Barn 2: Steam powered Quantocks

It was a gorgeous morning. Sheep were calling in the field next door and there was a low mist in the dip in the field. The sun had just risen, and while the Barn was sheltered by the farmhouse, the fields opposite were golden with the early sunshine.

Rufus and I decided to make our way up to the hills above Crowcombe. The Quantocks run in a line roughly north-south towards the sea. On top, it reminded me a bit of Rhossili Down, with heather and low gorse separated by rough tracks where sheep have wandered over the years.

We reached Hurley Beacon, the site of one of many Bronze Age burial cairns built on the western edge of the hills. From here there was a fantastic view through almost 360 degrees. To the north was Aberthaw power station on the Welsh coast and almost opposite it, nearer me, Hinkley ‘C’ nuclear power station. In between were Flathom and Steepholm islands. To the west was the valley that leads down to Watchet.

Back at the Barn, we paused briefly before heading off to Crowcombe Heathfield railway station, just down the road. There we caught the 10.40am steam train to Minehead. I saw this train several years ago when I was at Blue Anchor chasing pill boxes. Today we steamed along the West Somerset Railway through Stogumber, Williton and all stations to Blue Anchor. There I saw a couple of pill boxes close up and several more well concealed inland of the beach. Blue Anchor beach was considered a threat for invasion during the war and a significant defensive system was built based on the railway line and inland.

Minehead was the final stop and we walked along the platform, past the temporary CAMRA bar and its customers and across the road to the beach. It was closed to dogs, which meant that we couldn’t have our planned picnic as we couldn’t find the parts of the beach we thought might be open. Instead, we walked along the promenade towards the breakwater and sat there for sausage and chips. Oscar and I went off to explore the breakwater and we ended up by three large ships cannons.

Heading back to the station, we were treated to a jazz band playing upbeat songs to entertain the CAMRA customers, supping their real ale. We watched the crew stoking the boiler to get steam up for  the journey back. It seemed quicker on the way home and we were back in the Barn in no time.

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