The weather on Thursday was supposed to include some sunny intervals and when we awoke it was to blue sky and sun. After breakfast we went for a short walk around the city but within an hour the cloud cover had increased to the point that sunshine was in short supply again.
We then elected to go to Cheddar Gorge. We didn't intend to just drive through the Gorge but to find somewhere to park near the top end of the gorge and walk along the top.
Once we knew that we had started down the gorge, it was just a V-shaped valley at that stage, we looked out for a place to stop and spotted a place where there was a layby on each side of the road so we pulled in to the one on our side. We were looking for a footpath that started near a place called Black Rock and after stopping I looked across the road at the other layby and there on a gate was a notice saying 'Black Rock Nature Reserve' – how's that for luck?
Not only that but the footpath that we were looking for started just a few yards along from where we had stopped and that's where our luck stopped. The footpath, in woodland, turned out to be very rough and rocky and really quite steep. Oh well you can't win them all and it should make the walk more interesting.
The steep rocky bit didn't go on for ever, it just seemed that way, and we emerged onto undulating grassland with the wood continuing on our right.
We saw lots of Devil's Bit Scabious, a pretty blue wild flower, along the way which is an uncommon plant as it is very limited in its distribution.
By this time, as you can see in the above picture, we were beginning to see outcrops of the local Carboniferous limestone through which the gorge is cut.
A little further on and the woodland disappeared and the views opened up. It was still rather cloudy at this point but in the distance, from our high viewpoint, we could see the landscape bathed in sunlight. Careful study of the slow moving cloud shadow and we realised that the sunlight was moving our way. We sat on a rock and waited and the sun eventually reached us and this is the view that we had been watching.
The road through the gorge is quite a long way down at this point.
We could now see some pretty grim looking weather headed our way so we started off for the car. Just before we reached the woodland it started to rain, and they were fairly big drops, then we reached the woodland and decided to shelter until the weather had passed. Just as well because a short while later it absolutely fell down. Then the thunder and lightning started. Water started to trickle down path we were on so we moved off to the side a little then the water turned into a small stream.
The storm did eventually pass and we set off again downhill. We decided to drive through the gorge and head for Burrington Combe which we had visited the day before when it would not stop raining.
We arrived in Burrington Combe with the sun shining again. This is where I started caving as a youngster and I was interested in looking at the entrances to some of the caves I had been down then. What surprised me was that cave entrances that I remember being in the open were now in woodland and there was a new cave that had not been discovered when I was caving there.
Burrington Combe is less impressive than Cheddar Gorge inasmuch as it doesn't have the vertical cliffs but is still worth exploring.
Whilst there we spotted some wild goats.
That was our last visit of the day – tomorrow we go home.
Friday was predicted to be a better day and it certainly was when we went for breakfast. After breakfast we quickly packed, paid our bill, and set off for home.
The surprise is that, because the weather was quite good, we decided to visit Stourhead Gardens on the way and it wouldn't mean going out of our way at all.
We spent about two and a half hours there and all we did was walk round the lake – but what a lake!
There are 'follies' built around the lake in various places of which 'The Pantheon' is but one.
The range of trees and shrubs here is astounding and as one walks around the lake many different vistas appear and disappear.
We finally reached our original starting point and continued on our way home but it just happened that our route took us within sight of Stonehenge and our National Trust membership gets us in free. So in spite of it being a sunny day in August and half the world being there we went in.
Although visitors are confined to a circular path it does pass quite near the stones at one point.
It is spoiled by the numbers of visitors (it is August after all), the constant traffic noise from the two nearby roads, the fence which goes all the way around and the fact that one cannot get near or in among the stones. From the photographic point of view the later disadvantage becomes an advantage otherwise the views of the stones would be spoiled by the crowds of people that would certainly be milling among the stones.
We didn't leave Stonehenge until about 3:00 PM and what should have been a final two and a half hour drive home turned into 4 hours because of the rush hour traffic on the M25 and the Dartford Crossing where the motorway crosses the Thames and passes through toll booths. We were caught in an 11 mile queue for one and a half hours of stop/start driving when we considered ourselves lucky to reach 20 MPH.
Oh the joys of travel.
Thus endeth the latest trip.