Nick and Alfie joined me at Weston-Super-Mare for three days. We didn't stop long there – it is a popular seaside resort with a large pier, recently restored after a massive fire in 2008.
|Julie on Burrow Mump|
We went to the Somerset Levels to where the worst of last winter's west country flooding had been. At Burrowbridge we walked up Burrow Mump, a small hill with the remains of a Saxon church on top which now shelters sheep from the weather. Nine months ago the Mump stood like an island, totally surrounded by water, but today it looks green and peaceful. The only evidence of the floods was a team of workmen dredging the River Parrett.
An american woman called Julie walked up the hill with us; she had a backpack and had walked from Glastonbury. That's a good walk isn't it? I said. She smiled, and shrugged. (I looked it up, it's 10m.) Where did you start your walk? Gt Yarmouth! Crikey, how far can that be? She shrugged again, (it's more than 200m) and said she didn't count miles, but was heading for Land's End.
We bought Scrumpy from a lady called Jeanette at West Lynn. She offered dry, and medium, and Nick said he liked dry cider. “It's pretty dry!” she warned, and gave us samples of both to try. The dry felt like it would rip the enamel off your teeth, so we went for the medium - which was still pretty dry. Nick pronounced it excellent, and I had mine 50:50 with apple juice!
|Alf having an ice-cream|
We visited Dunster Castle, run by the National Trust now but the family home of the Luttrell family. It's Saxon, but greatly refurbished, mostly in the 19thC, and definitely worth a visit. Alfie had his tea, a walk in the park and an icecream – we were having a lovely day out. Then to Minehead – Nick thought Butlins looked a bit like Lord's Cricket Ground - and to refuel. I stopped to take a photograph across the bay and we set off for a campsite near Lynton. Baa spluttered a bit.. “You did put in diesel, didn't you?” No, he had not!
I stopped there and then in Park Road, opposite the optician and two funeral parlours, and rang the AA. We sat for nearly 3 hours, getting angry looks from passing motorists, and quizzical looks from pedestrians - particularly when I started cooking lamb chops for supper. The recovery truck arrived, on cue at 9.05pm.
Jason, a huge man with metal hanging all round his ear like a gaoler's keyring, was a real gem. He took such care hauling Baa onto his low loader, knowing she has vulnerable pipes and taps underneath, and Nick, Alf and I got into the cab. Jason's powerful Mercedes engine had no trouble climbing Porlock Hill, as he regaled us with tales of how many caravans he had rescued from each bend. “People set off up here, not realising how steep and long it is, and then they slither backwards, jack-knife, burn their clutches out..”
|Bar getting on the recovery vehicle|
(Be warned campers, Porlock Hill climbs 1,300ft in two miles.)
When we got up to the top, the full moon shone over Exmoor and we could see sheep and ponies grazing, and the play area where Jason and his wife liked to bring the grand-children. Bar was safe (unscarred by the overhanging trees) and all lit up behind us! We got to the campsite at 11pm and Jason rolled Baa carefully onto her pitch to await the AA the following day. Thank you Jason.