Saturday 19th March 2016
From Pensford, there was only one direction I would be heading next and that was uphill, in my pursuit of an ideal lunchtime stop.
According to my brief notes, it was somewhere between 11.00 and 11.30 that morning, as I joined the Three Peaks Walk, once again.
It was simple to pick up the next footpath and, to my delight, as I began to climb gently uphill, I was also able to pass back under the long-standing viaduct.
To might right, I noticed that a private garden (complete with trampolines and play equipment) sites directly beneath one of the arches… What must it have been like to have lived and grown up beneath such a structure?
It’s been disused since 1968, only ninety-four years after its completion. No train has crossed its tracks since 1959, before a great flood would befall the area, nine-years later.
Passing through a small patch of woodland at the brown of the hill, I noticed this bench, that looked (to me) as though it had lived a previously life elsewhere… Perhaps on a boat, or something?
I was then back alongside the River Chew. This time, passing along its northern banks, with my former path just across the way. I remember feeling the urge to stop for a wee at this point but, I was in full view of people I’d passed earlier, on the southern side of the water, with houses high and up above me.
Soon, I began to climb up and away from the river, unable to meet with it again for the next couple of hours. Behind me, the viaduct would gradually shrink, as my legs began to burn.
Crossing straight over the B3130, I began to climb a fiendishly steep bridleway that would happen to be one of the hardest ascents of the entire walk. At the top, I was relieved to step on to a level field. Even with the prospect of further climbing, some way ahead.
Looking north-west to Dundry, my next destination was slightly east of here.
On joining a road in Norton Malreward, I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of this part-completed fence. Did they run out of paint or had the weather turned against them? It could be used as an advert by one supplier, claiming that their brand offers superior coverage per litre to the other… I couldn’t imagine you were likely to find a high street, let alone a hardware store, in such a rural and sleepy village like this.
From here, I was up along the left-hand edge of a field and eventually, through a kissing gate at the southern corner of Maes Knoll, one of several ancient hill forts to grace North Somerset. Its most prominent feature being the ‘tump’ you can see above – on top of which, I would come to rest for lunch.
Despite this point being at good couple of metres higher, the trig point resides at a mere 197m above sea level and is some distance away from what is arguably the site’s biggest attraction today.
Now, on a near-level plain with Dundry Hill to the west, I could look down over the Chew Valley, including its lake and then, on towards the Mendip Hills.
More immediately to the west, I spotted a deer in the adjacent field, looking directly up at me. It had been perhaps three-years since I last came here but I’m almost certain I had a similar experience on that occasion as well.
Five-minutes after that and a couple of other walkers and then two more, began to approach from the west.
These were the first people I’d seen in almost two-hours.
To the north, I could overlook Bristol and I chose to take this view as I ate my lunch around 12.30. I’m so familiar with countryside views that I decided to appreciate something else, on this occasion.
It’s also at this point that the historic Wansdyke begins, before continuing east across Wiltshire and, as I believe, ending up in Marlborough.
Far to the east and I immediately recognised the iconic treeline of Freezing Hill near Lansdown and north of the city of Bath.
After lunch, I took the road heading from Whitchurch towards East Dundry. It’s less steep heading in this direction but, as I learned several years ago; it tragically remains something of a flytipper’s haven.
Even where some parts of the road were less littered than I had seen previously, someone had clearly gone to the extent of lobbing their load over a tall security fence and on to precious countryside.
If it was a question of trade waste being refused by the council’s recycling centre, well, many large supermarket car parks have wheelie bins that will accept cardboard among other recyclable materials. Personally, I strongly detest that we can make something (like polystyrene) but will not recycle it, simply because it’s cheaper to throw it away and produce more… But that flaw in society and the economics of the world does not excuse one man and his van from polluting a natural resource.
On the subject of fly-tipping, you may be interested in this video, where the ‘investigator’ was able to locate the offender’s personal details with the discarded waste. There’s also a second part to this recent story.
I did find something along the way that I had a use for… I had no need for the spare tyre or an additional jack but that hook could come in handy, if ever I’m careless enough to get my car stuck in an escape lane late one Friday night… Again. Not that I’ve checked whether it even fits my car.
It always seems like a long walk along that road but I was eventually able to turn left and head downhill through the kind of kissing gate that looks as though it was designed by a steam-punk metal-working artist.
Walking down in the North Wick and crossing the road, I followed the footpath ahead and in a clear direction. But, through the next hedge, I would soon come to find that the waymark for the Three Peaks Walk was strangely pointing in the wrong direction and away from Manor Farm…
Worn between the grass was an unchartered path leading you to the left and on to join the Community Forest Path in the wrong direction. It was harder to see the correct path turning right but the entrance to the farmland soon became apparent, as I passes around north-eastern edge of this private pond.
On a more direct and southerly route, I came to a succession of large fields that looked as though they’d recently been cleared in preparation for a spring and summer of cropping.
I followed the field edge in each with some difficulty, unable to walk the exact right of way due to the conditions under foot. When I walk this way again, I may hope through an opening in the hedge to follow a lane running parallel to these fields.
Here, I was briefly returning to Chew Magna, before continuing further south.
I met with and crossed the River Chew once more.
Beyond, I briefly retraced my steps along a byway I had walked in the morning, before continuing the Three Peaks Walk towards the top of a sheep-filled field. I was cautious upon entering. Partly because of the wire fence (which was passable) but more so because an active tractor suddenly appeared to be stationary at the top of the field… As you can probably see in my photo, the right of way was etched clearly in to the ground and it did lead me confidently up to my exit.
I walked along a road shortly before turning right and un-confidently up a private drive. I really don’t enjoy doing that, especially when the land and home-owners are present. I fear I’ll be confronted and find that the right of way no longer exists. But one man smiled pleasantly as my eyes latched on to the stile I was eager to see.
What happened next?
I was supposed to be heading up to the top-left of this next field, which would then plant me almost at the foot of my final hill. But before I’d even set foot across the stile, I was confronted by the entire herd.
In an act of assertiveness [which could also mean false-confidence], I made myself big, and talked my way through the lot of them, following the right-hand boundary but just happy to be surviving the onslaught of these overly-curious beasts. They almost cut me off from reaching the stile as I broke away from the field’s edge.
I’d never met cows that were so keen to sniff and attempt to lick you. Usually, it’s just one or two within a herd.
It was then that I reminded myself, I was too far north of where I had intended to be. Determined to follow the correct path, I again made myself big, asked each cow kindly to step aside and the majority of them did…
Until I came to one last cow who was standing, quite defiantly, in front of what I assume was her calf, hiding behind. I don’t know an awful lot about cows but I do know that you should never come between a mother and her calf and this one wasn’t going to move easily. I wasn’t even confident enough to stand there and take a photo.
So, I ended up following this unintended path back down to the road I’d just left and then, following the tarmac on an elongated route to Knowle Hill. By the time I saw the same cattle, they were back to grazing as if nobody had crossed their land. Strange.
Knowle Hill is strange in the sense that a number of private roads circumnavigate its lower regions, leading to houses and even a farm. It’s also regarded as being access land, with a large number of paths leading up to the top.
Like Maes Knoll, which I had visited earlier in the day; this was one of the Three Peaks that forms part of the sixteen-mile circular walk. There’s now only one that I’ve yet to visit and that’s Blackberry Hill, some way east of here and near Clutton.
Currently only 112m above sea level, I was impressed with the panoramic views from here. It does, perhaps, offer my favourite view of Chew Valley Lake, where other high points are more distant.
You shouldn’t need a compass to navigate from this point and I soon left the Three Peaks Walk to brave another private drive in a direct heading towards access of the lake.
I entered the lake grounds a couple of hundred metres south of where I had parked but in another car park, designed and set out to welcome the masses.
It’s not entirely clear from the scale of an OS map but you can at least walk along the edge of the lake and between these two car parks.
I realise there’s a road crossing its north and southern points (with free parking available at the south) but I imagine you can legally circumnavigate the vast majority of this reservoir, if not its entirety.
That sounds like a challenge for another day or, perhaps, a summer evening; to walk around the circumference of Chew Valley Lake and discover just how far you can go.
As I completed my walk, around 15.30, the car park was more than half full. It looks like they even have refreshments and toilet facilities available on site.
That just about concludes my walk. I expect I’ll be leading this route in a couple of months’ time. I only hope that issues of crops and untamed landscapes don’t emerge to affect the second-half of the walk because, putting the cow incident to one side, I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. There was a lot more than I had anticipated.
In my next post, I’ll be heading down to the coast. 😉
Thanks for reading.
Total distance of this walk = 16 miles
If you’re interested to see the route, please click here.