Vicunas and sandstone and cheese, oh my!

Absolutely gorge-ous

Absolutely gorge-ous

LET ME tell you about a secret. An ancient trackway in a West Dorset village sinks into an astonishing gorge where great golden sandstone walls rear up for 30 feet. Ivy cascades down in snaking wreaths. Emerald ferns thrust and twist, unfettered on both sides.

It’s just like the Aztec Zone in the Crystal Maze, the crumbling stone pocked and tattooed with countless carvings of mysterious initials, drawings and other forget-me-nots gouged out by those who went before us.

The rock face

We emerge to a high ridge with breathtaking views undulating down to the sea, tramp down farm tracks, look for gaps in hedges, hop over stiles.

Where are we? This is Symondsbury, ravished by the Vikings, revered by Wordsworth, home to vicunas. Well, one small herd numbering three. Apparently, they hum to each other when they are unsure of things. We do not get close enough to find out. Bashful creatures do not come when called.

Once, twice, three times a llama

And back to the lattice-windowed, pleasantly chintzy Ilchester Arms for pints of Thatchers Gold and Palmer’s Best. Lumps of creamy cheese are piled in porcelain dishes on the bar. Now that’s what I call a bar snack.

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