Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Valley of the Rocks

Egypt has the Valley of the Kings - Devon has the Valley of the Rocks...

Lynton is buried deep on the Devon coast and although in miles it isn't that far, it takes an age to get to whichever way you go. The village is quaint with loads of tea and gift shops and a hand made candlemaker. You really don't want to know how much I managed to spend in there!

One unscheduled return trip to the car to drop off armfuls of candles and we were at last ready to set out for the valley.

Lynton ( at the top of the cliff) is connected to Lynmouth ( at the bottom of the cliff ) by a Victorian water powered lift. It would be a steep climb otherwise.

Today our path took us midway between the two on the South West coast path. Health and Safety be damned. The path wends its way along the edge of the cliff with steep drops down and not a safety rail in sight. There are a few conveniently situated benches along it - just right to sit and eat a warm pasty ( I almost said Cornish pasty then!).  There were gulls and choughs circling below us and fabulous views of the Welsh coast merging into the mist - almost a mythical landscape.

 It's a pleasant easy walk along the path and the first rock formation was "Ragged Jack". A group of Druids dancing and making merry on the sabbath were turned to stone by the devil!

This is Castle rock - easy to see how it got its name. No prizes for guessing what came next - yes a trek to the top. A trek? Well more of a scramble really in places but it was well worth it.

Fabulous views from the top. The loose rocks on top of the mound are stacked and fallen at amazing angles.

Some of them look quite unstable and others show the effects of their falls and weathering. This one was split neatly in two as if hit with a giant axe.

Opposite the Castle is the Devil's Cheese Ring ( he was obviously busy in the Lyn valley!). This is said to be the site of the cave of Mother Meldrum in R D Blackmore's famous novel Lorna Doone.

 There is however no sign of a cave now other than a few stacked boulders - yes we did climb up to it to check!

And here is Mother Meldrum herself - the White Lady. She forms part of the Castle rock and is helpfully signed from the path so you don't miss her.

We decided to continue along the coastal path for a while, past Lee Abbey and spent a few minutes walking on the beach before heading back up on to the cliffs and circling back. This was hard work. Every time we gained some height it was promptly lost on the next down hill section only for the path to go back up again almost immediately....

Once we got past the Valley of the Rocks it became very quiet and we didn't see any other walkers at all - other than these locals who didn't seem too pleased to see us and couldn't get away fast enough!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Well Well Well(s)

Despite living so close to Wells it's a city I've never really visited other than to visit the bank in the High St and occasionally do a bit of shopping.

The first surprise was that a large supermarket was being built on the car park I usually use and  how much it was now going to cost me to park for the morning. Oh well.

I joined a group for the City tour

First though we had the pleasure of the local Town Crier drumming up some business for the market.

I don't think the Poet Laureate need worry - nor Pam Ayres!

Wells is Somerset's only city and either Britain's smallest or second smallest depending on what definition you want to use. Settlement dates back to at least the Roman times and very likely a lot earlier.

 Wells is of course famous for the Cathedral. Parts of the building date back to the tenth century and the west front is claimed to be  the finest collection of statuary in Europe. Although there are some modern ones, nearly   300 of its original medieval statues remain.

The statues and carvings tell various biblical stories. Just as a sample here is Eve tempting Adam with an apple - complete with the serpent curling above their heads.

Tucked around the side is the second oldest working clock in the UK ( the oldest is on Salisbury Cathedral). Whether you can rightfully claim this for a clock with a Victorian mechanism and a replacement central dial seems to me rather a stretch but there you go.

The original mechanism is safely in the Science Museum in London after having a narrow escape from the scrap metal merchant.

Despite the grandeur of the Cathedral I think this was my favourite part . Vicar's Close. A wonderful cobbled street lined with Grade 1 listed houses.

It claims to be the oldest residential street, dating from 14CE. Originally 44 houses, there are now 27, a change which resulted from the reformation and the permission for clergy to marry.

and finally I had to include, of course, a holey stone.

This is a hoker or oath stone through which farmers would shake hands to clinch a deal. Obviously at some time it has also done duty as a gate post.

It's also been moved - it was originally sited on Tor Hill but apart from that there seems to be little information on it.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Llantwit Major Beach

The recent bank holiday weekend was a chance to go back "home" and of course to visit the beach.

I love this beach. Many of my childhood holidays were spent here, often in driving rain and indulging in the hated activity of "winkle picking" for my grandfather who loved this delicacy...

More to my taste was fossil hunting in the boulders on the shore. The cliffs themselves are dangerously unstable and although full of tempting caves I was forbidden to go anywhere near them.

Llantwit Major beach is world famous for its limestone pavements.

The pavement is deeply scored by the tide  and the water collects in the depressions. Home to many sea creatures such as the aforementioned winkles.

Although mostly rocky, there are a few patches of sand, especially on the lower reaches of the beach.

This is the home of the Honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata) .  A strange worm that builds a tube home out of mucus and sand particles. Being gregarious in nature these build up into fragile reefs which are easily crushed underfoot.

However the Honeycomb worm doesn't have the sand to itself. The occasional visitor had been seen to paddle across from Somerset in a coracle.

Rather him than me - it was bitingly cold!
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