Compton Martin – Tunley.
My b and b continued to surprise, a man in his pyjamas and stocking feet gave me one cup of tea, previously ordered scrambled egg and promptly disappeared [presumably back to bed] never to be seen again. I let myself out. It had rained all night and back on the wooded slopes of the Mendips the luxuriant undergrowth was damp a pleasant feeling after the last three days heat. Monarch’s Way was encountered for a few fields. Buzzards were a constant sight and sound. Little villages were encountered, West Harptree having a rare shop where I was able to buy a fresh sandwich. Even at this stage of the day I was making silly navigation mistakes through not concentrating, maybe I was tiring. A steep hill brought me up to Prospect Viewpoint and seat with the Chew Valley lake below, I was joined by a couple of dog walkers and a cyclist. A short distance further and I couldn’t resist a morning coffee in the Ring o Bells pub, Hinton Blewett. I looked behind me and there were 20 -30 cyclists arriving, desperate for beer and food, the place was heaving. A large sociable group had come from Bristol.
I then had difficulty finding my way out of the village, coffee only I assure you, and I had now walked off my OS Explorer map and onto my photocopied bits of paper. At one point the path through a couple of fields had been freshly mown – thank you. In the next barley field there was a constant popping sound which I couldn’t trace – must have been seed pods of some plant in the field.
Walking up a lane a couple climbed a stile to my right which I would have missed, this led to a high traverse above a valley with hundreds of anthills. Then I became lost walking out past a farm onto a road, the paths just didn’t fit but I pressed on into more fields with no stiles, out came the compass, I don’t have GPS, and I realised I wasn’t at all sure of my whereabouts, I’d walked off my map. It wasn’t helped by my the fact that my photocopied map was disintegrating from sweat in my pocket. I had only one choice, knock on the door of the only cottage in sight and ask “can you tell me where I am?” The young lady was so helpful and pointed me in the right direction and after some creative walking within 30mins I was back on route.A surprise section in a deep wooded gorge brought me onto a disused railway and then a disused canal at Timsbury Basin. This was the terminus of the Somerset Coal Canal running to Bath, parts of the basin are still evident and I walked a stretch of the canal towpath. Elsewhere I used the disused railway which replaced the canal. There had been many collieries in this area, all now assimilated into the landscape. I remember reading an account of William Smith’s contribution to geology and this was highlighted by his observations whilst surveying in this area for the canal. He recognised from fossils that the earth was laid down in strata and this was replicated throughout the country. He published the first Geological map which went against the current religious thinking that the earth was only a few thousand years old. He suffered for his forward thinking, became bankrupt and discredited and only later recognised as the ‘father of geology’.
If a public footpath comes through your garden what do you do? In the next mile I came across two frustrating solutions and their occupants. 1. Ignore it. The first delightful garden was entered on a signed way but then I was left to wander about looking for an exit. The pleasant man pointed out a gate exit. We had a long chat about the canal, dieting, immigration, bees etc but it had never occurred to him to put an arrow on the gate to get people off his property. 2. Divert it. A little further at a gate guarded by three friendly dogs the sign said go straight through but there was an obvious way round. The owner appeared and agreed that hundreds of people used this route, he had provided a simple ‘unofficial’ diversion but not signed it. He did not want to pay for an official diversion and I did not want to walk through his garden.
Both these examples show the owners’ resistance to public rights of way across their properties and their ineffectual ways of dealing with the problem. They knew about the footpath when they purchased but have buried their heads in the sand. Come on be reasonable. Both gentlemen were pleasant enough and it was good to meet them but how simple is to resolve the problem and make life easier for all. I shall be writing to the relevant highways authorities.