There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Friday, 24 April 2015

Durham and the Angel of the North

A rare visit, for us, to the north-east was occasioned by a social gathering in Stockton-On-Tees on Saturday. Having never been to Durham we thought a visit would make a pleasant starter to Saturday's main course.

With 80,000 inhabitants Durham is hardly a metropolis, but the old city, sitting on its hill within an incised meander of the River Wear, is tiny. A place of narrow lanes and old houses, it was not built with parking in mind, so we took advantage of Durham's efficient park and ride system.

The bus dropped us off a short walk from the market square, a pleasant flowery corner between the town hall and St Nicholas’ Church. The square was full of people in short sleeves so Lynne felt she needed a pullover and a fleece.
Durham Market Square
The three statues in the square are all of some interest. By far the biggest is the equestrian statue of Charles William Vane Tempest Stewart (did he really need so many names?), the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, a coal owner and the builder of Seaham Harbour. Completed in 1861, the story is told that the sculptor, Raphael Monti thought his work perfect until a blind man noticed that the horse had no tongue, whereupon a distraught Monti committed suicide. The story is more interesting than the somewhat routine statue, but sadly (though not for Monti) it is entirely untrue.

Charles William Van Tempest Stewart (to name but a few)
Durham Market Square
The second statue is a memorial to those who fought and died as members of the Durham Light Infantry. On July 27th 1953 it was a bugler of the Durham Light Infantry who signalled the armistice in the Korean War. (As we well know from our visit to the Fatherland Liberation Museum in Pyongyang, it was an armistice not a peace treaty, the war continues.) The statue depicts that bugler.

Bugler, Durham Light Infantry
Durham Market Square
The third is an eighteenth century statue of Neptune who stands over the outlet to a pipe that brought fresh water to the market square. Demeaning as it might be for the God of the Sea to stand over a mere water pipe, he was intended to promote a plan to turn Durham into an inland port by rerouting the River Wear. A brief glance at the relatively wide but shallow Wear suggests this plan would have been doomed to failure had it not been swiftly abandoned.

Neptune, Durham Market Square
At least the planners knew which river they were dealing with. Roger Whitaker in his 1969 hit clumsily entitled Durham Town (The Leaving) sang (link to Roger singing on YouTube)

When I was a boy, I spent my time,
Sitting on the banks of the River Tyne.
Watching all the ships going down the line, they were leaving,
Leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving me.

As a poet Roger Whitaker may not be in the same league as Rudyard Kipling, but both happily ignore geographical reality when it suits them (see The Road to Mandalay, Kipling's Version).

Sadler Street  runs southeast off the market square. Unsurprisingly saddles were made here, but the end nearest the square, shown in the photograph, was once called Fleshergate and was home to the city's butchers. Knee deep in blood and entrails it could not have been a pleasant place.

Sadler Street, Durham
We walked south down Silver Street, possibly the former site of a mint where Durham coins were struck. The street drops down and turns to the Framwellgate Bridge. Just before the River an alley leads down to the 9 Altars Café, where sizeable baguettes filled with ham and mozzarella and bacon and melted cheddar provided us with a reasonably priced lunch. Café Nero, Costa Coffee and Starbucks are all nearby, but we chose to support an independent local business, and were glad we did.

Silver Street, Durham
From the end of the alley a footpath angles up sharply from the River. Turning through ‘Windy Gap’ we emerged onto Palace Green outside the cathedral. On a sunny day the green was covered with students, sitting in groups chatting or revising - though mainly chatting.

The cathedral (along with the nearby castle a UNESCO world heritage site) is huge. Easily seen from miles away it is far too big to be satisfactorily photographed from the green. The castle belongs to Durham University and is sometimes open, but not when we were there.
Durham Cathedral from Palace Green
(I am not ignoring the castle completely, there is a photo later)
A modern copy of the sanctuary ring adorns the main door of the cathedral. Anyone accused of a crime could seek sanctuary by grasping the ring. This gave them 27 days to prepare their defence or to leave the country by the nearest available exit.

Lynne seeks sanctuary, Durham Cathedral

Although there are some later additions, most of the building was completed between 1093 and 1133. The pillars along the nave - ‘mixed and massive piles,’ according to Sir Walter Scott - are the stoutest we have seen since the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Most are  richly and differently decorated, as are the semi-circular Norman arches above. The ceiling is a fine example of medieval vaulting. As I overheard one of the guides saying, Durham Cathedral is like all of us in the northeast, solidly built to withstand the local climate and full of charm.

The Galilee Chapel is a 12th century extension at the western end of the church containing, among other things, the tomb of the Venerable Bede. You have to admire a man regarded by one and all as 'Venerable'. Among other works he wrote a 'History of the English Church and People,' the first book to use the AD dating system.

Bede died in 735 and was buried in Jarrow Abbey. After visitations from the Vikings his remains were moved to Durham in 1022 and placed in this shrine in 1370. Given that Jarrow Abbey had three hundred years under pressure from the Vikings to misplace his bones, and Durham Cathedral had another three hundred before they built the shrine, it is not unduly cynical to wonder how many, if any, of Bede’s bones are actually in it.

Bede's tomb, Durham Cathedral
Photograph by Robin Widdison, sourced from Wikipedia
The graffiti incised in one of the pillars looks 19th century. The authorities are stricter today and carefully enforce their ban on photography, so I have borrowed a couple of pictures from Wikipedia.

In front of the font a long slab of local Frosterly ‘marble’ - actually a black limestone - forms a line across the floor.  Until the mid-16th century, the line marked the closest women were allowed to the altar.

From here we entered the cloister, passing a woman sporting a clerical collar. According to Samuel Johnson a woman preaching, like a dog walking on its hind legs is remarkable, not for doing it well, but for doing it at all. We should not judge the ever-quotable doctor too harshly, he was a man of his time, and at least it was a time when women were tolerated at the front of the church. Women priests are now a commonplace, and although all 80 Bishops of Durham from Aldhun in 995 to Paul Butler today have been men, it cannot be long before Durham has its first women bishop. At the end of the cloister is a café with another magnificently vaulted ceiling. In the café is a Lego model of the cathedral. Now there, Dr J, is something to marvel at, not because it was made well (though, to be fair, it is) but because it was made at all.

Durham Cathedral from the cloister

Back in the nave we saw Father Smith's Great Organ Case (make your own joke), a splendid 17th century clock and the Miner’s Memorial, placed here in 1947. The Book of Remembrance was open at the Easington Colliery disaster in 1951 when 83 miners were killed by underground explosions. County Durham is now green and pleasant, but for centuries coal mining scarred the landscape. Once the county’s major industry, the last pit closed in 1994.

There are many more tombs and statues, some of the older ones damaged in the Civil War or the Reformation.

The original Quire Stalls were replaced in 1660.  The brochure calls the replacements 'finely carved'', I might call them 'fussy'. I am also not a fan of the 18th century 'Rose Window' on the east wall. Fine in itself, it does not seem at ease with its surroundings. The 1986 UNESCO citation describes Durham Cathedral as ‘… the largest and most perfect monument of 'Norman' style architecture in England’. And so it is; later work, though sometimes necessary, never quite grasps the medieval vision.

Durham cathedral nave and rose window
Photograph Oliver Bonjoch, sourced from Wikipedia 
Behind the altar is the Shrine of St Cuthbert. The greatest saint of northern England, Cuthbert was a monk who became bishop of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. After his death in 687 Viking incursions ensured his relics led a peripatetic existence. In 995 monks carrying his remains were following two milkmaids searching for a dun cow. When they reached a peninsula in a loop of the River Wear the coffin became immoveable. Recognising a sign, they stopped and built a shrine which in time became a cathedral and the surrounding area became the city of Durham. Cynics might point out that high ground almost completely surrounded by water is a strong defensive position, and this may have influenced the choice of location. A site of pilgrimage throughout the middle ages, the shrine was destroyed during the Reformation, but restored in 1542. It remains a place of pilgrimage, quiet reflection and prayer.

Shrine of St Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral
Photograph JBA Hamilton, sourced from Wikipedia
Behind St Cuthbert is the Chapel of the 9 Altars, which may be only of specialist interest but explains the name of the café where we had lunch.

Outside the cathedral we walked through the old streets and down to the river at the end of the peninsula. Many of the buildings are owned by Durham University and the large number of young people among the old buildings gives them life and stops the place becoming a museum.
Walking down to the river, Durham

At the end of the road we crossed the Wear and walked beside the river on the sort of country path that should not exist in a city. The path gives the best views of the imposing bulk of the cathedral, which probably looks better without the spire digitally added between the towers when the cathedral posed as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Us, the River Wear and Durham Cathedral

Returning to tarmac, the Framwellgate Bridge gives the best view the castle.
Lynne on Framwellgate Bridge with Durham Castle behind
A bus carried us out to our car, and we drove back into the city to the Travelodge. Later a walk down Gilesgate and Claypath showed that even outside the old centre Durham is a city of charm and antiquity. I particularly liked the terraced town houses in Gilesgate, each painted in a different pastel colour. The effect maybe spoiled by the parked cars outside, but the residents have to put their cars somewhere and garages were not in the builders' minds two hundred years ago.

Gilesgate, Durham
 Stepping into the Bistro Italiano on Claypath transported us from northeast England to a surprisingly successful facsimile of generic Italy. The Bistro had been recommended to us by friends Brian and Hilary and I happily pass the recommendation on. We ate well at a reasonable price.

The following morning, with a little spare time we made the fifteen minute drive to see the Angel of the North beside the A1 on the outskirts of Gateshead.

The Angel of the North
Controversial during planning and building – it was completed in 1998 at the cost of £1 million - the 20m tall Angel is now a source of local pride. When asked 'why an Angel?' sculptor Anthony Gormley said 'because nobody has seen one and we have to keep imagining them,' which sounds good to me. Weighing 200t and with a 35m wing span he stands in a exposed location where winds of 160kph are not unknown and is anchored to the rock 20m below by 600t of concrete. Traditionally in County Durham much of what is important is beneath the earth.

Lynne sits at the feet of the Angel of the North
The car park is a little behind the Angel and, not for the first time, I found viewing a sculpture from this angle to be instructive. From the front he is stylised, from behind the contours of the Angel’s body are strangely lifelike.
The Angel of the North
On so on to Stockton and a convivial lunch, afternoon and evening, thank you Richard & Jacqui

Friday, 10 April 2015

Dunkery Hill to Withypool: Day 24 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

At 15km the third day was a shorter walk, in theory to allow for the long drive home but in practice to provide time for fiddling around placing one car at the finish and getting six people to the start. How to do this using two five seat cars was a logistical problem that had taxed great minds in the pub the previous evening.
Mike and Alison set off up the towards Dunkery Beacon
Ten o'clock had come and gone before we set off from the car park on the flank of Dunkery Hill. As I suggested at the end of the previous post the final kilometre long 100m climb to Dunkery Beacon was easy when we were fresh.

There's the summit and Francis cannot wait to get there
It was a cooler start than yesterday and with a keen wind on the 519m (1700ft) summit I donned my jacket for the first time since Wednesday morning.
Dunkery Beacon with Mike and Alison (Photograph, Francis)
With my map case blowing in the chilly wind it is definitely time to put a jacket on

A plaque on the cairn commemorated the donation of this land to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Acland, Colonel Wiggin and Mr Allan Hughes. 'There's some research for your blog,’ Francis (I think) commented.

Plaque on Dunkery Beacon
 So this is what I found. The Holnicote Estate, covering some 5,000ha of North Somerset, (most of it, including Dunkery Hill, now within the Exmoor National Park) passed by marriage into the ownership of Sir Thomas Acland, the 7th Baronet Acland in 1745. The National Trust was given a 500 year lease on the estate in 1918 by the 12th Baronet, another Sir Thomas Acland, and the freehold was donated in 1944 by the 15th Baronet, Sir Richard Acland, a socialist and a founder member of CND. How the Dunkery Hill section became National Trust property in 1935 in the time of the 14th Baronet, Sir Francis Acland is unclear, as is the reason why his long dead grandfather is given the credit. Mr Allan Hughes Esq owned a smaller parcel of land. He died before 1934 and the donation was actually made by his widow. She, doubtless, had a name of her own - most people have - but I have found no reference to her other than as Mrs Allan Hughes. Colonel Wiggin, was master of the Somerset Stag Hounds from 1917 until his death in 1936. After a military career he became a director, and then chairman of the family firm Henry Wiggin and Co* in Birmingham. He lived in Birmingham but had a house and some land in Somerset, part of which he gave to the National Trust in 1932.

Colonel Walter Wiggin
photograph published in Baily's Magazine, February 1920
sourced by me from Wikipedia
 From the summit the path descended gently and then contoured along the side of the moorland. In the lee of the hill it was much warmer and my jacket soon came off again. The path was wide, the stones crushed and rolled, unlike on the climb up, and it was easy going, but after four kilometres the sameness was becoming tedious.

Brian plods along the edge of the moorland
This path finally reaches a minor road at the point where the road splits into two tiny ribbons of unfenced tarmac which dribble their way across the moor. We paused at this point, known as Porlock Post, sat in the heather and drank some coffee. Like the posts on the Quantocks, ‘Porlock Post’ really is a post and is labelled as such. It told us walkers exactly where we were, but for drivers it was useless, whether through wind or vandalism, the arms pointed in random directions.

The Porlock Post
We followed the road off the moor and descended a long sunken lane to the village of Exford. The sides of the lane again consisted of stone walls topped with neglected hedges. Centuries of erosion had lowered the path level so that the walls sat on a bank of bare earth.

The sunken lane to Exford

We saw out first spring lamb back in December, though perhaps that unfortunate creature should not be described as a ‘spring’ lamb. This being the right season, the field were full of sheep and lambs, some so new their legs were still wobbly.

Spring lambs near Exford
Exford is a small village with a large green which we crossed and followed a path beside the River Exe.

Leaving Exford along the River Exe
Here, some five miles from its source at Simonsbath, the Exe is a modest stream. Flowing southwards for another 65 kilometres, mostly through Devon, it reaches the sea just beyond Exeter at Exmouth - there is a clue in the name. Rising in moorland, it is inevitably acidic but is home to a population of wild brown trout and has a run of Atlantic salmon.

Our path crossed the river which swings east for a little way while we followed the Exe Valley Way around the flank of Southcott Hill, before dipping down to the foot of Court Copse, ensuring the climb up Road Hill would be as long and stiff as possible.

You have to go down before you can go up
Approaching Road Hill (photograph, Alison)

After the climb we made our way across the hill’s rounded top. Curr Cleeve, a small steep valley descending to the Exe, separates Road Hill from Room Hill, but we were able to follow the ridge round the end of the valley without losing height.

Curr Cleeve between Road Hill and Room Hill

Room Hill Road runs close to the top of the hill, and after crossing the road we found a permissive path that descends to Withypool, zigzagging along the field boundaries with some impressive bridge/ladder/stile combinations.

Bridge, ladder stile on the way to Withypool
 A final steep descent across a grassy field brought us down to a minor road on the edge of the village where Lynne was waiting to meet us.
On the southern side of the village a fine late medieval bridge crosses the River Barle, which rises close to the source of the Exe but follows a more westerly path before turning east to meet the Exe at Exebridge some 11 kilometres from its source. Why some places, like Exebridge and Exeter retain their second 'e' and others, like Exford, and Exmouth, do not is a mystery.

Francis reaches Withypool first
Brian's car was in the car park on the far side of the bridge, but before crossing it we stopped at the adjacent tea house. Brian, and to a lesser extent Lynne, had checked out Somerset’s strong, cloudy cider and it seemed time to enjoy the region's other great delight, a cream tea.
The Bridge on the River Barle

Purists might say that half past two was too early, but we felt we had earned it. I savoured my scone with its thick coating of clotted cream topped with blackcurrant jam. Sadly, only Alison and I pronounce scone correctly (it rhymes with 'swan' not 'drone'), though even my wife will not admit the truth of this statement. There is also the vexed question of whether the cream goes on the jam, or the jam goes on the cream – to enjoy a simple cream tea it is necessary to negotiate a minefield of social conventions.

Cream Tea, Withypool
Well fed, we crossed the bridge to the car park and the 2015 instalment of the South West Odyssey came to its end. It had been one of the best; unexpectedly fine weather, excellent walking country and convivial evenings. What could be better?

The walk across Somerset
Next year south into Devon
To answer my own question, I would have liked the drive home to have taken less than five and a half hours. The M5 and M6 were extraordinarily busy as Lynne sped us from hold up to hold up. Ah well, nothing is perfect.

*Special Metals Wiggin Ltd, part of the Special Metals Corporation, now employs 700 people in Hereford.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Watchet, Dunster and Dunkery Hill: Day 23 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

As if trying to upstage sunny Tuesday, Wednesday skipped the misty start and went straight for the blue skies.

Our start was a little less slick as first we needed to place a car at the end of the walk near the top of Dunkery Hill on Exmoor. This involved a lengthy drive, a diversion around closed roads and some epic reversing on narrow lanes where passing places were few and far between. Setting off back to Watchet we saw an Exmoor stag sitting in the gorse barely ten metres away. It was the only one we were to see.

The Somerset section of the walk
A little later, weighed down by a ‘full English’ we set off up the coast road generously protected by the kind people who organise the signs at the Somerset Highways Department.

Those nice people at Somerset Highways think about us as we leave Watchet (photo, Francis)
Expecting to follow the road for over a kilometre before joining the coastal path, we happily encountered a 'permissive’ path on the edge of Watchet and were able follow that and then the official path almost all the way to Blue Anchor.

The Coastal Path, Watchet to Blue Anchor

Daws Castle sits on the cliffs outside Watchet. Francis missed it as his binoculars were trained on a bird flapping across the sea but fortunately Mike was able to describe the ruined battlements, towers and turrets in great detail. Named for the 16th century owner of the field, Daws Castle is Iron Age in origin but was rebuilt by Alfred the Great in 878 as a defence against Viking raiders.  Except in Mike’s imagination it is now a barely discernible earthwork.

Sometimes the path followed the cliff top, sometimes it traversed the edges of field, many of them sprouting a spring crop of caravans, but usually it stayed in the belt of woodland in between. It is not a pretty piece of coastline but Francis managed to photograph the best of it.

The coast west of Watchet (photo, Francis)
Approaching Blue Anchor the path has suffered severe erosion and we were directed inland on an irritating and time-consuming diversion, but it was better than falling in the water.

The Blue Anchor, Blue Anchor
We reached the road by the 17th century Blue Anchor Inn which gives its name to the village. The rest of the village and the inevitable West Somerset Railway station is a kilometre away along a seaside promenade.....
The promenade, Blue Anchor
(there were fisherman, honest, even if none of them are in this picture!)
.... lined with static holiday caravans on the landward side. Fisherman stood along the prom dangling their lines in the water.

Static caravans, Blue Anchor

At the end of the prom the road turns inland and we carried straight on along the stony beach. We spoke to a fisherman on his way home, pleased with his morning’s catch of three dogfish. Soon after, we paused for coffee.

Coffee on the beach near Blue Anchor
I was happy enough with my photo, but someone (who?) suggested I should use the ‘delay’ function and include myself in the picture. I found a suitable rock, put the camera on top and lay on the shingle to line up the shot,….
Lining up the shot (photo, Alison)

…pressed the shutter, leapt to my feet, like a greyhound from the trap….

Like a greyhound from the trap (photo, Alison)
Not convinced? If greyhounds lived to be over 60 and grew to be 100Kg this is exactly how they would move.
….and took up my place. Alison found this amusing and decided to document the proceedings. Whether my resulting picture was worth the effort is a moot point.

And was it worth it? Probably not
The original plan had been to follow the path where it turned inland, but instead we stayed on the beach for a further kilometre before turning up Sea Lane towards Dunster. This route was a tad longer but avoided walking 600 metres along the A39.

Sea Lane heads straight to Dunster and provides good views of Conygar Tower.

Conygar Tower, Dunster
The ‘Riverside Jubilee Path’ runs round the edge of the village of Marsh Street beside the River Avill and leads to an underpass beneath the A39 from where it was a short step to the High Street of 'medieval' Dunster.

'Jubilee Riverside Path', Marsh Street

Dunster sets out to attract tourists, so the Yarn Market square has been reduced to a quaint carpark. To be fair the village has many attractions, most notably a Norman castle on an outcrop to the east, a still functioning water mill* and Conygar Tower on another outcrop to the west. Conygar means Rabbit Garden, and the tower may look brooding but is merely a folly, built in 1775 by a man with more money than taste.
Yarn Market, Dunster
It was a little early for lunch but it was our only opportunity for refreshment and the afternoon promised to be strenuous, so we made a brief stop.

As we sat in the pub garden the church clock struck one. As one single 'bong' was obviously not enough it launched into a tune that seemed familiar but no one could recognise, complete with the occasional mid-phrase pause that mechanical systems specialise in. It went on for five minutes.
Light refreshment to the sound of bells, Dunster

The rise from sea level to Dunster at around 70m had been painless. The afternoon started with a climb onto the ridge behind the village which involved an ascent of over 200m. The path through the woods around Grabbist Hill (again part of the Macmillan Way West) was well-made and for the most part gently graded and we gained height easily. After a couple of steeper sections we emerged onto the ridge and followed it for some three kilometres to Wootton Common.

Climbing Grabbist Hill

To the north we could see Minehead and had a good view of  'Butlin's Minehead', one of the three surviving Butlin's Holiday Camps.  Despite the warm sunshine the sea beyond was hiding in the mist.

Minehead, Butlin's Holiday Camp is on the right with the 'medieval' awnings
Low dry stone boundary walls, often with a hedge laid on top are a feature of the area. One such wall ran beside us on the ridge. Like many others it no longer serves any function and beech trees, once part of the hedge but no longer managed, are reclaiming the wall for nature.

Dry stone wall overwhelmed by a beach tree (photo, Alison)
Wootton Common is a tree covered knoll at the western end of the ridge. It is the highest point and a pleasant enough spot, but hardly my idea of a common.
Approaching Wootton Common (Is Francis photographing Minehead or watching a bird?)
We were now at 295m and planned to finish at the car park on Dunkery Hill, the day’s high point, just below 450m. The fly in the ointment was that between Wootton Common and Dunkery Beacon we had to descend to the village of Wootton Courtney at around 100m.
Starting the descent to Wootton Courtenay (it got steeper!)

The path descended steeply through the trees, and then over fields. Alison suggested that treating ourselves to an ice-cream in Wootton Courtenay would be a good plan, and by keeping this in the forefront of my mind I was able to ignore the pain in my knees.

Wootton Courtney basked pleasantly under the unusually warm April sun. The Post Office is now a community run post office and general store and Alison heartily approves of such enterprises, but perhaps not when they as are resolutely closed as this one was. The village boasts 250 residents, a vineyard and a pottery, but no other retail outlet so we went ice-creamless.
Alison looks at the community notice board, Wootton Courtenay
(It probably says when the wretched Post Office is open)
We took the minor road down to the hamlet of Brockwell from where the Macmillan Way West starts the climb up Dunkery Hill.

At the day’s end a climb of over 300m is hard work (and calling it 1000ft sounds even worse) but stings in the tail are a traditional part of these walks. We climbed through the belt of trees quite quickly, but the last two and a half kilometres, on a stony moorland track through gorse and heather was more challenging.

Through the belt of trees, Dunkerley Hill (photo, Alison)
I engaged bottom gear and got on with the long slow grind. The others soon left me behind, but Mike dropped back and kept me company (thanks, Mike). Like many such paths there were frequent false summits, one every hundred metres for part of the way. 'What do you think we'll see when we get to that one?' Mike asked at one point. 'A stony path heading upwards through the heather.' I said and, would you believe it, I was right. And again and again and again.
A stony path upwards through the heather to another false summit, Dunkerley Hill 
Looking back was more encouraging, Wootton Courtenay seemed a long way back and a long way down, so we were definitely making progress.

Wootton Courtenay seems a long way back and a long way down
Eventually we emerged onto a flatter area with a higher ridge above. At the top of the ridge we could see sunlight reflecting from the windscreens of parked cars. Briefly it looked like we might have to dip down before the final ascent, but thankfully the path skirted the end of the combe before turning to climb across the face of the ridge at a much gentler gradient than it had appeared from a distance.

It had been hard work, but the top of Dunkery Beacon was now scarcely a kilometre away and a hundred metres above us; it would be easy when we were fresh in the morning.

Returning to Watchet we drove back through Blue Anchor. The same fishermen were lounging against the promenade wall, but the tide was long gone and they were dangling their lines in thick mud. I presume they were just reluctant to go home.

Having investigated Watchet's top two restaurants the day before, we again had to walk only fifty metres, though in a slightly different direction, to restaurant number three. Trip Advisor comments had tended to praise the size of the portions rather than the quality though, to be fair, The Star serves good quality pub food  (with a few pretentious touches) at reasonable prices. Battered cod comes as 'medium' or 'large' and one comment referred to the fish sticking out over the end of the plate. Brian proved this was no idle boast. Mike went for a medium, not because he is less of a trencherman but because (to nobody’s surprise) he wanted to leave space for a dessert.
The cider is cloudy, the cod overhangs the plate. Brian looks happy. Star Inn, Watchet
It had been a hard day, 20 km with a fair amount of climbing, but it had also been varied with beach, village and moorland sections, and the sun had continued its unseasonal but very welcome warmth. Another top class day.

*Lynne visited the castle and the mill where she bought some muesli. I had a bowl for breakfast today (16/04/15). It was fine, if rather ordinary.