It’s about time I told you of the wet walk I endured last Sunday, in the hope that this coming weekend will bring, well… Let’s just say a lot less rain!
With a couple of print-outs from Walk West Again, I decided to headed out to Severn Beach, which is within walking distance of the Second Severn Crossing bridging England to Wales (via. a toll road). It was forecast to be a cloudy or rainy day, depending on where you looked for a forecast. It was almost noon by the time I finally left the house but, having not been on a walk for several weeks at this time; I felt obliged to make a real effort, as I am walking 20 miles this coming Sunday…
Driving there was easy and even parking in the nearby residential area wasn’t too bad. I’d taken my waterproofs with me but only decided to carry my coat; leaving the pack-away waterproof trousers to rest in my van… I wasn’t forecasting much of a soaking with the seven-miles or so I had to walk.
As far back as I can remember, this was my first and only visit to Severn Beach. I remember hearing of it many years ago and pondering as to how golden the sands might be… I think I even mistook it for Sand Bay on occasion (which is several miles south, near Weston-super-Mare). In more recent years with job applications and past times spent in unemployment; I’ve come to envisage it as an ‘industrialised’ locality, much like Avonmouth. Could there really be any sand for building castles?
This walk takes you along past the sea wall in the beginning. Views of the Severn Bridges (new and then old) are welcome at this early stage, especially with the wind blowing in from the side. Apparently there used to be a railway of some sort in this area, running all the way across the channel, if I read the plaques correctly.
Leaving the sea wall and heading inland, I could read ahead within Geoff’s guide to note that I would have to walk for a good mile along fields… I knew before I even got there that it would probably involve cows! There were lots of them, too! But, in spite of all that’s been in the media this year about cows ‘disturbing’ walkers in the UK, not one them gave me any more than a stare. Even the horses I passed before reaching a road (who came racing over to see me) decided that I would have to work for their attention, if I really wanted it.
You don’t have to walk too far along this route before the old Severn Bridge comes in to view. It’s a little further north of the new one but, geographically speaking, there isn’t an awful lot of distance between them. As a driver though, it’s one heck of a diversion in order to avoid paying a toll fee to cross the second bridge in to Wales.
Well, it wasn’t easy to spot on this day because of the weather but I think you get the idea. I was driving home after the walk to hear on the radio that they’d reduced the speed limit on at least one of the bridges because of the high winds (this is quite common).
Heading north and moving closer to the village of Aust, I came across a right-of-way stile that proved to be more of an obstacle than a means of passing through a hedge. Later on, I encountered a couple more as well. I’ve notified the author of Walk West so that he can alert other readers. It is recommended that you notify the relevant council but apparently, they require grid reference numbers and all.
Not long after stepping over that stile (I do have long legs), I encountered a new herd of cows in a smaller field. These ones were much more curious and interested in who I was and what I was doing in their field, as they cautiously made their approach towards me…
There were no bulls detected by my radar so I chose to wait and see if they would follow me… They didn’t quite but they did come a lot closer once I climbed the next gate. I put my hand out to try and reach one of them (kindly) but they all backed away. You see, cows aren’t always ones to be fearful of. I think it’s usually the mothers, being wary and protective of their calves.
Stepping away from the water and it has to be said that there are some nice landscape views in this part of South Gloucestershire, even if the sound of passing motorway traffic can be carried by the wind.
It wasn’t long before I reached Aust and the midway point, at which I decided to stop (very briefly) for lunch.
My van was parked a good three-miles south of this location otherwise I could’ve tempted a semi-amusing photo shot (after shunting that red car out of the way first).
So, it was on to the return stretch of this loop and, while following a river through one field, a herd of large cows on the far side began to bustle…
It was almost like a cartoon sketch, where one character (the cows) attempt to discreetly follow the other (me); tip-toeing along, just beyond my line of sight but coming to a half as soon as I began to turn my head under suspicion… The only difference here was that there was no lamp post for them to squeeze behind! 😉
This was where the walk started to go badly wrong (aside from the fact that it was already raining and that water running off my coat has already saturated my absorbent trousers.
I lost my way in accordance to Geoff’s route, with numerous requests to cross footbridge after footbridge. But I think I know where I began to go wrong… Entering one field, the path ahead was waymarked to the left. If I had followed the map correctly then, Geoff was telling me to go right – towards a possible stile that may or may not have been hidden behind a herd of large cows who looked quite settled… I’m not very good at identifying bulls and I decided not to take a chance, as some of these animals were larger than I’d like.
But I kept on walking in what I assumed would become the right direction… But it was hazardous as I was walking without an OS map for the area and the GPS on my phone believed I was five-miles to the east of whatever location this was! Nothing would tally up with the words in the guide and I didn’t want to backtrack or to contemplate those cows. But I soon noticed a familar landmark in the photo above – you probably can’t see it but the Second Severn Crossing is just beyond the pylon in the centre of the photo. With a compass to hand, I felt reasonably confident of navi-guessing my return to Severn Beach.
I soon found myself walking parallel to a busy motorway before crossing a bridge over the top. I’d been reading ahead on Geoff’s notes as I walked and wondered. Lo and behold; on the otherside of the bridge, I spotted a sign pointing to a nearby pub that got a mention and would allow me to pick up with a point on the map and to continue the walk after cutting out perhaps 30 minutes’ worth.
This soon lead me to a footpath passing within an arm’s length (literally) of the traffic heading over to Wales. It was noisy but sheltered and dry.
I didn’t stop for too long as it wasn’t quite the warmest of weekends (one of the reasons I was slow to get out of the house, I seem to remember).
Just around the corner, I got lost again! It was almost out of choice, as I could see that the road ahead was almost completely barricaded and there was not bridge in sight… Still, I squeezed through and eventually met up with a busy road. I think I was too close to Avonmouth by this point and I also thought I recognised one of the buildings from my drive in to the start point. The rain was only getting worse and I was still largely guessing the way. Why didn’t I just turn back and go the way I knew I should’ve?!
One driver pulled over to offer me a lift. I was very grateful but decided to politely decline, as I was sopping wet and, even if he wasn’t concerned about the mess I could’ve made in his car, I wasn’t keen on the thought of sitting down in damp clothes and then having to get out and continue walking in the rain! He said something about driving to Bristol, which made me begin to question whether I was on the right road… I consulted my compass and soon found a cycle route that would lead me conveniently back to a familiar road junction at Severn Bridge.
By this time, my boots were full of water, my heels were sore and I just wanted the tarmac to end.
Thinking about the time I estimated this walk would take me, I think I was only about half an hour behind, which I’m kind of pleased with. I’m not so keen on venturing out in to unknown areas without a proper OS map next time but I know I did quite well to find my way back, when I could easily have ended up too close to Gloucester!
One thing I’d like to point out before ending this post comes with regards to the toll charges on the Severn Crossings… I know for a fact that you have to pay along the M4 (Second Severn Crossing) heading in to Wales. I’ve been under the belief that crossing the old bridge along the M48 comes without a charge but, a quick Google search has suggested that might now be incorrect… I’m not sure so, please don’t take my word for it when I say that it is ‘free’ to get in to Wales. I’m certain you don’t have to pay to drive in to England and I’ve also read that you have to pay by cash and not card…?
Thank you for reading. I did another walk yesterday and you will get to read about that soon. I’m hoping to do at least one more this weekend before the big walk on Sunday.