Pensford to Keynsham (2 Rivers Way)

Monday 5th December 2016

This was a walk that I had hoped to do a fortnight earlier, but for a surge in heavy rainfall and extreme flooding in some parts of North Somerset and BaNES.

In completing a walk between Pensford and Keynsham, I would then be able to say that I had walked the entire duration of the 2 Rivers Way long-distance footpath.

This walk would mostly follow the River Chew, which had burst its banks a couple of weeks earlier. I’ll try not to dwell too much on the first section as I’ve already written about it at least once before.

On a Monday where I’d taken the day off work, I was surprised to find half-a-dozen cars already occupying spaces at Pensford’s village hall. Two others were dressed like walkers and set off a few minutes before I was ready. Beneath the church in Publow, a man and his dog were making the most of the watercourse I was set to follow.

When I first came here around March 2016, a byway beyond Woollard was obstructed by a mass of fallen trees. I took a chance on following it this time (since it is the official Way) and found it had been cleared.

I still prefer the field paths running parallel and along the Community Forest Path but, beyond the past blockage, it was almost like walking through the woods.

Still following the Way, I left the byway to cut across a field that’s usually home to a couple of horses (I find they can sometimes be as unpredictable as cows). Then, it was a descent through the woods towards Compton Dando, where I could evidence off the River Chew having burst its banks.

Just up ahead from here, I realised that I’d been detouring (and trespassing) from the footpath, as I passed the rear of a sign stating that the driveway was not a public right of way… On one occasion, I happened to walk right past the smiling homeowner as he set out from his front door… I may have to walk this part in the opposite direction – passing by the church I’ve been unintentionally avoiding – in order to be more certain.

Further up the road, I crossed over the Chew once more and then along a series of familiar footpaths and fields.

When I reached the cross-junction with a byway at Chewton Keynsham, I knew that the paths ahead were new to me. Above, you can see my previous ‘return’ route… Quite desolate and barely riverside, compared to what lay ahead on this day.

Down to my right, the River Chew grew wide. Best of all, there was no question of the right of way ahead.

Over the other side, I can soon see Chewton Place, as I approach a road. A Grade II Listed Building that appears to be reserved for corporate events… Or not.

Far ore interesting to me, was the ironwork and signs of history that adorn the sharp bending roadside.

I’ve known people refer to Keynsham as “Chavsham” and I can understand why… But here, on the outskirts, I believe it deserves much better.

It’s a shame the cars are so frequent (without labelling it ‘busy’) here, as there’s a lot to admire and take in. There’s a folly known as the Owl Tower or Owl Hoot.

Back on the Two Rivers Way no and, nearing the heart of Keynsham, I see further possible evidence relating to the effects of Storm Angus’ arrival in November.

A local woman’s dog runs over and jumps at me, in a friendly way that leaves blatant brown paw prints on my otherwise clean trousers.

As I prepare myself for the tarmac and pavements that will surely soon follow, I spy what appears to be a waterwheel up ahead.

As a child, I spent many weekends in Keynsham and some of this was beginning to look familiar… As for the rest of my memories, I wouldn’t know where to look for them today!

Sadly, the waterwheel – and the fenced walkway you can see above – are inaccessible to the public and a sign ahead informs you to turn left, only. Reading my map, I understand this might be part of a hospital.

This is Albert Mill. Or, to be more precise – it once was Albert Mill and now appears to have been developed in to an area of private housing… A shame, perhaps. Almost inevitable, sadly. But then, I do appreciate buildings that have a garage (car parking) on the ground floor with the rest of the structure and living spaces above.

I wonder: if we could turn back time but hold on to the knowledge we have today… Would we be building all houses and flats in a similar configuration?

Even walking along a quiet road from here, I feel uncomfortable, longing for green space. I’m also unsure of the way, with a sudden absence of waymarking… But without hesitation, I take a right turn, following a sign downhill towards Keynsham Memorial Park… It isn’t stated on the map but, it has to be worth of a detour.

While the noise of the traffic ahead is hard to ignore, this is quite a beautiful space and one that I also begin to recognise.

Elderly people and young parents alike are feeding the ducks. Further along and I pass a crashing weir that draws in a small crowd.

Consulting my map, I can see I am still likely to be following the Two Rivers Way, after all. As I continue to pass beneath the B3116 road, I can see the grandstand.

Before crossing under the ever-busy A4 (running between Bristol and Bath), I find one of the mosaics that further decorates this site.

I follow the river as my guide, in an absence of signs. The end of this long-distance [twenty-mile…] walk is nigh.

Climbing uphill to the A4175, I search around in vain hope of finding a marker for the Two Rivers Way; knowing too well that there’s nothing to even designate this path at the other end in Congresbury. I appreciate that no ‘twenty-miler’ is ever likely to attain official ‘National Trail’ status with the acorn but, I find it a bit sad that we don’t have something more to commemorate the beginnings and ends to these long-distance routes.

I pass the abbey ruins as I begin to set out along my return route. I’m pleased to have seen all of the Two Rivers Way path, in spite of my own route-following imperfections. I’ll certainly be walking parts of it again and will always look to encourage others to follow.

In my next post, I’ll share my return route from Pensford to Keynsham… Warts and all.

Thanks for reading.

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