Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Up on the Mendips – November 2015

Sunday 15th November 2015

This weekend, I’m planning a walk down on the Quantocks and so, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to write about my previous walk only a ten-minute drive from home!

I’ve been to this part of the Mendip Hills so many times in the last three-years that I feel it would be futile to attempt another extensive walkthrough on this page. Instead, I’m going to select a succession of my favourite photos, picking out the highlights and favourable sights from along the way.

…Some may say this is what I do in a walking blog post anyway! ;-P

This walk began with an ascent up what I still regard as one of the steepest climbs across the entire range of hills. It’d been over two-years since I last attempted this, when it soon became a scramble on both hands and knees.

My original plan was to park at Burrington Ham and begin the walk from there. I thought there would be plenty of room on a Sunday morning, at 10am and on a day where rain was possible… I was very wrong and ended up parking back down the road in the second layby after the inn.

It was a climb that literally took my breath away and, a little short on practice after a wet weekend previously and it hurt even more than I could’ve imagined. Following the unmarked, partially distinguished path is one challenge… Especially when you find yourself treading along a goat track when you realise you should probably climbed up along the scree!

A bit of mis-direction led me through the gorse and up to the rocky summit, before turning south and on towards the car park I had originally intended to reach.

Reaching the road, I noticed the aforementioned car park was even more packed than before – private mini buses from Bristol-based schools had effectively blocked-in a number of other cars (there must have been a big event taking place, as I later saw groups of school kids following maps). There wasn’t even room for the ice cream man, who usually steps up here in the summer.

Now, I was climbing Black Down, in pursuit of the trig point.

Looking east towards Bath.

Chew Valley Lake.

Charterhouse.

Blagdon Lake.

Wrington, otherwise known as home.

Penn Hill near Wells.

At the very top; the trig point on Beacon Batch.

Further south, I could see rays of light trying to pierce through the thick cover of cloud.

It was interesting to note that work had already begun on restoring some of the more frequently used ‘motorway’ paths, which have gradually become 1m deep trenches, due to human traffic erosion (mostly hikers and mountain bikers).

As I read in the Mendip Times a couple of weeks earlier; they’re backfilling these miniature valleys with limestone and other materials that have been imported (I forget where from but it’s not local) so that the resurfaced paths still blend in with the existing landscape. Work is only operational on a Monday to Friday basis and the paths remain open at all times.

I took an alternative path so that I can still look forward to walking along higher ground on a future walk here.

So, I spent the next twenty-minutes jumping large puddles and taking my chances on wet soggy peak, all in the aim of reaching Rowberrow Warren.

Passing the old decoy bunker from the Second World War:

In case you don’t know, this was lit up to try and deter German bombers from attacking the city of Bristol, which is only ten-miles north of here.

Axbridge Hill and the Cheddar Valley.

If I hadn’t thoroughly cleaned (for the first time) and re-waterproofed my boots a few days earlier, my socks would’ve been soaked through by the time I’d reached Rowberrow, as misjudgement led to tread almost ankle-deep in the depths of one puddle.

Deep inside the warren and autumn colour was prevalent, at a time where we seem to be experiencing that sudden shift in to the winter season.

Winter, spring and summer seem to last awhile. It would be too easy for to say that ‘autumn is one of my favourite seasons‘ when there are only four (even when some may debate there are less) in any given year. What I’d like to say is that it always feels like it is coming no sooner than it has arrived.

Following the clear and durable paths, I saw Dolebury Warren, which I had planned to visit before finishing this walk.

Instead of taking a direct route, I followed the unmarked path around to the right and past Warren House.

I went off in hope of finding Rowberrow Cavern, which I hadn’t previously seen in recent years. I took a right turn after passing a group of disorientated school girls but for all of my effort climbing up this hill, I did not find the cavern and would have to retrace my steps – as said group were beginning to trace my footsteps, with the afore-absent leader in tow.

On a rather elongated expedition to take in previously un-walked paths from here on; I must’ve confused at least one dog walker and a mountain biker (with a broken chain) as we each managed to somehow cross paths on two occasions!

Strong winds were evident on the day I was here and it was clear that the weather had taken its toll on a number of trees deep inside this valley.

Before long, I reached the car-parking that people frequently use for short trips to Dolebury Warren and I was climbing a punishing formation of reinforced steps to the top of the former hillfort.

Dolebury Warren will always be one of my personal highlights of the Mendip Hills.

Only ten-minutes from home and often taken for granted by me personally… Yet the panoramic views are outstanding.

Looking to Wavering Down and Crook Peak, another of my favourites on the Mendips.

Where many people will walk the clear path that crosses the centre of the hillfort, I chose to follow the ridge in a clockwise direction.

Evidence of flooding, perhaps on the Somerset Levels.

Another view to my home.

Somehow, the sheep on this day, looked far whiter and more clean than I am used to seeing. Maybe it was the contrast against the autumn/winter colours?

Engaging in a few minutes of indecision on which path to taken, I only noticed the flurry of fungus after retracing my steps to go back on my initial choice.

I was soon re-entering the territory of Black Down before completing this walk.

In the early afternoon, which lunchtime now behind us, it seemed more people were beginning to emerge with perhaps a greater sense of belief in how the weather ‘may not be that bad after all’.

It was about 14.00, as I eventually returned to my car. Thanks goodness, I had decided to wear my gaiters as my trousers would’ve otherwise been a complete mess.

This weekend, I look forward to a walk a little further from home. You don’t have to go far from your front door to be able to enjoy the outdoors and I’m sure that, for many of us, we could choose to leave the car at home. I hope that the changes in the weather and time of the year don’t completely discourage you from getting outdoors, if only for an hour to see the wind pass through the trees.

Thanks for reading.

PS. Yes, that was a lot like one of my regular posts after all, wasn’t it? ;-P
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2 responses to “Up on the Mendips – November 2015

  1. Roxy Eastland 18/06/2016 at 17:31

    Hi Olly, my husband and I found Rowberrow Cavern today, with the help of an enlarged image of Rowberrow Warren from an OS map and my mum’s friends that live near to the Swan Inn. Once you walk past the remains of Warren House on your right keep going until you reach a bend around to the left. First you walk past a public footpath post on your right which is opposite a track going off downhill, then you pass a pretty overgrown track on your right, and then, still going around the bend, on your right there’s a track going pretty steeply uphill that looks like river bed. Start up there but almost immediately turn right and climb through the undergrowth up the hill. You will probably find a beaten path that almost runs parallel to the main drag before bearing around to the left to the cave, or else if you keep up the hill you will see the darkness of the ditch in front of the cave. The trick is to turn right off the uphill ‘river bed’ path only a few feet after starting up it. I hope you find it next time!

    • Olly Parry-Jones 19/06/2016 at 12:12

      Hi Roxy and thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear from someone who has successfully found it. I don’t live far away so will have to try this out again soon. Thank you. 🙂

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