Ride 45 (walk and lead): the Bells of Mells, the Din of the Quarries

Monday, 20th July, Faulkland to Downhead, 

Our journey today has been almost entirely dominated by the background hum of quarry workings.  I can hear the church bells ring as we approach the village of Mells.

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Here we stop for an espresso by the stream from the cafe next to the village shop, before walking towards the quarries and brick works.

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The sound of the industrial machinery and metal buckets gets loader as we get closer to the works, drowning out all other sounds.  I can’t hear any birdsong, but I can track the lorries and the tractors as they thunder their way along the road beside the bridlepath, a thin hedge masking them from view.  Then a bend in the track and suddenly the entire quarry works comes into view.  This is Whatley Quarry.  It is a limestone quarry, so vast, I try taking a panoramic shot of it.

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Behind the quarry, is this farm which has been separated from the works by the bank that we are walking on.  Farm one side,

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quarry works the other side.

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The track skirts around the edge of the quarry and drops down to the farm where we follow the dairy herd along the track

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and I have to find a way of getting through this barbed wire fence which the farmer has put across the bridleway.

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Having struggled to do this whilst holding onto Tommy and somehow managed to put it back, we walk around the corner to discover we could have walked through the gate if we had gone through the field.

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Avoiding the heavy quarry traffic, we divert our route and head towards Chantry where I plan to pick up the bridleway that skirts around Asham Quarry, now disused with a brickworks in its place.  We come across a restricted byway that has this sign on it which looks hopeful.  (Above, see the horse on it?)  Perhaps we might be able to take a short cut through the top of Asham woods to our destination.

Only having picked our way through the muddy tracks gouged out by motor bikes into deep, water-filled ruts, are we thwarted at the last moment, our path out of the woods blocked by a kissing gate.

Reluctant to retrace our steps through the mire, I decide to continue on through the woods to try and find another way out, startling a deer in the process as he breaks through the undergrowth.  As we pick our way along the track through the trees, Tommy is quite happy to browse, taking some bark off this tree and has his ration of mud food from the boggy ground.

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Often feeling disoriented, thanks to the GPS on my phone, we eventually come out of the woods at this quarry, an alien landscape in which we wander around yet again trying to locate the bridlepath that leads to Downhead, our destination.

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A couple of hi-vis men in a hi-vis Land Rover find us wandering about lost and set us on the right path.  Arriving at last at Divorky Riding School, Pat and Martin soon make Tommy and I feel very welcome.  They have recently been given the all clear to run Divorky as an RDA centre.  They already have a lot of experience in working with disabled and disadvantaged individuals.  Such valuable work going on here.  This couple have also been very helpful to me, helping me find my next accommodation.  After supper, Pat shows me around the yard and introduces me to her beautiful Andalusian mare.

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Tommy and I are staying 2 nights here and the next evening, Tabi drives up from Shaftesbury where she is doing some locum veterinary work, and we manage to snatch a brief couple of hours of catch-up goss in the local pub.  She has brought me some more Compeed plasters for my feet and sun block for Tommy.  Bless her.

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