Friday, 29 April 2011

Not The Royal Wedding

The plan had been to get out early and avoid the whole wedding thing. I had arranged for a friend to come over at ten and we would then set off from my place, only returning when it was over. With any luck we could avoid the whole event. All that conspicious consumption and gushing over dresses just isn't my cup of tea. I am not as fervently anti-royalist as I used to be, mainly because, as with most things these days, I just can't be bothered to get worked up, but I would hardly put myself in the pro-Royalist category of someone like, say, Nicholas Witchell or Andrew Morton.

I have been getting on my daughter Anne's nerves as I keep asking: "Which one of those two boys is getting married? Is it Harry or the other one?"
"For goodness sake," she replies in an exasperated tone. "It's William mum."

Yvonne however is late, and by the time she arrives, Anne has put the telly on and is watching The Event.
"Shall we have a cup of tea before we go?" says Yvonne.
"Ok," I say.
Inevitably we end up watching the wedding.
"She does look lovely'" I say. "That dress is just gorgeous!"
"Mmm," say the other two - all eyes glued to the screen.

In the end we were two hours later than planned setting off. We headed off down the Chew Valley, following the path alongside the river to Compton Dando. The path crosses the old packhorse bridge at Chewton Keynsham, and forms part of The Monarch's Way and the Two Rivers Way. At Compton Dando we stopped for a drink outside the Compton Inn (outside because we had with us Yvonne's four legged friend, Alfie).

Once refreshed we took the footpath into the churchyard where we were unable to resist having a nose around St Mary's church before exiting the churchyard via an old stone stile. Following the path over the River Chew we crossed a meadow and entered Park Copse. I had found this wood by accident a few weeks before. The floor of the wood was carpeted with garlic flowers and with British bluebells, delicate flowers of the most exquisite colour. Alfie, evidently also impressed, wandered over to have a closer look and give them a quick watering. Well it has been very dry of late.
Garlic in Park Copse

Bluebells in Park Copse

We headed down the lane to Woollard and crossed the "new bridge" over the Chew. Woollard used to have a medieval stone arched bridge. Like Keynsham's main bridge, Wollard's bridge was washed away in the 1968 flood.

On July 10th 1968 it rained. A lot. It had been a wet summer anyway (are British summers ever anything but wet?) and the water table was already pretty full. On that night over five inches of rain fell on already sodden ground. The River Chew swelled and the water rushed down though the valley, carrying fallen trees and debris down the valley. Bridges that had stood for centuries were carried away and as the water flowed down the valley, the rush grew stronger. Upstream Pensford Bridge was swept away, Woollard Bridge followed and the water rushed on towards Keynsham.

The other day I talked to a man who, at the time had been living in a house in Dapps Hill. Keynsham, next to the river.
House in Keynsham showing flood level
(rectangular plaque next to chimney).
Also shows
an ammonite, very common in Keynsham.
"I remember it like yesterday," he said. "I was about eleven at the time. I woke up because of the noise, I thought it was a nightmare. I called to my mum, and she came up the stairs. All of a sudden the water rushed into the house. My mum, she clung onto the bannisters, if she hadn't held on tight the water would have carried her away. The people in the house opposite had to get into the attic and break out through the roof."

Farther downstream the flood carried away the Keynsham town bridge and along with it a car that had been travelling across at the time, containing a young woman, Alexandra Giles who was returning to Marksbury from a function at Bristol University, her fiance Charles Kaye and his parents. Charles survived by clinging to a tree for five hours before being rescued by an RAF team, the other three were never recovered.

All I remember of these momentous events was sitting in a very long traffic queue from Cheddar. Eventually my parents turned back and booked into a bed and breakfast for the night. At the time, being six, this was excitement enough.

Anyway, back to the walk. We crossed a field from Woollard, heading towards Pensford, and as we approached the next field a large dairy herd were blocking our forward advance.
"I'm frightened of cows," said Yvonne.
"So am I."
We edged back down the field and found a bridge across the river and walked on that side of the river to the hamlet of Publow, where the medieval bridge still stands, this one having survived the 1968 flood.

Like Woollard, Publow is an ancient settlement. Both Manors had once belonged to the important Abbey at Keynsham but by the seventeenth century they had come under the ownership of the influential Popham family who held the land until 1911 when it was sold off. The Popham's are best known for founding the shortlived Popham Colony in Maine, now commemorated by Popham Beach near the original site of the colony.

From Publow it was a very short walk down the lane to nearby Pensford, home of the legendary clarinetist Acker Bilk. Well there was no getting away from it, Pensford was having a Royal Wedding street party. As it was lunchtime and I was hungry I decided to gatecrash it. There was loads of food so I helped myself to some sandwiches and scotch eggs. And some cake. And a few crisps. Yvonne looked at me disapprovingly. "You can't just take their food," she said.
"Why not?" I mumbled, mouth still full of crisps and egg. "It's for everyone, isn't it? Its a street party."
"Yes but its not your street is it?"
Fair point.

We headed out of the village over a field strewn with thistles, Yvonne carrying Alfie in her arms to save his paws. Unfortunately at the bottom of the field were more cows and we had to take evasive action by climbing over a barbed wire fence. Off the main path the navigation went to pot a bit and it was only after another barbed wire fence and a balancing act along a fallen tree that we managed to regain the correct path back to Compton Dando and then retrace our steps home.

Compton Dando

You can check out the route we took here
The wandering about in the wood bit is optional.

1 comment:

  1. Royal wedding flower yard is quite pretty. Idea is equally amazing. Have heard of many affordable NYC wedding venues and booked one for my sister's engagement last month. Everyone praised about the quality food and table arrangements. Crystal lights and entrance floral décor was lovely. Cake designing was appealing too.