I fell a few yards short of my 20 mile target on Saturday, but still enjoyed some fabulous walks around the towns of the Somerset Levels. Having only skimmed the surface of the area before, I wanted to see how Bridgwater, Taunton and Glastonbury compared to my mental image.
Bridgwater is a challenge to appreciate. There’s a useful town trail highlighting long demolished castles and industrial history, but the riverside buildings are the only highlights. The lone Beer Guide entry is Wetherspoons’s Carnival, which again dominates the town’s drinking and eating circuit, leaving Bridgwater feeling a little like March or Wisbech, albeit with wonderful views on each side.
The drive east to Glastonbury shows off the best of the Levels’ scenery, until the traffic chaos around Clarks Factory Village intervenes. I did a quick walk up the Tor (great view of Tesco from the top through the mist), but the real find was back among the peat beds of Lower Godney, where the quite brilliant Sheppey Inn (pic above) dazzled me. This converted barn felt like a bit of trendy Bedminster transported into the Levels, a bit like a modern Yew Tree at Cauldon. Need to go back urgently.
Back to reality, and an evening in Taunton spent avoiding rugby fans meant an attractive walk to the village of Trull and back via the superb Vivary Park. St Mary Magdalene church apart, there were few great buildings in the modernised town centre. Several of the pubs near the train station looked impressive, but Taunton only has a couple of pubs in the Beer Guide, with the Ring of Bells the better of the two.
The highlight of my trip was the drive across the lower Quantocks from Bishops Lydeard to Enmore, which made the 4 hour journey back to the flatlands of Cambridge even more depressing.