‘There’s a town and it’s not much to look at’
I’d never been to Yeovil before and hadn’t given the town much thought at all – one of the few things I associated with it was The Chesterfields’ song Last Train to Yeovil and particularly the lyric above. In fact if pushed it would mostly be music I would mention if I had to say what I knew about the place. (Although I do know that Yeovil Town FC used to play on a sloping pitch.) PJ Harvey was brought up thereabouts and Frank Turner is famously a Wessex boy. (One of my enduring memories of the dying days of New Labour is of Gordon Brown, still Prime Minister, appearing on the Andrew Marr Show in April 2010 and watching in utter bemusement as good old Polly Jane, playing her autoharp, performed Let England Shake.)
I now know that in the mid-19th century the town was the centre of the glove making industry and that in 2006 Yeovil became the first town in Britain to institute a somewhat controversial system of biometric fingerprint scanning in nightclubs. Individuals wishing to gain access to one of the town’s nightclubs were asked in the first instance to submit their personal details for inclusion in a central system. Me, I’d popped down on the Friday to sell some t-shirts for the Wedding Present gig at the Orange Box that evening and then do a bit of walking the day after.
I don’t know if the biometric experiment is still in operation but I wasn’t asked to submit any personal details at the Wetherspoons nor on the door at the Orange Box. And well I never, Simon Barber (of Chesterfields fame) was 2nd on the bill with his new band Design and sitting around in the almost deserted venue. The venue began to fill steadily and I guess the world probably doesn’t need any more singer-songwriters but a pretty decent one – Nick Parker – began the night. The Wedding Present were their usual entertaining selves and t-shirt sales were brisk.
Armed with the local OS map and fortified with a cooked breakfast that did its job and took the edge off of last night’s beer we headed out to explore the countryside around Yeovil. It’s probably a bit harsh to say there’s not much to look at but it is a fairly identikit sort of a town. A Greggs, the average number of charity shops and all the other stuff you’d expect to find these days.
Maybe it’s just me but I often find the most difficult thing is getting out of any town – hey it’s almost as if they don’t want you to visit the countryside. The weather forecast was predicting rain about 3 pm and there was a train, out of Yeovil Junction, to Waterloo about 2.30 pm so we headed for Nine Springs Country Park and then looked for the Monarch’s Way. Commemorating Charles I’s flight from Cromwell, this story can now be re-traced in one of the country’s most varied walks. I knew the creator and founder of this route, Trevor Anthill, and his sudden death in August 2010 was not only a terrible loss for his family and friends but also the walking community.
Maybe people don’t get out of Yeovil much because once out of the town some of the footpaths didn’t show much evidence of being walked and we hardly saw anyone else at all. I reckon it’s quite fun to do some walking on the fly – no real plan but just a map and the signposts when you’re out there. Just after leaving The Monarchs Way near Coker Moor sewage works we needed to check the map quite carefully to see where we actually were. A few footpaths that were overgrown and a couple of missing signposts had put us about kilometre further east than we’d expected. We were soon back on track though, passing a llama farm – aren’t alpacas funny creatures? – and we made the train with 10 minutes to spare and despite the ominous black clouds that accompanied us for the last hour or so we beat the rain.
I used the 10 minutes at the station to buy some coke, crisps and chocolate from an old guy running the cafe who used to live in Putney and who knew my local in Kingston – The Boaters Inn. It was a good weekend of walking, music and beer and, you know, I don’t know who invented gloves but I reckon you’ve got to hand it to them.
OS Map used – Explorer 129 Yeovil & Sherbourne
Pay less when you order this map here: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/fundraising/shop/anquet-map.htm