Cheddar – Compton Martin.
My accommodation for tonight doesn’t open until 6, see later, so I organise the day to fit. Lie in, leisurely breakfast and a stroll up the Gorge. The open top buses are already packed and every commercial outlet is touting for business. I’ve come to look at the famous Coronation Street, a climb I did with Rod about 15 yrs ago.Today from directly below it looks frightening, I remember it was when we climbed it just finishing before sunset and the onset of rain. Curiosity satisfied I came back down to find everywhere even busier but stumbled upon a semi-decent place for a coffee and snack – the rear garden of Lion Rock Cafe.
From the cafe it is a stiff climb straight up onto the northern rim, I am disappointed with the views into the gorge as the rocks are in shadow – I should have known. It is good to see families up here walking the circuit although I was dismayed at the woman with lots of little ones picnicking on the very edge.
A ‘roller-coaster’ led me into the wooded limestone valleys at the heart of The Mendips where I found The West Mendip Way going in my direction. It took me up onto the tops once more and then across to a different landscape. The acidic ground of Black Down was a complete contrast. Rough walking through heather and gorse to the trig. of Beacon Batch [strange name] at 325m the highest point of the Mendips. I was not expecting to see anybody up on this remote spot let alone on a cycle. But there was this pleasant chap, not at all surly, on an interesting Surly bike pedaling his way across country to a festival near Cheddar.
To the north I could see a change back to limestone on a wooded range of hills on the edge of the Mendips and this is where I picked up the Limestone Link waymarks which I followed, or tried to, for the rest of the trip in this area mainly on long straight paths and old lanes. There was almost a geometrical theme to the walking hereabouts through estates previously owned by the Sainsbury family, I patiently watched a fox ahead of me but never managed a photo.
Eventually I came down a lane into a combe in which nestled Compton Martin with its millpond, Ring o Bells pub and fine Norman church [the latter unusually has a dovecote built into it for the priest’s use]. By now the pub was open, my room was OK but there was a strange atmosphere to the place. Owned by some music entrepreneur there were signed pictures of rock stars on the walls and million selling disc tributes, all a bit egocentric but I guess that’s the nature of pop music. Apparently Kylie Minogue sang here last year, tonight it was only screaming kids – probably very similar.