First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A male blackbird, yellow bill a-tremble, was making tentative inquiries of a drab brown female on a bough in the New Inn's garden as I started down the hill towards Blagdon Lake. The celandines were still curled tight and green along the high-banked lane, but there was a breath of warmth in the low sun, more than Somerset had felt for the past three months.
For well over a century Blagdon Lake water has been piped to Bristol's taps, ten miles over the hills to the north. Crossing the broad dam of the lake, I heard the subdued roar of the flood-engorged weir where snowmelt and swollen streams were sending their waters surging down the spillway. I followed the fishermen's path through the trees along the north bank of the lake, then struck out across fields thick with the winter's mud to reach the lane by Bellevue Farm – well named for its prospect of water and hills.
A little way up the lane I was pulled up short by the sight of a large badger squatting on its haunches in a cottage garden. It shouldn't have been out of its sett this early in the year, and it certainly should have fled at sight of me, instead of fixing me with a sleepy stare. It was I who walked away, leaving the badger master of the place.
The southward views grew better and better as the lane rose, until at the top of Awkward Hill I looked down over fields patchworked with green grass and red ploughland, out across the whole expanse of Blagdon Lake to the steep wall of the Mendip Hills beyond in early afternoon shadow.
The late winter light, already beginning to diminish, lay softly on the lake with a blurred sheen more like watered silk than the hard mirrored effect of a summer day's sunshine.
Down by the lake once more, I squelched towards Blagdon over boggy meadows where wild geese went lumbering into the air at my approach, trumpeting reprovingly. It was almost time for them to be off to their mating and brood-rearing, 2,000 miles north of these green Somerset fields.
Back at the New Inn, sitting on the terrace with a cheddar ploughman's and a kingly view over the lake, I heard the love-struck blackbird – or possibly another like him – still singing for spring.
Start & finish New Inn, Blagdon BS40 7SB (OS ref ST 505589)
Getting there M5 Jct 21; A 371, A368; left in Blagdon opposite Live & Let Live PH to New Inn.
Walk (5 miles, easy grade, OS Explorers 141, 154): from New Inn, walk down Park Lane, along the reservoir dam wall. On the far side, go right (504603) beside reservoir for half a mile, then forward (511608) to Bellevue Farm at West Town (517604). Left for 10 yards to road, right for three quarters of a mile; 300 yards past the top of Awkward Hill (nameplate), right over stile (527600), following path over stiles, down across fields to road (529593). Left for 250 yards; just before industrial chimney, right (531591 – footpath sign) into damp fields. Follow the footpath close to the reservoir for 1 miles; 500 yards past Holt Farm, bear left (510591) on an uphill path back to Blagdon.
Lunch New Inn (01761-462475), superb lake views from garden; NB no children indoors.
More info Wells TIC (01749-672552); www.visitsomerset.co.uk