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.
All looks good. Is Coronation Street near top of your list for hardest climbs done?
No I’ve done much harder technical climbs but CS is an epic outing. First of all you have to do it in winter when there are no tourists about below, so picking a weather slot is difficult, it was cold and sunless. Secondly the route tends to become vegetated so picking a way up the first couple of pitches is interesting, and there is polish under the greenery. Thirdly it is committing, the crux pitches are high up and retreat would be difficult. There is some suspect rock and we finished in the rain which was forecast for later. Definitely epic and one of UK’s best E1’s.