The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
High Times on the Levels
The early May Bank Holiday saw the group heading over to the Somerset Levels for a long weekend staying in the Swiss-style chalet of Street YH. It was a fairly stiff drive for a Friday night, but well worth the effort. Surprisingly, for a UK bank holiday, it was sunny and warm – barring the odd shower.
Saturday morning dawned bright enough, but the first half hour of our walk was the only time we needed our waterproofs all weekend. Street itself is on the edge of a ridge called the Polden Hills, and this was the target for our walk. Our first hill, the splendidly-named Lollover Hill, gave splendid views of the walk ahead and all the way over to the Tor, where we would be going tomorrow. Our lunch was atop Dudon Hill, a nature reserve full of violets, cowslips and some little furry cows who took a great interest in our picnic. The third hill was crowned by the Hood Monument, commemorating the Admiral who trained the likes of Nelson. From here we walked along the ridge, passing the site where the Large Blue Butterfly was re-introduced, having become extinct in the UK in the late 70s. The Large Blue has a ridiculously complicated life cycle including a vegetarian stage surviving on wild thyme, and a carnivorous stage being raised by ants whilst feeding off their larvae. It only spends a scant few days as a luscious blue-winged adult, no wonder it finds life hard.
For our Sunday walk we decided to head for Glastonbury Tor. Street is on a hill and so is Glastonbury – in between are the Levels, so we started with a long walk along peaty drains and field boundaries. Approaching Glastonbury we started to climb Wearyall Hill. In legend this is where Joseph of Arimathea sat down for a bit of a rest and his staff took root, becoming the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury. We stopped for a snack, but not quite long enough for anything to take root. The next stop was the Tor itself: the tower is all that remains of the church of St Michael and was the perfect place for second lunch, which tided us over until we got to the ice cream van at the bottom of the hill, which in turn was a mere appetiser for a teashop in the town. Thus weighed down, many of the gang resorted to a bus home, but a few stalwarts soldiered on and walked the last couple of miles back to Street.
Apart from the wonderful youth hostel, Street is also the home of the former Clarks shoe factory, now a retail outlet park. Ali finished Sunday’s walk with a half-hour of shopping time left to go, so invested in a little retail therapy. The results proved contagious and several people indulged in a little shoe shopping before the return home on bank holiday Monday. The rest of us set off for another gorgeous walk, taking in the Iron-Age hill fort of Cadbury Castle and two extremely nice pubs. It was a fitting end to a fabulous weekend.
Thanks go to John & Judi for inviting us to join their Ruby Wedding celebrations up in Glossop. The bunk house that Judi booked for us was perfect: just off the Pennine Way and a tea room to boot! We spent Saturday climbing up to the moors and the aptly-named Bleaklow. It was a chilly day with a brisk wind: having packed on the summery Friday morning I was woefully ill-equipped for gloves and hat. Just when we got to the moorland plateau, when navigation is at its most challenging, there was a mighty blizzard. Visibility dropped to virtually nothing and dodging between peat-hags made maintaining direction very difficult. We were searching for the summit of Higher Shelf Stones and as the snow cleared we made our way to where we thought the summit might be. As we approached we pretty much stumbled upon the remains of a crashed plane from 1948. After experiencing the blizzard, it was easy to imagine how the airmen might never have seen the ground they crashed into. It was a sobering memorial. After the snow, the sun came out and we ate our sandwiches in front of a magnificent view over Glossop.
Sunday morning was also sunny and we had enough time to pack in a walk around the reservoir before donning our finery and joining the Ruby celebrations. Judi had organised a list of bizarre questions for us to ask our fellow party-goers as an ice breaker: ‘Have you ever met a member of the Royal family?’, ‘Can you kiss your toes?’, ‘Have you ever broken a bone?’. There followed speeches, food, dancing and a wonderful slideshow of the last 40 year’s adventures. I only hope in 20 years time, Dave and I have as much to celebrate.
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