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Panorama of the West Country with a terrifying story and views from the “top of the world”

There are times when it’s a good idea to climb a mountain to get a better view of the world around you. The right kind of hill will do.

Or a ridge, an escarpment, or indeed any eminence that is capable of giving you an overview of the world in which you live. The point is that being high can lift your spirits and somehow help you put the complexities of life into perspective.




The Southwest region has a variety of peaks that will do the trick, but some are better than others when it comes to providing the drama of this 360-degree panorama.

The crest of the Quantock Hills is one of the most beautiful I know, and I say this not only because I was born under the shelter of those lovely hills, and therefore have an undying love for their soft contours, but because the views from a walk along these modest peaks is better and more extensive than you would get from many mountains 10 times their height.

I was telling all this to a friend and editor of our sister paper, The Western Daily Press Richard Bache, who joined me on a walk along the airy ridge of the Quantock – and I promised him that, if the weather was good, he would be treated to a vast panorama that would encompass more than a third from the large geographical area covered by it. own newspaper.

An invitation I imagined sounded pretty impressive, until I told him we were meeting at a place called Dead Woman’s Ditch. While we were on the phone, I don’t know if his expression changed to one of mild alarm at this rather terrible place name – but he agreed to come anyway, so he must have been convinced that it would be a good idea to enjoy. those views of almost all of Somerset, as well as views of Gloucestershire, Dorset and even Wiltshire and Worcestershire, not forgetting a large chunk of Devon in the form of the Blackdown Hills and distant Dartmoor. It is said that you can see a total of 12 counties from the top of the Quantocks, if you count those in Wales on the other side of the Bristol Channel.

As for the awesomeness of Dead Woman’s Ditch, I also promised Richard I’d tell him all about the scintillating story behind the name. Which of course was a bit disingenuous of me as it was an excuse to plug my novel. The last sweeps – a story that has the dead woman in question at the very center of its narrative.

Martin Hesp reads from his novel, The Last Broomsquire(Image: Martin Hesp)

The moat is actually a prehistoric rampart, erected for defensive purposes to help keep Bronze Age people safe – but Jane Shorney was far from safe when she visited the site just over 200 years ago. I’m not sure how close she was to the ditch that is now so indelibly linked to her death – local legend says she was killed here, but some say she went to meet her maker further down the hill. Wherever it was, the grim truth of the matter is that one fateful night, Jane flew at her husband, John Walford, in a rage, and he felled her with a blow before finishing the job with his knife.

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