Last week I finally took a week off work. After nine months of freelancing and with limited breaks, I was bordering on burnout.
Thankfully, my family had booked four nights in a caravan for mid-September, which would give us all a much-needed break.
Somerset, which is in South West England, is one of the largest counties in the UK. It’s also famous for Cheddar Cheese, Cider and sinking sand!
I had only been to Somerset once before many, many years ago when my brother had an appointment with a brain injury specialist. My only memory of that trip was indulging in a bag of hot, sugary doughnuts on a very wet and cold Grand Pier in Weston super Mare.
I love visiting new places, and despite having been there once before, my lack of memories from that trip would make it feel as though I was visiting for the first time.
In the first of a new series of blog posts, I’ll be highlighting some of the places we visited.
First up, it’s time to visit Cheddar Gorge.
As I was travelling from a different part of the Uk to everyone else, I travelled separately.
I decided to travel to Brean, the village we would be staying in for the next few days, via Cheddar Gorge.
I had fond memories of driving through the Gorge while travelling back from family holidays in Cornwall. To my knowledge, we had never stopped in the village of Cheddar to have a look around.
As it’s not a suitable place for wheelchairs, I knew my brother wouldn’t be able to visit, so it made sense for me to stop on my way down to meet them.
Cheddar Gorge is home to Britain’s deepest gorge and is famous for its caverns, as well as its cliffs. Due to some covid restrictions still being in place, the caverns are yet to re-open. This trip would be all about the cliffs.
It took me around three hours to drive from Kingston to Cheddar, but I enjoyed the drive. We were lucky to be experiencing some warm September weather which always makes driving long distances more bearable. By the time I reached Cheddar, I was ready to get out of the car, stretch my legs, and feel the warm sunshine on my skin.
I’d never driven through Cheddar Gorge myself as a driver, so it felt amazing to experience that. The roads through the gorge were quiet, and it was a joy to travel around them, making sure I concentrated on the road whilst also taking in the incredible scenery.
Parking was reasonably easy and cost me around £5.20 for 24 hours of parking. I found most parking in Somerset charged per day rather than by the hour, so expect to pay this wherever you park. Most of the car parks I visited allowed you to pay by a card or via an app. It’s best to do some research before you head off, as I found it quite tricky to download the Just Park app from the car park, where there was hardly any phone signal!
I parked on the edge of the village and wandered into Cheddar to get some lunch. I found a lovely fish n chip shop and managed to get saveloy, chips and a soft drink for around £6. Whilst I was there, I stopped to ask the waitress whether the cliff-top walk was well-marked from the top of Jacob’s Ladder. A few websites had recommended it, and I was keen to give it a go. However, I was conscious that I was on my own and wanted to know whether there was a high chance of me getting lost or not. I had no map and no whistle if I found myself lost or disorientated. Sadly the lady was unable to help.
After lunch and a stroll through the picturesque village of Cheddar, it was time to head up Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob’s Ladder, whose name refers to a story in the Bible, consists of 274 steps and leads to a Lookout Tower and the cliff-top walk. Due to covid restrictions, the tower was still closed, but I was keen to experience Cheddar Gorge from above. Even for an experienced walker, I was grateful to find some resting places to stop and catch my breath.
Once I reached the top of Jacob’s Ladder and had caught my breath, it was slightly disappointing that there was no spectacular view waiting. At the top of Jacob’s Ladder, all you could see was the surrounding woodland. I would guess that with the Lookout Tower just meters away, this would usually be the best place to capture a decent bird’s eye view of the gorge below. As the Lookout Tower was closed, I decided to bite the bullet and take the cliff-top walk instead. If the paths weren’t clearly marked, I would turn back and head back down the 274 steps back into Cheddar.
I knew I didn’t have loads of time as I was due to meet my family, but I was confident I could do half the walk before heading back down to the road and walking back into Cheddar.
I was hoping that Jacobs Ladder was the last uphill stretch for a while, but it appeared that this was just the beginning of the uphill section!
Thankfully, the path wasn’t quite as steep as the steps had been, so it was a much more enjoyable walk by this point. As I got closer to the top of the cliffs, I felt so grateful to be there. I felt the exhaustion of the last few weeks dissipate and relished being on my own surrounded by nature and beautiful scenery.
As I climbed higher, the scenery, as I turned to look back, was incredible. I could see for miles, and I felt as though I was on top of the world.
I had desperately wanted to find a bird’s eye view of the gorge, and sadly on this section of the trail, I never found one. But that didn’t take away from the incredible scenery I did find.
After what felt like a good couple of miles, I started to descend back down towards the road.
Walking in the gorge
Once I reached the road, I realised I had come down much further away from the car park than I had intended. Had I planned to do the entire cliff-top walk, I’m not entirely sure where I went wrong. If you’re planning a trip to Cheddar Gorge in the future, I would certainly recommend picking up a map before you head out on any adventures. Whilst the path I took looked obvious, it clearly wasn’t the right one either to continue along the cliff-top walk or to head down the section of the cliffs I had planned to go down.
Walking back into Cheddar along the roadside isn’t for the faint-hearted. There are very few pathways and some incredibly curvy bends! During this section of the walk, I felt slightly anxious and aware that I was on my own. I picked up my pace and was very grateful when I reached my car sooner than I expected. Despite walking quickly once on the road, I still managed to take in my incredible surroundings and loved every minute immersing myself in the gorge.
On reflection, my advice to anyone wishing to visit Cheddar is to see the gorge from every angle possible. Drive through it, walk through it, and hell, why not even walk above it?
I loved my flying visit to Cheddar, and it will definitely be one of the places I add to my ‘visit again‘ list, especially as I left without getting to try some locally made Cheddar Cheese!