Off to the Somerset Levels last Sunday – to Axbridge, in fact, with my friend, Julie. I’d never been there before, and immediately fell in love with the mediaeval market square. For a start, the town hall has a balcony you could imagine Michael Henchard appearing on. Caroline, who lives there, tells me that the local worthies do address the townsfolk from there on special occasions. I doubt they hold many skimmingtons these days, though.
There’s also a magnificent half-timbered Tudor building known as King John’s Hunting Lodge, which is somewhat fanciful as he was three centuries dead before it was built. In fact, it was originally a wool merchant’s house and is now the town museum. We couldn’t go in as we had Ted with us, so a return visit sans chien is on the cards.
Instead we visited the Church of St John the Baptist atop the town walls and two public wells which survive intact and are still full of water. Inside there was a font dating from 1450, which for centuries was thought to be plain until a sexton, awaiting a baptism, idly picked at some of its plaster. It turned out to be carved with angels at each of its eight corners, but covered up since the time of the Cromwell.
There were also painted organ pipes ...
I especially liked this tomb – the contrast between the pious austerity of the chilly-looking inhabitant and the bawdy mermaids on either side.
I'm sure this one's up the stick.
After exploring the town, we went on a walk around the reservoir – that is, not around its edges but down the surrounding droves and causeways. There were good views over to Cheddar Gorge ...
... and along the ridge to Crook Peak which will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first walk we did, just Ted and I, after I got my car and started driving again.
For a while, our route took us along a stretch of the long disused Cheddar Valley Railway nicknamed the Strawberry Line, and now pressed into service as a cycle path. There were a fair few about too, but Ted coped very well and I was really pleased with him.
Then it was back to Axbridge via the rhynes that define this unique landscape. A lovely five mile meander and all of summer opening up before us …
'Another feckin' bike ... !'