To give you the background of the story I need to explain that to get to Cheddar (cheese and Gorge) from here, our little village by the sea, we take what is laughingly designated an A road, the A371. We go through the picturesque villages of Hutton, Banwell and Winscombe. Hutton and Banwell are typical Somerset villages, delightful cottages and other old buildings along the winding high streets, and modern housing set back on either side. This A road leads from the 70,000+ population town of Weston-super-Mare, to the major A38 so a lot of heavy traffic including buses, lorries, low-loaders, tankers etc travel this route. You can imagine the tail backs and congestion caused when two of these monsters meet head to head. The real trouble spot is Banwell, which has extremely narrow streets and a junction in the middle which causes all sorts of confrontations and major tailbacks with unsuitable traffic trying to negotiate the turn.
However… enough of that… Recently we have had to go from our village to Winscombe, one of the villages on the A371. We’ve had to go at rush hour, so, being local, we take a completely different route which goes down single-track, high-hedged, typically English country roads. It’s a very pleasant ride, and if we meet other vehicles, mostly cars, but occasionally farm machinery, there are plenty of pull-ins and people are usually most polite and pleasant and courteously take it in turns to pull in, or reverse, or squeeze past, trying not to fall into any drainage ditches or bump into any dry-stone walls.
Today, off we set on a pastoral journey; all was well, pleasant day, hedgerows full of fruit, fields full of different crops including orchards laden with red apples for the cider farms. We met other drivers, passed, waved thanks, smiled etc… and suddenly, there in front of us was a pack of fox hounds, out for their daily exercise. We actually met them yesterday; they are surprisingly big, slim, with upright tails, clever eyes, smiling mouths (not very smiley for the foxes they used to chase – the ‘sport’ is now banned, thank goodness) Yesterday one of them had decided he wasn’t interested in going for exercise and we had met him trotting in the opposite direction, obviously heading home to the kennels – his name was old Happy, we learned. There must have been twenty or thirty of them, with two chaps on bikes in charge – one man at the back, one at the front. The men wore long brown coats – like lab coats but brown and gave us cheery waves of thanks as we inched carefully past.
So that was the first country event… on the way home, once again taking country roads to avoid the queues in Banwell, we pulled over into a gateway to let two cars past us, coming from the opposite direction. In the second, the driver wound down his windows and told us there was a herd of cows up ahead. No doubt they were either going from one field to another, or were going to or from their field to the milking parlour. It could take half an hour or more for them to amble along from one place to another. We decided to turn round and take a different route, along even narrower country roads… This time we completed our journey without disruption!
The joys of country life!