Cycling the Somerset Levels and Blackdown Hills, UK

Well, we finally cycled away from home at 8 a.m. under grey skies but at least the torrential rain and storm force winds of the last couple of days have subsided. I can’t bring myself to look at the wind damage to my lovely spring garden, I just hope it has all grown back by the time we return from Scotland.

Reflections in the Taunton and Bridgwater canal

We caught a train to Taunton and from there we are following Sustrans Route 3 to Bristol airport from where we are flying to Inverness.  But we had to stop for an early lunch while Bernie re-made our gpx route as he had forgotten to copy across this part of our track from his computer at home. While we were here I suddenly realised that although we were catching an internal flight we still needed our passports and they were at home.  After a few minutes panic we found we both had our photo ID driving licences and the Easyjet site says they will accept these so fingers crossed.

Leaving Taunton on Sustrans Route 3

Then we were away across the Somerset levels which are very flat, wet and today, very windy. We left Taunton on the canal tow path that slowly went from tarmac to gravel, stone then grass. Passing under some low bridges on a narrow path very close to the edge. It’s funny how I can cycle in a perfectly straight line on a wide path but as soon as there is a drop and water involved I am all over the place.

Just before Bridgewater they have closed the path as they are building a new road, and although there was a sign for pedestrians there was no indication on how to find cycle route 3 again. We met an End to End cyclist who was also lost and all proceeded together. Then we were back on country lanes passing through some pretty Somerset villages.

The 16th century church at Chedzoy
Lots of traffic free tracks

We are staying at a B & B in Catcott tonight which turned out to be delightful with a most beautiful garden, although the best bit was the homemade flapjacks!

After a quiet and comfortable night in our rural idyll we set off towards Glastonbury Tor, which Route 3 conveniently circles around. We were on quiet small lanes with the odd bit of stoney track. I use my phone for all photography these days and have recently got an upgrade that not only has macro but also a x2 optical zoom and a wide angle option. So you are getting lots of plant photos today while I try it out.

Lamium – dead nettle
Harts Tongue Fern unfurling
A windless day
I know it’s just a dandelion but they are great when you look closely
Glastonbury Tor appearing in the distance

Glastonbury Tor was green and peaceful unlike Glastonbury town. Somehow you only had to look around at all the “fairy herbal” shops and at the odd assortment of people wandering around to see what happens here every couple of years. Guess they never got round to leaving after the festival. A bit tacky but the coffee was good.

Some pavement art in Glastonbury

More green leafy, flower scented lanes took us past fields of swans and on through Wooky Hole village to Wells. We could see the cathedral across the fields as we dropped down to the small and ancient city.

The fields between the Drains on the Levels were full of swans

For some reason I have never visited this 13th century cathedral so we stopped off to have a look around. It really is a stunner.

This fellow was on the wall near the cathedral
The walls around the Bishops Palace, Wells
Wells Cathedral
The 14th century scissor arches to stop the main arches from subsiding
The Chapter House in Wells cathedral
The ceiling in the main cathedral
Crataegus growing in the old cathedral gardens

Having had a lovely flat morning ride I couldn’t help noticing in the cathedral literature it talked about the cathedral being nestled under the Blackdown Hills.

Sure enough up it was after lunch. 16% for 2.5 km, I was in bottom gear going 4.7 km/hr and only not falling off because of the low centre of gravity of my panniers. I know I could have walked faster but it is easier to peddle a loaded bike than to push it.

Looking down from halfway up the Blackdown Hills

We deviated from Route 3 for a few miles and found a wonderful off road track full of rocks, muddy puddles and wild flowers, then plunged back down into the Chew Valley.

Our home tonight is not up to last night’s standards but it looks better inside than out and is very near the airport. Just hope they don’t have night flights!

Parked outside our accommodation for the night

Well the flights stopped landing on our roof about 11 p.m. and the next morning it was a 5 minute cycle ride in glorious sunshine to the airport. I hope the weather is as good as this in Inverness.

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