We have spent a couple of our last two big walking days in an area I had never before heard of.
The Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
(The AONB designation is the British equivalent of protected natural area.)
When you head south from Bristol you will soon hit the Mendip Hills, which are actually gorgeous.
Our first Mendip Hills walk was out of a little village called Blagdon.
It was supposed to be a fairly clear day, but of course it rained.
We crossed through lots of kissing gates and climbed over many stiles as this walk criss-crossed over farmland and pastures.
Every once in a while the mist would clear a bit and we could see the view from the hills down into the valley.
As I walk lately I have been repeating a prayer for peace that we have heard in church and at Trinity College.
When I get a bit behind Simon and Taido, as I usually do, I find myself quickly in a solo meditative march.
I often wonder at how I am taking quiet, peaceful steps in a world that often seems anything but quiet and peaceful.
The afternoon brought a few peeks of blue sky through the clouds.
Then the darker clouds rolled back in and we were in the rain again for a while.
I was grateful I had chosen to walk in wellies on this day as the mud was intense.
Even if I am a bit slower in the big muck boots, I appreciate not having to avoid the mud and puddles.
We circled back to Blagdon after 3-4 hours, a bit damp and a lot muddy. We were all ready for clean, dry clothes, some lunch and a nap.
I grabbed a new novel out of this tiny telephone booth library to curl up with for the rest of the day.
Our next outing to the Mendip Hills was to a place called Cheddar Gorge.
We’ve been hearing about Cheddar Gorge since we moved to Bristol. Whenever we mention that we enjoy hillwalking, folks recommend that we do this walk.
From the town of Cheddar (where the cheese comes from!), we climbed up the south side of the steep limestone gorge. The longest drop down is around 450 feet. There are caves that can be accessed from the road that runs through the gorge.
You can see the village of Cheddar below for a long time as you climb. We had a beautiful clear day so the village stayed in sight the whole time we climbed.
We looped down to the road and then over to the opposite side of the gorge.
The north side of Cheddar Gorge is much more quiet. We only passed one or two hikers on this side.
We found a large grassy area in the sun where we had our picnic lunch.
This section of the trail crosses pastures and joins up with the Mendip Way, a walk of 50 miles through the Mendip Hills.
When we got to the edge of the steep part of the northern side of the gorge, we could look across to where we had been standing on the other side when we first started walking.
After wandering a bit around the tops of the cliffs, we began our long descent back down to the village.
It was very steep through this forest on the way down. I had brought trekking poles and I was very grateful for them.
Taido and Simon stayed way ahead of me, easily winding their way down.
And soon enough, we emerged back into the village of Cheddar.
I stopped in one of the shops to pick up a bit of cheese and cider, specialties of the area.
If you walk the Mendip Way, you go right through Cheddar, so I took a few notes about where I’d like to come back and stay.
The village was getting busy as we drove away. I think it’s probably a popular weekend spot, and well-deservedly so. We’ll be back for sure!
PS. We used Outdoor Active to download maps for these hikes. If you go, you can find the Blagdon Loop here and the Cheddar Gorge Loop here.