Monday, 18 October 2010

The wonderful Quantocks

Another sunny Sunday! This time to the Quantocks, the glorious Quantocks in Somerset. I didn't know it was possible to drive less than an hour from Bristol, park just off the motorway and find yourself in the countryside. We walked up a big hill, and surrounded by gorse, heather and cows, sat in the sunlight and silence, eating scrummy salads. I love feeling this far from the city when I have a lot on my mind, because as much as I love Bristol, I can't find any part of it that is really quiet and free from traffic noise.
But knowing that the days are getting shorter, I dragged myself to my feet again, to make the most of the light and get walking. We headed down the other side of the hill into a valley of oak trees, and meandered through the dappled light and cobwebs. As we stopped to inspect a feather on the floor, we heard a loud noise in the woods beside us, and caught a glimpse of a wild grouse and heard the stamping of deer running away. We'd obviously scared the deer, who had then scared the grouse.
We walked along the river back to the car, and ended the day near Kilve Beach, which is a crazy place. I've never seen anything like it, except maybe at Giant's Causeway, but these weird rock formations go on for miles, and there are many fossils to be found amongst them. It was such a bright, calm day, the beach looked really beautiful and eery.
Somerset is such a surprising and pleasant place.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Burnham-on-Sea. That's misleading. It's actually Burnham-on-Bristol Channel, or Burnham-on-Estuary. But the truth would not be flattering.
It's a nice place though. After a heavy Saturday night we were broken, but the sun defied our hangovers and enticed us outside. Sunny days in October are precious and we felt compelled to embrace the light and warmth, so off to Burnham-on-Sea we drove.
In the car I felt so rough I was variously moaning, complaining or sleeping, and could not imagine the exercise I was about to undergo.
We parked near the golf course and followed the footpath to the 'beach'. It's a strange old place this Bristol channel, as beaches can go on for miles and mud masquerades as sand. The tide was out, but we stuck to the very top of beach, as this is where the treasure could be found, and the ground would be less likely to claim us.
Treasure in Burnham-on-Sea takes various forms. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, over-worn shoes, bouncy balls, string and lots of wood. Almost a wood in fact. I wonder how so many trees and logs find their way up here? The amount of rubbish washed up is incredible, and I became aware that for each bottle top there was a bottle still in the ocean somewhere. It occurred to me that for every floatable, non-biodegradable piece of junk that can be seen on the shore, there must be lots more junk, that didn't survive it's seafaring experience and is destined to eternal life on the sea floor. How depressing.
Despite the rubbish and the amazing quantities of sandhoppers, jumping their frenzied way to nowhere, we were content to wander along the huge expanse of beach, as the sun setting cast a romantic light on our surreal surroundings. So content in fact, that we didn't realise how far we'd come, or how quickly the sun was setting until we decided to turn around. On the return, we chose to walk a little further down the beach, less heavily populated by sandhoppers. This worked out well. Although we now had the beach to ourselves, we could see the footprints of past walkers and felt relatively sure we wouldn't sink in the darkness before reaching the car again.
But then I felt my foot sinking, and we found that the footprints had run out, and it really was getting darker. We'd come too far and needed to cross the wet muddy bit and get back up the beach. Not a problem, as we could just retrace our footsteps until the end of the mud, but this added quite a bit to our return journey. As the sun was fast disappearing, we had to walk quickly, but we made it.
By the time we reached the car I'd power walked quite a distance, and my hangover was cured!