Nik has been working solidly since February. So that we could pay for all the work we had done on Daisy. Also, to put as much money away as possible. So we can properly start our tour of the UK. It’s nice having a plan. We do still need a week away to regroup and remind ourselves what it’s all about. The weather so far this year has been dreadful. So the plan for the week was to take ourselves off to places that we know we will definitely enjoy even if the weather is yuck.
As this was a last minute decision we hadn’t made any advanced plans. Consequently, we spent our first night in a little CL beside the Grand western Canal, not far from the M5. We stayed on this little site a few years ago with the girls. There is a lovely walk along the canal making it a safe stop as far as walks were concerned. We were taking a bit of a risk. The weather has been awful lately and there’s no hard standing. Nik decided however, that it was worth it.
We rolled up at 3.30pm. Did a quick walk around to be sure we weren’t going to sink before driving in and setting up. The ground was a little soft, therefore, we put grip mats under the wheels and crossed everything. Praying that we could get off in the morning, before setting off for a nice relaxing walk along the canal.
Coming out of our site we turned left along the canal, remembering from last time that this was the prettiest direction. We saw so many exciting things on our last visit. For example, a huge pike sunning himself on the surface of the water, signets and hundreds of tiny frogs. This time was no exception. Not even five minutes into our walk we were blessed with the site of a roughly 3-foot grass snake swimming across the canal in front of us. At this stage, Nik hadn’t woken up his camera and it became a race against time to get the picture. He did manage to get it, but too far away to show the size or beauty of the snake. The picture itself wasn’t important, seeing it was a pure joy for both of us. We are so easily pleased.
Amazingly, the sun stayed out for our entire walk. And what started out as a short walk lasted three and half hours. We saw many beautiful things along the way, non-quite as exciting as the snake, though.
The Grand Western Canal meanders for 11¼ miles through beautiful countryside and quiet villages. Between the market town of Tiverton and the hamlet of Lowdwells. Known to locals as the ‘Tiverton Canal’. The Grand Western is now a nature reserve and home to many species of wildlife.
The original plans were for the canal to link the English and Bristol channels. Allowing shipping to avoid the long and dangerous journey by sea around the Cornish peninsular. Which promised to better connect the heart of Devon and Somerset to the outside world.
The first stretch of the canal was opened in 1814. Because the project had run into financial difficulty it wasn’t until 1838 that the next section was completed. By this time hope of the Canal reaching the English Channel had been abandoned. The Grand Western Canal enjoyed a brief period of profitability in the 1840s when it was busy carrying limestone and coal. The coming of the Bristol to Exeter Railway, however, brought competition and signalled a downturn. In 1865, with mounting losses and declining trade, the Canal’s eastern section from Taunton to Lowdwells was sold and abandoned.
In the 1960s plans were drawn up to fill in a portion of the Canal in Tiverton. Then use the land for residential development. This caused local people to form a ‘Save the Canal’ campaign, which was fought and won. Devon County Council took on ownership and declared it a Country Park in 1971
Oscar had a restless night and woke us up for cuddles several times. As a consequence, we didn’t wake up until 8.30. If we were in a rush to get moving this would have meant the loss of at least one cup of coffee. Luckily we weren’t. Phew!
We have discovered over the course of the last year, that, although we wake up at a pretty decent time. (For two people on a permanent holiday.) The process of washing, having breakfast and drinking coffee now takes at least two hours. “Why?” we’ve asked ourselves on more than one occasion. There doesn’t seem to be a sensible answer to this question. We’ve come to the conclusion that with the days being longer in the summer, there just isn’t the need to rush about as we used to. And, whilst our bodies are happily living this slower paced life, our minds haven’t quite got with the plan. As a result, every morning as we leave Daisy. Around 10am. One of us can still be heard saying, “It got late early again”.
Our morning started with bright sunshine and a walk the other way along the canal before heading off to our new site. On the banks of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Oh, and yes, we managed to get out of our field with no problems.
The site we chose, not far from Devizes is a huge field that borders the canal. Everyone was parked fairly close together beside the waters edge, unsurprisingly. Despite having a huge field to spread out in. There is also some hard standing at this end of the field, which is an added bonus. We weren’t squashed together as there were only three of us and plenty of room for all close to the water. The view from the motorhome was nothing but fields, hills and canal. Quite simply stunning.
We took the scenic route and a slightly unplanned detour so didn’t arrive until 4pm. The weather was still hot and sunny, so we wasted no time getting set up and out walking the towpath. The site is uphill from Caen Hill Locks. We thought we’d walk that way and see if we were close enough to reach them. Well it was definitely do-able. Not, however, in baking hot sun with two woolly dogs, the wrong end of the day, when out of practice. We kept going until we reached the point just outside of Devizes that we had walked to two years before. Then we stayed at a site below the locks.
The walk to this point took us two hours. Normal people would take less time, but we had photos to take and people to chat with while we walked. We estimated it was about another half an hour to the locks if we didn’t stop for any reason. Let’s face it, that wasn’t going to be possible. We attract a lot of attention where ever we go. What with Nik lugging two large cameras around and having two very cute looking dogs. Virtually everyone we pass wants to chat about one or the other. And well, we like chatting with people, so don’t do anything to dissuade them.
Our walk was peaceful, pretty, hot and entertaining. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, getting back to Daisy about 9pm. This was when we realised that the fresh water tap was right across the other side of our site. Unfortunately, we needed to fill up. Nik was totally unimpressed. Luckily, dinner was pretty quick to cook. Both of us were hungry and shattered.
The Kennet and Avon Canal is 87 miles of waterway from Bristol to Reading comprising of three waterways. The River Kennet was made navigable from Reading to Newbury on the River Thames by 1723. The Bristol to Bath section uses the River Avon and was opened to barges in 1727. Then on the 16th April 1788, it was decided that it would be beneficial to have a junction between the Kennet and Avon Rivers and was completed in 1810.
There are 105 locks on this canal. Probably the most spectacular are the 29 locks at Caen Hill used to climb 237 feet in two miles near Devizes. This flight of locks was the solution of engineer John Rennie, to climbing the very steep hill and was the last part of the canal to be completed.
We were up bright and early and raring to go. The weather was overcast, so not as good for photos, but quite a relief for walking for both the dogs and myself. Nik doesn’t seem to notice the heat the way normal people do.
We were off in the opposite direction this time, towards Pewsey. Prepared for a full day of exploring whatever we found along the route. With a packed a lunch and plenty of water. The dogs drink a lot and despite being beside a canal full, it isn’t always possible to get close to the edge for bowl filling. We walked for three and a half hours. Constantly watching the white horse, painted on the distant hill, hoping that, at some point to be in the right position for a good photo. Unfortunately, we never did find our spot.
Two hours into our walk we reached the outskirts of All Cannings. Here we noticed a sign pointing over the bridge to something called to ‘Long Barrow’. The sign looked a bit like a Heritage sign and as we hadn’t really seen much else of great interest, we decided to take a detour and find out what this was.
250 yards along the path we came to a field with a long grassy mound in its corner so had to investigated. The mound slowly rose from a pointed corner to a much wider and higher point. At this point, there was an old brick wall with a doorway leading into the mound. This had a big locked gate just inside the entrance. Looking in through the gate we could see a long corridor with doors leading off it. And so with no information board to tell us otherwise. We came to the conclusion that this was an ancient burial mound.
“How fantastic.” We said. “What a lovely surprise.” We weren’t having a working weekend, so hadn’t done any research. Therefore, weren’t expecting to find something like this along this particular walk. Nik took lots of photos. And we left to continue our walk knowing that we would have to do research that evening. We needed to discover what wonder we had discovered.
Oh, how we laughed when we found out what it was. It turns out that this mound that we had gotten all excited about was indeed a burial mound. Of sorts. The Long Barrow at All Cannings is a columbarium or place for cremated remains in urns to be kept. It was built in 2014 to look like a traditional long barrow using natural materials. Aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone. So although just as interesting as before, not quite as old as we had thought.
The day turned out hot and energy sapping despite it being overcast. With no actual end point in mind, after another hour of walking, we decided to turn back. It was a very pretty walk, as is nearly always the case when walking towpaths. Unfortunately, there were no big towns anywhere near this stretch of the canal. Not many people walking this way. No pretty houses to gaze at and nothing interesting happening in the water to add interest to our walk. Pushbikes would have been a good idea along this stretch of the canal.
Nik decided that he was going to find us somewhere we hadn’t been to before for the next few nights.
I left him to it and got on with my own thing. After a couple of hours of listening to him making frustrated man noises. I had no choice but to join him. The biggest problem was that last year we couldn’t travel too far. Meaning, I had exhausted all of the possibilities that would interest Nik in the area available. So we widened our search. Now, we were looking towards Norfolk or Anglesey. We decided on Anglesey with some excitement. Until one of us thought it would be wise to check the weather. This spoilt our plans completely as in both Anglesey and Norfolk the weather was looking grim.
And so. Somewhere around midnight, in total frustration, we decided to remember that we had a plan. It was a good plan, even if it was a bit boring. With that in mind, we went to sleep having decided that we had better head vaguely towards home. Glastonbury it was then!
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
For the next couple of days, we stayed on a commercial site near the outer edge of Glastonbury. The reason for choosing this site is the proximity to both the Tor and the town. Both are within easy walking distance. I had some washing to catch up on, which helped.
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England situated at the dry point (an area of firm or flood-free ground in an area of wetland, marsh or flood plains), on the Somerset Levels with its origins dating back to Neolithic times.
Described as a New Age community which attracts people with New Age and Neopagan beliefs. Glastonbury is notable for myths and legends often related to Glastonbury Tor, concerning Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and King Arthur.
Glastonbury Tor is a hill of clay and Blue Lias on the Somerset Levels. With St. Michael’s Tower, a Grade 1 listed building at its summit.
The National Trust now manage the site which is designated a scheduled monument. Mentioned in Celtic mythology, particularly, myths about King Arthur. In more recent times the Tor has become associated with Gwyn ap Nudd The first Lord of the Otherworld and came to be represented as an entrance to Avalon, the land of the fairies.
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery. One of the most important abbeys in England. As it was the site of Edmund Ironside’s coronation as King of England in 1016.
Our main objective for our stay was to just chill and have fun.
The last time we stayed on the site we used the two public footpaths for exercising the dogs. Whilst one of the walks is ok, it’s a bit hit and miss as to whether we can use it. It goes through cow fields and Oscar is scared of cows. Meaning, if they are at the footpath end of the field we have to turn around. Having has a very unsatisfactory walk. So this time we decided to try the old drovers path at the other site of our site. They are tarmacked and cars do use these routes, but it’s mainly to get to the few farms and houses. Leaving us with walks that were very enjoyable. They gave us a different view of the Tor and some lovely views across the levels.
We also spent half a day wondering through the shops. Looking for little trinkets to add to the interior of Daisy. On our last day, we took the dogs for a walk to the top of the Tor. Both things are something that everyone should do at least once as in both cases the views are spectacular.
Friday and Saturday
This was an indulgent week as stated in the title. With this in mind, we returned to our favourite little CL site at Watchet. The site borders the old mineral line. This is now used as a footpath. Running parallel to it is the new Watchet to Minehead rail track. The beauty of this line is that it’s a tourist route and so steam trains travel along it daily.
Special steam trains are brought along the track during the summer months. So steam train enthusiasts frequent our CL. We discovered this the first time we stayed there. When, on that occasion, there was a special train coming through. Nik managed to get that one on film in the perfect setting. Each time we re-visit Nik tries to get pictures of steam trains from different locations and angles. It always puts a smile on his face. The dogs also love it there as they get lovely off lead walks. All of which serves to make me happy. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable place to visit.
Watchet to Washford Trail is a walk along the old mineral line, roughly 2 miles long. The route runs parallel to the Bishops Lydeard to Minehead Heritage line. With many open spaces along the route to watch the steam trains as they pass by. A river follows along the course of the trail on one side. There are plenty of trees to keep you shaded on hot days. The path is flat and easygoing, so good for wheelchairs and pushchairs
We spent one of the days walking into Watchet via the mineral line. Exploring the town and the coastal path. We discovered a little beach with a sea pool on this visit that we hadn’t known was there before. Sometimes it does pay to re-visit an area.
Watchet, Somerset is a harbour town 15 miles west of Bridgewater. Thought to date back to the Iron Age. With its original settlement being at Daw’s Castle just west of the Watchet.
It resettled in the mouth of the River to form a small harbour and was attacked by Vikings in the 10th century. Harbour trade slowly grew with import and export goods including those from the nearby Wansbrough Paper Mill. Increasing in the 19th century with the export of iron ore, brought from the Brendon Hills via the West Somerset Mineral Railway. The iron ore trade ceased in the early 20th century and the port continued a reduced commercial trade until 2000 when it was converted into a marina. The Bishops Lydeard to Minehead Heritage line runs through Watchet and stops at its very pretty station just back from the harbour.
For more blogs about our adventures, click HERE