Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mist, Mud and More Mud. Folly?

For weeks I have been wanting to use my Saturdays for exploring and photography. But IDEALS and the Weather played havoc with my plans, not to mention the ghost, Inspiration. Finally I found a sunny Saturday and planned in advance to cycle to Brown's Folly, a nature reserve managed by Avon Wildlife Trust. But after reading this blog post I decided it would be better to walk it, if it was possible to walk in a day. I wasn't sure of the distance so I decided to walk in that general direction and see if I could get there.

It was sunrise when I left the house. But I couldn't see the sun behind Bathwick Hill. Above me the sky was blue and clean. Below me, the city was hidden in early morning fog. The autumn colours were scattered and hidden behind evergreens and late-changing trees. I took a shortcut down a grassy slope from Warminster Road onto the Avon and Kennet Canal. It was before 8am and only those serious cyclists, runners and dog owners were out along the canal. The mist added to the magic of the morning. Spiderwebs looked like strings of clear pearls and glass. A few robins sang to wake the world. The tapping of water dripping off the leaves of overhanging branches sounded like rain in the blue sky.

Just before turning off the canal at Bathampton I spotted a few ducks enjoying an early morning swim before sending their little ones off the school. They were all very careful not to get too close to the far side of the bank where a tabby cat was patiently waiting for breakfast.
Apologies on the photo quality. Not sure if this was because of the mist or if my lens just didn't focus properly.

I thought the railway line looked cool with the mist on it and so I waited for a train to come, to capture a train in the mist. But I also wanted to continue my walk and felt a bit silly standing on a bridge with my camera waiting for a train when cars were driving past me. Sadly my phone wasn't even connecting on 3G, even thought it said 3G was available, so I couldn't check train times to see how long I had to wait. But the empty track was photogenic in the mist without the train.

The next place my walk took me was Bathampton Mill. I've seen it before when I went on a boat trip with the church ladies. But seeing it in the mist when no one else was there, at 8am, was special.

It seems the gull had the same idea as me.

There is a toll on the other side of the bridge for road users but it's very cheap, unless you have to cross that bridge everyday to get to work! Seems a bit strange having a toll at such a random place but it must be something to do with the old system in the village.

 The road leads into Batheaston which I found to be a lovely little village. There is a hill I wanted to walk up called Solsbury Hill but I couldn't find the route up so continued through the village. I was rewarded with a lovely peaceful garden to take photos in.

Batheaston's High Street (there were shops behind me!). 8:15am or there abouts.

The entrance to the gardens.

Just the right angle.

I stood in the middle of the garden and looked down the path both ways. This one led to a wall overlooking the Avon River (not the canal). There were ducks on the wall either drying off after their swim or still wondering how cold the water was! A few minutes later they were scared off by me and some guy walking his dog but a lovely old lady fed them "fresh bread". She talked to them, as I would, insisting that they were very lucky today because they were getting very fresh bread. The ducks certainly looked happy.

This leaf caught my eye because of the yellow "spots" on it. I had to actually put my finger on one of the "spots" to check if they were just spots or water. They shimmered with a gold the camera just can't catch.

How long would it take to walk from Bath to London along the canal and river, stopping off at quaint and historical villages along the way? I feel a good BBC series idea coming! I would love to either walk or cycle it.

From Batheaston I took a path under a roundabout and found this little gem. This can't be the Avon, can it? It's very pretty if it is. Saw what could have been a cormorant in the river but sadly some tree branches were in my way and only if I had stepped into the river would I have managed to photograph it. This was between Batheaston and Bathford, which I have been told is pronounced Bath-Ford with emphasis on the Ford.

This is where things went a bit wrong. I should have looked at the map on my phone. I would have known then that Brown's Folly was just that wooded area above the houses of Bathford. But no. I walked up Bathford Hill until I saw a bridleway leading away from the woods. I took this and found a sports field. I decided to walk along the dog path (dogs are not allowed on the sports field for obvious reasons). This path led into misty farmland where cows did actually graze, although I didn't see them in the mist.

From the fields I found a crossing leading to the other side of the railway line. I decided against that because I didn't want to get lost, especially when my phone wasn't picking up signal. So I stayed on the wet and waterlogged fields, following the river and the path until it came out on a mud track called Ashley Road. Yes, it's an actual road although my photos make it look like just a pool of mud (almost). This part of the walk, though pretty in the mist and fun was also a challenge because of the mud. Having holes in my walking boots also meant I was squelching from walking across the field. Wet socks. Great. The mud was sticky and thick.

Waiting for a train that never came...

Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.

This one proved particularly difficult and I had to trust I wouldn't sink too far into mud while jumping across from one side to the other!

But once I cleared all the mud on the path I was able to look at the views. Even though it was nearly 11am the mist still lay stubbornly over the hills.

Finally I came off the mud track and onto a proper road back in Bathford. I looked at my map on my phone and found the hill I needed to climb - Called Prospect Place. A killer hill even before you get into Brown's Folly. If you look on Google Maps you'll even see a cyclist pushing their bike up the hill! But the view from the top was worth the pain!

I had finally found the entrance to Brown's Folly.

The view promised to be even better from the top of the hill.

But I had to get to the top first. Thankfully I didn't have to scramble up this steep hill! There was a path going straight up but there was also a less steep path going around to the top. And what a view. All the mud, all the water squelching in my boots, it was all worth it for the views.

As far as I can tell this is the Pepperpot. It's a tower that probably has an amazing view if only we were allowed up to the top! The view wasn't so great from the ground, sadly.

I think this path was the best path of the day. No mud, not puddles.

I came across the hole in the mud. Not sure what animal lives in here. Suggestions include a mouse and a type of spider.

Some of the stone that used to be quarried on the hill.

It seems I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ended up at the end of path on a busy A-Road called Sally in the Woods. This road has no pavement for pedestrians so I had to walk carefully along it to find a path into the wood again. I found a very very very very very muddy bridleway that then led onto a road called Warleigh Lane. A very frustrating place to be. I wasn't lost, I knew exactly where I was and I knew exactly where I wanted to be... on the canal on the other side of the private farmlands. The road led parallel to the canal for it's entire length. How frustrating. At least I knew it was leading back to Bathford. And there were some views to be taken in.

Thankfully there were road signs pointing me in the right direction at the end of Warleigh Lane.

I finally made it back to Bathford. Why is it I always struggle with return journeys? A few years ago I cycled all the way to Devizes along the canal and got lost going back twice before I finally found the right direction to travel on the canal! I do know I have not explored half of Brown's Folly and I'll have to return at some time, perhaps when the paths are less muddy and there is more to see on the walk through the forest.

But it was a good start to a weekly exploration I hope to make to different parts of Somerset and the surrounding counties.

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