When relaxing restrictions meant that Bruton Walkers were allowed to go out as a group again we stuck to familiar routes, enjoying the fresh air and company. More recently we have started explore a bit. During January I tried out a route I found in a book of ‘Somerset Walks’ and was keen to share it with the group. Starting from a layby close to the A303 we walked a rough figure of 8 with Stoke Trister at the centre, all around Conygore Hill then climbing to Cucklington Ridge which we followed back to the cars. There were far reaching views along most of the route but quite a lot of tangled vegetation to deal with on the way. When we finally made it to the vehicles we were tired but triumphant. One of the walkers, still smiling said what a great walk it had been, ‘This was lovely, so close to home, but I had no idea this was here.’
The next weekend I worked with a D of E group from Bristol, meeting near Cheddar, an area I thought I knew well. As we waited in the car park I noticed the fingerpost on the footpath was pointing to Crooks Peak. I frequently drive past it on the M5 and had it on my list of places to go one day but had never realised how close I had been to it already. I quickly changed my training route and took the group to the viewpoint. Three days of walking later they were collected by their parents from a playing field in Blagdon. As their parents waited for them to walk in one couple commented, ‘What a beautiful place, only half an hour from home and we never knew it was here.’
Moving swiftly to the Galloway Forest Park, one of my favourite walking areas, I wanted to climb the Hill ‘Millfore’ on the Southern edge of the park. I’ve had my eye on it for some time since I climbed it’s neighbour, the delightfully named Curleywee. I’d been looking to approach it from Glentrool in the West but couldn’t find a way in which wasn’t miles long or required a clamber through forestry. I consulted another book and discovered that there was a really easy way in from the East, along a road from Clatteringshaws Reservoir. It was the other side of the fold in the map. So off we went. The road took us directly to the base of the hill and was in itself a beautiful drive along the edge of the loch. The climb was hard work, the only paths were made by the few sheep grazing the Hill and did not penetrate the bracken surrounding the hill. The ridge leading to the summit was heather, bilberries and bog. We were wonderfully alone up there. The view back into the Galloway Hills was stunning and whilst catching our breath we were able to identify those we have climbed, and those we have yet to climb. On reaching the summit we could see for miles and sat silently working out what everything was.
Four experiences in a month of going over the fold on the map, finding somewhere different, taking advice from others. Not famous and sought after places like Cairngorm and Suilven in July. Simple places, some easy to reach, others a bit of a walk, but places we perhaps weren’t expecting to be there.
We are so lucky to live in a country with such a wide variety of landscapes to explore. Now that we can go out in company again, try looking beyond the familiar routes, open the next page on the map, consult a book or website and see what you can find. It’s what I’m going to be doing