If you think Somerset’s roads are a challenge, just wander a little off piste and try its rural footpaths. Fingerposts and waymarkers tempt you forward then leave you in the lurch. Rusting gates groan on a single hinge or are fixed with chains and a padlock. Broken stiles see-saw precariously on rotted supports, and once you’ve wobbled across them you’re just as likely to land in an abundant crop of nettles or ankle deep in mud.
Each twist in the path, though, turns a new page in a fairy tale. Ancient stone cottages tucked in the folds of the hills. Cider orchards, the trunks steeped in lush grass where the fallen apples lie until they’re vacuumed into a cart or collected in a basket by an old man with a bushy beard. Medieval barns and manor houses with integral chapels. Copses of oak and ash and chestnut, conifer forests so black and silent that the babes in the wood might still be sleeping there.
When the path leads upwards the slopes might look gentle, but don’t be deceived. On a humid summer day they sap your energy, but by the time you reach the top, the view makes it all worth while. A rolling landscape of tiny pastures pieced together with hedges and dotted with farms and villages. Hazy hills in the distance. The clouds making their way across the open sky.