WILLIAM from Penarth and District Ramblers recently organised a two-day trip across the water to walk in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset and was joined on the first day of this lovely adventure by 14 ramblers at Staple Hill Forestry Commission car park on a bright autumnal morning.

Since 1991, the Blackdown Hills have been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and although their highest point is little more than 300m they rise steeply to a ridgeway from the Somerset Levels. The levels are low and flat and in ancient times were called Summerlands because it was too wet to use the land in winter. In order to cross the marshes, fens and bogs, prehistoric people built wooden trackways and the rich grazing land became known as Sumersata, from which Somerset derived its name.

Passing through deciduous woodland and joining part of the 44-mile long distance East Deane Way, more woodland led them into a maze of fields for morning break in bright sunshine on the edge of a recently harvested corn field. Passing through more woodland and along an old drovers track, an overgrown bridleway led them to Netherclay and then to the hamlet of Thurlbear for lunch at the 12th century Church of St Thomas and borrowing the key in order to look inside William took to the pulpit to read a WH Davies poem entitled ‘A Dream of Winter.’

Then on to Broadlands Farm to purchase fresh eggs before crossing fields and passing quaint farms to reach the hamlet of Bickenhall with its long distant history of smuggling. Following the ancient Curry Mallett Drove and climbing steadily to Castle Neroche, where an Iron Age hill fort stood prior to a Norman Motte and Bailey castle, they made time for a well-earned break whilst enjoying the outstanding surrounding views of the countryside. Then proceeding through Staple Common and Britty Common they made their return to the start point after their 14 mile hike.

On the second day driving from Ilminster to the village of Curry Rivel and being joined by David a local walker, their 15 mile route began from West Sedge Moor, part of the Somerset Levels which attracts breeding, wading and over-wintering birds and is managed by the RSPB. Leaving the village green and after a quick look inside the beautiful 13th century St Andrew’s Church, a lane and dew-laden fields led them to the imposing Burton Pynsent Monument situated on the ridge overlooking the valley of Sedgemoor. Standing at 143ft it was erected between 1767 and 1769 by William Capability Brown for William Pitt the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham, after Sir William Pynsent a wealthy Somerset landowner cut out all his relatives from his will after an argument and left his estate to Pitt in recognition of his stand against the cider tax.

Continuing through Burton Wood and then down through several farms where they encountered overgrown stiles where secateurs came in handy, a pause for refreshment followed near Fivehead Wood, utilising rolled bales of hay as backrests, whilst a pair of buzzards circled overhead. Then on towards the hamlet of Helland to negotiate an overgrown footpath to Huntham in order to re-join the East Deane Way beside a drainage channel known as Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. During lunch it was time for another poem by WH Davies entitled ‘Uncertainty’ and some blackberry picking before a struggle through fields of maize and more overgrown stiles led them through tall stinging nettles at Hancox Farm. Crossing the main GWR line and the River Parrett at Staith a tramp along the riverbank led to an old footbridge at Oath and some road walking. Then heading across farming land to another overgrown path below Hellard’s Hill, where a steep climb through woodland led back onto the escarpment and out into a field overlooking Curry Rivel, a narrow lane led the weary walkers back to the church for final goodbyes prior to the journey home.

On September 23, meet 9am at Cogan leisure centre for a 10-mile moderate walk taking in Mitchel Troy, Dingestow and the Trothy Valley; contact Joy on 01446 737131.

Wear suitable clothing, preferably boots and carry waterproofs, food and drinks. Some degree of fitness is required and if you are in any doubt, then please contact the walk leader for advice. To follow the group please log onto penarthramblers.wordpress.com or Facebook. Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 029 2025 5102.