Saturday, 1st April 2006 – Portishead, Curry Rivel, Kingston Episcopi, Muchelney
We recently went west to visit Lynne’s parents, and to coincidentally take a trip to the Somerset Levels in search of smoked eel, cider brandy and history. The trip down was relatively easy once we worked out how to avoid Oxford (they’re digging all of it up at the moment), despite the fact that we skirted some truly awful weather on our way.
Saturday the weather was still moody, but by the time I’d been to the gym for a long, long treadmill and cross-trainer session, it was looking a lot brighter. In fact, by the time we turned off the motorway at Taunton it was glorious, though there were some ominous clouds lowering in the distance.
There were lambs everywhere, doing their “king of the castle” routine on top of bales of hay, and the hedgerows were full of primulas, with daffodils on every grass verge and stunningly bright forsythia in flower everywhere. The contrast between the yellow of that and the intense purple aubretia in some many gardens was almost too much without sunglasses.
We did the inevitable trek to Brown and Forrest over near Curry Rivel, to lunch in their restaurant, where the smoked fish pie was utterly wonderful, and I indulged myself with the pudding I’d worked so hard for in the morning; golden syrup bread and butter pudding, with clotted cream and pouring cream… It was wonderful, which I knew it would be, and I felt no guilt at all because I knew how far I’d gone on the treadmill!
Afterwards, we indulged in a little light shopping (smoked macadamia nuts, some smoked eel pate, an actual smoked eel, a bottle of the wonderful vinaigrette they use on their salads in the restaurant there, and a frozen portion of the pudding for consumption at some later date), then headed for the Somerset Cider Brandy Distillery at Kinsgbury Episcopi (wonderful place names they have).
After that we made a detour to the John Leach Pottery in Muchelney, where we admired the pots but decided that we couldn’t afford to buy any of them – though I have a hankering for a couple of the terracotta casserole dishes sometime in the future.
We also stopped off at the Abbey, which was open this time, and because Lynne’s Mum and Dad didn’t feel like roaming around, we took a quick peek at the place, stopping long enough to take quite a few photos and take out membership of English Heritage so we can visit it and any of their other sites for free in future…
Anyway, we wended our way back towards Portishead by the scenic route, passing through Glastonbury (once memorably, and probably not entirely unfairly, described to me as “the world’s biggest open air lunatic asylum”) and Cheddar Gorge before we ended up back at the ranch, with a detour to the pub for a pint of Thatcher’s cider – this is dangerous stuff even on top of a large lunch; you know it’s trouble because it’s not in the least fizzy, very cloudy, and you can’t see the bottom of your glass! For the Americans among you, this is British cider, the stuff that’s full of alcohol, not the apple juice you’d give to children, OK? A pint and a half of the stuff and you can’t feel your knees anymore. It’s a fine way to end the afternoon, and I don’t recall much of the evening, partly because of the cider and partly because the air in that part of the world is incredibly soporific.