This article was originally published in the July 2017 edition of the Mendip Times
What isn’t there to like about the weather we are having at the moment! After my comments on the weather in last month’s column, I am pleased to say that the weather did ‘buck’ up a little and it rained. It rained at the Bath and West Show on the Friday and Saturday evenings, but didn’t really disrupt what was a wonderful show, as you will no doubt notice by the pictures in this months edition.
The overall winner of this years Environmental Youth Award, (EYA) was Mya- Rose Craig from Compton Martin. This has pleased me immensely , as Mya-Rose showed flair and innovation right from the start with her ‘Black 2 Nature’ project. This ground breaking approach aims to include inner city Black and Asian minority groups in the environment and countryside, something that people have spoken about for years, but something she has been able to achieve!
I have also been spending a little more time on Burrington Ham with school groups as well an evening with Blagdon Brownies. The scrub clearance has made such a difference and there are plenty of pathways to follow with out the danger of becoming too lost. Its so nice to see people out enjoying a walk. Its good exercise and low cost a lot, but you do need to be prepared for weather change on Mendip. Tom Elkin , (the Head Warden when I arrived to work on Mendip in 1990) always used to tell me “Never trust a sunny day on Mendip”.
So, with a whole summer of outdoor enjoyment beckoning , lets take a look at some essentials for summer walking. Starting right at the bottom, (and by this I mean ground level). Boots or shoes, which ever you prefer, but they must have a good grip on the sole and provide support. I prefer boots, but there are those who cannot get on with them, so its a personal choice. I have also found that sizes can vary depending on the make. I am now wearing Barbour wellingtons at least one and a half size bigger than I would normally. This extra size gives me comfort and the opportunity to have a ‘gel’ in-sole. Having suffered with painful damage to the tendon that runs below the foot, the name of which has totally escaped me, I found the gel in-soles to be invaluable. Don’t ever forget that the soles of your boots/ shoes are the only thing that will keep your feet in contact with the ground. Its never the falling over that hurts , only the sudden stop when you hit the ground!
Long trousers are best , especially when you are walking through bracken and rough grass areas. I have spoken before about ticks and other types of wildlife that like to bite and sting you, so best to cover up. Light weight trousers are relatively cheap, quick drying if you get a shower and comfortable to wear. Jeans are not a good idea, especially if they get wet. When it comes to a shirt, go for one with long sleeves. I always wear my sleeves rolled up, but I can roll them down if I need to, again very important in tick country.
Want to keep ahead , then get a hat. Having said that I rarely wear one in the summer but always in the winter. Thankfully the’ thatch’ on top of my head is still thick enough to protect me, but there are many who will need the protection from the sun, so choose one to your liking. Hats are a very personal thing and you don’t want one that looks as though it has just been ‘dumped’ on your head. Sartorial elegance is after all the watch word on Mendip. Sun protection is also very important , even if you spend most of your time outside you can still burn and the strength of the sun seems to cause more problems these days. Sun glasses are good , they will stop you ‘squinting’ in the sun’s glare and help keep the dust and insects out of your eyes. Once again its a personal choice from classic ‘aviators’ and the Tom Cruise look, through something a little more free thinking and alternative in style.
Remember the advice on never trusting a sunny day on Mendip and carry a waterproof coat. It need not be winter weight, as there are plenty to choose from that are both lightweight and compact. It will also serve as an extra layer of warmth should the temperature drop. Water is another essential, around a litre if you are going to be out all day. Don’t be tempted by the range of energy drinks that are on the market, water is still the best when it comes to keeping the fluid levels up. There are many other extras you can take, but I have found that that the type of clothing and protective measures just described are adequate for a day out. Don’t forget the mobile phone, this can get help to you or someone else if needed,( but please have it on silent)!
Finally… With sorrow and regret I heard the news recently that Ann Small, wife of John at Charterhouse Warren farm had died. I knew Ann as both a local Farmer and Volunteer Ranger during my time as the Mendip Warden. She loved her animals, especially the cats, dogs and horses she cared for, together with being as formidable as a lioness when it came to protecting her family and loved ones. At the memorial service held in St Hughs Charterhouse, there were over 300 people in attendance. I was asked to read the Eulogy. It was difficult to encompass Ann’s life in such a short time, but I would like to share one amusing incident that showed her stoic nature and the special relationship she had with her animal: Whilst negotiating a slope with the quad bike,(complete with sheep dog on the back carrier) into Black Rock, Ann rolled the bike. Fortunately she was not injured or even shaken, the machine was soon righted and she carried on down the slope to complete the task of checking the animals. From then on as Ann was about to descend this slope , the dog would jump off the bike and run to wait for her at the bottom. She has not gone because the memories remain with everyone who knew her!