I spent the first part of the morning in Nether Stowey with a lovely couple celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. As we were enjoying our breakfast: the host - ‘you can have either cooked or continental. Not both. We’re not (imagine the scornful tone) Americans….’
The husband of the couple was telling me about his interesting life as both a highest level tennis coach and a forestry manager. He was saying that he found it hard to stop working in the forest as he wanted to see his trees to maturity. It reminded me of how hard it was to stop teaching, wanting to stick with every child to year 6.
Philip kindly took the heaviest part of my rucksack today, leaving me feeling light on my feet. He was going to join me for part of the walk in Cannington, about half way. Almost immediately after setting off from Nether Stowey I encountered my habitual footpath issue. The path that was marked clearly on my Ordnance Survey map was not visible in any way on the ground. Where before I would have persisted, now I try to reroute straight away if it looks like my time is going to be wasted, and my miles are going to be increased. In this situation I’d only just started, so I backtracked and started again. It’s intensely frustrating, and becoming a sadly common event.
So today’s route to Cannington was a more utilitarian one of small roads and periodic episodes on the busy A39. Not much fun, there was no verge and the traffic was moving fast. Something I try to avoid as much as I can. Then in Cannington things improved. Firstly, Philip was there with a coffee, secondly Cannington is a lovely little village and thirdly the paths were not just marked but also visible on the ground. The crops were flourishing, it wasn’t raining, all good.
I walked the last section into Bridgwater. This town had been described in disparaging tones by this morning’s landlady. Maybe because it didn’t have the Coleridge connection. At the beginning of the town I did go all poetic, probably because I’d slept in his bedroom last night. The Wembdon Road cemetery was closed down - all those people who were important once, their headstones overgrown and untended. All Xanadu and Ozymandias.
As I moved into the town impressions were pleasant, attractive houses from different historical periods, a canal and a river. Interestingly this was the first time since starting the trek that I felt incongruous in my environment, walking into a proper town in my walking gear. Not unnerved, but slightly uncomfortable with the second glances I was getting. Something to get used to over the next days, whilst I’m not travelling on national trails.
The centre of Bridgwater was a delight. A lovely food market and attractive old buildings, it would definitely be a town to which I’d return. A jazz trumpeter busking and provoking a pair of ladies my age to show off their best moves. A heavily tattooed man zipping around on a scooter. And obviously a couple of women selling witchcraft supplies.
We spent a peaceful afternoon doing walk admin together, buying a carabiner for my hat (not a phrase I thought I’d ever write!) getting my clothes washed, sitting together having tea whilst they dried on a handy balcony, catching up and chatting whilst strolling round the town and enjoying very important time. Although the connection through calls and texts with my friends and family is a real one, there is nothing better than being in the same physical space as someone, and being away from people makes the time together intensely precious.
I’m on my own for the next couple of days.
Distance travelled : 10.5 miles
Total ascent: 715 feet
Calories burned: 1300
Local tipple - Otter ale
Dinner at the Old Vicarage - lovely
Vegetarian roast with a million vegetables
Macaron from the foodie market
Video of the day: