Cheddar Travel Blog› entry 5 of 129 › view all entries
I woke up late, with the sun high in the sky. Well, I was assuming it was the sun. There was a silver disk lurking apologetically behind high, thin cloud, offering about enough light to qualify as day. The land and the sky and the housing estates of
My man was still in
Good point. Why am I in
I got up. I got in the car. I got about half an hour down the road and hit a contraflow, choked with people going to
You can believe that passing the airport did absolutely nothing to improve my mood.
Finally, I found myself in the Mendips.
The hill I came to first is called Shute Shelve, which is a fantastic name for a hill. There did not appear to be marked paths, either, which is nice – it was like being on a hill in southern Scotland, where you are more or less expected to just march up the side that seems least likely to kill you unless there is a specific sign telling you not to. Actually, the twisted gorse bushes and the hawthorns dwarfed by the constant wind were reminiscent of the North too.
Mysteries of the Hills number 1 – the Ridiculously Fit Old Man
It is one of the universal mysteries of hills that there is always a ridiculously fit man who appears to be well past retirement climbing the same hill as you. In
Who is this man? Why is he finding it all so easy? I do not know. But he is usually very friendly and sometimes knows where the path is. And if he has a female equivalent, I want to be that when I grow up.
I puffed up the hill, and have taken some pictures of the view. The round pool is Cheddar reservoir. I listened to the wind whispering through the gorse bushes, making a noise like distant sea, for a while. The sea was not always so distant, by the way – until the late middle ages
Mysteries of the hills number 2: where are my tissues?
By the time I got to the top I had hill top nose – my nose had gone all runny and all the tissues I know I had in my pockets had vanished. Where do the tissues go? Is it connected with the Ridiculously Fit Old Man?
Another of the strange things about hills is how different they look going down than up. On the way down I found lots of little hollows in the limestone, most of them with a few trees growing in them, and an iron park bench. There must have been a time in British History when some public minded citizens started paying for park benches to be installed on hillsides across the country, possibly before the advent of satellite television.
Mysteries of the hills number 3: the park benches
Why are there mysterious park benches half way up hills and mountains across the
Next, I drove to Cheddar to see if you really did have to pay £17 for the gorge. You don’t, but it is very commercialised, in a very British way. There are dozens of little gift shops where you can buy little polished minerals that are almost certainly imported from China rather than dug out of the caves. There are dozens of little tea shops, and I swear this is true, a kebab shop. In a gorge. Only in
There is also a climbing activity company and some caves to be shown round, which is the sort of thing they do charge for. I think the £17 covers some caves and a lookout tower, a museum of prehistoric
I did none of these things, having timed my arrival with unerring accuracy for just after everything had closed. This was quite deliberate (or if you are not going to buy that, then very lucky) as I had the place to myself and could actually enjoy the landscape itself, which was surprisingly impressive. These photos don’t do it justice at all, because my phone does not cope at all well with twilight. Some of the cave guides came out in their hard hats and went home, looking like miners knocking off for the night. There was an old fashioned sort of sheep grazing about. I would imagine this place is close to hell in summer, with the narrow gorge road choked with tourists trying to avoid hitting overexcited children. Perhaps twilight in winter is the best time to come, unless you have your heart set on caving.
After that I went home, via the last of the winter sales in