I’m going to take you back almost two weeks to a walk I did on one of my rare-but-recent days off work. Bristol‘s Blaise Castle Estate is significant to me for childhood memories of school trips and nostalgia; but also because, one year ago, it was the first place I visited when I decided to start walking on my own.
Last Sunday, as you may have already seen; I led the walking group for the third time. Now, I’m a bit stuck for ideas on where I could take them next but I have entertained thoughts about involving Blaise Castle. As fortune would have it, there’s a six-mile walk you can follow in Geoff Mullett’s Walk West Again. So, on this day, I decided to take a look at how the route pans out for myself.
Geoff’s walk begins with a hunt for red-topped orienteering markers, which’ll confirm you’re heading the right way.
If you’re local or perhaps you’ve simply been there before; when you hear the name ‘Blaise’, you tend to instantly think of one thing and that is of course the castle. What I also discovered on my first visit there last August is that there are some nice areas for walking in. Nothing too strenuous; no steep hills or mountains to climb but a welcome distraction from the nearby city nonetheless.
I was aware that you could follow the River Trym south from the estate and on towards an area known as Combe Dingle. What I didn’t realise before this walk was that these woodlands can also lead you south-west through Shirehampton.
Bridge that crosses Kingsweston Road towards Shirehampton.
Upon leaving the woods, you arrive at close to a less-than-favourable road junction with the disturbance of moving traffic. But you don’t have to cross any road – instead, you cross over it, using a bridge that I happen to drive under each time I visit the estate.
There’s another stretch of woodland before you pass several playing fields and eventually cross a road in to Shirehampton Golf Club.
Keep off the green at Shirehampton Golf Club.
I’m not a golfer but, having followed a footpath through another golf course in the past, that’s one thing I like about them; that they allow pedestrians and walkers to pass through along specified routes. Plus, there are no dangers of having to encounter any livestock here – just highly-paid men swinging golf clubs! 😉
A panoramic view of what’s known as ‘Horseshoe Point’ near Bristol.
But the real reason to pass through this particular course is for the view over the River Avon.
Beyond the golf course, you then have to take a chance and cross the A4 Portway to the other side. This is my only concern about leading a group along this walk… Four lanes of traffic moving in both directions. Average speed is around 50mph (for those who stick to the limit). Perhaps a Sunday wouldn’t be so bad.
Shirehampton Park, on the other side of the Portway.
On Sunday the 15th of September, it’s the Bristol Half Marathon. On the same day, we have vacancies for walks and Blaise Castle looks to be open to welcome visitors who wish to look inside and to see the views of all around… Looking at the half-marathon route and the map of road closures, the crossing we would take is exempt and we could see less traffic than usual on the day… I’m still thinking about it but it might just work out for a near-perfect 1 Boot walk! 😉
Once you are safely across the Portway (I had to run but it was a Monday morning), you head in to Shirehampton Park before passing under a railway bridge and following the riverbank left (south-east) and towards Sea Mills.
There isn’t much to see at this point… Close to the halfway point, it would usually be time to consider a lunch stop but with all the long grass and overgrowth beside this river, I would encourage people to carry on a little further. You don’t really get a good view of the river unless you’re either very tall or are prepared to wade your way through thick, long grass.
Passing under the same bridge again, you enter Sea Mills where, beyond the mud and water, there are only a few houses to keep your eyes occupied. Another bridge ahead is in fact the A4 Portway – if we walk beneath this on the 15th, there’s a chance we’ll get to see some of the thousands of runners and participants on the day.
Over the bridge, across the River Trym and I found a nice green area that would serve better (in my opinion) for a lunch stop. If it’s raining, we could always take shelter under the bridge! If people were desperate for a pub stop, we could even carry on a little further as the return route loops around the back of a pub (I forget its name) with a sign posted for the Blaise Castle Estate.
Is this to stop or slow cyclists?
On entering this combe of woodland, I couldn’t figure out what sort of person was supposed to fit through this ‘gate’ or entryway…?!?
That was one of the nicer views of the River Trym. In the other direction, I noticed all sorts had been thrown in to the water – we’re talking several vacuum cleaners, here, among other pollutants!
Following Geoff’s directions, you soon find yourself walking a long path that leads to the Combe Dingle car park and then further on the return to Blaise Castle, still following the same river.
One of two nearby caves.
Geoff’s route then takes you steeply uphill ahead of the castle so that you can rejoin the route at the beginning and head to the car park from there. What I’m thinking though, is that I may just carry on along the ‘known’ path, greeting the lillypond along the way before the infamous stepped climb up past one of two caves to reach the folly castle.
Blaise Castle, from the rear.
I’ve never been inside the castle so, it would be an added personal joy if everything went to plan on this day.
Mansion House/Museum at Blaise Castle Estate.
There’s a museum/mansion house that’s free and open to visitors throughout the day and a café closer to the car park would surely serve us well at the end of the walk.
One thing I didn’t notice on my first visit a year ago was that the castle is visible from the footpath that meanders past the museum house. If the car park is ever full (and, in my experience, it often is), you can either park in a layby opposite or there are roadside spaces outside the playing area – just don’t do what this VW Golf did ahead of me and stop on double-yellow lines!!
I hope that wasn’t your car parked in front of mine…
Thanks for reading.