Day 27 - Tolldown to Bodkin House Hotel
One of the issues for those kind people who offer to come to walk with me is how they manage getting back to where we started when they get to the end. As someone who lives close to London, I had an assumption that there would be taxis readily available, but away from towns that is not always the case. In Cornwall people just laughed at the idea, and Somerset was not much better. My oldest friend (she loves me calling her that…) Carly was brilliantly taking time out of her already frantic schedule to join me, but this depended on a reliable taxi service. They failed to turn up first thing this morning. Undaunted, she drove to meet me at Tolldown, hoping that the taxi would come up trumps later.
The forecast was 50% chance of rain. So we decided that we’d opt for the dry half of the probability. It wasn’t a long walk today, and we fancied a stroll walking on easy paths with a bit of sun as we chatted and caught up. Can you guess where this is going?
The first part was easy walking on a B road and then well marked tracks. Carly’s husband James used to be a farmer, and so she’s good at spotting things of farm related interest, such as the excellent new dry stone wall abutting the more decrepit old one.
We also wondered about why the wheat was growing in stripes of very different maturity.
It was like walking with a soothsayer, as she pointed out the sheep. I’d been happily collecting wool for my feet (regular readers of the blog will remember this as an NZ tip to protect from blisters), but she had been observing their behaviour. They were moving in the direction of the trees, and many were lying down. An augur of rain. And so it came to pass.
Initially drizzle, it developed to a solid persistent rain that lasted for the rest of the morning. Undaunted, we continued. Frankly we had no option.
Wanting to give Carly a proper taste of the whole walking experience, I took her on an inadvertent detour into the grounds of Dodington House, meaning an episode of back tracking. I’m blaming the fact that we were talking so much. I was told last night whom Dodington House belongs to - a very famous entrepreneur. He certainly doesn’t want anyone popping in, the fences and gates were imposing. We got a glimpse of some of the lovely landscaping though.
As we approached Old Sodbury I had hopes of a coffee. These were dashed, as the pub was closed. But ever enterprising, we made do in a bus stop, and Carly had even brought sandwiches.
And then on through the downpour. It was hard going, my boots are still too sore because of my blister, and my walking shoes are very light and not really designed for mud. It’s like walking in slippers. Comfortable, but not entirely trustworthy. So it was a pity that we encountered a very muddy field, and then even more that the field contained a herd of cows. They’d got the memo from the sheep, and were huddling together in a big group completely blocking the exit. There weren’t any calves with them, so I decided to test their mood by going towards them. They didn’t appear too flighty, and so we progressed, with me using what Carly later described as my cow whisperer voice. It’s fairly high pitched and chatty, and I spoke continuously and very courteously to them. They understood what I was after and shifted into the next field. Although all went well, it was scary - I really don’t like their unpredictability, and they’re very big.
The rain makes navigating using my phone very tricky, but fortunately the path was very clear for most of the route. We stopped to take a thank you video for the lovely children in the village youth club who sponsored me, and trudged soggily on.
And then I was given the opportunity to demonstrate to Carly the problems of taking footpaths that are off the national trails. We had to detour off the Cotswold Way to get to my hotel, and the path that I had planned was marked with a sign at the beginning and the end. There was the odd sign that people had been there before us, but mostly the route was filled with waist high and higher weeds or crops. The rain had caused them to be sagging with moisture, ready to drag across our clothes and make already wet areas drenched.
This continued for 7 fields. In order to get to the tractor lines and therefore make better progress we had to necessarily trample some of the crop. That makes me feel guilty, I try to be as careful as I can be in the countryside. But frankly it’s the farmer’s fault for allowing these paths, which are their responsibility, to become overgrown.
It was wonderful to eventually see our destination, though I think Carly’s taxi driver (who did arrive) would have been less than enthusiastic to receive her into his car. She went off to shower and go to see Adele in London, whilst I shivered in wet clothes in the bar whilst my room was prepared. Who knows if it will all have dried out by morning.
And then as if it wasn’t enough joy to spend the morning with my lovely friend, I then had additional joy with my new friend Sophie coming to have excellent scones with me. We had come to know each other on line but had never met in person. She completed the End to End three years ago, and so she completely gets it. Meeting her, and our time together talking about walking, love and loss, work and growth will be one of the many memorable things of this walk.
Distance travelled: 9.5 miles
Total ascent: 800 feet
Calories burned: 1320
New song of the day
Lana del Rey - Chemtrails over the Country club
I love her voice, especially the near falsetto section. I couldn’t decide to begin with if the lyrical rhythmic emphases annoyed me, in the end I found them intriguing. I love the way that her voice is gradually overwhelmed by the track.
Local tipple: Butcombe original from pressurised cask. Very different from the keg Butcombe that I had last night.
Dinner at Bodkin House Hotel - very good
Avocado and tomatoes on sourdough
Seabass with prawns and vegetables
Number of layers I needed to wear to start to feel warm after sitting in wet clothes for an hour - 4, which is everything I own.