My two friends / work colleagues and I drove to Blagdon on the north side of the Mendip Hills and to the site of one of the largest water supply reservoirs in Bristol, where we got off the car and climbed the steep north slope of the hills. After a mile or two the slope would flatten out a bit and once we got our breath back we could enjoy beautiful views, north to Bristol, about 20 km away and west to the Bristol Channel, about as far as Bristol.
Then the actual hike began over typical hilly landscapes, sometimes arable land, with wire or hedge fences, sometimes open moorland, much of it bare limestone, with most of the topsoil being swept away by prevailing winds for many centuries.
There’s very little civilization up there other than a few stone walls, a scattering of cattle and sheep, and the occasional farmhouse, but in the middle of this unforgiving landscape there’s a surprise! It’s a racetrack and draws large crowds to the area several times a year, not the kind of clientele you see on the Formula 1 extravaganzas, but more like a fun afternoon with the family. The track is oval for most of the day and all kinds of people bring their “bangers” upstairs to get one last thrill out of the vehicle before heading to the tow yard. But the final race of the afternoon is what everyone is really coming for. The track is then changed from an oval to a big eight!
The race lasts as long as a car is driving, which can take up to an hour (but usually not!) As each route involves crossing the X formed by the middle of the eight twice. At first everything is fine, but little by little one car after another is boned and in the end the entire route is littered with the entire wreckage of about twenty or thirty old cars. It’s great fun for both the drivers and the spectators. I hurry to say the trail wasn’t open on the days we hiked!
Anyway, a couple of hours after we started we walked the full length of the Cheddar Gorge and went to one of the several pubs the village owns to satisfy the big appetite the walk had given us and rinsed it off with a nice cool beer.
Then we went back to hiking, the gorge seemed to be much steeper than on the way down, and last time we were severely hindered by a very heavy rainstorm, luckily not with thunder because I don’t. It doesn’t resemble the idea of being on a hill in one! Fortunately, the storm didn’t last very long and we were able to protect ourselves from the worst in a barn so we didn’t soak the upholstery in the car on the drive back to Bristol.
The Mendip Hills – a great place to hike if you’re ever vacationing in England (but bring a raincoat)!