Ride 50: (walk and lead) Thatching Straw and Willow Baskets

Monday / Tuesday, 27/28th July, Stathe to Stoke St Gregory, 3 miles image

Tommy has spent the night with these delightful sheep which we pass again going down the drive on our way out.  Will and Di have had a busy weekend hosting a wedding so I am keen to get going so they can enjoy time with their grandchildren.   A visitor staying in one of their cottages tells me that seeing Tommy was a surprise since there had not been any horses in the stables when they arrived but were delighted to discover a unicorn had miraculously appeared in one of them overnight.  Here is said unicorn looking down towards one of the drove roads leading onto the moor.

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Just 3 miles from Stathe, an hour since we set off, we are greeted by Ann who has come out on her bike to meet us which is just as well as I am sure I would have walked straight past the entrance to her house in Meare Green.  A short ‘ride’ today but this is a welcome relief.  We need to hole up for a day to sort out our route and accommodation for the next few days and Ann has very kindly agreed to let us do just that.  She happens to be the Taunton Dean Access Officer for the BHS as well as the Taunton Dean Bridleways Association Chairman, so we are well placed.

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Here is Roberta, known as Robbie because she originally came from Robert’s Circus, a little bundle of fun who takes an instant shine to Tommy.  There is much squealing and postulating coming from the little mini version of Tommy.

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and Tommy meeting the rest of the crew.

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Much to my surprise, I have been completely captivated by this whole wetland area.  Its a unique landscape that I have not experienced before.  Man-made droves, rhynes willow beds, sedges, teasels, rivers, lock gates, sluices, and the importance of its associated wildlife and human activity.

In the afternoon, Ann suggests we visit the local Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre which is a couple of hundred yards from her house.  It is a well laid out small museum and very informative about the importance of growing Willow in the area with fantastic examples of basketry down the ages, such as the body of a carriage made entirely of willow like a large basket, bath chairs and children’s push chairs.  Delightful. Here are some photos I took of the information boards which you can read if you enlarge them. (Tho apologies if some are a bit blurry).

The following day, Ann has a meeting with the local MP about a troublesome section of the Here Path (which she endearingly pronounces, ‘hare’).  It is a measure of the tireless work that people, like Ann, do to keep our bridle paths open for us horse riders to enjoy.

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She kindly suggests we leave a little early to do a recce along some of the droves and lanes where Tommy and I will be going tomorrow.  On the way back, I ask Ann if she could stop for me to take a picture or two of the thatching straw stacked up into stooks in the field.  They remind me of Monet’s paintings of hay stacks.

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