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Day 1: Home to Petrockstow via Cheddar Gorge

I had planned to take a week of work in June for a while, but planning an actual holiday to take has been complicated. Firstly, by the fact that I've handed in my notice at work, so for a while it wasn't clear if/when I was going to be able to take off all my holiday. Secondly, by the fact that our trusted cat sitter is also on holiday this week. In the end we decided that the best solution would be to go away for two short breaks of three nights each, that being the longest we can leave the furry members of the family unattended, and make a trip home in the middle to top up the water and cat feeders :) Having spent all our holidays since Covid so far driving north to Northumberland and Scotland, this time we decided to try something different and explore another part of the UK.  And so, a couple of weeks ago, Tim booked a place for us to stay for a few nights in Devon.

As soon as we started driving south, we got reminded why we normally prefer driving north :D So many people everywhere! We struggled to even get out of Nuneaton due to road works, then got caught up in a lot of slow-moving traffic as we navigated the M42 around Birmingham. Things picked up for a bit once we made it to the M5, but before long we encountered an ominous warning sign, informing us that there was a delay of 30 minutes between junctions 14 and 20. There did indeed turn out to be quite a delay as we made our way very, very slowly around Bristol.

We were actually planning to leave the motorway slightly after Bristol for a detour to Cheddar Gorge. When researching earlier in the week, I thought this looked like a nice place to break the journey and I'd calculated that if we left home around 10.30, we ought to be there by 13.00. We did actually manage to leave home shortly before 10.30, but with all the delays on the roads it was around 14.30 by the time we were finally driving through the small village of Cheddar.

Cheddar looked... busy! The car parks in the village itself all looked full and for a moment I thought we might have a repeat of our experience in Scotland last week where we'd driven a long way to get somewhere, then found that it was impossible to park. But there are a lot of parking spaces along the gorge itself, so in the end we found somewhere without too much difficulty. We had to pay £5 to park; rather frustratingly, the car park machines only take coins, but luckily it was possible to pay via an app as well.

Cheddar Gorge is a bit unusual, in that the south side is owned by the Longleat estate and is quite heavily commercialised, with all sorts of paid attractions. You can pay to climb some steps to the top of the gorge on that side, for example, and in normal times there are also caves that you can pay to go into, although I think those are closed at the moment because of Covid. The north side of the gorge, however, is owned by the National Trust and it's perfectly possible to walk around it without buying any expensive tickets.

My plan was to follow this walk from the National Trust website, which started from the National Trust information centre. The centre seemed to have closed down, but we found the right place anyway and set off up a small lane. This quickly turned into a grassy path, leading quite steeply uphill.


The National Trust instructions were full of warnings about how the path could be muddy in places. We were lucky today in that it was very dry, but I can imagine parts like this are a nightmare when it's been raining.


In parts the path was also very rocky.


In the excitement of actually arriving somewhere and being able to get out of the car, we'd forgotten to put our boots on so we were going up in trainers. Wouldn't really recommend :D 


In some places the uphill climb was made easier by steps.


It was still pretty steep though!


Eventually we climbed out of the wood and passed through a gate, from where we had a nice view down to the (very flat) countryside below.


The path led alongside a wall for a while...


...from where we got our first glimpse of the gorge.


There was still a bit more uphill to go...


...but the views were definitely compensating for the climb now.


At one point we could even see down to the sea.


The path levelled off for a while and we enjoyed the views of the gorge.


Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England.


It's definitely a very popular tourist destination and we did encounter far more other walkers than we've done on any of the walks we've done in Northumberland.


Although it looks quite cloudy in the pictures, it was actually really bright so I struggled to keep my eyes open for a photo :D 


The path ultimately led along the length of the gorge and then downhill.


The downhill was a bit gentler than our route uphill had been, which was good. Before too long we were down at the main road which runs through the gorge.


The National Trust walk instructions required us to cross the road and climb up the opposite side of the gorge. We had a look at it, but the path looked even steeper and more uneven than the way we had come, so we decided to give it a miss, Instead, we started walking back to the car along the side of the road.


There were actually some really good views of the gorge from the road.


A lot of the time there was a bit of a path by the side of the road as well, so you could stay away from the cars.


We passed several groups of people who were climbing the rocks.


Before too long we'd made it back to where we parked the car.


We still had around 90 miles to drive before we got to our final destination of Petrockstow. Fortunately, the traffic was nowhere near as bad now that we were past Bristol :) We arrived some time before 7pm and checked in.  This is rather unusual accommodation for us - we're staying in a log cabin!


It's absolutely beautiful inside, with a living room...




...and bedroom.


The only catch is that there's no WiFi! But it seems like I've got (just about) enough of a phone signal to use my mobile data allowance to post the blog :) 

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