Day 12 Weds 11-05-2005
Glastonbury to Bath
It was an OK night in the tent - I never slept really well under canvas, it was either too cold, too noisy, or the ground was too hard and lumpy. I suppose if I camped every night I would harden up and sleep like a log, but I was too soft for that...
Off I went at 7:30 - wondering where I would end up that evening. To quote McCloy's book:
"From Street Youth Hostel it is roughly 32 miles until Bath, which is almost certainly too much to walk in one day, especially as the Mendip Hills lie in between"
My son Jimmy was expecting me, and I was planning to spend a night or two on the floor of his room at Bath University. Reaching him was a significant mental landmark for me, I had always thought that if I could get to Bath, it would mark the end of the beginning - I would have proved to myself that I really was capable of completing the "end to end". I would get to him within two more days, a wonderful incentive.
For the whole of the morning, Glastonbury Tor was my companion, visible from over ten miles away. Later, I took a path into a stately home at Dinder, and was told by a gruff gardener that the only way out was the way I had come. I wasn't prepared to retrace my steps, and hopped over a fence into the adjoining church.
Just after Dinder, I was off the map for the only time on the walk. I didn't want to buy map no. 183 for the sake of a tiny corner, so I was relying on my compass and navigational skills.
I headed towards Midsomer Norton, and felt like I was making huge zig-zag moves, along lanes which never went the way I wanted them to. I only had to travel a few miles to get back on the map, but it seemed to take forever.
I stopped in the middle of nowhere to ask the way to Midsomer Norton. There was a tractor repair shop, and the man answering my call had a boiler suit on. Judging from his accent, he was as local as he could be. Midsomer Norton was only a few miles away, but the terrain was hilly, and I wanted to avoid unnecessary miles.
"Now then, which end of Midsomer did you want??"
Which end?? I just want to get to that two horse town, please! He deliberated for ages. "Come on!" I thought, you're batting for Somerset here, make the most of it!
As I left his tractor repair shop, I had the impression that any of the lanes would take me where I wanted to go, but very slowly. I relied on my compass, and eventually strode towards Midsomer.
At Chilcompton, I lunched at the "Somerset Wagon". This superb establishment will never be forgotten, as it was the first place to give me a free pint! The charming girl behind the bar asked where I was headed, and was kind enough to take an interest.
I eventually got to walk through Midsomer Norton, and again experienced an act of kindness from a complete stranger. An older man walking his dog approached me, and asked if I was in the forces. I explained what I was trying to do, and he gave me a pound coin, and told me to get myself a cup of tea at the cafe up the road. He explained that he had been in the forces, and was used to hiking with a back-pack. Despite my protestations, he insisted I take the pound, so I thanked him profusely, and went on my way. What a nice guy!!
I started looking for somewhere to stay, but suitable places were thin on the ground. The countryside was all a bit affluent, so I decided to press on to Bath, despite the protests from my legs. Eventually, after several hours, I found myself walking through the outskirts of the city.
If you know Bath, you will know it is a city of hills. At eight in the evening, I found myself walking down a huge hill (very hard on my poor shins), then up the steep climb to Claverton Down, and the University. After a day of over thirty miles, and over twelve hours walking, I met Jimmy at the entrance to his accommodation block. I was SO pleased to see him. I got him to carry my back-pack up to his fifth floor room, and collapsed in a heap. Jim's room is very small, but he insisted I slept in his bed, while he took the floor. I was too tired to argue, and eternally grateful.
The Somerset Wagon
Somerset BA3 4JW