Somerset Levels

The plan for this weeks little trip it to stay near Burrow Mump, near Taunton, walk the rivers Tone and Parrot and if we have time the Bridgewater & Taunton Canal. So we got our selves off to be nice and early, so we could get started as soon as possible. After a terrible nights sleep because for some reason Ella was jumping at every noise and spent the night barking, we ended up not getting up quite at the crack of dawn. Seems to be a recurring theme this. So anyway, Nik had some errands to run in town so we decided that I would walk the dogs and get Daisy ready for the off while we waited for him to get back.

Burrow Mump is a hill and historic site with the ruined church on top of the hill, Burrowbridge, Somerset, UK
Burrow Mump, Burrowbridge, Somerset, UK

This was a good plan except we hadn’t accounted for Ella. It was foggy, so foggy that I couldn’t see more than 5 foot in front of me. This has never been a problem before as the dogs are very good at coming back when called. Today just to remind me that Ella is a rescue dog she waited until we got to the top of the field then went bounding off chasing a bird. Again, something she does on a daily basis. However it isn’t usually this foggy, and we believe she got confused because I had walked up the wrong side of the field and so couldn’t find me despite me shouting for her. So here I am in a foggy field with zero visibility and a missing dog. After slowly walking towards the gate, calling all the way Oscar and I decided we’d better walk to the bottom of the field again to see if she was waiting in her usual spot for us. No joy. So after three quarters of an hour getting more and more worried, Oscar and myself now both soaked through and, Nik arrived back at Daisy ready to help with the search and found her sitting by the door, soaked and feeling sorry for herself. Oscar had a good walk, I made the poor boy follow me around the field and down the lanes at each corner several times whilst searching before Nik rang to say he had her. On the plus side, at least she knew her way back.
Whilst searching it dawned on me that although we’d changed the details on both dogs chips we hadn’t renewed there dog tags, so the first stop we made once we got going was to Pets at Home.

So we arrived at our site at 3pm and within half hour where trotting off in the direction of what we hoped was an old drovers way, leading us down across the Somerset Levels. We hoped because our site owner wasn’t sure but she thought that’s what is was. Luckily for us she was right. Within 10 minutes of setting off we were walking along the paths that run between the fields surrounded by drainage ditches. Not far along our walk we started to notice orange string had been tide across some of the paths which, we discovered soon, was to point a herd of cows that was coming our way, along a particular track. Luckily we had time to get behind some string and put the dogs on leads before they were upon us. The cows were being shepherded along by one lone woman who happily chatted with Nik about her animals whilst she encouraged them forward. Happy days. Nik got some fantastic shots and had a nice little chat at the same time.

Female farmer driving a herd of cows along a track on the Somerset Levels, UK
Female farmer driving a herd of cows along a track on the Somerset Levels, UK

Once the cows had passed by we continued our walk through this beautiful countryside until we came to the pretty little village of Athelney. We were attempting to find the river Tone, as we were hoping to walk along it’s banks to Burrow Mump. We walked off in the direction of the Mump hoping to meet the river along the way. Unfortunately we had chosen the wrong direction for the river so ended up walking all the way along the road. Ah well. We did find the river, once we got to Burrow Bridge so at least we knew which way we would be walking back.

I have to say, if you are on foot, access to Burrow Mump is somewhat hazardous, as you have to walk along a busy road without pavements and the access is right on a blind corner, which cars come whizzing around. Once you get there though, the view from the top is spectacular. Nik was hoping to get some good photo’s of the church at the top and across the levels, but as it was quite late and the sun was going down it was touch and go and as it happened he preferred a photo he’s taken from one of the rivers a little later on.

Burrow Mump is a hill and historic site with the ruined church on top of the hill, Burrowbridge, Somerset, UK
Burrow Mump, Burrowbridge, Somerset, UK

We walked back along the river Tone, not the prettiest stretch of the river however, when we reached the bridge we were to cross the next stretch looked much prettier. So the next day’s plan is to pack a lunch and follow it further. Another bonus find for the day was King Alfred’s Monument, set back on a field by the river. This monument is set in the original spot of Athelney’s Abbey Monastery founded by King Alfred to give thanks for his victory over the Danes at the battle of Eddington in May 878.

King Alfred's monument, Marking the location of Athelney Abbey monastery founded by King Alfred to give thanks for his victory over Danes at the Battle of Eddington in May 878. Athelney, Somerset, UK
King Alfred’s monument, Marking the location of Athelney Abbey monastery founded by King Alfred to give thanks for his victory over Danes at the Battle of Eddington in May 878. Athelney, Somerset, UK

We arrived back at our trusty motorhome thoroughly worn out and totally happy. The dogs spent what was left of the evening snoring.

Thursday

The day started hot and sunny so we set off as soon as we could as we were both excited to be walking along what we hoped would be a beautiful part of the river Tone. We weren’t disappointed and just to add to the scene there where half a dozen swans sitting in the river waiting for us to pass by. There was work being done to improve this part of the river, which we think is the usual side people walk on so we had to walk the other side past some waterworks. We think this is actually a good thing as this side of the river was covered in oil seed rape plants all in flower and intermixed with poppies and other wild flowers. It made for a very pretty scene. The houses of Athelney meet the far bank and gives a great insight into how people view the river. For example some people have gone to great lengths to keep their part of the river bank trimmed, decorated and well planted, whilst others use the area to store their unwanted rubbish.

The East Deane Way along the River Tone, Curry Moor, Somerset, UK
The East Deane Way along the River Tone, Curry Moor, Somerset, UK

Eventually we came to a bridge at Curload where we had to make the decision to continue, cross and continue forward or follow a track which leads in land. Our favoured option was to cross and walk on, but that took us through a herd of cows and the thought of taking the dogs that close to the cows when we had no clue what we were walking to didn’t appeal much. Just as we were about to make the wrong decision a local passed by and offered up the information that going through the cows was her favoured walk with her dog with beautiful views if we follow the path in land. so that was that, we had to brave the cows. As it turned out the cows in the first field weren’t even slightly interested in us, the next one however the cows were laying down beside the gate. I’m not sure who was more nervous Oscar or me. Anyway we did our divide and conquer routine with Nik taking Oscar on through the cows first leaving myself and Ella to go all the way around the outside un-noticed. Nik gently walked through the middle of the cows and Oscar was doing really well right up until the cow nearest him snorted and stood up in front of them. I was impressed with Oscar at this point because rather than barking as he usually does when he’s scared he sat down and pretty much refused to continue forward. So Nik had no choice but to join us on the outskirts of the herd and despite his fear Oscar did try very hard to eat a bit of cow poo on the way, disgusting boy.

View across the Somerset Levels from Windmill Hill, Curload, Somerset, UK
View across the Somerset Levels from Windmill Hill, Curload, Somerset, UK

The inland path took us past a wooden lean too/shack where school children go on outings to learn about the area. After exploring a little woodland path with willow animals dotted through it we made our way past a field where mountains of willow was drying to Windmill Hill. In the far corner of this hill is a hole in the ground and an information board telling you all about a probable wooden windmill that once stood here, they think. We had to have a little giggle over the fact that they’ve managed to make an attraction out of something that a) isn’t here anymore and b) they aren’t even sure what it was made of. The view from on top of the hill was stunning as always. The rest of our walk was pretty un-eventful other than we found the house we want to live in when we grow up. There are about three of these houses scattered around the country now.

Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Somerset, UK
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Somerset, UK

Friday. Today has been a stunner, full of all the things that make us smile.

We drove to Mansuel Lock on the Bridgewater and Taunton canal. There is very good free parking here under the trees, although if you have a fairly big motorhome you’ll need to get there fairly early as it isn’t huge and does fill quite well by lunch time. The other bonus is that there is a little cafe here where you can get refreshments. We chose this spot because it was our closest point with parking and as we knew that in this heat we wouldn’t be able to walk the dogs along even half the canal we made the decision that we would walk for an hour towards Bridgewater, rest the dogs in the shade then go back to Daisy for lunch and let the dogs sleep in the cool until late afternoon before walking for an hour towards Taunton, and hopefully there would be plenty of shade along the route. As it happened we walked an hour and half before finding a lovely shaded picnic area near one of the locks where we sat for a good half hour before heading back. This part of the canal is nice and shaded by trees on the far bank and is very pretty. There was plenty of wild life and beautiful scenery to gaze at and photograph. By the time we got back to Daisy it was getting very hot so we were happy to take shelter for a few hours.

Badger, Meles meles, on the towpath of the Bridgwater and Taunton canal, Somerset, UK
Badger, Meles meles, on the towpath of the Bridgwater and Taunton canal, Somerset, UK

The second half of our walk, toward Taunton, didn’t have as much shade so we were pleased that we’d saved this journey for later in the day. I think I can say with some degree of confidence that Nik enjoyed this part of our day the most because, beside getting an even better view of the ‘levels’, whilst walking along the path a badger came trotting towards us and stayed on the path long enough for Nik to get some photo’s while I distracted the dogs. Not something one sees often.

We then came upon and old iron/steal railway bridge, still in use. Even better the tracks here ran in three different directions and was quite a busy part of the line. Better still, there were bullocks in the field below the tracks that he could photograph whilst waiting for the trains. And he wanders why the girls called him a nerd when they were younger.

First Great Western train coming under a Through truss railway bridge on the Somerset Levels, UK
First Great Western train coming under a Through truss railway bridge on the Somerset Levels, UK

Once Nik had got as many photos as he thought he should we moved on. We were going to turn back here but the both of us suffer with an affliction which we call “I wander what’s around that corner” syndrome, which has had us dragging unwilling teenaged girls for many extra miles in the past, and so we had to go look around a few extra corners or in this case, the other side of bridges. Lucky we did. Nik got to feed his inner nerd some more by photographing an old pill box, a very old tractor preparing the grass for baling and two new tractors in the same process, before we turned back.

In all a very satisfying day.

Saturday. As it is father’s day this Sunday and Nik is working we decided to spend the day with Nik’s parents before heading back to Bude to spend the evening with our children. So an early start was needed. With this in mind we took the dogs for a quick walk before the off.

Doing well so far.

Oscar after jumping into a drainage ditch / dyke on the Somerset Levels
Oscar after jumping into a drainage ditch / dyke on the Somerset Levels

Just as we were turning around and heading back to the safety of our faithful motorhome Oscar had what can only be described as a moment of madness, and jumped into one of the drainage ditches. He’s done this before, they are covered in green pond weed and we think he is mistaking it for grass. He usually comes out stinking of pond and green. Not this time. He came out black from head to foot and smelling revolting. As you can imagine, he wasn’t impressed to discover that this little stunt had got him barred from the inside of Daisy until he’s been washed. It took a good half hour and all the baby shampoo to get him about as clean as he was going to get. We were expecting him to end up with a runny tummy in the next few days. Fortunately that never happened.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *