Day 24 - Chilcompton to Bath
Last night I had some lovely conversations with people after my very difficult day. Tasha and I talked about whether it’s ok to be honest on the blog about the bad days, and she was very supportive about it. Essentially, I’m writing this blog for me, and for those who are kind enough to come along for the ride. If I’m not truthful about how I’m feeling then it becomes fiction, which is not what I’m writing. I really appreciate that reading about me being miserable is not necessarily cheery - but it is part of the journey, and the good days can’t be as good if there haven’t been bad ones.
And today has been a good day. Not as far as my blister is concerned, sadly. Despite my fervent hopes, when I woke it had not miraculously disappeared. It was pretty big, and the swelling from the liquid inside it is distorting the Compeed in a very attractive way. And it was sore. So no walking boots today, I was very glad I brought my light weight walking shoes too, despite the weight implications for the rucksack.
The very personable French chef at the lovely pub was extremely kind before I set off. He was concerned that I didn’t take a route that might lead me along a dangerous road, and took a lot of time to explain the alternative. This involved walking along a disused railway. I’ve enjoyed these aspects of the walk so far so was very happy to take his advice. It was great to set off on a track that was clearly marked and soft underfoot.
The railway line was in two parts, with a tricky truncation in the middle. I wasn’t sure about how to negotiate that, so asked a woman who was walking her dog for further instructions. She explained that the section that wasn’t old railway was a field in which the farmer had recently put a group of young bullocks. She looked at me appraisingly, and said she thought I’d be ok because I wasn’t wearing red, and therefore they probably wouldn’t charge at me. I decided to take a small detour to avoid them.
Taking the chef’s advice was the first of a number of moments where I decided to say yes today, even if it were to something I was not expecting or might not have planned. Him taking care of me in the way that he did raised my mood enormously. And the shortcut was great. Especially when I moved to the section which still had the tracks and the derelict engine in it, with the instruction to whistle. I complied, and the first thing that (obviously) came into my head was ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. That seemed to set the mood for the day.
The shortcut came out at the edge of Midsomer Norton, after passing through the Silver Street nature reserve. This was walking at its most lovely, easy underfoot, quiet, clear to follow. An excellent start to the day. I wondered at the structure on the skyline over Midsomer - either a tor or a disused dry ski slope?
As I was looking for the footpath I had planned, I saw a sign to the Westfield Heritage Trail, part of which was a cycle path to Bath. I ditched my plan and followed this as far as Radstock. A lovely interlude, leafy and pleasant.
At Radstock I had a coffee break in the cafe opposite the museum that was sadly closed. There used to be coal mining here. Astonishingly during the Victorian period there were 75 coal mines over the Somerset coal field. The newsagent used to service the miners, and when it went out of business it was converted to a cafe. The staff and customers were very kind and interested in what I was doing, thanks to Sue and Kev, and owner Shane.
After coffee I had to decide whether to revert to my planned route, or stick to the cycle path. The former was shorter, and included a Roman road, so that’s what I went for. Though I looked longingly at the path, it had been a delight.
Climbing the steep hill out of Radstock towards Bath there was soon evidence of the Romans with the Fosse Way marked within a small housing estate. I love this collision of the ancient and modern - the road that centurions trudged along in their sandals is remembered by some 1930s houses with garden gnomes and a collection of satellite dishes.
Peasedown St John was the next place - too big for a village, not quite a town. I was getting hungry, and weary of the pain in my foot. I know that favouring an injury can lead to more problems in the opposing limb, so I have deliberately tried not to limp, but I could feel the blister with every step on my left foot. So today there have been longer breaks to take the weight of it.
At the Radstock newsagent cafe they had told me that I should stop at The Meeting Place, so I searched it out. I was greeted so warmly by David, a local minister who volunteers at the cafe cum community centre. He came to join me whilst I ate my excellent scone, which the cafe gave me on the house, and we had the most engaging conversation about pilgrimage, walking, the Camino and the importance of taking things in for yourself if you’re in a profession when you’re often giving out to others. He then asked if he could pray with me. I’d told him that I have no faith, but that didn’t seem to worry him. As he spoke, I felt completely cared for, and I was very moved by his interest in me, his kindness and conviction.
Walking into Bath was on a combination of the old Fosse Way and the new A367. So sometimes by the road, sometimes on the bridle path, but there was pedestrian walking all the way. So I could be next to campanula and wild grasses whilst just the other side the cars were roaring past. My ever eclectic playlist kept me going through the sore foot. Hallelujah chorus, followed by Eminem and a finale of My boy lollipop. Makes me laugh every time I open it, thanks to everyone who contributed.
Although only a couple of miles from the city centre, I needed a break as I passed the Good Bear cafe. Lovely cake tempted me in, and then I had a great conversation with Kim from Canada and Simon from Peasdown. We covered lots of topics, from marathon running, to the Appalachian trail on a bike, to how they met in India. They were great company and were very polite about me gate crashing their lunch when they’d only been reunited a day or so before.
Simon suggested a couple of things I should do. One was to climb up to the viewpoint at Alexandra Park. This added a mile or so to my walk, mainly uphill, but I was saying yes today, so I did it. I was well rewarded, the views over the city are amazing. It’s so remarkable that the skyline has stayed so well preserved.
The other thing Simon suggested was to call in for a drink at the Old Green Tree pub. He was telling me what a friendly and open place it is, and that I’d like it there. Frankly, walking into an old school pub on my own is something I’ve almost never done. But today I was saying yes. So I found the place, walked in to where three customers were chatting with the bar staff, announced that I’d heard people were friendly here and waited to see what happened. They were delightful. One of the men told me he was as poor as a church mouse but pressed some money into my hand for the charity anyway. I had a half pint of the beer that is brewed especially for the pub, we all chatted for a while and then the landlord gave me a generous donation, because I was ‘so friendly’. It was just great. And I’ve been given a recommendation of a book that changed the church mouse’s life called Broke through Britain. I’ll be looking it up.
Bath is always a joy. An especial joy today was that I was going to have a rest day here tomorrow, and even better that my very kind 1st tenor friend Chris has allowed me to use his flat for my stay in the city. It means for two nights I’ve got a home to stay in instead of a hotel. It felt like an enormous privilege and delight to let myself in.
My final moment of saying yes today was to take myself up on the idea of going to the thermal baths. I’ve not been before. It’s pricey, but spending an hour or so stretching my tired muscles in the water filled with minerals was a treat. No photos allowed in the spa, but there’s a tiny feet picture from the changing room to please my friend Carly!
Distance travelled: 14.5 miles
Total ascent: 1556 feet
Calories burned: 1860
Local tipple - Old Green Tree ale
Dinner at Bath Wagamamas - familiar comfort food
Edamame beans, mushroom bao buns, prawn and coconut curry
New song of the day
Christine and the Queens - Je te vois enfin
I was a bit disappointed with this. I’ve enjoyed her music enormously before, but this felt like a bit more of the same. French pop always has a place of affection for me though, it sounds so cool….
Video of the day: