Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
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My pal, John Gilbert, arrived by train at Weston-super-Mare to hike with me to Bridgwater
DS54 Train
DS54 JWG arrives
Days S53 - S65                                                             English West Country
Day S54 - Weston-super-Mare to Bridgwater
Day S53                              Dinner with a rat                            Rest day 17
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Northbound Home
Thursday, April 17,  2008

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 5.45 pm
Place departed: West-super-Mare, N Somerset
Place arrived: Bridgwater, Somerset

Miles: 20.5
Cum miles: 793.2
Percent complete: 81.7

Bed sign With friends, John and Alison Gilbert in Stockland Bristol
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DS54 Red Cow open sign
The signmakers know what matters
Today, I walked with my old friend, John Gilbert who left his car at Bridgwater, our planned destination, and took the train to Weston-super-Mare where we met. From Weston, we walked to Bridgwater.

I'm humbled by the blossoming number of totally generous people who are supporting me. There's been scarcely a day in the last week or so that I haven't had a roadside interception, a walking companion, a dinner invite, or a car to spirit me away for a night's rest and even a day off. And that's not counting the electronic support of emails and phone calls.

I've even had to refuse some support because of conflicts. There would have been more conflicts but for a couple of cancellations.

In fact, I'm wondering if people can tell that I'm feeling the cumulative pressure of eight hundred miles on the road, much of it in the wet, with ankle pain or blisters, and a pack that's now cutting into my shoulders as I've shed fat? "Cumulative", take note. When I got home from my last end-to-ender, I slept an extra hour a night for a month. The pressure mounts, I'm sure.

The hike today was tough. Probably, yesterday's long walk made it so. It certainly wasn't the weather or the roads. John Gilbert, like Alan Sloman the day before, was capable of leaving me behind, but courteously didn't do so. But it was Hobson who called for all the rests.

We took country lanes to Brent Knoll, about halfway. There we stopped in the Red Cow before taking the A38 to Highbridge and on to Bridgwater, fortunately with a footpath. Reaching John's car, and then his home, was like reaching the promised land.

If this walk were all about mileage, then yesterday and today's mileages would make the end-to-end a 45-day event. Fortunately it isn't. The next destination will probably be Taunton, a modest distance.

Tonight, I was the guest of the walking section of the Monmouth U3A club to dinner in the famous Halsway Manor (pronounced Halsy) in Crowcombe, Somerset. Halsway dates back to 1086, and today is a manor with residential facilities, specializing in folk music and dance. Halsway Manor basks in serene splendor on a country hillside, with a gracious gravel forecourt that leads to an enormous round-topped door and baronial splendor within, including a barrel-vaulted hall. It's just the place for a group dinner, followed by coffee in one of the reception rooms.

Here, the Monmouth walkers had based themselves for some hiking in Somerset's Quantock Hills. John Gilbert, from Bridgwater's U3A walking section, had facilitated their visit, and was their real guest. I tagged along, showered but still in hiking attire, feeling ready for bed. Fortunately, I was able to force myself to eat a delicious dinner of asparagus soup, steak and mushroom pie with veg, and lemon-flavored sorbet. Neither eggs nor bacon were anywhere.

But wait, within the heavily-paneled reception rooms, an interesting odor was evident. Sipping our dignified after-dinner coffees in a hearty after-dinner mood, we started to gag. Suddenly, coffee did not taste dignified anymore.

The smell, it turned out, had its apparent origins in a rat, who had died behind the floor-to-ceiling paneling. Being a listed building, you couldn't lightly rip the paneling out. Being wise at economics, management didn't want to anyway.

Now the rat was never proven positively to be there, i.e., this was not a case of QED, or "quod erat demonstrandum".

But our dinner party didn't need proof beyond their noses. And the dead rat will slowly dry out, the diners will forget, and normalcy will return to the gracious manor on the hill.
Day S53                                         2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                   Rest day 17