Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The original Rock of Ages, Burrington Combe, Somerset

Might be different from the one pictured.

From the "Rock of Ages", said to be the inspiration for the hymn of that name, you climb steeply out of Burrington Combe, skirt the northern side of the combe (valley) and then cross it. You walk along the flank of Black Down moor and enter the Mendip Forest for lunch in the village of Rowberrow. Then pass Rowberrow church and return over Dolebury Warren, stopping at the iron age hill fort to admire the view across the Vale of Wrington to the Bristol Channel and south Wales, and Crook Peak, the most prominent summit in the Mendips, with Bridgwater Bay and the Quantocks beyond.

Why it's special
According to a famous (but unsubstantiated) story, the Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was inspired to write Rock of Ages in 1763, while sheltering from a storm in a cleft of rock in Burrington Combe. Struck by the title, he scribbled down the initial lyrics on a playing card. Regarded as one of the four great Anglican hymns of the 19th century, Rock of Ages was a favourite of Prince Albert, who asked it to be played to him on his deathbed.

Keep your eyes peeled for
Knotted pearlwort and slender bedstraw, two rare plants found at Dolebury Warren. Open areas of this walk are blessed with a profusion of flowers. If you are lucky you might see black and red six-spot burnet moths in summer. There are also a number of bronze age burial barrows on Black Down, and one at Rowberrow.
But bear in mind
Don't get caught out on the moor in bad weather or you might be looking for a cleft of your own to hide in.

Recover afterwards
The Burrington Inn at the bottom of the combe serves standard pub fare all day. burringtoninn.co.uk


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