Free Fridays: better than a kick in the Quantocks

Bracken, gorse and heather

Friday’s are currently a non-working day for me. I am actually looking for extra work for that 5th day as I really could do with the missed income. For whatever reason, that just isn’t happening at the moment. So that gives me a whole extra day to myself to garden (Oh dear. What a shame!)

But even I sometimes need a proper day off from the garden too. So it occurred to me, looking at the map, what better place to kick my heels and stretch my legs than a day in The Quantocks.

2/26/16To anyone unfamiliar with The Quantocks, it’s a large area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the west of Somerset, very much along the lines of Dartmoor and Exmoor, but smaller, lower, softer, and with its own particular undulating landscape and quirky characteristics. It’s difficult to get to, hence not many people knowing about it. Although it’s not far (as the crow flies) off the M5, you have to persevere through the nightmare traffic girdle that grid-locks Taunton-Bridgewater, and then keep your wits about you along the stomach-churning lanes before you can get to a starting point. On the other side, it snuggles up against the Bristol Channel. Panoramic views from the high points carry over to Wales and out to the Celtic Sea. Where The Quantocks tumble into the Channel is the start of the Jurassic Coast.2/26/16The outline of an Iron Age fort circles this glade on the top of a hill, surrounded by dense forest of oaks.

Even on a grey winter’s day the colours are so beautifully muted, the gnarled twisted oaks creak in the wind, and the ancient cart tracks through the woods are deep, dark and rich. Streams scamper down through coombes between the hills, bright ferns and mosses glow green in their micro-climates. Out of the trees and onto the exposed moors are paths through the bracken, gorse and heather.

You can still see why the Romantic Poets loved this place. And who can resist following that track to the next point on the Ordnance Survey map when they have names such as Knacker’s Hole, Ladies Fountain, Dead Woman’s Ditch, Watford’s Gibbet and Robin Upright’s Hill?

Proper ciderAnd the whole experience wouldn’t be complete without a pint of ‘rough’ Somerset cider that actually tastes of apples!

We chose to walk part of the Coleridge Way from Nether Stowey, looping up to and around Dowsborough Iron Age fort. The full directions are very well laid out in this Guardian article.

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