Barn 3: King Charles’ bedroom, secret passages and ghosts

I woke expecting rain this morning, and with a mild headache following a sip or two of cider last night. But it was clear and there was blue sky visible as I chased away the sleep with a strong mug of coffee. Then it was off in the car with Rufus up onto the hills again for our morning stroll.

There were grey clouds by the time we got to the car park, but we’re used to that. We headed off towards Hurley Beacon again but very quickly we spotted a cow making its way slowly along the path towards the trig point – our route. As we got closer, we saw more cows, strung out in a long line with 100 yards or so between them, slowly heading off to the stile that led to the Beacon.

We decided to detour around them. Cows are unpredictable and I’ve been followed by them more than once. On walks in Scotland, I’ve had a whole herd follow me. Once I was taking photos of a stone circle and I turned around to find about 20 cows stood three or four feet behind me, as if they were checking the camera angle. I was surprised and a little nervous as I’d herd (ha ha) stories of them trampling people, albeit accidentally. But this lot were happy to just watch. When I left, they called after me.

We headed north on the hills today and were treated to a gorgeous view across the Bristol Channel to home.

Back at base Bruce (the cottage owner) suggested a local dog kennel for Rufus, as he had managed to escape from the garden several times. As we had planned to visit Dunster Castle, it seemed the best thing to do. Rufus seemed happy enough to be there and we left feeling better about leaving him there.

Dunster castle was built in the 13th Century and has been lived in by the Luttrel family for 600 years. The current building is more manor house than castle, although the original gate house still exists. We spent some time inside viewing the rooms, including a bedroom in which King Charles spent a night or two. Behind the four poster bed was a secret passage and the room is reputed to be the most haunted room in the building. We didn’t see any spirits but the guide told us that another guide had felt a presence, including a hand on her shoulder, while standing outside the room.

After a stroll around the village, we had food and headed back to Flora’s Barn. A well earned coffee was enjoyed, and we fed the little pony in the top field with some carrots. She loves to be groomed too, so we brushed her coat as she ate grass and posed for my camera. Then it was time to pick up Rufus, and we went from the kennels to Blue Anchor beach to explore and throw stones for Rufus to chase.

As we walked along the pebble beach, a steam train from the nearby West Somerset Railway chuffed past. The engine driver waved and the train sped past on its way to Minehead. We walked back, occasionally eating a blackberry fresh from the bush. A great way to end the day.

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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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