105. Portishead to Chepstow

Today would be my last trip down to the south west for some time, as this was the final trip to ensure I have a continuous and unbroken clockwise link from Poole to Chester.

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The marina at Portbury Wharf

I opted to park close to the M48 bridge in Chepstow, from where I would catch the #X7 bus to Bristol. I opted for the £7.50 day rover which would cover me also for the bus out to Portishead on the # X2. It had taken about 1hr 40 minutes to get to my start point and I was itching to get walking, on what was a beautiful sunny morning.

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Picasso-like sculpture at Portbury Wharf

Starting at the Windmill Inn I headed off towards Portishead Point. The familiar view out across the Severn Estuary was even better this morning, especially as the haze had disappeared. I headed east through East Wood along a lovely quiet road before emerging close to The Royal, a pub close to the old disused Portishead Pier.

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Disused railway track at Avonmouth

This whole area has been developed with swanky looking apartments overlooking the large marina. I could see the Severn Crossing in the distance as well as the Portbury and Avonmouth Docks which I had to walk around. I made use of the lock gates in the marina to cross over the water.

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On the Avonmouth Bridge

At Portbury Wharf I had a nice wak on the levee for half- a mile, before I had to  head south towards the small hamlet of thatched cottages at Sheepway. I picked up the National cycleway No. 26 at Sheepway which ran around the periphery of the huge car storage parks that I had seen many times from up high on the Avonmouth Bridge. The scale of the these car storage parks are truly amazing.

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Has anybody seen John?

I passed Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Jeep and Fiat by their thousand. The cycle path soon joined and followed an old disused railway track. It was strange seeing the weeds growing up through the still intact tracks. Some sections of track had simply had hardcore dumped over the tracks and compacted down. The increasing noise had told me I was approaching the M5 and the Avonmouth Bridge. Having travelled over this bridge scores of times in a car, I was really looking foward to crossing over by foot. I was rewarded with some amazing views, that had been difficult to appreciate while driving.

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The New Severn Crossing

The next 5 miles was simply a case of following the main roads though the Avonmouth Docks area towards the Seabank Power Station. Close to a newly built business park I was relieved to cross onto the Severn Way, which followed the railway most of the way to Severn Beach. The path was reasonably well trodden, but I appreciated being away from the incessant traffic that had accompanied me for the last 10 miles. The Severn way path crossed over the rail tracks and proceeded towards Severn Beach, where it followed a concrete sea wall all way to and underneath the M4 bridge.

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Toll area on the M48 Bridge

The final stretch of path out towards the old Severn Crossing was along Northwick Wharf, a sort of salt marsh and grassy meadow that was very comfortable to walk along. I joined a  small road which takes me to the small hamlet of Old Passage. The road begins to rise up to about 30m to enable the bridge to have a degree of elevation.

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On the M48 Old Severn Bridge

A service road to the Bridge Toll area also serves as a cycle way. The Bridge toll bays have a gantry, which enables walkers and cyclists to cross over the motorway and walk on either side of the bridge. There is also a service area on the NE side. I opt walk on the SW side, which offers great views downstream to the new Severn Crossing. My view back to Portishead is obscured by a series of short sharp squalls, which fortunately missed me! I was really looking forward to crossing the bridge and it did not disappoint.

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Small shooting range on Beachley Point

The odd cyclist passes me, but even surprisingly even the traffic is quite light on the bridge. The bridge makes landfall on the spit of land called Beachley Point, although still still in Gloucestershire, the area below the bridge has a number of military functions, including a barracks, shooting range and sports facilities. The cycle way drops down from the motorway and joins up with the Wales Coast Path and the section I had previously walked. I managed the 19 miles in 5.25 hrs.

Distance today =  19 miles
Total distance =   1655 miles

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104. Kewstoke to Portishead

Today was my penultimate trip to complete this section of the coastal path. I was getting rather excited as I neared Bristol, it also meant less travel time as well. However, today also meant getting 2 buses to get back to my start point at Kewstoke.

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Woodspring Priory

I parked at the panoramic viewpoint at the Windmill Inn in Portishead. The sun had just risen and I was treated to a glorious view across the Severn Estuary from Cardiff through Newport to the Severn Bridges. I walked about half a mile through a housing estate to catch the first of my buses, a # X5 to Weston Super Mare. The bus journey was about an hour and I managed to pick out parts of my route that I would be travelling on later that morning. The bus went around Clevedon and Nailsea before hitting the M5 motorway for the final leg to Weston.

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Tranquil scene at Phipps Sluice

I had about 30 minutes to wait for a #100 bus to Kewstoke to arrive, so it was into Greggs for a nice takeaway coffee. By 8:05 the Bus had dropped my off on the beach road to Sand Bay. The weather was lovely and sunny, but with a biting breeze. I headed straight for the top of Middle Hope, a small promontory very similar to Brean Down, but much smaller. The view from the Middle Hope was brilliant, with great visibility across to Cardiff.

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Perhaps a vantage point for an agricultural Show?

I walked towards Woodspring Priory, unfortunately I came to a locked gate , with the message keep out. I continued east for about 400m and then picked up a footpath, which led me back to the Priory and the road.

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Kingston Seymour local library

I had decided on my route,and had  based this on the experiences of others, who had walked this way. I had to get over the River Banwell, Oldbridge River, Yeo and Blind Yeo; and to do this involved a detour in land criss-crossing the M5 and using minor roads and footpaths.  After departing the Priory the road went past Culm farm, where I turned left and followed a bridleway east across fields to Ebdon farm. I emerged on the road and turned left and after 200m right. Ebdon Lane took me down a reasonably quiet lane to Bourton, a small collection of three farmhouses. I had joined the National cycle way #33 for a short section.

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Who needs place names when you have Lanes?

After Bourton I turned right at the next junction heading for the M5 motorway, which had got very noisy by now. I crossed the motorway and railway line to emerge on the A370. Fortunately, the road had a footpath, at least until the Pub The Last Quart. I followed a road alongside the pub and crossed over the railway line, this time by a level crossing. I came to the small hamlet of East Hewish. The footpath, at this point set off across fields towards the M5. My intention was to cross the River Yeo at Phipps Sluice. Just before I arrived at the sliuce I disturbed a heard of cows, who decided to get abit frisky. I waved and my walking stick in the air and shouted “hut-hut-hut” which dispersed them. I crossed Phipps Sluice and did not even bother to inspect the culvert under the M5. I just continued east along the footpath I was on, which ran parallel to the motorway. I emerged  at a farm track after passing through a small orchard. I had to walk around a huge pile of manure, just as a farmer with a digger turned up, he gave me a cheery wave and I continued to cross over the motorway again.

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The Marine Lake and Pier at Clevedon

The farm track lead onto Ham lane and then into the small village of Kingston Seymour with its small charming church, All Saints. The next 3 to 4 miles was spent walking along roads, which offered very little interest. After passing Lower Farm, a permissive path back to the coast was available and I must admit it was nice to get back walking along the coast. The path ran and crossed over, via a sluice, the artificial drainage ditch of Blind Yeo. I was then on the outskirts of Clevedon. I walked up the small hump called Wains Hill, which has a walk around its periphery called the Poets walk. I the passed St Andrews Church, but did not linger as a funeral service was under way. I dropped down to the Marine Lake and continued onto Clevedon Pier. Although John Betjamin praised Clevedon Pier, I cannot say I held it in any high regard. Although its entrance was being renovated I did not feel inclined to pay to walk towards the end of it.

Shortly after the Pier entrance a footpath called the Gordan Round becomes available, all the way back to my car parked at the Windmill Pub. Not a great deal to say about the last 6 miles. Certainly, it was great to be close to the sea and to have a proper footpath to walk, and to have great views towards the Severn bridges. I was intrigued when I studied the map of the Redcliffe Bay area of Portishead, a collection of underground storage tanks contained. When I walked past, I was none the wiser, until I got home and did abit of digging. Apparently these underground tanks store aviation fuel, from where it is pumped to a number of UK airports! Must admit, as a resident, I would not be too keen on having this lot stored next to my house!

Managed the 20 miles in 6.0 hrs.

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =   1636 miles

103. Kewstoke to Burnham on Sea

With only 57 miles to go until I finish the gap between Burnham on Sea and Chepstow, I decided that I need to make 3 more trips to North Somerset/ Avon. To

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Grand Pier at Weston Super Mare

day was one of those ‘awkward’ sections with a little mileage as the crow flies, but an inconvenient river crossing and ‘an out and back’ meant this 20 miler was no pushover.

I looked at the bus times and if I was to walk Burnham on Sea to Kewstoke then I would not be walking until about midday. So I chose to park close to Kewstoke on Sandy bay road and start my walk there. By the time I arrived in Burnham the Sunday hourly service wo

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Steps up to Brean Down

uld be in operation.

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Looking down to Brean Beach from Brean Down
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Kite Buggy on Brean Beach
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The rather forlorn pier at Burnham on Sea

I set off at 6:45 and it was still chilly, although the sun was out by now. The tree lined route that runs alongside the Kewstoke Tollgate road, had a few ups and downs, but at least I was spared walking along the road. The path sits on the northern side of Worlebury Hill, a densely wooded area that guards Weston Super Mare to the north. The path rounds the tip of Worlebury hill and returns back down to the road. I caught my first glimpse of the ruined and dilapidated pier running out to Birnbeck Island. Almost immediately I was in Weston with the seafront of Weston Bay sweeping round past the recently re-furbished Knighstone development and the Grand Pier just coming into view. Few people are about at this time on a Sunday morning. Just after the Seaquarium I come top the permanently closed Dismaland. As a fan of Banksy, I regret not making the effort to get tickets for the event. I have a slight breeze at my back, which pushes me along past the deserted Ferris Wheel.

The path directs me down to the beach, which also serves as large car park, £8 to park for the day!! When I reach the golf course the cycle route I am now on (No. 33) is directed past a boat yard and an old quarry. I am now passing through Uphill and join The Mendip Way for a short distance. As I enter the Bleadon Levels I hear my first Cuckoo call of the year…. always a magical moment.

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Silica

Since starting out this morning I have had the small hill promontory of Brean Down in my sights, knowing that I must walk out to that. I appear back on a road, the main rail line running alongside, fortunately the traffic is light before I am directed off down a footpath towards Wick farm.

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =   1616 miles

 

102. Minehead to Hinkley Point

Today I was returning to Minehead having completed the SWCP there in August 2015. I intended to link up Minehead with my last finish point of Hinkley Point. To do this I set off very early from Telford to catch the 6:32  #16 bus from Cannington. To get to Cannington, I needed to use my bike for the 5 mile cycle. I had to equip the bike with lights, as it was still dark when I set off at 5:45 in the morning! I had parked in a layby, the same one I had used last Sunday ** More about this at the end of the report!!

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Butlins Minehead

I was the only passenger, for the most of the journey on the bus to Minehead and I had a nice pleasant conversation with the lady bus driver. We talked about walking, Scotland and dogs, the bus journey seemed to fly by. I got off at the clock esplanade near the rail station. The weather dull and grey with a stiff breeze that was freezing. I immediately had to get my jacket on. It would remain hazy for most of the day, so no views today.

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Albatross! Albatross! get yours here!

I passed the Butlins camp and continued down past the golf course. I was walking directly into the wind, which did not help. Blue Anchor seemed to come very quick. Just past the hotel with the same name, a “precautionary” diversion routed the path up the A39 due to recent cliff falls. I noticed a couple of cars driven by lunatics going in my direction and with no footpath or verge I opted to risk plummetting to the beach below. Needless to say the recent cliff falls were about 10m from the path.

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Across the mud and sand of St. Audries bay

I arrived in Watchet and passed  the charming sculptures of the Ancient Marioner and “Yankee Jack”, next to the harbour.

The next 4 or 5 miles was walking along the beach. I made swift progress even though, I trudged through some fine mud sections, as well as sand and limestone “pavements”. I by-passed the holiday park and holiday village, although I did see a couple of England Coast Path signs in the holiday park as I came in on the bus. Somewhere along the beach, the ECP from the land must have come down to the beach, because when I eventually left the beach, there was a warnings sign that the route would be blocked at high tide. I must admit I thought that the ECP did not necessitate walking on the beach.

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Bonfire for a Queen

I passed Kilve and could see the power station at Hinkley Point looming in the distance. At Kilve I spoke to a couple of chaps who were busy putting the final touches to a large bonfire/beacon that was to be lit at 19:00 this evening as a tribute to HRH Elizabeth’s 90th birthday.

The walking got alot easier as i approached the power station, where the path was diverted inland due to the building of Hinkley Point C.

As I approached the end of the walk, I could see two uniformed men who were peering into my car. From some distance away I shouted to them, asking who they were. They said they were the police and that the car had been there about 6 hours. I told them about cycling to Cannington earlier and they said they did see me! Anyway, I asked them if they were Avon and Somerset Constabulary. They said no , they were the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC)..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Nuclear_Constabulary

Any, I was annoyed and ranted on about this and that, including the fact that other walkers had been harassed and challenged by ‘security men’ whilst walking on public footpaths around the facility. They asked for my name, but stressed I did not have to give it, I did because I had said I had nothing to hide. They had put a note under my windshield……..  hpc   , which I did not read it until I got home. It note goes on, stupidly about taking the bus or using park and ride. How residents could complain about someone parking legally in a roadside lay-by in the middle of the countryside is beyond me. I was not rude to them, just p***ed off. It turns out that these plods operate up to 5km from the facility and they come armed!!

I managed the 19 miles in 5.75hrs.

 

 

 

 

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance =   1596 miles

 

101. Bridgwater to Hinkley Point

Today was back down to North Somerset to continue “filling the gap”. I had chosen a much better day to be able to  see things compared to my last visit only just 5 days ago when I was fogbound. The weather today was bright sunshine, with a hint of frost in the air, great walking weather! My camera had suddenly sprung back into life, but I am very dubious as to whether it will last much longer and the quality of it’s images.

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New hide at Steart Marsh

Because I had chosen to finish my walk at Hinkley Point there was no public transport available. So it was a case of loading up my mountain bike, which fits easily into my car, then driving and parking in a lay by nearby to the village of  Shurton. I was then faced with a 9 mile ride back along reasonably quiet roads, to Bridgwater. I covered the 9 miles in about 50 minutes which was ok and I felt very fresh when I arrived. I chained the bike to some railings alongside the River Parrett and set off .

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English Longhorn (?) cattle at Steart

I was basically walking on the dyke or levee bordering the river for nearly all of the walk. I was afforded brilliant views across to the Quantock Hills, the Mendips, Brean Down, Glastonbury Tor and a large section of the South Wales coastline with Cardiff and Newport very prominent. The walk along the meandering River Parrett was confusing and deceiving. I thought the village of Comwich was very close, but then only to walk away from it. Eventually, the river unwound its last loops and began to straighten out and I passed through the charming village of Combwich. Shortly after Combwich, the ECP swings inland quite dramatically. This is due to the deliberate flooding of the land around Steart to return the land to a salt water marsh. The whole area has changed with proper footpaths, seating, multiple large “Hides” for those interested in bird watching.

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The start/end of the West Somerset Coast path

I passed through Steart and began walking west in the direction of Hinkley Point. Looking like a large factory, the Nuclear power station  of Hinkley Point dominates the landscape around this part of North Somerset.

About a mile after passing through the village of Stolford, I arrive at the perimeter of the power station. I know that although I could walk along the seaward side of the power station, the path at the far side is closed. I therefore follow the diversion which passes around the front of buildings and heads off inland for about a kilometer. Its at this point that I head for my car which is nearby. I manage the 17 miles in 4hrs 50 minutes. I drive back to Bridgwater to pick my bike up.

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The new approach road to Hinkley Point

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distance today = 17 miles
Total distance =   1577 miles

100. Bridgwater to Burnham on Sea

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England Coast Path signs

Since completing the WCP, today I was returning to Somerset to fill the gap between Minehead and Chepstow. I originally intended to start at Minehead and work my way west and north towards Bristol. However, the inland deviation and rather convoluted West  Somerset Coastal path did not appeal to me. I therefore intended to walk from Minehead to Watchet then transfer to the beach and walk along the beach  for about 4 miles to Klive then carry on to Steart. Unfortunately the tide was not quite right, I needed a low tide to occur  about 11:00, which should occur in about 7 days time! My next section would have been Steart to Bridgwater, but as I would be cycling back along the A39, I thought I would keep that for a Sunday. So today would be my third option, Bridgwater to Burnham on Sea.

[UPDATE: I have just checked the England Coast path website and it seems that the 58 mile section from Minehead to Brean Down is now open]

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Muddy River Parrett at Bridgwater

I parked in the esplanade Pay and Display car park in Burnham on Sea and caught the 6:32 # 75 bus to Bridgwater at a cost of £3. The bus was quite busy for that time of the morning, taking people to work in Bridgwater.

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My View!!

I got off at East Quay and quickly made my way to the bridge over the River Parrett. I was pleasantly surprised to see that previously unmarked footpath was now festooned with England Coast Path signs with directions, mileage and acorns – the symbol of National Trails (although  officially not until 2020) . This was first the time I had seen signs indicating the England Coast Path and having read a lot about the Coast Path, I was quite re-assured that something was actually being done on the ground. The signage was of good quality, frequent and was evident all the way to Burnham on Sea.

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More ECP signs!

The walk today was virtually all along the sea dyke or levee; with the River Parrett  twisting, turning and meandering all the way to the coast. I took very few photos, principally because I could not see a thing for the first 3 hours with fog restricting visibility to about 200m! I could not see the opposite side of the River Parrett until I approached Burnham, when finally the sun began to shine through. AND I saw swallows, diving and performing aerobatics over the River Brue. I must admit I cannot ever remember seeing them this early. As I prepared to take a photo of the Esplanade, my Sony camera packed up – for good I think!

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Approaching Burnham on Sea as the fog begins to clear

Overall, because of the fog not a good day for sightseeing, but I did get to see swallows and be home in the afternoon to mow the lawn, for the first time this year. Managed the 15 miles in 4.5 hrs. Hoping to get back this weekend to continue filling the gap.

 

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Seen better days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance =   1560 miles

99. Whitson to Chepstow

It was a glorious spring day, with the bulbs in bloom and the sun shining. This was to be my last section of the WCP and I was looking forward to it.

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Starting out at Seawall

I drove to and parked at Chepstow railway station. I then caught the 6:19 train to Newport. I  walked to the bus station and waited for the #63 to Whitson and the Wetlands. The 63 service is a Demand Responsive Transport service, but they still retain two scheduled services a day. I was catching the 7:30 one. Unfortunately, Newport bus station is also a very busy terminous with no central announcements or timetable. So I had to continually monitor the incoming buses to locate the #63. I only had one chance to catch this bus, so it was important I did not miss it. Anyway I managed to locate, even though my bus had come into a random stand with the words “Not in Service” on its display panel. The bus was very busy carrying workers out to their jobs around Spytty Park. By the time the bus got to Whitson I was the only passenger. I then had to walk about half- a mile down the road to Seawall, to resume the path.

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Holy Trinity Chapel at Sudbrook

I had great views across the Severn Estuary to wards Avonmouth as well as towards the Second Severn crossing bridge. The ground was dry and flat and I made swift progress along the path. I decided that I would not gamble on finding the firing range closed and opted to take the short inland diversion. The din from the M4 was incessant and a constant companion for the next 3 miles.

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King Tewdrig carving at Mathern

By the time I passed underneath  the M4 for the last time and rounded Sudbrook, the look and feel of the Path changed with the coast appearing to  give way to an estuary. Sudbrook is famous for the historical attempt to tunnel underneath the Severn. Today, the railway passes underneath Sudbrook, but has its entry point some two miles to the west. I take a while to explore the 12th century Holy Trinity chapel, in ruins since 1720. Parts of the chapel and graveyard have been lost to the action of the sea over time.

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Entering the town walls at Chepstow

The first Severn Bridge comes into view, the M48. I follow a short section of seawall and cross the railway as I head inland. This will be my last coast section, as when the path emerges later on it will alongside the banks of the River Wye. I head towards the quiet village of Mathern, although, there is still the hum of the distant motorway.  As I pass by the church in Mathern, I notice an elaborately carved figure of the Celtic King of Gwent – Tewdrig. The story goes that Tewdrig was mortally wounded in a battle with the Saxons. As he was being carried to be buried on Flat Holm island, he died where the Church now stands.

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The elegant Old Wye Bridge at Chepstow

The final three miles is spent walking around distribution warehouses, motorways and the mundane suburbia of Chepstow. Nevertheless Chepstow is a lovely little market town, with dramatic cliffs as the River Wye cuts its way through to the Severn Estuary. The Start/ End of the Wales Coast path is at the elegantly styled Old Wye Bridge or Town Bridge that links Wales to England. The bridge is now 200 years old. Previously the site of a wooden bridge and ferry point during Roman times, this place is a fitting place to end my walk.

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Mosaic of the Coastal Path and Offa’s Dyke

I peruse the various sculptures and signs in the nearby “The Backs” and walk across the bridge into Gloucestershire. One particular feature catches my eye. It is a sort of mosaic which links the nearby Offa’s Dyke with the WCP and an association of various counties, walks and birds, It is really well done

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Where England and Wales meet

In retrospect I have thoroughly enjoyed walking the Wales Coast Path and although my challenge has changed en route to include the whole of the coast of Great Britain; it would not have been right not include the small section at Chepstow. I have found the WCP to be, in the main, very well signposted (probably better than the SWCP!), well served by bus and trains and offering a stunning variety of wildlife and scenery.

Now I must link up the end of the SWCP at Minehead with Chepstow.

 

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance =   1545 miles