Walking and talking

Walking and talking – two things which very good for your mental health as well as your physical health. I’m not the only one who believes this – and this weekend I joined up with a group of people who walk every week with the specific aim of connecting people, combating loneliness and helping people improve their mental health as well as their physical health.

The organisers of Walk and Talk saw how much communities suffered during the pandemic. They saw how isolated some people became and were inspired to do something about it. The idea is very simple, every Saturday at 10.30 you can turn up and there will be someone else to walk with. There is no need to book, there is no charge and both buggies and pets are welcome!

I chose to try out the group which meets at Morden Hall Park and found a very friendly group of people from all different backgrounds and life situations enjoying spending time together in the outdoors. Not only do they walk together but those who want to stayed on and had a coffee together in the National Trust cafe!

Unknown to me I was especially lucky to choose this particular Saturday because they had a local history expert leading the walk. As well as telling us stories about Morden Hall’s history, she pointed out some hidden features and had brought old photographs to help us picture what it would have been like.

At the moment they have five groups, but they are aspiring to set up more. Check out their website for more details.

L

An intentional detour!

As you will know, we are currently walking the Greensands Way. We’d only walked two sections and got as far as Thursley when we got confused – the Greensands Way appeared to go both west and east! As far as we can work out, there is an additional ‘spur’ of the path to Farnham, whilst the official route continues east.

Not wanting to miss out on anything, and curious to walk on Thursley Common which we had heard about but never visited, we thought we’d first walk this spur before continuing with the main path.

Turns out Thursley and Hankley Commons are both interesting environments to explore – read about our walk here.

R & L

Guest goat interview – Great Glen Walk

From time to time we like to hear about how some of our friends have embraced their inner goat.

Where have you been walking recently?

The Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness 

How long is that path?

In theory it’s 75 miles but there are places where you can take either a higher or lower level walk and on occasions I detoured to get a better view from up a nearby hill so I took some 80 miles  

How many days did you split it over?

The walk took a full week but there’s also a lot of travelling to get to the start and back home!

What did you do for accomodation?

The accommodation was a real highlight of the trip – a large, old barge. Each morning after breakfast the boat and 7 walkers departed and met up again early afternoon. There was a crew of 4 – Captain, Guide, Cook and a man who did all the other jobs necessary on a barge. 

What is the scenery like?

Stunning scenery especially the 25 miles or so along Loch Ness made all the better given the wonderful weather and absence of midges  

What was your highlight from the walk?

Most of the other walkers were very fit and wanted to walk fast. A couple struggled a bit with this so spent a couple of days on the barge. The result was that I spent most of the walk alone with the professional Guide who was a great guy full of stories about his experiences guiding in the Alps and who was very knowledgeable about the countryside we were passing through.

Any lowlights?!

There were no real problems on the trip but it’s worth bearing in mind that you are likely to be in close company for a week with a group of people you’ve never met before.  You just have to hope you all get on well together!

Would you recommend this walk to others?  If so, any tips or things you’d do differently?

This is a great way to walk if you don’t want to carry your stuff around with you or worry about accommodation and where to eat each evening. The bedrooms were en suite with a wonderful, powerful shower and the food was excellent. 

In search of King Kong

By the end of our 5 days walking in the Mendips, our bodies had got used to the increased activity and the walking and carrying got easier. We were keen to keep up the steps and so we’ve started our next challenge already, the Greensands Way. We’re going to do this route in circular day walks, the same approach as the Wayfarers. It’s pretty long, so it should keep us busy for a while!

We walked the first section last week… and went in search of King Kong!

Read about it here.

R & L

Reflections on the Mendips Way

Now that we’ve recovered from our adventure, we thought you might be interested in our reflections – espcially if you are considering doing this walk yourself.

As ‘long distance’ walks go, it’s not too long – which makes it very achievable if you’ve only got a week’s holiday. It also has good train connections at Frome and Weston-super-Mare, which is an important consideration.

We walked from East to West – and we’d recommend doing it that way round. A lot of the guides suggest the other way, but we’re not sure why. The West Mendips section of the path is more scenic than the East Mendips section, so this way the views get better and better as you go. And reaching the sea feels like a good end point to aim for – you can’t go any further!! It’s a shame that there isn’t a properly marked end point to have your photo by, but the sea is a good backdrop to a selfie!

If you haven’t enough days to do it all, the West Mendips path which starts at Wells is a good option – this takes in the best bits and the most spectacular views towards the sea. You could do that in 3 days.

We planned our sections around where there were suitable places to stay overnight. It turned out we started with a long day and then alternated shorter and longer days. This was really helpful both psychologically and physically for our out-of-practise bodies. We’d definitely try to plan future walks that way.

The table below sets out our accomodation plan …. & equally important our food plan! (We’ve given links to the places we’d be happy to recommend).

DayLocationsMileageLunchDinnerAccomodation
0Home – Frome0N/AThe CornerhouseThe Cornerhouse
1Frome – Shepton Mallet13.5Cheese & GrainThe DustholeThe Dusthole
2Shepton Mallet – Wells6.5The HiveThe Swan HotelThe Swan Hotel
3Wells – Cheddar11.5Cafe NeroZen ThaiYouth Hostel
4Cheddar – Sidcot8.5Hansford’s DeliPremier InnPremier Inn
5Sidcot – Uphill11cuppa-soups!The Ship InnRooms@Uphill
6Weston-fuper-Mare – Home2breakfast:
The Boathouse
Lunch:
Gardens

Walking from Uphill into Weston-super-Mare isn’t too far (2 miles), we walked along the beach, but you could also get there via roads. We booked our train for early afternoon to allow us some time in Weston. We enjoyed our fresh donut reward and a coffee on the sea-front and tried our luck on the 2p machines at the pier! We also enjoyed wandering round exploring the town and taking in the sea views, but we hadn’t fully thought through that we’d have our big bags with us to carry round all day.

We seemed to carry a lot of stuff. It must be perfectly possible to do it with less, but we enjoyed our neverending snack supply and having our books and crochet project to entertain us in the evenings. We should have done our final pack together as we could have shared some items, but overall we seemed to have the things we needed and managed to carry our packs ok.

We took paper copies of the OS maps 142, 141 & 153. Although the route is way marked with blue arrows, they aren’t reliable enough to be able to find your way without a map. It’s also worth noting that although our maps were new, there were some points where the route had been altered, or an alternative provided, which wasn’t on our map. The OS app was helpful in these circumstances.

Overall we’d recommend this walk – do let us know how you get on if you try it yourself.

R & L

Day 5 – Sidcot to Uphill

We slept well in the Premier Inn and so we didn’t make an early start – we waited for the rain to come on!!

It rained to varying degrees throughout the day, but we still had a pleasant day’s walking. The countryside today was more open with the first part of our walk traversing downland. We were pleased to discover we didn’t need to climb Crook Peak and instead descend down to the roar of the M5!

We were ready for a coffee break and were relieved to find St Andrews Church, Loxton was open and we could shelter from the rain and enjoy our elevenses in the dry.

From there it was up again and following a straight path most of the way to the viewing point for our lunch. We hadn’t found any shops to buy sandwiches, so lunch today was cuppa soups & cream crackers!

The route then went along Roman Road and we realised that if only we’d waited a bit longer for lunch, we could have had an even better view sitting on a bench by Bleadon Hill golf course.

The route gradually became more built up as we neared Weston-super-Mare. The last section of our walk was across Bleadon Levels, an estuary landscape with views out across the marshes.

We had made good time, so we could stop for a tea break at Uphill Nature reserve overlooking the marshes & marina.

From there, it was a short walk down into Uphill, but finding the official end of the walk was trickier. Turns out there was just a plaque on the sluice gate wall over grown by brambles! A bit disappointing after all those miles, but we did make our own official end point by going down onto the beach.

Today’s walk was 11 miles. We rewarded ourselves with dinner in the Ship Inn and a good night’s rest in ‘Rooms @ Uphill’.

R & L

Day 4 – Cheddar to Sidcot

We started today by buying our lunch – including Cheddar sandwiches of course! We very pleased to have discovered Hansford’s Deli who made us tasty sandwiches & even better flapjack than yesterday!

As anticipated, our walk started with an ascent! We followed the Gorge Walk up the western side of Cheddar Gorge. It was a beautiful sunny morning, but the sun was quite warm so we were grateful that most of the climb was shaded by trees. The view at the top was spectacular and we had a rest stop to admire it. The only disappointment was that we didn’t see any of the feral goats!!

The route then descend steeply back down and we followed a wide track through a nature reserve to our next ascent through Long Wood. By the time we got to the top we felt we had earned our coffee stop.

The walking then became easier, until we got to Rowberrow Warren….which was like a warren, with a lack of blue arrows to follow! We needed to use the OS app on our phones to find our way back onto the correct path. We celebrated finding it again with some lunch!

Another uphill, fortunately short this time, took us to Shipham village. After Shipham there was just Winterhead Hill between us and our hotel. We were going celebrate climbing it with a cup of tea, but the way was blocked by bullocks, so we also celebrated circumnavigating them in the next field instead.

From there it was no time at all until we were sitting on the veranda of our hotel, watching the sunset & sipping a cocktail! We deserved a reward after 8.5 miles & lots of steep hills.

R & L

Day 3 – Wells to Cheddar

After a comfortable night in our fancy hotel & a tasty breakfast, we started the day by attending the morning eucharist at Wells cathedral and buying sandwiches cafe Nero, one of the few places open on a Sunday.

Our walk today was now the West Mendips Way and as we were in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we were treated to some good views.

The path climbed up to Arthur’s Point which had a nice view, but nothing on the views later in the day. After wandering through the curiously named Wookey Hole, we climb up lots and lots of steps to the top of Ebbor Gorge. We rewarded ourselves with coffee & some flapjack we’d bought at the Flapjackery in Wells while admiring the view.

Next we headed to Priddy and we enjoyed looking at the campsite. The pub also looked interesting with beach hut ‘palaces’ in the garden, but pressed on and had our lunch in a field about 3km after.

We should have held off for our lunch because after the summit above Stoke Woods opened up to the most amazing view of the Mendips to the sea & even to Minehead & Cardiff.

We took the option to walk along the hillside through Draycott Sleights Nature Reserve (rather than descend down to Draycott). This was a good choice because as well as avoiding another ascent we enjoyed some of the best views on the route so far.

After a tea break overlooking Cheddar, we descended down into the town and found the Youth Hostel we were staying in.

For dinner we enjoyed a delicious meal at Zen Thai. We are a bit sore but we still took a stroll to see the touristy bits of Cheddar which is spectacularly nestled in a very steep gorge.

Today was about 11.5 miles. Tomorrow should be shorter, but promises to be a hard day with more steep ascents!

R & L

Day 2 – Shepton Mallet to Wells

Today’s walk was much easier – no rain, a nice temperature for walking and only 6.5 miles.

The terrain today was more open, mainly fields with lots of views towards Glastonbury Tor.

We had our lunch on Tor Hill just outside Wells. We had purchased sandwiches (and tasty cakes to have as our elevenses!) at The Hive cafe and craft shop in Shepton Mallet. The staff were very sweet and went to great efforts to package our sandwiches, salads & cakes in a way that wouldn’t get crushed in our backpacks!

Being as we arrived in Wells early afternoon, we were able to take a (hobbling) walk to explore the town. We were expecting to see a cathedral, but we were surprised to find that there is a bishop’s palace with a moat! We enjoyed a cream tea to revive us and are now having a relaxing evening at the Swan Hotel.

R & L