9 June ’05, Thursday.
40 minutes after leaving Bath, we were deep into The Cheddar Gorge. Our trip there was going through some slight rolling farm hills, and then just out of no where, we were heading down at a 15% grade. Winding and twisting, with tall deciduous trees completely covering over the narrow roadway. Little by little, we started seeing the rocks start forming and then, it was all rocks…straight up, over 400’ straight up. It was also kind of funny that we had very little traffic on the road getting there, but once we were there, cars and people just seemed to come out of the rocks. The village and the gorge of Cheddar was all set up for the “Tourist”, with a capital “T”. I can’t imagine what it will be like this summer, as the real crowds arrive. The high hills aren’t the only thing that brings the crowds…Cheddar Cheese was first developed here, and there are 3 different “Caves” that are attractions. It was nice to see, and I’m glad we were there now instead of later. We passed on everything but the drive through the gorge. At the end of town, we turned south and headed for Wells. Wells is known as the “smallest cathedral city in England”. The awe inspiring medieval cathedral, which they say is the “finest in England” gives Wells this title. I think, personally, that Wells deserves to be recognized for more than the cathedral, although the cathedral is something special. The little “city” really has charm and is very quaint. There is even a little channel of water that runs down each side of the street (it separates the mail street from the sidewalks right in the main shopping area). The water comes from a medieval spring (at 40 gallons a second), and in the 15th century the Bishop of Beckynton gave this channeled water to the village as a gift. At the end of the street from the village (City), stands the historic buildings of the cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace, the walls of the palace, and adding more atmosphere, the moat around it. There is also the Vicar’s Close, which is the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe. Construction on the cathedral started in the late 1100’s. The expanse of the cathedral is unbelievable, but as you walk through, it all seems to fit quite easily. By the time we had walked all the cathedral, it was time to grab lunch, and head on down the road. We made our way further south to A303, and then headed east. Our next stop was going to be Sourhead. Sourhead is thought to be the finest examples of 18th century landscape gardening in Britain. The garden was started in 1740 by Henry Hoare, who inherited the estate. He built a large lake, that is fed by 3 other smaller ones, planted rare trees and plants, and Neo Classical Italianate temples. There are also grottoes and bridges. The house, is a “Palladian” style, that dates from 1724. We parked the van, and needing a walk (what, another walk !!!), we slow walked the 2 miles around the lake and the beautifully planted grounds. 5 o’clock already, so we continued heading east, and ended up in a campground just outside of Salisbury. Tomorrow…Stonehenge and….