Wrington to Chew Stoke (2 Rivers Way)

Saturday 15th October 2016

It feels like such a long time ago and yet, it’s barely been one month.

This was my attempt to ‘fill in the gap’ in my previous efforts to complete the 2 Rivers Way long-distance path. What better way to do it, than by leaving the car at home to set off from your front door?

Walking east from Wrington was already going to be a new experience for me. I’d been avoiding it, until now, for several reasons.

From Silver Street, I followed a public footpath sign down a narrow lane between fences and past the pony you see above (last time I passed here, there were two of them). Continuing towards the end of the cul-de-sac, I passed a house that must belong to one of the region’s biggest Alice in Wonderland fans.

There’s no indication to state this is the 2 Rivers Way path, at this point. A clean-looking sign directs you only left, where I know (from my map) that the route I’m looking for continues ahead to follow the hedge on the left.

Unfamiliar territory. With a lack of waymarking and a distorted gate, I feel so uncertain, moving forward, that I don’t even notice the small herd of cows off to my right.

Having followed the field boundary this far, I arrive at a succession of crop-free fields with not even the vague remnants of a footpath beneath me. Up to my left, the village of Redhill.

Along with my own anxieties; one of the reasons I’d been “postponing” this walk was because I’d seen how overgrown and cropped this field becomes in the summer. It’s a long walk, occasionally following the vehicle tracks towards the A38.

Across the road, I pass in front of Lye Cross Farm Shop. They have their own bus-café and, in 2013, there was a Gromit statue, as part of Bristol’s Gromit Unleashed exhibition.

Now following a quiet road between farm buildings (it doesn’t look like a road but, urgh, the smell), I pass a friendly farm worker who comments on what a lovely morning this is… Pegging my nose, I agree.

I follow this road along Under Lane and past Lye Hole Farm. In the hedge at a road corner, I found my first waymark for the 2 Rivers Way – high up on the post of a stile that appears to have been dislodged:

I’m slightly confused by this, as the OS map suggests I should be entering the field from an unmarked (and unlocked) metal gate further up the road… Perhaps this waymark refers to a path that has since been diverted?

There is another gate immediately up the wooded slope but one end has been fastened with twine and too hazardous to climb over.

I contemplate skipping this bit to follow the road to the same destination. Again, there’s no resemblance of a worn footpath, as I gently climb the contours in the hope of finding a clear exit at the field corner… Looking back, the view towards Worlebury Hill is quite something and I’m also please that the cows didn’t cause me any bother.

At the top, I do find a gate and pass through to the road, opposite Sutton Lane track. There’s an etiquette that landowners are supposed to follow, with regards to alerting walkers to the presence of bulls on their land… I don’t think this sign is any less intimidating than the numerous ‘Beware of Bull’ signs that I’ve seen elsewhere.

Just when I feel as though my walk may be about to level out, I follow the way across one field, somewhere in the vicinity of Cleeve’s Well, according to my map. Again, heading in a slightly vague direction – before descending to a kissing gate at the bottom of the steep slope.

I have to climb over this gate in order to reach the road, as a chain has been lashed around it. I get the impression that people rarely walk this way but, in my own hopes of preserving the 2 Rivers Way, I’ll be reporting this to the local council.

Crossing over, I find a newspaper discarded in the hedge beside the next stile. Of all the ‘unwanted’ items I’ve found… I can almost sympathise with someone, here. Or, was it cast aside in the frustration of what was about to follow?

A steep descent lay in wait for me. Complete with an absence of intermediate waymarking and no discernible path to follow below… What’s more, it was lumpy. As if this hillside was somehow a hive for mole activity… I ended up following animal tracks in complete misdirection; allowing my feet to become soaked in the long grass (my boots are no longer waterproof) and then falling over before heading towards the vague image of a gate… Any gate would do, by this point.

This was the back entrance to Pit Farm. Waymarking had ceased beyond the stream I had just crossed. Was I supposed to turn left, over another stream crossing and through the open gate? I took a chance on the one ahead; walking up the drive, uninterrupted and past a private tennis court on my right… As I reached the next road in Butcombe, I spotted a footpath sign pointing back at me.

Phew! At least I hadn’t been trespassing. Even if I had (momentarily) lost the 2 Rivers Way.

I climbed up the hill to rejoin the way at the local church. These tiny, isolated villages are so quiet. I often wonder; do many people attend a Sunday service here?

I find a bench pointing eastwards and decide to stop for a little while. Time to refuel. I also remember, this was the first time I wore my new merino wool baselayer top and I’d chosen to do it beneath a T-shirt and a microfleece… It wasn’t that cold!! I’d been sweating unnecessarily. I’ve come to love wearing that top on my walks. In fact, I’ve been spending so much money over the past couple of months that the subject may warrant a post of its own.

Dropping in to the heart of Butcombe, I was about begin another uphill climb, as I spotted this handwritten note, wrapped around the post to my left. It is a shame that some dog owners do not take responsibility. I had no idea a dog’s mess could have quite that affect.

I climb the first two fields with confidence. One more to go and then, I’ll be on a near-level path towards Chew Stoke… Down to my right, I can hear banging and an engine running. Heading for the hedge line at the top of the hill, I realise the landowner must be near.

Peering north across private land with livestock – and, beyond the Tesco van – I recognise the tree-lined boundary of Fairy Toot Long Barrow. Sadly, there is no public access and I would never chance it, knowing there’s a landowner with an axe nearby, if I somehow evaded the cows and goats!

As I continue along the hedge line, the landowner’s already moving and heading for the gate ahead of me… I can’t see clearly through the sunlight but I try to nod in a friendly sort of way… He says something back… It’s not until we’re almost at the gate, that I realise…

‘What are you doing here?’, he asks.

It’s only the accounts manager from work!! I had no idea he even lived out this way, let alone owned a portion of this land. He kindly offered me a coffee, which I declined – partly because I don’t drink caffeine but also because I was keen to push on. I was tempted to ask for a crafty lift through the curious cows – but then, I had only set out to walk the 2 Rivers Way.

There are good views down to Blagdon Lake from up here [see photo at the head of this page]. But my walk continues over the next road and then across another field filled with cattle.

My only trouble here was in my own doing, as I wandered carelessly away from the footpath before making my way back along the hedge, where I spotted these two calves, cowering behind (and beneath) this trough.

Straight over the next road, there’s a perfectly clear footpath cutting straight across an apparently cow-free field… However, the 2 Rivers Way continues left up the road, before turning right along a muddy track that leads you to the same point across the field… Maybe it’s time for an upgrade to the route?

Fortunately, it does not involve following an alternative right of way through this heavily-infested field!

It must’ve been near Walnut Tree Farm, where I spotted this ominous sign for a car park (it looks like they offer camping).

I now also joined the Monarch’s Way, heading eastwards for a little while.

On this walk alone, I’d already discovered what I believe to be the worst sections of the 2 Rivers Way… Why can’t more footpaths be as clearly defined as the one above?…

There was a sign for Avon County Council on one of the next gate posts – a county that ceased to exist in the nineteen-nineties!

How does something like that remain, when so many waymarks and fingerposts go missing?

A small gathering of hungry heifers quickly closed off the return option, on my approach to Church Farm.

That sign must be there for a very good reason – with the way in which these horses were racing around, I reckon they’d have ripped my arm off had I even gone to say hello!

Finally, I’d made it to Chew Stoke. Less than a mile ahead, I would complete this section of the Two Rivers Way.

It’s always very sad and quite frequent, to hear of pets going missing. I do hope Violet found her way home.

My OS map indicates a pub at this point – but, clearly, that’s no longer the case.

I found my first scarecrow of the day, outside the local doctor’s surgery. This is part of Harvey’s Scarecrow Trail and can be seen across the Chew Valley – even as far west as Wrington – at this time, each year. I hope this won’t be the last year.

Descending from the B3114, I would easily find my way to Chew Valley Lake; hereby completing the first half of my walk and resting to stop for lunch. All I had to do now was to navigate a way home; feeling assured that the remaining eastward section of the Two Rivers Way is possibly the highlight of the entire twenty-mile path.

Interestingly, I don’t think I came in close contact with either the River Yeo or River Chew at any point on this walk!

Total distance of this walk: 8 miles

Thanks for reading.

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