Sunday 17th June 2018
Priddy is an area of the Mendip Hills that I know quite well. I’ll often refer to it as one of my favourite sections and visit it in preference to some of the more frequently-populated areas, like Black Down.
This was a group walk that I decided to attend, having not been out with other members for several weeks and knowing that it was likely to be a good experience, whichever routes we would follow.
We parked in the spaces available outside The New Inn – a building that has become known as a ‘former pub’ but, as I’ve recently been reading, it’s being bought back to life for 2019. Making our way north through the village, we’d come to the church before heading off to find the entrance to Swildon’s Hole – one of the many cave entrance points and pot-holes dotted around the Mendip Hills.
On my own, I had failed to discover this on one previous occasion. It might only have been last year. But here, you can see how unmistakable it is.
There’s no legal right of way to this point and the route we took is normally reserved for cave-ready enthusiasts kitted up and prepared to descend in to the caverns below.
For the extremely courageous (and slight), there’s another potential entrance/exit point just outside of the main structure.
Beneath the limestone of the Mendip Hills, exists an extensive system of caves and caverns and, despite having grown up with this on my doorstep, I’ve never really taken to the idea of caving.
When I was in Primary School, I did a day’s caving with Mendip Outdoor Pursuits as part of an activity week with the school. I didn’t truly enjoy it. I didn’t like being underground for a long period of time, the threat of darkness and the constant squeezing between, through and under the tightest of gaps. This was over twenty years ago… I dread to think how I’d fit through, now twice as large!
Leaving all thoughts of claustrophobia and dampness behind, we left Nine Barrows Lane to explore the Nine Barrows of North Hill.
Just north of the Nine Barrows is a series of tumuli (I counted eight larger and a few smaller ones). A public right of way cuts through these and there’s nothing much to prevent you from exploring the others.
However, the actual Nine Barrows are the other side of a dry-stone wall on private land. I’m sure some folk will have trespassed their way across at some point. While the threat of human traffic is understandable, cattle continue to graze in the area.
Heading south-eastward, we followed the footpath alongside the wall and on to Priddy Mineries. Known as a great place to spot all kinds of wildlife. We saw tadpoles swimming in the lake, while someone else pointed out the tiny black frogs (about half the size of my own fingertips) that we’d been innocently treading on.
Crossing Wells Road, we picked up the Monarch’s Way to continue our journey south towards Wookey Hole. Some of the views from up here are my favourites that this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has to offer.
Taking in the views, we continued on our descent in to Wookey Hole.
From there, we picked up the West Mendip Way and followed it west up in to the bottom of Ebbor Gorge. I’d noticed this memorial two weeks earlier, while passing through here on the Mendip Challenge. A big block of tree seemed a bit odd and the plaque offered no further explanation.
Was it a simple form of seating?
We had our lunch nearby, ahead of the inevitable climb up The Steps. I was impressed to see that, within the fortnight since my previous visit, work had been done to re-establish and maintain the integrity of the first dozen or so steps. Not that it made the task of ascending any easier!
Up, up and out of the gorge, we would take in the views similar what we had seen earlier, before continuing through Higher Pitts Farm.
We would then follow the West Mendip Way back to Priddy, via Pelting Drove and an inevitable pub stop at the Queen Victoria Inn. Along the way, we noticed several of natures attempts to claim ownership and possession of man’s efforts to divide the landscape.
A good walk and one where a number of people wore coats of a mid-layer for much of the day. When was the last time you saw that happen in the UK this summer?!