Category Archives: Art and architecture.

HIGH POINT OF THE SW COASTAL PATH.

Heddon’s Mouth  –  Ilfracombe.

The dawn chorus woke me in this secluded hotel, there was no other noise, and the sun was already bright.  A good breakfast fortified me for the steady climb back up onto the cliffs. A well graded track led up through the gorse and heather with the bracken growing fast. Stopping for a break on a convenient stone was a mistake as I was immediately attacked by several ticks, this was tick city up here. Managed to remove them all before they had settled but was on the alert for the rest of the morning, I know I am stupid to be walking in shorts.On the way up there were good views back down to Heddon’s Mouth beach and yesterdays descending path. Looking back up the wooded valley there was no sign of my hotel. Patches of mist were coming and going in the valleys. Way down below were many inaccessible coves. This was good open walking with views up the coast past many unknown headlands and not forgetting to look back at previous points. Ancient stone walls capped with vegetation bordered the fields, Devon Hedges, with stones laid on edge. These are a superb habitat for lichens and plants.. Typically there was a loss of height down into a little valley before the long ascent onto the highest point of the SWCP Great Hangman Hill 318m, its cairn was already occupied by a couple of youngsters looking at their phones rather than the view. They were the forerunners of a large jolly party from Liverpool staggering up from the other side. More walkers were evident today enjoying the good weather, a Dutchman was walking the whole route.

Great Hangman ahead.

On the way down I avoided the ascent of Little Hangman and on a cliff path was able to hear the sea once more. Sea kayaks and speed boats were nosing into rocky coves and then I was looking down into Combe Martin beach packed with families.

Wild Pear Beach.

Wet suited people with boards were in the streets and the paraphernalia of seaside holidays for sale everywhere. I managed to find a cafe with a shaded balcony above the hubbub and enjoyed a late lunch featuring crab.

A fellow coastal walker finding it hard going.

Leaving after three I still had a long way to go and it was very hot and sunny. Little lanes and flower lined paths avoided for the most part the busy coastal road. I was never far from little beaches and busy campsites, this is a popular area. The natural harbour of Watermouth was  interesting but at low tide all the boats look forlorn. A family passed me on the way to a beach only to find it was ‘private’ there seem to be lots of those about.

Valerian, ox eye daisy and orchid.

Approaching Watermouth.

Watermouth harbour with Great Hangman behind.

The beautiful Widmouth Headland seemed to be hard work in the heat with lots of steep stepped sections. The bays of Ilfracombe were getting closer, and then I was onto a nasty stretch on the busy road. As you approach the town SWCP  ‘footprints’ are supposed to guide you along but I kept losing them. Again being low tide the harbour looked a bit cheerless… Since I was last here 10 years ago to catch the ferry to Lundy a statue by Damien Hirst, who lives in Combe Martin apparently, has been erected at the harbour mouth. ‘Verity’ is certainly very conspicuous at 20m tall, a pregnant lady with half her innards showing holding aloft a sword and referring to truth though the relevance to this Victorian seaside resort remains a mystery to me. The unusual theatre looking like two cooling towers is no doubt another attempt to update the town… A dated hotel in the backstreets sufficed me for the night. I was tired after a long day of ups and downs amongst stunning scenery,

 

SOMERSET INTO DEVON ON THE COAST PATH.

Porlock Weir – Lynmouth.

The sun is shining and by the time I leave after a hearty breakfast the temperature is more pleasant than the last few days. People are wandering round the quayside in holiday mood. The coastal path soon rose into the woods and contoured along nicely. There was only the sound of birds as the sea seemed so far below and was only occasionally visible. A group of three women appeared, they meet up at weekends for walking and are just starting on the coastal path – it will take them years. They skipped along happily chatting and laughing and I was somehow reminded of ‘Three little maids from school’, the tune from The Mikado. Guess what I was whistling all morning.

Not far along I spotted a church tower below in the woods and took the short detour to explore. It turned out that a service was just about to start – chaplain, organist and churchwarden were preparing and two parishioners appeared. The churchwarden, a local farmer, chatted to me in the sun about the church and several other topics until he was needed. The church is in the parish of Culbone although it is in the middle of nowhere. I was told it was the smallest complete parish church in England, for more information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culbone_Church

 

I think I crossed into Devon at Coscombe Stream… Close by was Sister’s Fountain fed from a spring and topped with a cross. I’m not sure of the history of this place but the cool water was delicious. The track continued winding its way with occasional views of the inaccessible beaches below. More people were out strolling as well as the coastal path regulars, one lady carrying her little terrier who didn’t like walking. I decided to take the longer way round Foreland point, the most northerly part of Devon. A small locked bothy was passed on the path. There were extensive views back up the coast to Hurlstone Point. At the end there was a lighthouse and then a narrow exposed path, perched just above the cliffs, continued round the headland. The Coastal Path was rejoined at Countisbury where there was a small church and a busy looking pub. The path ran parallel to the road down into Lynmouth. A local taxi man was advertising by the road for anyone too weary for the last mile or so. Eventually I reached sea level at a lovely little sheltered beach.  Lynmouth is infamous for the serious flooding of 1952 killing 32 people and devastating properties. My hotel for the night was close to the meeting of the two streams which being in steep sided valleys couldn’t cope with the 9inches of rain coming off Exmoor. A later stroll round the harbour area gave perfect views in the evening light.

I had planned another three days or so but my wretched cold and sinusitis showed no signs of abating so next morning it was a bus out to Barnstaple and a long train journey home. Can’t wait however to return and continue in this beautiful area.

START OF THE SW COAST PATH.

Minehead – Porlock Weir.

Today I would follow the SW Coastal Path, a National Trail which covers over 600 miles from Minehead to Poole Harbour  –  wow. But first I couldn’t resist  a look around the station of the West Somerset Railway. The platform is in period style, stalls are selling railway memorabilia and coaches are waiting for an engine for the first trip of the day. Along comes 6960 Raveningham Hall to be hitched up and passengers start arriving for their 40 mile round trip. I tear myself away, railway nostalgia is deep in my soul having been brought up in Darlington and hearing the distinctive whistle of the Gresley A4 Pacific’s as they hurtled north every day,

On the promenade there are signs for the start of the coastal path. A couple with heavily laden sacks are just departing, they turn out to be New Zealanders just recovering from their first ‘full English breakfast’ They are here for a couple or so months to complete the trail.

Before long the path starts climbing on well graded loops up through the trees and ferns to reach the open moorland high above the sea, old tracks take me to the highest point, Selsworthy Beacon 308m with blurry views into Exmoor. Onwards easy leads towards Hurlstone Point where I meet a young scouser setting off on an adventure round the coastal path, I suspect to discover herself. On her arm she has a tattoo of an acorn [the National Trail Waymark] which she says is for motivation.  I leave her as I drop off the trail and traverse round the point on an exposed path with good coastal views. Round the other side past an old lookout I meet up again with the main route and head into a pleasant garden cafe in Bossington, the NZ pair had already found it. Tea and toasted teacake seemed perfect. Old narrow paths deposit me into Porlock village for a bit of shopping, I’m growing tired of pub meals so buy some salad and fruit to eat in my room tonight. There is a sign pointing to Porlock Weir through the woods, still on the Coleridge Way. This turns out to be a pleasant way walking alongside some beautiful rhododendron gardens in full bloom. Greencombe Gardens I find out. Later I pass one of those ‘Tin Tabernacles’ from the late 19th C, still having services.

The lane eventually drops into Porlock Weir and to my most expensive B&B, The Cafe. I enjoy a pint of Exmoor Ale in the quayside bottom Ship Inn although it upsets me when in a pub every bar table is reserved for diners. I know this is how they earn their money but what about us drinkers?

 

SOMERSET – meandering to the coast.

Williton – Minehead.

It was bright but there was still a cold easterly wind blowing as I left Williton. The sandstone church on the edge of town seems much younger than most of the Norman churches passed so far. A little lane was signed to a Bakelite Museum, outside the building were random exhibits – miniature egg shaped caravans, bikes,etc. Unfortunately it didn’t open till 10.30 so after a quick external peep I was on my way. The paths hereabouts seem to be part of an estate with walled sections and bridges over driveways. The lanes in the area have a reddish tinge to them caused by the farm vehicles from the red clay fields. The way was undulating to say the least with constantly changing scenes, tiny hamlets dotted the landscape, compass work was needed to navigate the network of unsigned narrow lanes. On paths, often the Macmillan Way, the vegetation was already high with nettles, the shorts I’d been tempted into today didn’t seem such a good idea now.

I arrived in Withycombe ready for a rest but was attracted to the squat towered church. To my surprise inside there was coffee and tea making facilities available to visitors so I enjoyed a sit down and refreshments. Thank you. The interior itself was interesting with some fine woodcarving. Two stone carved effigies, one of a lady with a dog at her feet and one of a man wearing a hat. There were also 15C stone carvings depicting ‘green man’ – these figures are apparently common in SW churches  All in all a worthwhile stop.

Effigy with dog.

Effigy with hat.

One of the Green Men.

I found a sign pointing up a lane, Dunster 2½ miles via Withycombe Hill. Soon I was up on top with views to Minehead, the Bristol Channel and into Exmoor, and behind back to the Quantocks. Further along the ridge was Bats Castle an Iron Age fort whose ramparts and ditches were clearly visible.

The Quantocks of yesterday.

Bats Castle and distant Exmoor.

I was glad to loose height out of the cold wind into forestry on the edge of Dunster. Until now I had seen nobody all day but suddenly there were car parks, signed ways and hordes of people. Dunster is a picturesque village with the added attraction of its castle. First though a visit to the Chapel House Tea Rooms for cheese scone and tasty tomato chutney, cream teas seemed popular with other tables. I wandered through the crowded streets and into the castle grounds but felt I didn’t have enough time for the castle itself so don’t know what I’ve missed.

I was keen to find lanes taking me to the coast for the last few miles. The tide was going out so I enjoyed an exhilarating walk along the sands rather than on the golf course above. All to soon I was passing a busy Butlins complex and checking into my cosy B and B in Minehead.

 

 

FASCINATING RURAL SOMERSET.

Bridgwater – West Bagborough.

I used quiet country lanes for a couple of miles, my attention was drawn to the roadside flora which was a few weeks ahead of our northern lanes.

Ragged Robin.

Horse Chestnut.

Hawthorn.

Comfrey and Cow Parsley.

I entered North Petherton via a series of alleyways and was unexpectedly confronted by a magnificent church. A 15th century minster with a highly decorated tower, Inside are some fine wooden furnishings and a replica of a gold Alfred Jewel said to have been found after the dissolution, the original is in the Oxford Ashmolean Museum. Opposite the church was a perfect little coffee shop – Truly Scrumptious – it was.

I now started climbing towards the Quantock range of hills, an area I had never explored. Kings Cliff woods were popular with dog walkers, the cliffs of sandstone looked very precarious. Oak and beech woodlands followed the steep valley running west to east, the bluebells were spectacular. Slowly I gained height in the valley and it opened up into farmland with some exclusive properties scattered on the hillsides.The stream coming down the valley had been dammed in many places to produce ponds and mill races. I spotted a fox walking towards me but despite my stillness he ran off before I could get a decent view or photo. At the top of the valley was the village of Broomfield and the NT Fyne Court. There is much to interest you here – an old church, schoolrooms, estate houses and the remnants of the estate. The estate was owned by the Crosse family whose most famous son was Andrew, the mystical ‘thunder and lightning’ man,who in the 19th century carried out complex electrical experiments using wires strung out through the trees in the estate.Little is left of the property which burnt down in 1894 but the NT have a wonderful little cafe in one of the surviving buildings. If you like home made cakes and scones this is the place! Whilst chatting to the staff I was given helpful instructions on how to proceed for the afternoon without having to loose much height. I took these with a pinch of salt as they only recognised  walking on roads and I didn’t want to miss Cothelstone Hill.  I was given a lovely hand penned map to help me on my way. But first I would explore some of the well marked trails through the estate – embarrassingly I managed to get seriously lost! So I thought after all that their helpful advice could be useful and followed their more than adequate map along quiet, twisting  and undulating lanes. I found the path going off to Cothelstone Hill,332m, and was soon walking up open heathland. Exmoor ponies graze this area and they were posing for photographs at the Seven Sisters beech plantation  towards the top. There were good views down to the Bristol Channel, Wales and the Minehead headland. I passed an obvious burial chamber and then headed down through bluebell woods back to a road, Following my paper map I was soon heading steeply down into West Bagborough on the edge of the Quantocks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed today’s variety.

I enjoyed an excellent B and B at Bashfords Farmhouse, they took pity on me as I was now in the middle of a nasty head cold – a long luxurious soak in their large bath.

The local pub was overrated and expensive, this is very much a riding and hunting area.

 

 

 

FUERTEVENTURIA – Puerto del Rosario.

How to pass a day away.

I had a day to spare but was unable easily to get back up into the mountains so I decided on a leisurely day in town. Puerto del Rosario is the working capital of the Island and is based on its busy port. First impressions are of a self contained town with the locals going about there business away from the general tourist traffic. My hotel  http://www.hoteltamasite.com/ was a typical Spanish town centre option – basic and practical. Centrally situated, Spanish speaking staff, small room, noisy evenings, as a plus this hotel had a sun roof with views over the harbour. There are always bars around for breakfast and supper.

Hotel Tamasite – the blue one!

From my window I looked down onto a courtyard that had been blocked off – including an old ‘dormobile’ left in situ.

Spot the wreck.

After a wander down to the small TI office on the harbour in the morning I was armed with a street map of a sculpture trail. There are more than 50 installations created in the last decade or so as part of an International Sculpture Symposium held every year.  So off I went, on the sea front the sculptures had a marine theme – shells and fishermen, in the streets above local characters, abstract objects and goats. The number of goat statues was puzzling until I read that the town was formally called Puerto de Cabras [goats] until it was thought in 1957 the new name [rosary] was more attractive. Several of the installations were on roundabouts making photography dangerous.  I called in at the museum based on the house where philosopher Miguel de Unamuno lived while in exile in 1924, I’d seen his statue in the hills yesterday. Next door was the simple Señora del Rosario church and that was it for tourism here. I regret not seeing the massive barracks of the Foreign Lesion which was moved here in 1975 and apparently are still used on a smaller scale.

I only had my phone for the poor quality pictures.

Unamuno outside his house.

Senora del Rosario Church.

According to a well known review site two of the better restaurants on the Island are within a short distance of my hotel so I chose one for lunch. La Jaira de Demain lies up a side street above the harbour and is simply decorated with an outside terrace. I went for the menu – octopus and squid vinaigrette starter and than hake with mojo sauce for the main. Plus a sweet and wine 12euros.  Beautifully presented and delicious.

Needed a lie down on Playa Chico, the town’s beach, before my afternoon swim.

Later in the evening popped round the corner to El Bounty del Muella another small restaurant. Run by Italians the menu is Mediterranean/Canarian and is a little bit over the top presentation wise, I don’t like slate slabs to dine off. I chose ‘catch of the day’  grilled vieja [parrot fish] which was exceptionally tasty, an expensive end to my short stay on Fuerteventura.

LONGRIDGE FELL – UP AND DOWN DUDDEL BROOK FROM RIBCHESTER.

 

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Today’s walk followed that futile theme and the rhyme filled my head.

Duddel Brook rises quite high on the southern slopes of Longridge Fell and reaches the Ribble in Ribchester. This Brook have carved its way down the hill and created a wooded valley [seen on the OS map as a green caterpillar] for the most part secretive. The other obvious stream is Dean Brook passing through Hurst Green. Their importance in the past was related to the many small mills powered by the rushing waters and hence they are worthy of exploration today.

From near the Roman Museum in Ribchester I set off along the Ribble to where  the Duddel Brook issues close to a Roman bath house whose outline has been excavated. Normally field paths from Stone Bridge would lead across to Gallows Lane but at the moment they are virtually flooded so I followed the main road before turning up the Lane. A mullioned cottage at Lower Dutton is outstanding. I gained access to the brook a little higher and wandered through the beech woods alongside the water. Old mills appeared with signs of mill races, lodges and ruined wheel installations. I believe that bobbin making was the main industry here. Above the deep valley there was a brief view of Dutton Hall a prominent C17 house with a commanding aspect over the Ribble Valley. I crossed the brook on bridges and eventually deep in the valley recrossed by a shallow ford.

Start and finish – Duddel Brook entering the Ribble.

Roman Bath House.

Dutton Hall.
Wikipedia.

The path climbed away from the stream into fields. A lone oak tree, perhaps 300yrs old, was a waymarker across the field. On the road a small wholesale unit purveyed vitamins as well as ‘sweets’, I didn’t 

only half-way up – neither up nor down

  Again I took the easy drier tarmac option, walking up Huntington Hall Lane past several expensively converted houses and barns. After a steep section Huntington Hall itself appeared on the right, a 17century house which has had a lot of money spent on it in recent years. At the road corner I was back into the fields with views back to the Ribble Valley, I meant to say this was a rare, sunny, dry day. Cresting a hill Intack Farm came into view, again a place spending lots of money with a horse arena right across the footpath but the diversion was no problem and well signed – but is it legal? A quick peep into Crowshaw Quarry showed it to be remarkably dry, could be bouldering here later this week. Crossing the road the main forest track was taken eventually leading up to the trig point on Longridge Fell. Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills were fairly clear but that was not really today’s objective.

Huntingdon Hall.

Longridge Fell Trig point.

when they were up, they were up

 

I came down by the track to Lennox Farm near where the Duddel Brook probably starts life.  A lane took me past Goodshaw Farm where the new lambs were being tended, the farmer told me he had 600 sheep to lamb this year and was concerned about the wet fields he was placing them into. Below the farm was an old barn, Smith Bottom, which on close inspection revealed two perfectly shaped cruck frames thus giving a clue to its medieval age. Down steeply through beech woods overgrown with rhododendrons to a bridge over our brook. This lane leads up to the highly secretive Dutton Manor in its cloak of trees.

A young Duddel Brook.

Smith Bottom cruck barn.

Trees hiding Dutton Manor.

Across the next road was Duddel Farm on its exposed hill. The farmer was feeding cattle in the barns and bemoaning the wet conditions, but despite that remained cheerful and chatty – we had many mutual friends and interests. He was right about the conditions as the next few fields leading back to Ribchester were almost afloat and the mud slowly crept above my knees.

 

I don’t normally take selfies.

I was keen to reach the last two listed buildings at Stydd. First was St. Saviours a simple C12 chapel. Its plane interior has a flagged floor with ancient gravestones, a stone coffin and wooden pulpit and rails. Very evocative. Further down the lane is Stydd Almshouse built in 1728 to house the poorest parishioners. It is an architectural gem with its central staircase and diminutive size.

St. Saviours.

So back to where I started.

when they were down, they were down

 

I would like the challenge of an entire ascent of Duddel Brook – obviously in dry summer conditions and with a good degree of so called trespassing. Watch this space.