Canoeing across the south west


View towards the Bristol Channel from the Brendon Hills

Two hundred and seventyseven miles. It feels like progress. That long sticky out south west corner of England has passed under my feet, in 277 miles of walking. I’m now within a day’s walk of Bristol.
Since leaving the Devon coast at Barnstaple, I’ve been struck by the waves of soft hills that cover the south of England. They first appear on the horizon, like a big roller out at sea. I slowly walk towards the hill range, and then somehow it gets near enough for me to rise up and over it, as if in a canoe. From the airy top I can see the level land below, and then the next roller approaching in the hazy distance. I’ve never had that sensation when crossing the country in a car, or even by bicycle. These are the hills and ridges I’ve strode over since Barnstaple:

  • Exmoor
  • The Brendon Hills
  • The Quantock Hills
  • The Polden Hills
  • The Mendips

Lovely names aren’t they?


Heading up onto the Quantock Hills, early on a sunny morning

Today is a rest day, the first in 9 days of walking. A couple of days ago I walked 20 miles in a day, over the Quantocks and around Bridgewater. It left me rather weary – but I think more from the road walking that is a necessity when crossing the Somerset Levels. So I’m enjoying a lazy day of pottering about, washing clothes, planning my route, eating, and generally being pampered by wonderful friends.


Thatched cottage picture, taken for Emily

One friend asked me what I think about when I’m striding along by myself. One aspect of walking that is rather special is that thoughts come to you, rather than the other way round. (If that doesn’t sound too Winnie the Poohish). In no particular order, these are the main topics that swill around in my head:

  • Friends and family
  • Food
  • What I’m seeing around me, and especially signs of spring
  • Food
  • My body – i.e. ‘is that a pain I am feeling in my knee?’
  • Food
  • My route
  • Food

Spring is a lot of fun to look out for. I’ve seen dozy bees, happy butterflies, horse chestnuts and hawthorne unfurling, and chirpy birds galore. Distant trees are just just starting to get that slight greenish tint. In the next few weeks everything will explode into life.

Another joy of the last week has been catching up with Somerset friends, and family in Devon. Thank you ever so much to all of you – you have been so tremendously hospitable and it’s been really wonderful to have such great company.


First day where it was warm enough to wear a T shirt


Sweet foal!!!


I love these signposts



Umm, it got a bit muddy


The watery Somerset Levels


Kittens trying to pull my rucksack apart


Another hill range, another lovely signpost


Little Flora crosses the Mendip Hills

18 thoughts on “Canoeing across the south west

  1. Hey Flora. We met at the unconference last year. Your posts bring gusts of fresh air into my office. I don’t envy the blisters but I do envy you seeing the arrival of spring at close quarters, and the chains of hills with elegant names. Thank you thank you for evoking it so beautifully

  2. Lovely stuff. Spring seems in advance of us down there. Not seen a single bee yet. Loved your description of canoeing the hills..

  3. Hey Flora! This really made me smile, so pleased to see you’re still doing your crazy adventures. Sounds amazing, wishing you all the best and I’ll be following your fabulous progress x

  4. Hello Flora. I very much liked your comments about what you think about when you’re walking. Nietzsche said that great ideas only emerge during a good long walk. And thanks for the terrific photos. Best wishes, Ian

  5. Hi Flora,

    I often feel with your photo’s and commentary I am walking with you. A great adventure you are having. Life is certainly about appreciating all your senses can offer you and all of your senses are working overtime! I think what you are doing is tremendous. I await your next blog…M x

    • Thank you Mel. I really am so very glad that you are enjoying my adventures.
      I spoke/wrote too soon with the footcream post. I have a nasty blood blister on the side of my heel. One more for the senses!

  6. Spring seems to have sprung since your arrival in Somerset Flora. I love your travelogue and the photos which tell stories of their own. So looking forward to the next instalment.

  7. Loving following your stories Flora – wonderful pictures – what a marvellous cornucopia of memories you are storing up – and reminding us of what’s important in life – (particularly food!!)

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