Day 66 – Nettlecombe to Merridge

Neither of us slept well on our slopey woodland pitch last night. I kept sliding down my slippy mat in my slippy sleeping bag and what the fuck is it with technical sleeping gear that it always has to be so bloody slippy? Here’s a group of people that’ll throw a tent or tarp up any old place, let’s make all their gear totally frictionless because it’ll be totes hilar when they end up crumpled at the bottom of a slope encased in £300 worth of down.

Tarrant making some friends whilst I take photos from a distance because horses are massive.

Fortunately sweaty flesh adheres nicely to a Thermarest so once I opened my sleeping bag up like a quilt and ditched the liner I managed to get a bit of sleep. Until the wind picked up and I got to lie awake for hours worrying that a tree would fall on us. Maybe we should avoid the woods in future.

Seriously, Somerset. We need to have a chat about your footpaths. This stile is meant to be a public right of way but it’s almost impassable.

So of course the path to Nettlecombe is lined with fucking nettles. Paths around these parts seem to be a bit overgrown, stiles in particular haven’t been shown any love in a long time and it was quite slow going. I feel like a machete would be an appropriate hiking accessory when tackling those Somerset trails. Something else which wasn’t helping our progress was the heat. It started off hot this morning and it remained hot all bastard day. It was too hot by 8am and it just got worse. Usually I like the heat but usually I’m not trying to walk a lot of miles in it.

We started about six miles from the village of Bicknoller which has a shop that doesn’t have a huge amount of stock but it does have cold drinks and right now that’s all we wanted. There’s also a pub that opened at midday. We rocked up to the village at just gone 11am and decided to wait for the pub to open, partially because it was too fucking hot to walk, partially because it would be our best opportunity today to not have to shit in a hole. God I miss the abundance of public toilets on the South West Coast Path.

The shop at Bicknoller. There was a sign up inside it asking for people to work there as volunteers which is one way to try and keep a local shop open.

There’s also a conveniently placed shady bench outside the shop where we sat and applied a tasty cold beverage to our faceholes. Then we went to the pub for another cold drink and to desecrate their loos, then back to the shady bench for lunch and naps. We decided to not to leave until at least 2pm so we could try and avoid boiling our brains in our skulls in the hottest part of the day.

Of course it’s a climb out of Bicknoller up into the absolutely stunning Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We hopped from shady spot to shady spot, trying to hydrate but also still have water to last us the day, until we ran out of shade and just had to walk in the searing heat, trying to balance our speed so we could make good progress without exhausting ourselves. Fuck me, it was a plod with zero escape from the sun. We relished every small breeze that swept our way, taking our hats off so the wind would cool our sweaty heads.

It’s always a privilege to see a deer, especially when they’re not running away as fast as they can in sheer panic.

Fortunately we are massive nerds so we could break our plod up with the two trigpoints slap bang on the route we were taking. Black Hill was first, we didn’t hang around, we just logged it photographed it, and off we fucked. It wasn’t long after that when we found a spectacular chunk of shade and oh fuck yes! I’m so gonna lie in it. I was really, really struggling. I had a sore throat come on yesterday and today I started getting cold and flu symptoms. Obviously the heat wasn’t helping. I got a cheeky little fifteen minute nap in and I was ready for anything again! Assuming by “anything” you mean a nice, long sleep.

This sheep looks like someone brushed it.

By the time we got to Bagborough trigpoint I was too fucked to think. We sat by it and rested for a minute. We had some woodland walking after that which was such a welcome reprieve, I don’t think I could have done much more walking in the sun. Tarrant suggested that we stop and eat around six-ish but my appetite had gone again. This had been happening a lot recently. I just wanted to find somewhere to put the tent for the night and sleep.

We left the woods and the trails went to complete and utter shit again. Aren’t there rules about maintaining public right of ways? I get that just because there’s a PROW on a map it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a defined trail, but doesn’t it at least have to be passable? One signpost directed us through a field of tits high grass. Great. We pushed our way through the tick haven and just hoped it led somewhere useful.

Behold! A rare example of a shady section.

It led to a field of crops so we picked our way down the edge, trying really hard not to step on anything, before we got to what used to be a stile but was now just a fence with a Public Footpath arrow nailed to it. Great. Another fence we came to which was also a PROW was so overgrown on the other side with every stabby stingy thing known to the UK that Tarrant had to spend a bit of time beating it down with a hiking pole before we could even get over it.

Here’s a filler photo of a small bird because I have nothing else to put in this gap.

I was so utterly knackered by this point, and so demoralised. This was really hard work, this wasn’t fun at all. Do Somerset people not get out and enjoy the countryside? Is this why the trails have been allowed to go to shit? We trekked through a farm and onto fields full of the long grass, but down in one corner was a bare, flat section. That would fucking do. I don’t even care that the pegs wouldn’t go in, I was feeling so very rough. Obviously I convinced myself I had Lymes Disease but it’s probably just a cold. I forced down some noodles and crashed straight out. I’d see how I felt in the morning.

STATS
Day: 66
Day on LEJOG: 25
Distance walked today: 14.8 miles
Total walked so far: 861.35 miles
Weather: Hot from the outset, unbearably hot all day
Coldest temp last night: 18.69°C inside / outside not recorded
Trigs bagged: 2
Trigs to date: 47
“Have you read ‘The Salt Path?'” (Running Total): 9
Tick tally: Tarrant 2 ; Claire 4

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”



Nettlecombe, Somerset to Merridge, Somerset, England

Stayed at: Wild camp in the corner of a field

Useful shit to know…

  • The only amenities along this route are in Bicknoller. There’s no public toilet but check the pub opening times. They close between 2pm and 6pm but that seems to be the norm around here.

BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing)
Cold drink from Bicknoller Shop: £1.90
Cokes at pub: £2.50
Grand Total: £4.40

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