Day 66: Bath Spa (Youth Hostel – Bathwick Fields Widcombe) – Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Coombe Down Tunnel – Midford Station – Wellow) – Tucker’s Grave

10.4 miles – A perfect lovely English summer’s day

Looking towards Bath City Centre from Bathwick Fields.

The sun shone piercingly from a bright blue sky as I set off; the air was light and clear: it was not possible to feel glum!

Only half a day’s walking today, as I spent the morning writing the foregoing four posts.

Walking through Widcombe, one has the impression of being in the countryside but with an occasional house or two; looking at the map it’s different, one sees one is in a town with streets and houses everywhere. This disguise must make it a very sought-after area.

Apparently isolated houses in Widcombe.
The S&D Joint just west of Coombe Down Tunnel.

Coombe Down Tunnel is more than a mile long and curved at each end, so that for most of the way through there is no sign of daylight in either direction. At first there is complete silence apart from the whir as a cyclist whistles past. And then… it sounded like an aeolian harp at first – just harmonics I thought – but no, it was getting louder… a busker – surely not – and then I realised it was music played through an elaborate sound system. I think it was a string octet played through eight speakers, each about 80 yards apart, one instrument to a speaker, so you could never hear more than three. It was hauntingly beautiful, each instrument playing in the same not-quite-familiar tonality, but rhythmically very different from each of the others. I suspect each instrument was looped and the loops were of different lengths, so that the experience was always different.

The eastern portal of Coombe Down Tunnel.
Midford Castle

I had my second ‘celebration’ in a week. Guy met me a second time, but this time with ‘Rude’ Peter. They had introduced me to Tucker’s grave Inn many years ago. Then it was a remote, rural pub with beer on gravity and a wide selection of Westcountry ciders; the interior was of old oak settles and rough tables – a remnant of pre-War rural English life. Whilst the interior of the pub itself was the same today as before, they have now opened a campsite, which was full, a band was playing, and they were selling curry from a purpose-built cafe. It had a holiday camp atmosphere… and then the beer ran out. Change can indeed feel sad.

Peter cooling off.
The hills are gently rolling.
Toby, Peter, and Guy at Tucker’s Grave.
Peter and Guy

Peter G: Toby was in fine form and it was a great pleasure to walk a few miles with him and his enormous rucksack. Its insistent, brooding presence seemed to add a fourth member to our party such that, following Toby & Rachel’s tradition, I feel that it deserves a name. Not Matilda; something more lugubrious. Marvin? Suggestions?

I’ve been disconcerted by pictures of his tent over the last weeks because, to my ill-informed eye, it resembled more an ambitious pedal bin liner rather than suitable shelter on a Scottish mountainside. It is, of course (being a Toby acquisition), a well-researched and remarkable piece of kit:

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