Thursday 28th May 2015
It was two-weeks ago to this day. This very evening, I headed out for a rare post-work walk in the hopes of capturing many bluebells with my camera, with summer looming only a matter of days ahead.
Prior’s Wood in Portbury, North Somerset, is regarded as one of the best sites in the country to spot carpets of bluebell flowers in the heights of the spring season. Two-years ago, I first embarked on this walk under the leadership of the Ramblers. This time, it was only me.
I just had to hope that I wasn’t going to arrive too late.
If you’re interested in doing this walk yourself, then you can find it amongst many other walks within the Walk West series of eBooks, which are now free to download from this blog. This walk (No.4) came from the original title, Walk West. I only wish to emphasise that Geoff Mullett is the author behind all three eBooks and he has gratefully allowed me to share them here for you to discover.
This walk is only a stone’s throw from the M5 motorway (Junction 19) and the Gordano Services. Sounds of passing traffic can be caught in the breeze but at no time are you over-exposed to the motorway vehicles.
To discover these woods and this landscape two-years ago then, was quite a pleasure.
Having noticed that the nights have become significantly longer, I’ve been entertaining thoughts about doing more evening walks this year, as I didn’t get many (if any) done throughout 2014. It’s kind of ironic in how I write this now, with the Summer Solstice barely one-week away.
But I think April was still a bit chilly for too many evening walks. On this occasion, I did wear a fleece (in got surprisingly cold beneath the shade of so many trees) but my main concern about having made a poor decision to wear shorts was based on the fact that I’d completely forgotten about how overgrown a couple of the initial paths tend to be!
Further ahead and, after having crossed over a road; I think I even limboed my way past a fallen tree.
This walk was almost like a minor warm-up for me; three-days before the Mendip Challenge (more on that in my next post).
Along with that, I decided that an evening walk (shortly before the end of a working week) might be a convenient way to begin to wind down and de-stress (I don’t enjoy what I do).
Within the Walk West series, you’ll encounter a wide range of walks covering an array of landscapes and historic locations across the Westcountry. I’ve made a habit so far, since 2013, of turning a blind eye to any guided walk that’s less than six-miles in length. However, the lighter evenings present me now with a great opportunity to try a few more of these four-milers.
It was in Budding’s Wood, as I made my way up and over Windmill Hill, that I caught my first glimpse of bluebells for the evening.
Crossing another road (the one I’d descended in my car to begin this walk), I was greeted by other brightly-coloured flowers as I left the quarry behind and this filled me with optimism and good spirits for what may lie within the woods further ahead.
Just as on the last occasion I was here; the old house about was still standing (just about), with warning signs to deter people from entering or getting too close. Perhaps one day, I’ll return to find it’s being redeveloped.
I was soon making my way towards The Downs school, feeling a little wayward as I couldn’t recall exactly where we passed through the fence ahead of me in 2013.
What’s quite surprising about this land is that while a couple of public footpaths run across its fields, all dogs are forbidden from entering. I still can’t think of an occasion where I’ve seen this before. But then, this is a private school in a rather prestigious location.
They even had their own ‘dilapidated building‘ and yet, signs to warm tomorrow’s adults to keep away appeared to be absent. Does this school educate their pupils very well then?
More hurdles on the way in to Prior’s Wood.
Somewhere between this point and the entrance to Prior’s Wood, we previously passed a field with an array of individual animals contained. I was looking forward to that but, treading on to ground that was completely new and unfamiliar to me, I can only assume that Nina led us along a slightly different route that day.
It’s interesting because, if you know the local area well then, you’ll be highly aware that Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is very close by at this point. As Geoff points out in his guide; older OS maps will show there is a public right of way that passes right across the private land but it is important for walkers to understand now that this right of way no longer exists, as the owners of the zoo farm have payed to have its access revoked. Kind of sad but also, quite understandable, really when you’re trying to run a business and look after the wellbeing of all sorts of species.
Having fought my way past greens that were almost up to my armpits, I was soon greeted with further bluebells.
It was beyond 20.00 by this point and, although my camera doesn’t truly show it, darkness was beginning to encompass the space inside this final patch of woodland.
Passing the first dog walker I had seen on this evening, I soon met up with the river and used this as a guide to ensure I continued in the right direction. I once spent a good hour wandering aimlessly around woods not too far from here and I knew it could’ve be black within the hour.
Rather disappointingly, I did not come across another bluebell for the final mile of the walk. Usually, it’s a haven, alive with the violet hue.
Garlic was in full bloom and you could distinctly smell it as well. But somehow, it just seemed as though I’ve arrived even a few days too late to catch the magic for 2015.
Looking now at an OS map, I can tell you that I had walked west from Charlton Farm, briefly following the Gordano Round, in order to enter the woods and joining the riverside path. I’m wondering now, whether Nina took us further north and in to the centre of the woodlands upon higher ground… Yep, I guess I’ll just have to revisit one day!
With 21.00 looming, I reckon we must’ve finished the previous walk at around the same time. Where most of the small group made their way to a local pub, I decided to head straight home a little ‘unsociably’, with one other person. We were directed to follow the road for the most simple and direct route back to our cars.
On this occasion, I was free to complete the tail-end of Geoff’s walk and to see a little more of this village, so often bypassed in a car.
Leaving the road behind (which can get a little busy, is narrow and lacks a pavement on either side), I took a diversion down towards the local church.
Outside and on a grass mound, I discovered a large stone that’s integral to the heritage of Portbury and was probably mined from the disused quarry I passed about halfway through the walk.
Exiting out on to a field, I was a little alarmed to realise the sudden increase in noise from nearby traffic. But this was still preferable to walking on the boundary of a road. Fortunately, the paths were well-worn also, amongst a high-tide of grass.
With the layby car park creeping in to view, I turned a corner to find at least half-a-dozen donkeys huddled beneath a shelter!
Sheep, cows, horses, maybe even alpacas – I’d have expected to see them there. But donkeys?!
They just seemed so out of place here. Yet, it was a pleasant way to end a rather satisfying walk with the sun beginning to set. It must’ve been 20.45. I was pleased to have made the effort to have come here.
Arriving back at my car, I noticed an increasing number of other drivers/car-owners sitting around doing apparently nothing. It was a little concerning. I certainly hope it wasn’t one of ‘those‘ car parks… In any case, I didn’t hang around for very long!!
Thanks for reading.