Lost; in deepest Somerset …

The village of Nether Adber sits off of the A359 Yeovil to Queen Camel road, just south of Marston. From Sherborne turn left at the Marston Arms, park on the main road immediately after the signs change. I parked in a lay-by on the left hand side of the main road. To drive down the metalled road until the second bend will keep you on the concrete and begin at the diagonal footpath.

The first field was originally the Manor House and this was tucked in to the west of the newer bungalow. I stayed on the path initially but once I got to the pond Realised the stile had been abandoned. I felt more able to wander looking for a way out.

On the opposing corner there is a double access point, a better entrance, and two interpretation boards. One has an aerial photo in black and white, giving a genuine idea of the whole site. The site is owned by Somerset county council and they identify the access and freedom to wander at will.

South of the access corner the main village is located, a series of banks surrounding the other two roads with the village pond at the centre.

Sadly the site is poorly neglected by either landowner or tenant farmer. Fence posts has been knocked out and not replaced and a large amount of new gates poorly hung or tied with bailer twine. The entrance to the south field is poorly eroded, badly drained and it saddens me that an archaeological site can be neglected such.

The other interpretation sign had a pheasant feeder attached to it such that you could not read it.

A great site with disappointing access, come on Somerset County Council, a simple finger post from the main road would help. An easy turning or waiting verge could be identified but insisting that entranceways remain maintained is essential.

Visit it, make up your mind but summer may be better drained.

Ten Tors begins

November heralds the beginning of the Ten Tors season with some new projects this year. Due to the AS examinations – now largely defunct – the 45 mile route [for 16 and 17 year olds] was parked by my school but we have been given the go ahead to reintroduce it.

Annually, we are already committed to the Remembrance in the Mountains event and so it seemed sensible to link this to Duke of Edinburgh Gold training too. We headed to the Brecons.We climbed quickly from Tal y Bont with Allt Lywd in our sights and the transit along the ridge was straightforward and snowy. Arriving on the plateau early we decided to take in Waun Rydd too; the service seemed particularly appropriate this year.The main navigation training took place after the service and the boys zig zagged down the path back to Pencelli.

Next weekend it was the turn of the 14 and 15 year olds, this time out of Shipley Bridge on the South Moor of Dartmoor. I had worked here alot over the last four years transiting west towards the tramway. Exploring change I headed up onto Dockwell Ridge, but not after some stream crossing practice.

The hack up through Woolholes was bracken laden and the gap in the wall indistinct. The circular settlements were difficult to find but once on top of the ridge it all became straightforward. Next time I will handrail the path to the north.

Peathys Path revealled some grest finds and we settled down to lunch at the source of Small Brook. Returning via Zeal Gully and the Riders Rings it was great to stand on Black Tor before dropping back down to the bus.Change can be good and a smattering of snow and clear weather helps. With the new season well and truly open I look forward to our return at Meldon Reservoir.

New beginnings

Completing Dartmoor 365 early July has left me dithering. The housekeeping is now done and I have revisited Crock o Gold, Cox and the Corbels. I will, of course, stitch together some deep moor loops and would like to get my bike onto the moor. Ten Tors will also pull me deep and my 45 boys will be searching 365 locations.

My mind has been wandering around another challenge for a while. We have an annual foray to South Wales and on inspection enough tops had been ticked to pull me over the border. The drop in bridge toll has helped but I still struggle with the carbon and cost of accommodation.

This weekend was an Exeat, a normal weekend for most but a midday Friday finish would normally encourage escapism. With a Safari Supper Friday I already felt a little hemmed in and a poor forecast Sunday the balance would be difficult.

After a quick call at a friends house I placed my car in the Olchon valley. Against the advice of the Nuttalls I had decided to climb up from the parking at Little Black Hill. The view opened up quickly and the Devonian sandstone bit, in beds.

This crest is awesome and I kept looking back as I quickly surmounted the ridge. Once the triangulation pillar is reached the route flattens to an undulating and leftwards curving path until Hay Bluff appears on the horizon. I cut the corner clambering up into the Offas Dyke. The sets were superb; each told an ocean bed story: ripples, chaotic turbidites, gently laid scallops.

I wish I had the foresight to dump a waterproof and grab my slr.The slab lined route which would surmount the Black Mountain became a tedium. The view out to Pen y Fan was stupendous but the sheer distance allowed the mind to wander. And then, suddenly a pile of rocks indicated the peak. And down, and back up to another more isolated and ‘hilltop looking’ peak and away from the slabs but onto another cairn. I lay in the sun, snoozed and dropped things out of my pocket.The cross roads [paths] back down into the Olchon valley were marked with a substantial milestone.The drop from here, both up and down the valley revealed a lovely view as I disappeared into the bracken below.The tree lined fields soon engulfed me again and I tracked dints which joined well hung gates. The camera went away, both hands grabbed twigs and wire and peered at map as I crossed Olchon Brook and clambered back up to Little Black Hill. A peer through some cobwebbed windows before emerging back onto tarmac and the heat of the afternoon.My afterthought went from beer to ice cream and onto friends before settling on a large portion of chips and a long dark drive home.

Brent Knoll high …

Sat beside the motorway many of us have whizzed by this island of rock just south of the Mendip Hills. DSC_0872I have had a plan to climb this in the past, tied with Burrow Mump and Nyland Hill to make a levels 3 peak challenge but an opportunity in Weston-super-mare deposited me in the area on a Monday evening.DSC_0882I climbed from the church in East Brent, this is not as straightforward as it should be.  The obvious way up is marked a private drive and the rising footpath through the churchyard detours out to the road.  Instead head for the lower left corner beside the school and keeping the high green metal fence on your right; skirt closely around the school playground.  This emerges to open fields and the climb begins.DSC_0883Over to the right the coast opens up and Brean Down comes into view.  The wooden pole at the top is your target, easily reached in twenty minutes.DSC_0900The walk around the ridge on the flat top is slowed by the stupendous views in all directions.  Wales, Steep Holm, the Quantocks, Polden and Mendip Hills.  I glanced back at Crook Peak, my objective the previous Sunday.DSC_0910The central area has been worked extensively and it reminded me of a story whereby generations of skeletons were discovered, gradually becoming more deformed as they became younger, before dying out.  It was thought this was an island then.  Although never collaborated the teacher who told me was a favourite of mine. DSC_0925Photographs do little to capture the wonder of this place.DSC_0930

As the sun set I retraced my steps before retiring for a pint, I will return; sunrise next time?DSC_0932


The spine to Crook Peak

As the western Mendips narrow towards Brean Down, the hills fall away and the view opens towards the sea. The levels and the Quantocks lay to the south, Steepholm raises its’ head and Wales beckons. With sunshine ahead I navigated from Priddy through back-lanes to Shipham and along the A38 to park at Kings Wood.DSC_0924

This was packed by ten on a Sunday and the overspill was beside the road. Dog walkers came and went.DSC_0833

Climbing through Kings Wood was cooler but our objective was off of the path, around to left. We broke out into the sunshine, luckily it was still cool.DSC_0864

The main path handrails the wall but by heading south you can stand on the highest point of Cross Plain, the knife edge ridge dropping to the village of Cross. The sheep sheltered from the sun, recently shaun.DSC_0834

Wavering Down lay ahead and the climb was more eroded, the beckoning triangulation pillar clearly marking the high point.DSC_0837

Beyond here the path drops, picking up two more tops. Barton Hill is the eastern end and the summit of Compton Hill lays off of the path. We surmounted the ridge enticed by the rocky top of Crook Peak ahead.DSC_0840

The view out to sea was stupendous, we were lucky with the weather and southwards Brent Knoll sat proud. We sat for a moment, sucked in the view before deciding to detour to Compton Hill on the return. The outgoing path was simple enough, the return path gorse laden.DSC_0856

We climbed Wavering again, dropped back to the car before refreshment in Axbridge.

365 top ten.

Time to be controversial; my preferences.

10. Belford Mill O18, curious architecture repurposed for modern day living it even has its own mine!

9. Lustleigh Cleave I19, organic, green, isolated but the perfect combination of wood and water.

8. Target Railway C8, a railway! Going around in circles, which you can shoot at!

7. The Dancers T11, isolated, hill top perfection marking the southern end of one of the longest stone rows.

6. Keeble Martin’s Chapel K13, hidden, follow the instructions, beautifully etched and some genuine stories.

5. Foxes Holt B11, hard to find but the most perfect of medieval views.

4. Statts House H10, tucked away from the wind, fireplace and 360 views, peat cutters.

3. Cranmere Pool G9, the original letterbox, peat pass and pool.

2. Thirlstone F10, the best Tor by far, something in every weather.

1. G7 … obvious really.

365 done; what next?

Of the 170+ likes on the 365 page there were plenty of red ‘congratulations’ but the overarching question was ‘what next?’. After the Bristol marathon and with a reasonable time i simply stopped running long distance … This is different, I hope.

Firstly, I have my own project, Mendip 200 which I hope to develop. 200 kilometre squares in the AONB but with a similar vein; less flowers but more underland. There is a [small] Facebook group but it would be good to make the selection of artefacts and locations more crowd sourced.

I do feel that I need a rest from Dartmoor, not because it is Dartmoor but because it is 50 miles away and the mad dash after work wasn’t the best way to spend my monthly carbon. I would like to devise more carbon free road side opportunities, linking rail with bicycle and loops without cars. I have also become an expert on breakfasts, explored lots of accommodation and cafes. We shall see how this manifests itself.

A good deal of the squares visited have been during Ten Tors training, I used a different code for these – orange stars rather than purple – and I will revisit some. There are places where I visited the square – such as Legis Tor [S9] – but couldn’t find the artefact – the vermin trap. I had decided quite early on that I didn’t want to waste hours searching but completion within the time frame was more important. My eyesight failure confirmed the importance in finishing but I will return, with my camera. I have a short list of rehits and these may begin a second round, of sorts.

I have continued to use the first book, almost exclusively and so also want to lose myself in the second book too.

I would like to guide some walks, maybe taking advantage of Toucan outdoors.

There is a 365 pub trail …

Most of all, the project has developed an interest in the Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor and so I would like to spend time at Brimpts and Eylesbarrow exploring the Tin, integrating ideas into my geological teaching and understanding more of the processes.

I have plenty of classic ‘David Charles’ non-fiction texts which need consuming now that I have the ultimate framework. Ebay bulges with these readers, now discarded by the electronic generation.

Most of all I want to return soon, meet some of the people involved in 365 and explored some more for completion is not terminal.