Sunday, 29 January 2012

Adam Henson and a lot of mud on Mendip

Digging out the map to go to Mendip. Mick, as usual, has been taking the mick and deriding my insistence that we take it. 'I know Mendip like the back of my hand!' he protested. 'We don't need a map, you just take it for comfort. I bet you even use a map to get to the kitchen in your flat! What do you do, negotiate a tight squeeze under the bed, scale TV ridge and go over table mountain to get to the kettle?'

I decided to rise above it - after all, my mother always said that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit. 'I'm taking a map,' I said haughtily. 'You don't have to look at it if you don't want to.'

Burrington Cafe - and my car
We headed off to Burrington Coombe, stopping on the way to pick up some provisions for lunch. At Burrington I faffed around for a bit getting my boots just right. I had an existing blister and didn't want to exacerbate it. Finally I was ready and we set off. After walking ten yards we reached the entrance to the Burrington Inn/cafe.

'Fancy a cuppa?' said Mick.
'Ooh, yes please,' I said. I bent down to untie my boot laces.
'What are you doing?' he asked.
'Taking my boots off.'
'But you've only just put them on.'
'Yes, but I can't wear them inside.' The boots, naturally, were still covered in mud from my previous walk. So Mick strode on in wearing his clean boots. I timed it well, he was just paying for the tea when I had shed my boots and joined him.

After half-an-hour drinking tea and watching walkers and cyclists going up and down the road we heaved ourselves up. I spent another ten minutes faffing with my boots and getting them just right, then finally, we set off up Link Lane and then turned right along the path towards Dolebury Warren, so named because in medieval times it was used to breed rabbits. After all the tea we had drunk we both frequently found that we needed to run behind a bush to have a pee but at last we reached the hillfort at the end of the Warren where we decided it was time for a snack break. Usually the views are superb from here, out into the Bristol Channel, but today a low mist hung across the horizon. It was still a lovely place to tarry for a while though, amongst ancient hawthorn trees lined with delicate pale green lichen, an indication of the clean air up on Mendip.

Descending the other side, we had a choice, left into Rowberrow woods, or right to the road.
'Fancy a pint?' said Mick hopefully.
I pretended to ponder this question for a while, stroking my chin and umming and aahing, before putting him out of his misery by saying 'Oh, go on then!'

We headed up the road to the Swan at Rowberrow. This is a fine country pub, one of my favourites.

When we got there, one of the members of staff had just lit the fire and the smoke was entering the room rather than going up the chimney. 'It'll clear in a minute,' said the woman at the bar waving a menu about her.
'It's low atmospheric pressure,' said Mick. 'No draw up the chimney.'

I looked at him dubiously. Was he right? Or was he talking bollocks again? I decided to say nothing and studied the pumps in front of me. There was London Pride, Butcombe, usual thing. But what was this? Adam Henson's Rare Breed brewed by Butcombe. I hadn't heard of that before.
'Isn't he that handsome farmer on Countryfile?' I asked.
The barmaid nodded. She handed over a Butcombe booklet with a large picture of Adam looking very hunky.
'Yep, that's him,' I said. 'I'll have a pint of that then.'
'He came in here, you know,' she said. 'He was very nice.'
'Bet he looked lovely in his wellies,' I sighed.
Mick snorted. 'He's not handsome,' he said. 'But I'll have a pint of his beer anyway.'

It was a lovely pint so we had a couple more and then decided we had better continue our walk or we would never get back. We headed through the woods of Rowberrow Bottom to Tynings Farm and then up onto Blackdown.

We soon passed a bunker, a relic from World War Two when the authorities had attempted to fool the enemy by making a deserted hilltop look like Bristol using a few lightbulbs and some burning straw. I'm not sure how successful this was though.

On up to the trig point on Beacon Batch. I had forgotten that in the winter the top of the hill is basically one massive peaty bog and we slipped and slithered our way along the path. It's odd, but you rarely see anyone on Beacon Batch until you get to the trig point which is always packed. People huddle round the centre stone, drinking out of flasks and eating sandwiches, having a natter. I wonder where they go, because once you leave the trig point you never see anyone else until you get to the car park.

We reached the road and I was all for walking back down to the car. But Mick insisted on crossing the road to Burrington Ham. This meant another stretch of mud and then a very steep scramble down scree to get back down to the road. I sighed. Still, ten minutes later I had a good laugh when Mick indulged in a bit of serious mud sliding on his backside.
Mud Surfing - Old Man Down

Getting down the steep, wet, muddy and very slippery slope was challenging. We achieved it by means of an involuntary run from tree to tree, coming to a sudden stop each time by heading directly for the trunk and crashing into it. It became wearing after a while and I was almost relieved when we ran out of trees and tottered to the bottom of the slope. Mick finished the walk by falling over for a second time. I looked at his filthy trousers.
'You're not getting in the car like that,' I said. 'You'll have to walk.'
For a split second I think he thought I was serious. He did manage to find a plastic bag to sit on though.

Rock of Ages, Burrington
'I think,' said Mick wearily, as I dropped him off at his house, 'that I have found a cure for my insomnia.'

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