Otter beer, Otter Ale, which is much stronger than the bitter. So now I’m going to have to be much more specific about my favourite tipple.

Riding lesson was fun on Sunday: a hour in the arena with Sally and a horse called Spot, learning how to sit (I thought I knew that already) and control the horse properly. It’s rather like driving a car, with all your extremities needing huge amounts of concentration and coordination to keep them in the right place.

cow

Cow posing

pylon

Even this pylon was fine looking

flower

Echinacea purpurea – I must get some for the garden

"Where are we?"

JM and Boy missing the obvious

lost, tired people

Lost, tired people

Yes, we did get a bit lost… despite a host of navigational aids.

Postscript: We drove past signposts to places that sounded quite delicious today: Beercrowcombe, Stewley and Curry Mallet.

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Woke up to the dawn chorus which was magnificent. It was really light all night, first with a very bright moon and then with the early dawn. I had made a resolution to get up and walk up Broomfield Hill to hear the birds at dawn, but of course, I stayed in bed instead. The morning is wonderfully peaceful, sunny and beautiful. The farm has not yet started its work and I’m hoping today will be less active. Yesterday, they carried on with the silageing until about 8.30, by which time I was ready to scream as they were working in the field behind Tudball, rather too close for comfort. I’ve got terrible tennis elbow, which is going to limit my planned activities, which were, excitingly, to clean the house and mow the lawns and sow some grass seed where the lawn has got a bit thin, here and there.

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Met one of the Quantock Hills AONB Rangers at Cothelstone Hill for a walk to hear the dawn chorus this morning. Most people had come from quite far afield, not like me—just falling out of bed into the car and going up the road. Pitch black when we met at 4.30, it soon started to lighten up and we set off into the woods. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated massively quite quickly and I was soon wet through, despite the apparently ‘for appearances only’ old waxed jacket — my new North Face jacket still being en route from Nepal.

The walk was also actually more of a ‘stand-about talking’ which was disappointing as walking would have kept us warm. I suppose I hadn’t grasped that this was a serious birding walk with eveyone discussing different calls and so forth. All of which would have been fine if the weather hasn’t been so revolting. So I gave up at 6.30 and came home to get dried off, warmed up and to go back to bed.

Having said all this, the birdsong was stunning in those surroundings and I’m tempted to go back another day on my own when there’s not so much people chatter and better weather. Or I could just walk up Broomfield Hill instead, which is closer. The best bit was the incessant cuckoo calling as I’ve never heard a cuckoo in person (in bird?) before. We also heard a tawny owl but I wouldn’t recognise it again I don’t think.

Hoping the weather improves or tomorrow’s first car boot sale of the season at Nether Stowey is going to be a washout too. I have such exciting plans.

Dead rabbit again. Recent. Not sure if Percy the culprit as Lady-Gardener said there’d been one during the week as well. Later: Fairly sure that it was Percy — I just saw him grab Dixie on the scruff the neck in exactly the same place as the rabbits had wet patches and marks on their fur. Percy’s death grip. He’s a cat in fox’s clothing.

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This weekend has seen the advent of pictures at Spring Cottage. However, putting them up has not been entirely successful. In fact, one could say that it has been relatively unsuccessful, as only one of them has stayed on wall, one has fallen off and there are now two large holes in the previously freshly painted plaster. It turns out that the walls are uniformly solid and that I’m going to have to use a drill and polyfilla to get any art onto the walls.

Patently not making a chest of drawers

Patently not making a chest of drawers

On a more positive note, Girl and I made a chest of drawers, which we only had to remake partially once. I don’t know what it is about self-assembly things but the little drawings just aren’t very clear. However, now made, it is great having actual furniture in my bedroom and somewhere to keep my clothes after all these months. Just one more to go, but that can wait until another windy and wet weekend.

Walking over Manor Farm

Walking over Manor Farm

We went for a bit of a walk locally, just down the bridle path and into Manor Farm’s fields to pick blackberries and sloes. Looking forward to making sloe gin and more jam, when we get back.

Went for supper at the Traveller’s Rest, where I really felt I’d arrived, when I saw that our tab actually had my name on. So bar-lady had taken it in when I announced who I was, even though she didn’t appear to have. I am really thrilled!

It’s turning autumnal now and I’m looking forward to seeing the countryside changing yet again. There are bonfires already and fine smells of smoke in the air.

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Terrible weather today. Anybody would think it was a bank holiday. So we spent most of the morning at Spring Cottage, I did some cleaning and general fiddling about while JM did some work. Then I made a picnic and we set off to Watchet, where the weather was a bit better. I am beginning to learn that, being so high up, the weather here isn’t necessarily indicative of what it’s like on the Levels or at the coast.

IMG_2990Watchet was busy but still sweet without being too ‘kiss me quick’. It’s full of tiny cottages and We picnicked on the harbour wall under an amazingly threatening sky and then had a bit of a wander around town. It has a little museum with a good history of the town’s time as a port for the transport of iron ore from the local mines (hence Minehead, just along the coast, I suppose).

Drove back and tried to find the route home over Bishop’s Lydeard Hill via Triscombe but ended up taking a wrong turning at the Blue Ball Inn and driving back to Crowcombe. IMG_2997However, there we did get up onto Quantock Common which didn’t have any wild ponies this time, but had a fantastic 360 degree view from the triangulation point. Marvellous heather and gorse everywhere.

JM made a great fire in the evening while I made supper. We smoked the place out again – lesson: not to put too much wood on at once, must get the chimney swept – or else the smoke alarm will wear out.IMG_3001

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A lovely weekend at the cottage with the Boy. No DIY, no TV, no chores. The weather wasn’t great, so still no eating out of doors. The children want me to get some huge involved table so that we can spend more time outside, regardless of the fact that the weather here just hasn’t made that seem sensible. Even when it’s warm on the levels, there’s a cool breeze here and an evening drop in temperature that means that eating outside isn’t likely to happen unless we eat at 5pm and we are no longer kiddyridden.

We brought the cats with us, who seemed to remember being there before, as they didn’t spend quite so much time in a crouch as on the last visit. But we didn’t let them out.

On Saturday we drove to Dulverton on Exmoor. I’d found an antique shop there online that looked interesting. When we got there I realised that this was in the same area-ish as Lynton, scene of one of the worst weekends of my life, and it had very much the same rather oppressive vibe to it that had contributed to that weekend being ruined. I just don’t like places that are overshadowed by mountain sides covered in trees. They had a sign showing where the water level reached in 1952, when there were several deaths as a result of a huge flood. The shop was disappointing, yielding an expensive but lovely dresser which I will have to think hard about before spending so much money. They also make sofas to measure to a very similar design to the one I bought, which could be a solution for the home sitting room problem, but more to think about there at another time.

Then we continued driving, the weather still not being up to much walkwise. The Boy was uncommunicative and it felt remarkably like being on an outing with his father. Turns out he hadn’t slept well and was tired. He livened up a bit after some lunch and a snooze.

Then we pitched up in Wiveliscombe, which is a strange place. We found a wonderful junction called Black Cat on the road there, with a picture of one arching its back.Black Cat

W is quite big, and mostly closed, which is odd on a Saturday afternoon, so it felt rather like it had been abandoned or it was on the continent. Rather old fashioned, without all the usual chains, unless we completely missed them. Found a huge furniture warehouse here, full of really cheap things.

However, all of the mahogany antique variety that is now so out of fashion. Scarcely a piece over £200. But nothing that I was interested in. However, probably worth coming to have a look from time to time.

Travellers Rest for a quick drink in the evening, which is always nice. All the same faces as usual, but supper at home tonight as I couldn’t abide anymore pub food after the horrible Dulverton lunch we had.

On Sunday, I mowed the lawn as gardeness hadn’t been able to, due to rain, and Boy helped me cut the top of the hedge at the back of the garden, bordering the field, which looked immediately much better. It all seems so easy and quick when you have help! Normally, I struggle with all this and end up exhausted. Boy loved wielding the hedgetrimmer, so I will have to get him to have a go with the lawn mower too. Power tools are obviously the way forward in getting your offspring to help.

The local farmers are all combining away and then cutting back the hedges, so all kinds of new views are appearing, which makes walking interesting as the countryside reveals itself afresh. I love the changing patchwork texture of the land, as it is ploughed, planted, and harvested. We went on a walk up Broomfield Hill, almost opposite the Travellers Rest, from which there are wonderful views, all the way across to Wales. It is interesting seeing Spring Cottage from that high perspective, with the tractors going backwards and forwards and people walking about, horses in the fields and deer running out from their cover in the woods. The hill is National Trust, so it is all very open and well maintained, with bird boxes, coppicing and charcoal making being planned. I shall have to go back to see if this actually happens. IMG_2854There was also a herd of highland cattle sitting amongst some quite low trees, which we were wary of, given the number of people who have been trampled recently. They were with their calves but we walked around them, giving them quite a wide berth, and they were fine. They  had such fine, curling horns. The calves were really very sweet, being very hairy and fluffy.

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I keep finding more and more walks as I trawl the internet in my frustration with not being able to get into the cottage yet. DEFRA have this wonderful scheme (the Countryside Stewardship Scheme) where local farmers open temporary walks across their property so that you can see things you wouldn’t normally. I’m so looking forward to being able to explore. Here’s a link to a local circular walk where you can see ‘a depression caused by a crashed WWII plane, a pond where monks used to fish and a disused quarry.

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