Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day 11 : Taunton to Glastonbury

Thursday 25th January 2007

Distance Walked: 29 miles
Start Time: 8:02
End Time: 19:11
Elapsed Time: 11:09
Weather: Cold, bright and sunny.
Distance walked so far: 251.2 miles

The Bridgwater and Taunton canal is particularly well named as those are the two towns that it connects. Today’s route follows the canal for the first few miles as it winds out of the suburbs of Taunton, between the industrial units and modern housing estates. The canal has a slightly different feel to it than the Grand Western. This is a working waterway. There’s more life here, both on and off the water and, whilst the wildlife is always a pleasure, it feels less magical and remote than the inactive stretch yesterday.

It should be pleasant and easy, but I just feel knackered before I even start. My feet are still aching after yesterday’s mileage and every step is a pain. As I leave the canal, and branch off to join the path along the River Tone my mood gets darker. Every day there’s a different injury, slowing me down. Today it’s my battered, flattened feet and my right shin which is now horribly swollen.

The river path isn’t helping. The whole area sits on reclaimed flood plains, with a grid system of water channels feeding out from the main course of the river, which means that a steady walking rhythm is impossible as every few metres there’s yet another stile or gate to flop over. Combined with the soft ground underfoot, and clinging mud, the effect is exhausting.

I trudge on, wallowing in my own misery, until I encounter a couple coming the other way.

“We have to ask”, they say, as one. “Where are you going with a bag like that?”
“Scotland”, I say.
“Oh, really? We’ve done that”

This is a first. People who have actually been through this themselves, and wish they were doing it again. I try to force a spring into my step and to remind myself how lucky I am, and eat my sandwiches on the top of Burrow Mump in the sunshine. The Mump is a large mound topped with the shell of a perfectly ruined church. The mound rises above the surrounding area of reclaimed swampland and the views on a clear, bright day like this are astonishing. In the far distance is Glastonbury Tor, my destination for the night. It looked a long way.

Maybe the reason that Glastonbury is believed to be a magical place is that it seems to float above the watery surroundings, which means that it must have been very hard to reach in ancient times. These days, for cars, there is the busy and narrow A361, whilst the walker is confronted with the King’s Sedgemoor Drain, a long straight channel which runs for 1.5 miles eastwards, before back lanes head towards Street, Glastonbury’s low class neighbour. It was only when I was half way along they Drain that I looked at the map and noticed that the path was actually on the other side of the water. Ah. This side leads to a dead end. Oh. Shit. I press on, hoping that there’ll be a way to cross the water, or somehow to rescue the situation but, no, I’m screwed. So back I trudge. It doesn’t make sense. There was a stile on this side. Why put a stile on this side if it leads nowhere?

So, having wasted 1.5 miles of walking, by the time I get back to where I started I’m so sick of the sight of the Drain that I opt to complete the day by road and take my chances along the A361.


When the walk started, roads were avoided as much as possible, and when I had no choice but to walk on them it was with great hesitancy, an apologetic figure cowering from the oncoming traffic. Now I don’t give a flying fuck. The fucking cars can fucking get out of my fucking way. Bastards. I sway out of the way of lorries, but everything else can just fucking slow down and wait till they can move around me. It kind of works, but I’m dead on my feet by Greinton and, by the time the A361 becomes the even busier A39, it’s dark and I’m too tired to fight the flow.

A wandering detour through Walton is required, and then a slow painful plod through the back streets of Street, a town that seems to exist solely to house the workers of the all-consuming Clark’s factory that is so unavoidable here. By the time I’d made it across the river and up the hill to Glastonbury, my left knee was refusing to bend and all the blood in my feet felt as if it was seeping into my socks.

If I was ever going to quit, it was now. Lying under a blanket on the floor of the B&B, shivering from pain, shock and exhaustion, the idea of doing something a little easier (and more fun) seemed almost inescapably attractive.

Song of the day:

Townes Van Zandt
“Waitin’ around to die”

Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me /
Sometimes I don’t even know the reason why /
Well I guess I keep on gambling /
Lots of booze and lots of rambling /
Well it’s easier than just waiting around to die


Walter Witherton said...

David – ROAR! - Praise be to you & your big hairy feet, for your influence doth move in mysterious ways. Because of you & your worthy pilgrimage to see your fellow disciple John O'Groats, our little group has another new member (Hallelujah to the good Lord above!). Bunty, by the way, is a very lovely lady in her early 50’s who has taken quite a shine to you and your rugged outdoorsy charms – forgive me for asking but are you single? We are all hoping to meet up with you soon, to lift your spirits with chant & verse. Today’s Hymn - Ring the Bells of Heaven.

DaveG said...

Walter, I cherish these moments we have together. Please, don't ever change.