Today, I took myself out for a walk. There wasn’t much activity going on in the walking group (well, they had a training day for anyone interested in learning to lead a walk) and a couple of my friends were either ill or busy. So, I headed out alone. Priddy was an area of the Mendips that I hadn’t previously explored and there was one walk in my book (Three Priddy Droves) that had been on my to-do list for a while. Completing this one would mean that I had essentially ‘completed’ each of the 8 Wild Walks Across the Mendip Hills.
Before we go any further, I’d like you to take a look at the map below.
‘Three Priddy Droves’ – a 4.5 mile walk around the Mendip Hills in Somerset, UK.
You don’t have to look too closely before realising that there is a lot of walking on hard ground here. I’m talking about roads but, I guess that’s given by the title of the walk and mention of the three droves! This is one of my few criticisms of this book, as a couple of other walks featured here cover an uncomfortable amount of concrete when there may be footpaths available near by. That only goes against my personal preference. I could argue that some of the walks in here are also quite short (none greater than 7½ miles) but again, that’s just my opinion. When you’re producing a book or guide of any sort, you do want to consider your audience and I’d assume the author has tried to make these routes accessible for less experienced walkers (speaking as someone who has followed major A-roads for several hours in order to regain of state of orientation…).
Stockhill Woods (aka. Mendip Forest), easy of Priddy, Somerset.
As I mentioned on Keek this morning; I decided to try to extend and ‘improve’ this walk, after seeing my friend’s confidence in our birthday/Easter walk last Sunday. I’d been wanting to return to Ebbor Gorge ever since I got horribly lost near there in September. It’s only a couple of miles south of Priddy as well. To the east, I spotted Stockhill Woods and a little research on Google taught me that I could also park there, for which reason, I decided to make this my starting point.
There were plenty of cars there by the time I arrived around midday and it proved to be a popular spot for dog walking. I might’ve mentioned this before but I cannot imagine how I would manage if we went back even five-years, before the intervention of Google Street View… It’s my No.1 tool for finding car parks start points and I used it in preparation for just about every walk I do. After exploring the woodland for a half-hour or so, I returned to the B3134 on foot, up the hill, around the bend and then making a right-turn towards the village of Priddy. It was a long old walk and one part I certainly didn’t enjoy. But, I felt it was more assuring than trying to get lost before I’d even started. Eventually, I found the turning for Pelting Drove and then on to Dursdon Drove (point No.3 on the map), where there was at least mud covering the track towards the West Mendip Way.
I then made a right-turn (ahead of the drawn schedule) to follow a footpath south and in to Ebbor Gorge. This linked me to a familiar path I had found the last time I was in this area, just north of the Nature Reserve. By the time I passed the car park and found a couple of benches to sit at, it was close to 14.00 and so, I decided to stop for lunch and a bit of a breather.
Western viewpoint over Ebbor Gorge.
After a ten-minute break (I don’t like to stop for too long or else the cold begins to set in), I took in a second view point (again, not really an awful lot to see) before heading down in to the gorge.
Take a look at the photo above and you’ll notice that the fencing rails and posts are made from OAK!! Possibly green when it was cut but still, those rails are wedged in to mortises and there are dowel pegs driven in through the face of each post! I’d never seen anything like it in such an agricultural setting (in fact, this would’ve made for a good Keek…). I guess they have certain expectations in this part of the world, only a stone’s throw from the smallest British city of Wells…
(Big stones make for good tripods!)
It was then time to descend in to the gorge, via these giant-sized steps that I certainly didn’t want to have to climb again.
A little further down and I was attacked by a giant bear…
…Well, it was about 12in taller than me! Backpacks can also be transformed in to makeshift tripods/camera stands but just look at the teeth on this thing; I’m amazed it’s never been vandalised.
I followed the path around and headed deeper in to the gorge…
These cliffs aren’t as spectacular as the ones found in Cheddar. As the path takes you further and you begin the climb, the route becomes close to impossible to climb with so many large rocks leading the way up to higher ground.
Rocky path ahead!
When I reached a clearing after climbing away from these rocks, I found one unmarked route, with the other clearly leading back to the car park. I knew that I wanted to go back on myself and to follow the West Mendip Way but, I didn’t want to go back on myself or to turn around and risk injury climbing down those rocks. Two other walkers were in a similar position, asking me how well I knew the paths (I laughed; thinking back to September). They led the way up the unmarked path as I stopped for water… Before overtaking them minutes later and realising that it takes you north from the Nature Reserve and back up to the path that bought me down from Dursdon Drove.
On the Monarch’s Way to Priddy.
At this point, I headed east along the West Mendip Way in order to connect with the Monarch’s Way (point No.4) on a northern walk back to Priddy. At point No.5 on the map, I instead headed north-east and across the Mineries on my return route to the forest car park. There was a strange public footpath after crossing Wells Road, where signs directed me awkwardly through someone’s (untidy) front garden, instead of passing briefly up the private drive (which would’ve been a lot easier).
My return route took in some interesting views across Priddy Mineries and, with a couple of paths leading directly across the road from the forest, I realised that I could’ve used this instead of treading along all that tarmac. It was a lot faster returning to the van than it was making my way down to the gorge; let’s just say that! There were several apparent footpaths across this stretch of land but only two appeared on my small map.
I’m thinking of submitting this walk (or, a very similar route) to the walking group, as one I would lead either alone or with someone else. There’s a lot of potential here and it’s not a part of the Mendips we visit too often. I do need to buy myself a proper Ordinance Survey map though (where???) in order to assess all the potential routes. I would’ve like to lead a group of ramblers down tiring tarmac B-roads and it would be good to find a truly circular route where you’re not back-tracking at all.
Tomorrow, I’m back in the world of wood and, hopefully, spending a considerable amount of money on 2in sawn hardwoods! I like to get out and to enjoy the outdoors when I can, especially when it’s too cold to spend too long in my workshop and also, when I’m having those days where nothing seems to go right. I see it as taking a break and walking away without giving up entirely. It’s good to have other interests and hobbies that you can depend on. 🙂
- Acclimatisation in the Mendips! (hutchschofandbisco.wordpress.com)