Our Travel blog
Saturday 30 July
We left New Wine late on the Saturday morning amidst a stream of exiting delegates. Around the site tents were being dismantled, caravans packed and patches of bright green dotted the hills where tents were already safely stowed in the back of cars ferrying people back to the real world. We departed with conflicting emotions; happy to be heading to a nearby site to relax, relief that we’d finished working, sad that we were saying goodbye to new friends and spiritually concussed from the week’s events.
Happily our destination, after a short stop to take on supplies in Shepton Mallet, was the rather quaint Wagon and Horses pub which has a compact camp site with hard standing, electric and showers a little north of where we’d been. Sited on a ridge alongside a roman road the pub overlooks Shepton to the south. In the evening as we took ourselves over to the pub to eat the clouds were stained orange against a cobalt blue sky, floating above pale green fields that gently sloped away to the valley below, bordered by straggly hedges and shadowy trees.
The food was lovely, proper sensibly priced home cooked pub-grub, not the mass produced cook-chill nonsense that’s frequently passed off as fresh because it’s been heated up and had some dried herbs sprinkled on before the salad is added to the piping hot plate and served in a flurry of indifference by a bored underpaid waiter. This had homemade stamped all over it and was much better for it. The ales were local and went down a treat and the bar staff were friendly and eager to help, giving us a list of local, and not so local, attractions that would fill a month rather than our couple of days. All their help was delivered in a broad Somerset drawl, so we became used to the charming ‘alright me lovelies?’ when we walked into the bar or went to order. With her ear for sounds and keen listening skills Alison often finds herself subconsciously mimicking these local linguistic habits, and she does it well, rapidly assimilating them into her every day conversation. On the other hand every accent I’ve ever tried comes out as a sort of Dr. Who villain who has been living in Pakistan with a Yorkshire wife. I even struggle with my own accent sometimes.
Anyway even more of a pleasure than the views, food, beer and locals was our bed and the promise of a Sunday morning with no alarm clock.
Sunday 31 July
We awoke fresh and keen with the lark. Well not the lark but one that’s decided ‘sod it, just for once I’ll let the lazy sparrows or those smug bloody robins rouse people today, I deserve a lay in and I’m blooming well having one’. Following directions carefully given to us by the landlady we walked along the back roads downhill into Shepton Mallet. Which was sad and underwhelming on a late Sunday morning. The town was drab, shops looked uncared for and the detritus of whatever passed for Saturday night gaiety in these parts littered the streets; mostly fast food and Costa coffee as far as we could tell by the wrappers and paper cups in shop doorways and spilling out of the bins.
Even more sadly the gleaming glass and steel shopping netherworld on the edge of town was doing a thriving business. Anchored around a Tesco’s it also houses a Costa and those strange stores that always seem to be busy but no one appears to actually buy anything. There was a bedding shop that also sold toys, presumably so that little Todd or Betty can pester mum or dad to buy them a Corgi bus painted purple to commemorate the queens 90th birthday or a union jack model tube train to appease them while they mull over which of the 25 or so slightly different pillows to buy. Next door was an Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop. A bit like an Ann Summers store for people of a certain age who favour man-made fabrics and who furtively stock up on pastel trousers, nylon blouses and cardigans with lacy cuffs while pretending that they only popped in to stock up on shortbread. Maybe they get a thrill out of the static charge they get when they scurry home to parade around in secret behind chintzy curtains closed over starched nets.
As nowhere seemed to be open in the town we trudged around Tesco’s and armed with enough supplies to get us through a few long winters took a taxi back to Mavis. Once unpacked we settled in for an afternoon of doing as little as possible… and I’m happy to report that we succeeded.
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