A Bit Furthur Round The Mendip Ring.
Eager to continue with the route today I enrolled a couple of walking friends, they were up for a long walk. With just the three of us we opted for another circular route about half of which would be on ‘the ring’ itself.
We started on the road below ‘Totty Pot’ a nearby pothole, not a hole in the road but an entrance to the underground labyrinths in the limestone beneath our feet. The forecast had been for good weather but of course this was still January so it was gently raining.
The first section of the route followed a clear track which curved up the hill side, reducing the gradient for unwarmed up leg muscles. The previous day’s heavy rain now lay in orange puddles which completely covered the road in places. As we crossed the flat top of the hill the view opened up. The Somerset coast, Brent Knoll below us, a small blip on the levels, the Quantocks hills dropping down to sea level and the cliffs of Exmoor beyond. Brief flashes on the hills opposite suggested moving vehicles and perhaps some sunshine over there, but not here. Dragging my eyes away from the sea we had a view across the levels, Glastonbury Tor far to our left. Below we could see the tiny houses of Draycott, the village we would walk through before climbing back up on our return to the car. The height we were looking at seemed great, I was a little daunted at the thought of dropping down to the houses in sight only to climb back over the hill again. I said nothing.
We left the track and walked, pretty much along the contours to and through Draycott Sleights nature reserve, along a magnificent line of beech trees and past a mysterious circular apparently man made pond. Touching civilisation briefly we crossed a narrow lane, pausing to check with the farmer closing the gate behind us, that we were on the right path. There was a wonderful sweet fragrance of good hay emanating from the back of their pickup. They kindly warned us of a slippery slope ahead.
Just one field later we entered Stoke Wood and encountered said slippy slope, it was indeed very steep and very slippy, smooth rocks set in wet clay, there was nothing safe to put a foot on. We made it to the bottom of the slope without injury, climbing a small stile into a beautiful green coombe, a white cottage at the bottom and jaw dropping views across to Glastonbury Tor the Polden Hills and beyond. The grass was not as steep as the path through the wood but was still soggy and surprisingly slippy. At the bottom of the field we came back onto a metalled road and walked alongside a stream into the Village of Rodney Stoke. By now it had stopped raining.
We decided to tour the village rather than walk along the main road, heading first for the church, then across flat fields, over the route of the Strawberry Line railway into the village of Draycott, Here we zig zagged across the village on small paths between the houses avoiding for as long as possible the footpath on the main road. We could avoid it no longer but only had a few hundred yards before crossing over and facing the climb back up the hill we had been ignoring. The start of the climb was softened by a view of a lovely old house, then a strange stone structure in the bottom of a grassy coombe. The path led us up the side of the coombe rather than the more intimidating central route, quietly chatting about this and that, frequently stopping to look back at where we had come from and not looking up got us to the top and a style without too much pain. With just one more short section of grassy field, another circular pond and we were back onto the track. The end was in sight and we stepped out, splashing through the puddles to wash the mud off our boots. We briefly saw the car parked below us but the rain started again and it disappeared. Soon after we reached the car with smiles all round and a celebrated by eating the jelly babies which I had carried for the entire route.