Saturday 3rd December 2016
My first walk in December was a second attempt at a partial-fail dating back over three-and-a-half years.
With minimal daylight hours, the mileage was fair. It was less than an hour’s drive from home and I could avoid the motorways. Given that this was in winter, I felt confident that the majority of all cattle would already be confined to their seasonal sheds…
Would this attempt to follow the route become any more successful than the last?
Well, for a start, there was not even a drop of rain forecast. When I first attempted this one in September 2013, I think the walk began under dry-enough conditions but those certainly deteriorated before I lost my way and far ahead of the finish line.
I’d hoped to be able to park on Station Road, close to the start of this walk. But, there were cars all over and I ended up parking slightly further north up Beach Road and beyond the local shops, where genuine parking spaces can be found. Geoff advises you to turn left from the end of Station Road and to park along Riverside Park… But this is a dead-end with a residential area and I didn’t feel confident about parking in any portion where there was room.
Once my boots and gaiters were on, I traced my steps back to the familiar start point and joined the Severn Way heading north. I soon pass beneath the Second Severn Crossing, who foundations are partially covered with graffiti (out of shot). Further north, I can see the original Severn Crossing – the one you can legally walk and cycle across.
…I’ve always found it strange that there’s no pedestrian access allowed across the newer (and, presumably, ‘better’) Severn Bridge. But I should also be wary of mentioning these structures, in a month where the bridge toll of 2016 is set to increase further! This news, only months after we were told that all construction costs have now been recuperated, thanks to years of toll charges in to Wales… There’s also a rumour that the toll will be halved and that we’ll then have to pay crossing each way. We’ll wait and see.
Off to the left is a platform depicting the point at which passengers would’ve once boarded the cross-channel train to follow the Union Railway to Portskerritt.
There’s no ‘beach’, as such, in Severn Beach. At the end of the sea wall, the Severn Way now follows a grassy bank across Northwick Warth, with it’s shooting range and nature reserve – two things that should never be so close together, surely.
If you’re following the guide as it is in the Walk West series, you’re supposed to leave the Severn Way at the next road and follow a series of footpaths across fields and farmland.
After completing this walk and the one at Deerhurst, I read a bit more in to the Severn Way (as a recognised long-distance path) and was surprised to see that its southern end actually begins (or terminates) in the centre of Bristol. I can’t imagine many people would look forward to passing Avonmouth but there’s also a long stretch of pavement walking between the busy A4 Portway and the muddy banks of the River Avon. Much further north, the path leads you through Powys and in to Welshpool, where I visited Powis Castle, back in August.
So, I stuck to the quiet road from Cake Pill Outfall, where there were sad signs of fly-tipping immediately to my left. In situations like this, I wonder; what does someone hope to gain from throwing it over the fence? Why not at dump it at the roadside in front? I’d love to know their justification.
A few cars pass by and I notice this area is popular for people parking up and staying overnight in their caravans. There are no restriction signs against this. Beyond a gentle climb at the road bend, I cross the A403 in to Aust.
On the left, I ascend a small mount to pass close by the local church, with its ancient-looking trees.
Was the water level much higher, when the church was conceived, I wonder?
I imagine that everyone passing through the village of Aust must stop and take a photo of these remnants to an old fuel filling station. I bet Instagram bears loads of them, coupled with posers and perhaps the odd selfie. If only I knew the right hashtag to search for…
Across the road from the pub, I join the Pilgrim’s Way – a footpath of unknown duration that I’ve yet to successfully research, without reading in to an identically-named long-distance path running towards the south-east of England.
This landscape appears familiar, gradually, as I leave the Severn Bridges further behind. As the roar of the motorway traffic dissipates, slightly, I realise that I must be closing in on my point of misdirection from 2013.
I walk through several fields and cross a number of rhynes with footbridges before I meet my first (small) herd of cattle. From my previous walk here, I can recall many more of them with a large herd running backwards and forth along the opposite side of a field where I turned left and away from the intended route.
There were none of the broken stiles that I encountered last time – a sure sign that I was on the right path. I did find the boards on this footbridge beginning to deteriorate. While it remains quite safe to cross, I have reported it to South Gloucestershire council.
Away from my intended route, I spotted another footbridge in need of repair. This, I have also reported.
I soon arrived in the churchyard at Northwick. There is a church building but only a ‘Sch’ (school) is denoted on the OS maps. I find a bench to my right and stop for lunch.
Given the fact that I could not recall how only the church tower remains (the rest of the building, having sunk, due to the moorland it was situated upon), I’m quite certain that I did not walk through here three-years ago.
After lunch, I cross the road and then follow and unfamiliar but waymarked farm drive, trying not to step on the ‘free-range’ chickens.
Heading for the fields at the other end, a large duck is slowly on my tail, perhaps fulfilling the landowner’s duty to ensure I do not linger on private land.
At the end of the next fields, I climb up to walk south along the busy A403 a short distance, before dropping down to rejoin the footpath network; soon passing through an unmarked gate, beside a caravan park and on to a quiet road.
Suddenly, I’m climbing – again, alongside the A403 – but, this time, I’m also crossing over the M4 motorway.
Across the bridge and I descend from the A-road and now walking alongside the Wales-bound stretch of motorway.
This section is very familiar, even though it feels illegal. By this point on my previous walk here, I was already soaking wet, my (former) map case had failed to keep my A4 print-outs dry and I was grateful for this restless shelter.
Over some fields and I’m in to the village of Redwick, wondering who on Earth would commission blue window frames for their home… Soon enough, I realise that this is only the protective film covering. Nobody – but, perhaps my A-Level art teacher, who would colour-code her appearance and outfits based on the day of the week – would ever do this.
From another roadside, I descend grassy steps towards Redwick House Farm, where the owner has attached this ‘threatening’ sign at each end of the footpath… Yep, I’ve reported this as well as the phrase “enter at your own risk” does not comply with official guidance.
‘Please give them a wide berth’
‘Do not position yourself between a mother and its calf’
‘Please keep your dog(s) on a lead’
‘If the cow(s) follow you, do not run. If they give chase, let your dog go.’
We see many signs reminding us of the countryside code but I hope that, in time, we can see more available information offering guidance and suggestion on how to approach or avoid livestock.
Worse still, the farmer has obstructed the right of way with this line of feeding troughs. You can snake around the left and between a hedge but it really shouldn’t be like this.
As I struggle over the last “stile” to reach the next road, I make a further mental note to report the absence of a tread, along with the fact that the large gate has been wired shut.
Up ahead, I find myself now walking alongside the M49 motorway, where these ‘cherry-pickers’ have been parked up and, presumably, for the weekend until Monday morning.
This path continues through light woodland before I reach a tarmac junction – at which point, I ascend to cross the M49 via an extensive footbridge. Also, the Second Severn Crossing is clear in my sights.
I really do not recall walking this way last time. I think I followed a cycle path, for the most part but, that would’ve meant getting lost for the second time on that walk… My memory’s quite good.
Further south, I can almost see the eyesore of Avonmouth and that building that looks almost out of place. It’s not one of the nuclear power stations. I used to work for a company whose chilled warehouse was relocated to Avonmouth, a few months after I left that job. I sometimes wonder what it might’ve been like, to make the daily commute working shift hours through a heavily-industrialised area.
Back in Severn Beach, I looked on and struggled to imagine how this area could’ve at any time been a place for one to bring the kids or grandchildren for a day out.
Down by the railway station, I find the follow, which is the only suggestion of colour and ‘life’ within the local vicinity.
I wonder how different this walk could be, on a clear day with blue sky?
Distance of this walk: 8.5 miles
Thanks for reading.