Secret World & Secret Somerset

Burrow Mump

The local wildlife rescue centre, just south of Highbridge, had an open day yesterday and quite an operation it is too. I’ve been stalking them on Twitter so I knew about their surprise guest – a gannet (not tickable!) – but the stars were the tiny, tiny harvest mice. Secret World’s breeding programme puts them back in the wild because – guess what? – they’re endangered too.

A series of coffee misadventures then put me in the nightmare of Bridgwater Services. They could be a dream if someone had designed the parking to be parked in.

Being that far south meant a change of plan, inasmuch as my plan is ever fixed. So, I passed over the northbound M5 queues and into the Somerset Levels, down the west bank of the River Parrett to Burrow Mump. This National Trust site affords views of the other ancient isles, like Glastonbury. I spared a thought for the Festival goers, probably drenched the night before. That explained the rain!

Also in sight were the Polden Hills, leading to the Quantocks with Hinkley Point shimmering in the distance between. Then Exmoor and round to the Blackdown Hills and on to a mysterious column. In a moment’s disorientation I took it for the Wellington Monument but this tower was more than 90° east from there. Stourhead? That’s way over in Wiltshire. The column was off the edge of my Explorer map so I’m still in the dark.

Nestling under the Mump was the King Alfred Inn, a bowl of chips and another fine coffee. The name hearks back to the Anglo-Saxon leader hiding from the Danes at nearby Athelney. My friend, Joanne Hall, fictionalised part of this in the sci-fi anthology, Dark Spires. King Alfred actually reminds me of growing up in Winchester – the bus company, the college and of course the pub there.

Then I walked from Mars to Jupiter. And back. To a reward of a cream tea at the Maunsel Lock Tearoom on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. An echo of the same solar system idea at Siding Springs, New South Wales, markers along the canal show the scaled-down distances and sizes of the planets. The Sun is at Higher Lock, one down from the tearoom, which orbits Mars.

I have a whole story about the Australian version, but some other time…

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