Somerset Levels: Creech St. Michael

Sunday 13th March 2022

This would be my final walk before my trip to Snowdonia – which I look forward to start writing about soon. There would be no mountains on this outing, as I drove down to the Somerset Levels, just outside of Taunton. Another route taken from the Walk West series of eBooks.

I’ve driven in to the village of Creech St. Michael – a place I was unfamiliar with and yet not a million miles from villages like Burrowbridge and Stoke St. Gregory, where I have walked in the past.

There’s a free car park, with a warning sign that the gates is locked over night. I thought I’d arrived early at 8:50am… But I just nabbed the very last space available! A popular spot for fishermen, it seems.

Crossing a footbridge, I immediately joined the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, heading north-east towards Bridgwater. I was also at the tail-end of the Somerset Space Walk. One I’ve not explored. Along the way, you can discover scaled replicas of the objects in our solar system, starting with the sun (sorry, Pluto).

I followed the towpath towards Charlton, soon passing the former engine house (now a private home) and a pillbox, before leaving the canal to join the East Deane Way.

Crossing the railway bridge, my fears grew that the way ahead could be flooded. These Somerset Levels are notorious for flooding in the winter months. Rural villages have had to be evacuated in recent years.

I soon met the River Tone, which I was also familiar with from my Burrowbridge walks. Fortunately, the flooding wasn’t too severe. I was able to follow my intended footpaths. I could even see a man in wellies with his dog, happy to splash his way along the other side of the river.

I’d follow this river as far as New Road and barely one mile west of Stoke St. Gregory. Not that I was aware of this at the time.

In his route description, Geoff Mullet speaks of being unable to follow the right of way to the right of the last house before the road. So, I followed these vehicle tracks, down from the bank and keeping to the left of the property…

But Geoff’s words were written some years ago now and the riverside path is no longer obstructed. A new kissing gate has even been fitted.

I crossed the road with caution and beside a large sluice gate. My walk alongside the river continued a bit further, following its southern bank.

But only as far as the next path junction, where I’d follow the East Deane Way to the wooded hilltop of Moredon. Geoff warns that these fields can be waterlogged… But they were absolutely fine for me.

One steep climb and I was soon following a road. A bit further on and I’d be veering off towards a church, with the opportunity of finding a bench to sit down.

This church at North Curry is not unlike the one at nearby Stoke St. Gregory. Although I prefer this elevated hilltop vantage.

After a few snacks and a cup of tea, I would resume my walk from North Curry, walking north along Moor Lane.

I left the road at a set of steps and made my way up to find the first in a series of V-shaped stiles. This pocket of Somerset can be notorious for them! Although I was pleased to find they’re in a far better state than some others around Woodhill and Stathe, to the east.

Several fields later and I was on the quiet roads of a place called Knapp. I’m pretty sure that ‘Knapp’ is an old word for hill.

I took this photo of the farmyard above, as I quite liked the look of the arch in the distance. What I couldn’t see was the owner stood beneath it, looking back at me…

I was on the public footpath and clearly following the waymarked route of the yellow arrow. But before I would reach the piles of gravel above, I heard a quad bike approaching from the turning to the right. I decided to wait and let them pass, so that there was no surprise and the risk of one of us meeting the other…

But he had driven out with intention. To confront me and ask whether I had spotted ‘anything of particular interest’ when I had taken that photo of his yard.

He wasn’t aggressive or insulting. Quite inquisitive and concerned. He went on to explain that they have trouble with “thieves” (not the term he used) stealing their machinery. I completely understand. Even though I was clearly kitted out for a walk (backpack, map in hand, etc.). Perhaps it was the woolly hat and dirty beard that further aroused his suspicion. Travelling alone.

I almost offered to give him my name and address. But he seemed content enough to know that I was a blogger and then reassured me that the footpath continues down the hill and to the river again. But in almost ten full years of walking… This was the first time I’d ever been challenged and confronted for taking a photograph. I was just shocked. I will usually avoid taking a photo if a person is in the frame or close by. Had I seen him from beneath that shadow of the arch, I might’ve reconsidered.

Without hesitation, I made my way down the hill. But without paying close attention to the map, I soon found myself at a dead-end; having accidentally bypassed an opening at which I should’ve crossed through and in to the next field.

I found a way across the wide stream and on to the River Tone, with the farm on top of that hill now far behind me. Again, I hold nothing against the farmer of landowner. My reaction was to feel quite unsettled after the experience. It was different to being told that you’re not on a footpath or wandering across private land, regardless of who’s right or wrong.

A rather grand suspension bridge leads to an isolated property across the river here, in Ham.

Clearly a private crossing point and they even had a CCTV camera pointing down from above! I didn’t dare take too many photos. Just in case.

I followed a public footbridge over the River Tone for the final time. Followed its muddy north bank back in to Creech St. Michael and then, walked the same roads I had driven along to get back to my car… Where a less-patient driver decided to hover and wait for me to leave… Their engine running, while I changed my boots and unpacked my gear… They were desperate for my parking space. I’d have gone elsewhere! I had hoped to spend a few minutes sipping the rest of my tea but felt the pressure to get on with the drive home.

A surprisingly good walk in all and non-too-challenging. I’m not sure if or when I may repeat this one. I don’t feel deterred by the farmyard experience. Maybe he’d even recognise me another time! My biggest concern by far is that car park. How it was full before 9am on a Sunday and how the same vans were parked there, hours later.

Length of this walk = 8.5 miles

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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