Sunday, 1 January 2012

Start as you mean to go on - Black Down

Best way to shake off some lingering malaise from last night is some exercise! As it seemed to have stopped raining for what felt the first time in weeks, a walk seemed a good idea. But where? Weeks of almost constant rain has left everywhere a muddy mess.

Black Down near Burrington Combe seemed the best bet. Not too far away and high enough for the  hope that most of the water may have drained into the cave system of the Mendips.

Yeah. Right. Of course.  The first 100 or so yards was enough to convince me otherwise.  Pools of standing water and paths of pure slippery mud greeted us on the climb up from Burrington Combe on to the Downs.

Still on the positive side, it wasn't raining, it wasn't even particularly cold and although we saw a few other groups of walkers it wasn't busy either!

This is the highest point of the Mendip hills and  right on the summit  at Beacon Batch is a collection of barrows

There are some of them (the grass covered "humps").

All of the barrows have been opened but there is only one recorded excavation which was in 1820. The main group is nine bowl barrows, a bell barrow and a disc barrow

Slightly further away are a further five bowl barrows. Quite a cemetery. 

 Black Down is believed to derive from  the Saxon for "bleak"  and it certainly lives up to that name. Acres of little other than bracken, heather and the occasional tortured hawthorn. Although  the area bears signs of human habitation from the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000+ years ago) it must have been an unforgiving environment.

By now the brief hiatus from the rain was ending and it was time to get back as fast as possible to the car. The mud if anything was getting worse by the minute but we all managed not to land in it but it was a close thing at times. Time then to head for the blazing fire at the New Inn at Priddy to dry out and enjoy a glass of Orchard Pig cider, dangerous stuff at 6.5%!
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