I’m fortunate to be able to call upon the Mendip Hills as part of my local landscape but last weekend I set off on a walk that was even closer to the home, as I ascended north in to woodland that acts as a kind of divide between my life, past and present.
On the camera front (after bending the lens during a bit of recent DIY in the bathroom), the repair has been completed by Nikon UK’s service centre. It’s cost me £90 (the camera was £150 new), which is probably three-times the price of a lens unit if I was to fit it myself… But, I tried just that with my previous camera earlier this year and ended up doing a lot more damage!
All this means is that you’ll have to accept some less-than-average photos from my smartphone, which also happens to have a dust-ridden lens – but, in the fear of completing a hat-trick of broken kit for 2014, I will not be opening that up to clean the inside!
It’d been a while since I’d done a ‘proper’ walk beginning in Wrington. I set off to the Mendips and back on the Summer Solstice and I do regular evening [late afternoon, at this time of year] walks around the village.
I remember heading up to the woods of Goblin Combe and the Congresbury Estate about this time last year, shortly after moving in to my flat – I think that was when I found the mud to be, quite literally, knee-deep in one area! I also remember heading there earlier this year but in any case; I’ve been spending a lot on fuel lately with walks further afield and so I wanted to be able to leave the car at home.
So, I began by climbing up a steep road, leading to a track that I’ve previously used to descend gradually at the tail-end of a walk. It’s interesting to do things in reverse, sometimes. I wanted to this time take a look at Abspit Pond, which is clearly marked on the OS maps but somehow, I managed to miss it on my last outing this way.
Fortunately, that was not it in the photo above, or I’d have been greatly disappointed!
From here, I was heading north but just to the west-end of land that is owned by Bristol Airport. A couple of planes passed directly overhead and despite having grown up around this airport in various local locations, it takes me by surprise these days as down in Wrington, we barely see or hear any of the frequent air traffic.
Even on a quiet Sunday mid-morning, you can gather your bearings to this location by the simple observation over the fence of these tall lights, which I assume are use to guide planes in on landing (there’s a similar setup at the eastern end, also).
I looked at my map at this point and noticed the contours leading up to the pond. On the ground ahead of me, I could see a definitive incline. There was hope yet that Abspit Pond would lie up ahead on the brow of this hill…
Despite being buried beyond a hive of plant life and vegetation, the water was clearly there. Not the prettiest pond you’ll ever see and signs outside the perimeter fence warn of the dangers of deep water but I’ll try to return here in the spring, just to see what’s alive. This is quite a rural area (despite being so close to the airport) and I’d down many walkers pass through here regularly.
Over the brow and I was presented with a choice… Continue straight on and I’d reach Brockley Combe. Without retracing my steps, I’d have to climb back up a different path (very steep and muddy, as I found out last February). This was the only obvious right of way but I noticed a couple of marked routes that might be surfaced tracks yet, I looked to the left and I wasn’t certain. One was nowhere to be seen; down the other, I could see a warning sign for shooting, instructing that you should keep out (although, this could’ve referred to the trees beyond). I ended up almost turning back on myself by the only other right of way. It was Monday morning but I felt it safe not to stray too far. Not only do people occasionally shoot pheasants and clay pigeons near by but I was also right on the boundary of the paintball centre (I think that’s what the blue markings were for).
I could’ve turned left much further back but then I knew I’d be unable to avoid that boggy cross-paths where I sunk to my knees (quite literally) last November. Taking a newer path, I kept my feet fairly clean and even discovered a couple of permissive routes (not detailed on the OS map) that allowed me to avoid it altogether. Very soon, I was upon the cliff tops of Goblin Combe.
It’s such a beautiful height to admire. You’ll find fewer passing by here than you would on almost any hill across the Mendips. Passing planes may roar with increased dignity but there’s a lot to admire in the views.
From the heights of the Mendips all the way across Weston-super-Mare to the Severn Estuary.
Just don’t follow the cliff path west for too long or else you’ll slip of the edge! It’s safer to turn in through the trees and latch on to the waymarked Warderns Walk.
I sat down for a moment and considered stopping here for an early lunch but with insects buzzing from behind, I decided to continue on. Although, this area will almost surely become the subject of one of my group walks for 2015.
I made way around and through the mud to find a class of school kids building shelters and all sorts near the ancient settlement known as Cleeve Toot. This would’ve been my next best location for lunch but instead I kept walking.
Down the hill and past the Environment Centre, I began climbing Cleeve Hill Road and headed towards a stretch of woodland known as the Congresbury Estate. I took an almost straight-lined path passing Kings Wood than would lead me to the Wrington Lane in Congresbury. Along the way, I passed a tractor loaded with Christmas trees, ready as the madness at this time of year begins to accelerate.
Towards the end of this path and near a private residence known ironically as The Woodlands, I had to scramble beneath a fallen tree. This is the only notable obstruction I came to on this walk but I want to try and make more of a conscious effort such report such hazards (via the Ramblers).
I took a 5 minute lunch break before reaching the lane and from there I crossed over to take yet another unknown path that would lead me on to the River Yeo; my guide for a traffic-free journey back to Wrington.
I encountered a little trouble following the (lack of) waymarks after the second field. I could see a gate down ahead of me but with a farmer/landowner moving a herd of cows just around the corner, I didn’t want to risk a confrontation in case I did wander off course. But I found my way to the river via a different route; albeit, one that took in a more urbanised path flooded with houses.
On every other occasion I’ve followed this river, the ground’s been a joy to tread along. This time though, it was chewed up and saturated. To make matters worse, I was following a man who was walking his cow – I assume this one might’ve strayed from the rest of the herd.
It was relatively beef-free for the remainder until I reached Iwood Lane. Here, I knew that the path over the road (a direct route in to Wrington) would be madness in anything less than wellies. So, I walked up the road for a bit and turned right over a stile to another new path. For its lack of mud, this one was lathered with long grass that finally penetrated the outer layers of my shoes. Plus, I only saved about 100 yards of road walking.
I’m sure I’ve said this before but it’s easy to take for granted what you have available on your doorstep, simply because you trust that it’s always going to be there and that you can go and explore it at any time… We aspire to see and achieve more. I’ll certainly be making more of an effort to stay local and to monitor the locals routes so that they remain accessible for all.
Thanks for reading.