152b Hinkley Point to Stert Point

Filled with relief at the prospect of leaving the sinister perimeter defences of Hinkley Point Power Station, and glad to escape from the tracking cameras, I go through a gate, into a field. No cameras. No high fence. Only green grass, marching pylons and – and cows.

cows in field, Hinkley Point, Ruth walking around the coast, Somerset

Cows. With no udders. Are they heifers? Or bullocks? Uh oh. Here they come…

 more cows, Ruth's coastal walk, Hinkley Point

And here come some more. They keep on coming. Until there is a gaggle (or a horde) behind the single strand of electric wire that separates me from them.

 hundreds of cows, Ruth walking in Somerset, Hinkley Point

Luckily, they show no sign of wanting to risk an electric shock and I pass by unscathed.

A narrow path branches off to the left and seems to double back towards Hinkley power station.  Looking at my map, I realise the branch might lead to the Pixies Mound, an ancient Neolithic barrow. But there is no sign, and I am too nervous to follow it – not wanting to be caught trespassing – and so I stick to the main path.

I pass a gate with a warning sign – You are entering a nuclear licensed site – it declares. No I’m not. Emboldened by the absence of cameras, I shake my fist in defiance.

Nuclear zone, Ruth walking around Hinkley Point

Then my path veers off to the right to make a semicircle detour around a sewage works.

Sewage works, nuclear power, a pixie mound, a Neolithic barrow, and a horde of cows. What next? Ah, I spot the haunches of a running deer. It leaps ahead down the path and crashes through a gap in the hedge on the left. By the time I swing my camera up – it’s gone.

It is nearly 2pm and I was hoping to sit down and eat my snack lunch. But the thought of the sewage works puts me off (although it doesn’t smell) and there is nowhere to sit. This section of path is horribly overgrown. I am wearing shorts because it’s hot and I anticipated an easy coastal stroll – not a jungle of brambles and thistles. My legs sting, as salty sweat gets into the scratches.

overgrown path, Ruth walking around Hinkley Point, Somerset coast

I struggle past the worst section of path and realise I haven’t met another walker for ages. So I’m surprised to see a man coming down the overgrown path. He is dressed inappropriately, in a blue jacket – and I realise he isn’t an ordinary worker, but a Hinkley Point security guard.

We have a pleasant chat. I ask if he patrols here regularly. He says he enjoys escaping from his office, and asks if the path is overgrown. I tell him it’s very bad a little further along. He says he’ll talk to someone about getting it cleared. I realise that he can’t have walked this way very often if he doesn’t know about the state of the path. Then I realise he probably came this way for one reason only – to check up on me.

(I wonder if I’m getting rather too paranoid. But decide I’m not.)

A short time later, I escape the overgrown path and find myself standing in the open, on a broad track, on the edge of a wide bay of mud. Over there, somewhere, is Burnham-on-sea and Weston-Super-Mare.

looking over Bridgwater Bay, Ruth on West Somerset Coast Path, Hinkley Point

This area is called Hinkley Brake and, according to my map, there is a submarine forest out there in the mud.

lunch break, Hinkley Point, Ruth LivingstoneIt is baking hot. There are no trees to shelter under and no benches to sit on, but I spot an old stile hidden amongst the foliage of a hedge. It provides a handy seat and, better still, it is in the shade.

Taking off my walking boots, I eat my lunch and force myself to sit here for half an hour to get some rest. I half expect the security guard to come back to see what I’m up to, and to find out why I’m hiding in a hedge. But nobody comes. Lax.

It’s very isolated. A couple of people walk along the muddy shore, and two gentlemen amble slowly further along the track. Otherwise, it’s deserted.

After lunch and a rest, I set off and begin to follow the track. Easy going.

walking towards Stolford, Ruth on the West Somerset Coast Path, Hinkley Point

After I’ve put a safe distance between us, I look back at Hinkley Point and take photos of the power station.

 looking back at Hinkley Point, Ruth walking the Somerset coast

I reach the small hamlet of Stolford, where there is a car park and people milling about. I don’t know what they’re doing here as there doesn’t seem anything much to see.

After Stolford, a shingle bank separates the sea from an area of marsh called Catsford Common. I’m not sure what’s  happened to the coast path, but I decide to walk along the bank at a quick pace, despite the slippery shingle, keen to make progress. The lengthy detour around Hinkley has upset my schedule.

shingle bank, Catsford Common, Ruth walking the coast

The rocks here continue to amaze me with their geometric swirls.  The tide is coming in, the water encroaching across the mud.

 Burnham on Sea across Bridgwater Bay, Ruth walking the coast, Somerset

I come down off the end of the shingle bank, and walk along a track. High hedges obscure the view.

boring track, towards Steart, Ruth on the West Somerset Coast Path

Then I walk along a low bank running beside the shore. It’s a lovely open vista and I really enjoy this section of the walk. I must be nearing Stert Point.

walking towards Steart, Ruth on West Somerset Coast Path, heading for Stert Point

When I reach Wall Common the path comes to an end, and the footpath signs indicate the coastal path follows the road. It may be possible to walk to Stert Point along the shore, but I decide not to risk getting lost. So I resign myself to road walking.

road walking to Steart, Ruth on Somerset Coast Path

Steart is the name of the place. Stert is the name of the point. I’m not sure if Steart really qualifies as a village, it’s more a collection of farms. I like it. It’s an honest sort of place. Smelling of manure and with run down buildings and rusting machinery.

ramshackle Steart, farming community, Ruth's coasal walk, Somerset

I meet more cows. Or is this a bull?

 more cattle, Steart, Ruth walking the coast in Somerset

A horse, a lovely white goat, and a ferocious, barking dog, who hurtles out a gate and makes a lot of noise for his size.

horse, Steart, Ruth's coastal walkingwhite goat, Steart, Ruth walking the coast, Somersetferocious terrier, Ruth walking the coast

The road doubles as the Somerset Coast Path and a cycle trail. I meet a couple on their bikes and can’t resist taking a photo of their passenger.

dog in bike basket, Ruth's coastal walk

I nearly miss the car park at Steart, which is hidden down a lane and has a sign which proclaims, rather confusingly, Bridgewater Bay Nature Reserve. It is empty. I am a mile away from Stert Point itself, and I walk a little further down the road, before turning back, not wanting to keep my husband waiting.

The car park is still empty. There are no seats, so I sit on the verge and wait for my husband to appear.

car park, Stert Point, Ruth at end of West Somerset Coast Path

He sends me a text. He is at Stert car park and waiting for me to arrive. I reply. No, he isn’t at Stert car park. He assures me he is, but I manage to persuade him he is wrong, and must drive a little further down the road.

[Later, although there is no car park marked on our maps, we decide that my husband’s  ‘Stert Car Park’ is near Marsh Farm on Stert Drove. That’s a couple of miles from Steart village and 3 miles away from Stert point. Confusing.]

In the meantime, I wander around Bridgwater Nature Reserve car park, and take a photograph of the monument that proudly marks the beginning (or end) of the West Somerset Coast Path. I like it. And there is a nice wavy piece of sculpture on the side. Although I would have preferred a bench.

 End of West Somerset Coast Path, Ruth Livingstone, Stert Point


Miles walked today = 13 miles

Total miles since Kings Lynn = 1,483

Thoughts:

The West Somerset Coast Path is described by Somerset Council as “a 25 mile long linear trail”. 25 miles it may be. Linear it is not. And it rarely lives up to its name as a coast path. Since my journey along it began, substantial sections have been inland. In fact, 7 miles of the 21 section of coast are inaccessible due to private property, including the closed path along the shore in front of Hinkley Point power station. The path is hard to find in places, as has not yet made its way onto the relevant OS Explorer Maps.

So, great idea, but needs better signage and advertising. And those few holiday resorts and landowners that continue to deny the public access to the coast should be ashamed of themselves.

[Please see update below.]

Route today:


I emailed Somerset County Council, explaining the problems I had encountered around the Hinkley Point Power Station. I am pleased to report the signage has improved since I walked this way. Here is their very helpful reply.

The paths across the Hinkley Point C development site (including the West Somerset Coast path) are currently closed by virtue of a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Hinkley Point C (HPC) power station.

Signs and maps detailing the alternative route are in place at various locations around the development site.

Under the DCO the majority of the footpaths will remain closed until construction of HPC is completed (approximately 10 years) but the proposal is for the coast path (WL23/95) to re-open within 3 years of the commencement of the development. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, commencement of construction has been delayed.

It is advisable to follow the alternative path shown on the maps as there is no way through on the coast path (if walking east to west east part of the coast path to the north of A and B station remains open to allow access for fishermen). However there is no through route and you will have to retrace your steps to continue on your onward journey.

As the site retracts it will be landscaped and the footpaths will be re-instated albeit on a slightly different alignment.

Sarah Littler
 Project Manager, Rights of Way
 Somerset County Council


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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14 Responses to 152b Hinkley Point to Stert Point

  1. So far I can tell, in Somerset they believe that putting up a footpath sign instantly makes any amount of brambles, nettles and blackthorn intangible so there’s no need to cut any of it back. Ever. You can just pass through it as though it wasn’t there…

  2. jcombe says:

    If it’s any consolation I too passed the security guard. At the time I hadn’t thought he had come out specifically for me, but reading your post I suspect he might have done. It was about a year ago I did this walk. At the time the path right on the coastal side of the power station was open, but west of there it was closed. I found out later, it was possible to walk on the beach if the tide was out (although not easy). Frustrating, since it’s going to be like that for years.

    • Aha! I think the guard comes out to check what you’re up to after you leave the surveillance of the security cameras. I’ve emailed Somerset County Council to ask what the plans are for the footpath and when will it reopen. No response as yet.

  3. mariekeates says:

    It’s a shame a potentially beautiful resource is ruined by lack of foresight. The attitude of the Hinckley Point guards make me wonder why exactly they think a lone woman walker is a threat?

    • I was irritated to think that they might have mistaken me for a terrorist but, on reflection, I think it’s anti-nuclear protesters they are worried about. I suppose I could be an environmental terrorist. (Except I’m neither a terrorist nor a protester, and actually I really support nuclear power stations – until we discover a more environmentally friendly way to generate massive amounts of energy.)

  4. Bronchitikat says:

    Technically it’s a ‘herd’ of any variety of cattle. Looking at the photo they could be heifers, but you’re a doctor and you were there, so I’ll bow to your judgement. A herd of bullocks.

  5. paul sennett says:

    Ruth, we finished our coastal walking for 2015 on Sunday… we will restart in January 2016… this was our last walk… and I share your frustration re Hinkley Point.. the good news is that the paths have been cleared extensively, thank to your thoughtful comments t0 the security guards!!! Carol and I would like to thank you sooooooooooooooooo much for all the guidance your blog has given us for the fourth successive year. You have brought us such joy, great experiences, and rolled them out on your blog like a road map for us to follow…saving us considerable expense of maps etc.. and avoiding accidental wrong turnings. Thank you, and all the very best for the year ahead walking the coast. We will aim to complete the rest of the SW path , Humberside and Lincolnshire next year. Thanks again

  6. Chic Ccubed says:

    In the last two days, I walked from Watchet along this route and wild camped along the way as there is no way of breaking the trip using public transport. Big fanfares about this section opening as part of the new English coastal path. So many detours, it is very frustrating. The ones you mention (Hinkley and the Holiday parks) can both be taken across the beach but the tides mean you are unlikely to be able to do both in the same day. In my opinion there is absolutely no reason why they should not force the Hinkley contractor to keep the coastal path open. They are not even building the thing. I walked along the fence for a few hundred hards before doubling back and taking the beach route to the fisherman’s access point that SCC mentioned. Then continued in front of the original power stations on the concrete ‘promenade’. By the way I saw no sign of a security guard. When you come off the beach and onto the ‘promenade’ at the fishremains access point they make it look like you are trespassing with nasty signs about private property.

    I suspect the local fishermen are more difficult to deal with when closing access than walkers.

    • Thank you for the update and the info on how to bypass the diversions, which all depends on the tide, exactly as you say, or course. Yes, despite this being a newly completed section of the England Coast Path, the issues of access to public transport remain a problem, and the continuing lack of proper coastal access around Hinkley Point is very disappointing. I agree they really should have forced the contractors to reinstate a coastal walking route, even on a temporary basis. And now, of course, the project is on hold again… (sigh) I like the thought of militant fishermen!

  7. Bodge says:

    I passed by Hinkley point yesterday (which was the day C station was finally approved) and encountered similar issues with the diversion. Looking at the diversion sign it looked 2x or 3x more than the distance along the beach, so I took the beach option. It doesn’t seem that anyone at Hinkley minds you going along the beach. I passed two workmen on the beach in hi-vis jackets who didn’t accost me and later two armed policemen hailed me from the promenade above the beach. I thought they were going to make me retrace my steps and take the inland diversion but they asked me some questions about a fisherman they were trying to track down (not sure what this person had done to deserve two armed policemen, and there was also a helicopter buzzing around overhead). In any event, the beach route, albeit a little rocky, is a simple and shorter alternative to the inland route, tides permitting.

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