Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Keynsham to Stanton Drew

Mick has a hangover and doesn't feel like going out. "There are only two cures for a hangover," I tell him - "Time, and a jolly good walk." He opts for time and tries to go and lie down but I am having none of it. "A good walk will set you right, get up and get going."

Grumbling, he agrees, and we set off along the Chew valley.

We start by setting off on the familiar walk from Keynsham down the River Chew. By the time we get to Compon Dando he feels better and by the time we get to Pensford he is his normal self. "Told you so," I say smugly. We call in to the village shop at Pensford and buy locally made pasties which we eat on the footbridge underneath the imposing and wonderful Pensford viaduct. At 330 in length and with sixteen arches in all, it dominates the landscape.

The viaduct used to carry the Bristol and North Somerset Railway down to Radstock, Frome and the Somerset Coalfield. The railway mainly carried freight although pasenger trains ran until the fifties. It was closed altogether in 1968 after the Chew Valley flood (more here) when it was deemed to be unsafe. I can't help wondering whether it was simply an excuse to divert the freight onto the parallel A37 given this was the age of the great rail closures.It still looks pretty solid to me, but hey, what do I know? I have studied the line of the railway extensively on Google Earth, from the air the route can be easily picked out. It looks like a perfect project for a new cyclepath!

We follow the Two Rivers Way along the Chew to Stanton Drew. Approaching the village up the land by Church Farm, there is little to indicate that in fields on either side of us are prehistoric stone circles of national importance, the third largest collection of prehistoric standing stones in England. Stanton Drew doesn't make a big fuss like Stonehenge, there are no coaches or visitor centre. A little honesty box on the wall asking for a quid is the only indication that a hop over the stile into the field may be worthwhile. We wandered around the stones for a good while, the only other person we saw was the local farmer rounding up his stock.

Amazingly, until recently, the stones have attracted little attention. This is now changing, however, as recent surveys have shown the site to have been once part of a much bigger complex. It seems that Stanton Drew was a pretty important place four thousand years ago.

Coincidentally, another set of stones in the village happen to be sited right in the garden of the local pub. "I think I could force down a pint," said Mick with a grin. So we bought a pint of Butcombe each and sat in the pub garden admiring "The Cove", a set of three stones, two standing and one recumbent, in the back garden. Surveys here suggest that these stones could once have formed the entrance to a Neolithic burial chamber or long barrow.
I predict that one day Stanton Drew will be as famous as Stonehenge and Avebury and that some local farmer will be turning his field over to a carpark..

After our pint we headed across fields to another Stanton, Stanton Wick. At the back of the village the path went directly through someone's back garden; it felt slightly odd wandering across the lawn past the washing line and out through the opposite hedge. Still a footpath is a footpath...We emerged from the garden into - eureka - the carpark of another pub.

The Carpenter's Arms was quite a fancy inn with restaurant and accommodation but nicely done, and at least there was still a bar area. We had grown weary of going to country pubs which look lovely on the outside but inside the interior has been turned over to a restaurant with nowhere to sit and have a drink.

Across the fields we came across a rope swing in a field and couldn't resist having a go. Mick turned into the playground bully and pushed me so hard I nearly fell off.  Still it was good fun, although I felt a bit sick as we staggered down the footpath..
We crossed Lord's Wood. The woodland is known for butterflies and we saw plenty of them around the lake in the centre of the wood. A climb out and then back to Compton Dando and a retracing of our steps home.

"You were right, " said Mick when we wearily slumped onto the sofa. "It was a good hangover cure."
"Yes, I told you a walk would set you right."
"Oh it wasn't the walk," he said. "It was the two pints of beer that set me right."

Route is here

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