Friday / Saturday, 24th / 25th July, Butleigh Wootton to Pitney, 10 miles
I still can’t get my head around the fact that people around these parts call the Somerset Levels, ‘moors’. To me, moors are those things we crossed in the uplands of England that went decidedly up and down. I know because we felt it. Days of labouring up steep slopes and picking our way gingerly down often precipitous, slippery paths. These moors are very FLAT. No labouring involved at all. Or so I thought.
The day I have chosen to cross my first serious Somerset Level moor, happens to be as desolate as any. The rain that was forecast has arrived and there is no let up.
Tommy keeps wanting to take shelter under every tree we come to, edging his bottom towards the trunk in the hope that it is just a passing shower. I keep telling him that I’m afraid it’s not and that we must soldier on or we shall never reach our destination.
As we venture further out along Middle Drove on Compton Dundon Moor, a long and seemingly endless track, we stop to watch the helicopters from the local RAF base flying overhead. I am thinking, as the puddles get bigger, deeper and wider, at what point will we need to start swimming? And would the helicopters spot us and come to our rescue? It is no surprise, we do not see another person out on the moor today, just some very curious cattle, the odd horse in a flat field, and some swans in the ditch.
Crossing over to Walton Drove on Somerton Moor, the going gets rougher, the rain having reduced the top layer of mud to slime and we slip and slide our way along the boggy, undulating, overgrown track which makes leading a horse a bit of a perilous operation. This drove also seems to go on forever.
Somewhat relieved to find our way off the moor, eventually, we head towards Pitney and Amy’s stables. We overshoot it at first as Amy has been delayed by a road closure where someone has skidding off the wet road.
Tommy is happy for the shelter of a dry stable and before getting into Amy’s clean car, I apologise for being soaking wet, and muddy, but she insists. She is a dear girl who kindly helps me back into a dry, clean state which includes stuffing my boots with newspaper to soak up the wet.
As we can’t get to our next destination before Sunday, Amy has kindly agreed to have us for an extra day, and we make a visit to meet some of her friends, the delightful Maltby family whose now, grown up sons, were taught to ride by Amy. She has arranged this meeting in response to my request for possible ways of getting to our next destination in Stathe without having to go through the town of Langport, even though lorries are restricted from going through the town.
Leaving Tommy, who is happy to forego serious grazing time in favour of a good grooming session with Amy’s mare, Missy, Amy and I head over to the village of Aller. Amy’s brilliant suggestion that I wrap my feet in plastic bags to avoid getting my socks wet inside my still wet boots, my only shoes, causes mirth all round.
The Maltbys are farmers who own part of the Aller Moor and Emma not only offers to walk with us across Aller Moor the following day through gates that are normally locked (because of abusive behaviour by motor cyclists and official regulations to protect sluices), thus avoiding the town route, but also offers plenty of suggestions for possible pit stops for us. This has been a heartwarming meeting. I am delighted by the prospect of an accompanied moorland walk. I warn her that more rain is forecast but that doesn’t put her off.