Still following the guide within Damian Hall’s Somerset Coast Path.
We were now on the eastern-edge of Pill; knowing that Portishead and our destination wasn’t much further away. We were still following the River Avon, even though it remained out of sight.
This cyclepath would continue to lead us most of the way until the completion of the walk. We soon arrived at Watchhouse Hill, with a grand path and steps leading to its brief summit.
From here, we could see the M5 with Royal Portbury Docks beyond.
I’d begun to miss Bristol from the moment we set off along this cycle path. The experience hadn’t been as ‘suffocating’ as either of us had expected. We both felt it would be significant to get this next stage out of the way before we could comfortably rest up for lunch.
Over the hill and along down the path, a series of these ‘sculptures’ can be found on either side…
I wonder what you first see, if you haven’t come across them before. For my friend and I, there’s an un-erasable image implanted in our minds, thanks to the author of the book we’re following!
With the roar of motorway traffic growing nearer, we made our way through Pill. A first for both of us. It was more interesting than I’d expected (despite the local rumours of inbreeding among other things…).
I noticed a sign for The American Monument, which appeared to be pointing in our direction. We marched on to regain our connection with the river but we must’ve either missed the monument or passed right by it unknowingly.
It was good to regain our touch with the water again, even with the anticipation of what lay ahead.
Breaking away from the cycleway to walk alongside the sea wall was another plus.
Across the water, lay a set of seemingly unused boats.
At the end of the wall, we dropped down a little closer to the water’s edge, through a gate and in to a meadow of long grass. At first, the path was clearly defined and easy to follow beneath our feet, in spite of the waist-high vegetation swaying in the breeze.
Then, it appeared to vanish suddenly and we found ourselves having to jump a deep and soggy drop. There were random patches of flattened grass, where it looked as though cows had been dropped from the sky… But not paths leading to or from them. It was at this point that my friend read out a line from the book where the author had witness a grass snake in these parts – not being a fan of anything with scales, my anxiety levels began to peak! We forced our way to the southern edge of the field alongside a hedge, which was about as clearcut as any path through here could’ve been.
Fortunately, we then spotted the exit ahead. We survived without a single incident of slithering and I have it in mind to report the state of this path to the local authorities.
Now standing beneath the motorway bridge, the grass was much shorter and non-existent in many places. The sound above us was quite surreal – hardly the tired groan we had expected. It was quite staggering to realise how so few concrete pillars are all that keeps the six-lanes of traffic suspended overhead.
We followed the bridge southwards to pass through this shallow tunnel. But it was what came through from the other side that most surprised us.
A police car! One of those 4×4, off-road vehicles, with ‘Port Patrol‘ slapped across the bonnet! They stopped ahead of us. Were they analysing us? With graffiti all over, it looks as though this area may be a hot-spot for bad behaviour. I always find such officials quite intimidating but, as we made eye contact, they waved in a kind way and we continued our walk.
We initially made a wrong turn as the patrol car made its return and we headed up to a set of locked gates and a railway line. But then, we were back on the cycle path, with nothing positive to report, if I’m brutally honest!
It was another dry and gravely track. Boxed in by hedges on either side. We were so far inland, we could not see the sea. Even when we stopped to look for it, our hopes were dashed by never-ending rows of import cars. Clean and shining under the sun. Yet unlicensed and dull, in the eyes of two coastal walkers.
There have been talks and plans about connecting Portishead with the railway network and I wonder whether that would mean the restoration and re-opening of a line we happened to pass, beneath the overgrowth.
We continued through the northern outskirts of Portbury, still searching for a perfect lunch stop, with tarmac now beneath our feet.
We passed an opportunity on a small patch of shaded grass at the side of one road, knowing that, somewhere around the bend, there was only going to be a firm bench we could’ve sat on…
There wasn’t. But thanks to an indication from the author of the Somerset Coast Path, we found ourselves a very well sheltered bird-watching hut.
It was vacant. There were enough benches for at least four people, plus a spare camping chair.
With the windows open (although, they’re probably not referred to as windows by birdwatchers), a gentle breeze refreshed the stuffy air of our wooden box. There were few birds but many cows.
After surviving perhaps the worst stint of the Somerset Coast Path, we had also experiencing what could be the best possible lunch stop along the 120 miles of walking.
A few pylons tried to disturb us, as we maintained a focus on leaving the cycle path for good.
Soon, we reached Portishead, with its modern high-rise apartments ahead of the coast.
There was a donkey sculpture on the way. A sign of further arty pieces to be found.
Neither of us had been to this side of Portishead before.
Another art-piece, almost monolithic, adorned the top of a small hillside.
I could remember reading about this on Ruth’s blog last year. It’s known as the Seafarer’s Sculpture and, if you do a Google search for “Portishead Marina Sculptures“, you’ll see there are a number of others close by and even a trail to follow towards finding them all.
To me, it looks like Frank Sidebottom but this is known as the Ship to Shore sculpture. Perhaps one day, I’ll return to the town to uncover the rest.
This was Portishead Marina.
I was quite aware of its reputation and stature, even but I hadn’t expected it to be this nice, somehow.
We even got to see a few boats making there way through the lock gates, which also have a pedestrian crossing along the top.
This chimney-like sculpture is called Energy Artwork.
Portbury and its car-infested docks was only fading towards the distant past of our memory banks.
One former lighthouse had been converted in to a residential property. As my friend rightly commented; how do you furnish a round or angular building?
Portishead’s Pier is strangely closed to the public. Except for those licensed fishermen, who are granted the access code that allows passage through the metal gates.
Closing in on our car, we followed the road as far as a woodland path, heading downhill through the cool and welcome shade, on a day where temperatures were forecast to peak at 26°C.
We passed the outdoor pool before reaching the short black lighthouse at Battery Point.
Of course, some of you may recall that I was here only a few months ago with another friend, having walked north to this point from Clevedon.
That marks the end of Chapter One in our Somerset Coastal Walk. From here, we could look south to the journey that lies ahead of us.
Thanks for reading.
PS. I was hoping to be able to include a OS map screenshot of the linear route we took, as I’ve begun to do recently with my walks. But Bing Maps have now updated theirs to no longer include OS maps (or, I can’t find the option), while Ordnance Survey no longer you to even view an OS map online unless you’re a paid-up subscriber (I’m having technical difficulties paying for my subscription).