I’m not expecting much from today’s walk: just a slog through industrial estates and along a busy road, until I get to Dunball wharf and a river footpath. Bridgewater is not the prettiest of towns, but any marina looks nice if the sun is shining. This was once a busy port, but today the wharf only contains a few rusting remnants of its industrial past. At this point the River Parrett is tidal, and although it has more water flowing through it than yesterday, it’s still hard to believe this section was ever an important navigation route. I cross over the river at the road bridge and begin walking up the footpath on the other bank. This runs past an old industrial estate – around the back of crumbling warehouses and sheds, with occasional glimpse of yards, vans and trucks. The path is very overgrown. Not a route that’s used much. I feel a little uneasy, walking between high fences and the muddy river, among thick undergrowth. So uneasy – that I don’t want to stop and take my camera out and so have no record of this part of my walk. Further along and the industrial units give way to a short section of housing estate. People’s gardens back onto the river. The grass has been cut short. Residents have placed garden furniture – tables and chairs and a barbecue-set on the bank. According to my OS map, the footpath ends among these houses, just before I reach a shiny-new industrial estate. From here, I am anticipating a couple of miles of road walking, along the A38 – a busy dual carriageway with fast-moving traffic. So worried am I about this stretch, I asked my hubby to drive along the A38 yesterday to do a ‘reccy’. I was reassured to discover that a footpath/cycleway runs beside the road. At least I won’t have risk my life dodging lorries. As I hesitate on the bank, working out how to get off the bank and onto the A38, a man calls out to me from his garden. The footpath goes down between those houses. He points the way. But, if I want to, I can continue walking along the bank. “It’s very nice walk. There’s a pond and swans.” “Really? How far can I get along the bank?” I ask. “You can go all the way to the sea, if you want to,” he tells me. “To Dunball Wharf and further.” I am very grateful for this information. Now I won’t have to walk along the road. Instead, I walk along a well maintained, manicured bank, running between the river and the new industrial estate. It’s not marked as a ‘right of way’ on my map, neither is it signposted as such, but it’s certainly nicer than the official footpath I’ve just left behind. Every so often I come across an old WW2 pillbox, sunk into the bank. I meet one other walker, dressed in a suit, maybe from one of the nearby buildings. Through tinted windows I can see large open plan offices. Jealous eyes watch me strolling in the sunshine. I pass the headquarters of my husband’s favourite shop. Toolstation. And across the river, I can revisit my route from yesterday. There is Pims Pill, still muddy. My old foes, the bullocks, are resting – perhaps waiting for the next walker to terrorise. Inland I come across the pond, and swans. And a crowd of nearly grown cygnets. I leave the buildings behind and begin to cross farmland. Across the twisting river I can see Dunball Wharf. Looking across to the west, the Quantock Hills form a lovely backdrop. And ahead, I can see my hubby walking to meet me. He has parked the car at Pawlett. He warns me there is a short stretch of road walking ahead, in order to get past Dunball Wharf. And after that we can rejoin the river bank. But there is a bull in one of the fields ahead. When I tell my hubby of my escapades with cattle, he always pooh-poohs my fear. So I am surprised to hear him mention a bull, and assume he is talking about a frisky bullock. There seems no official path off the bank and we have to climb over a farmer’s gate. Next to the gate, in the field, is the makeshift tent of a rough-sleeper. Beyond the gate, we join the road. A pub on the other side is still advertising Easter bookings. Not a good sign in July. Dunball Wharf may still be used, perhaps for the transport of aggregates: sand and gravel. Beyond is a driveway to an industrial estate, consisting mainly of a plastics recycling plant. Apparently a public footpath runs through here. Can you see it? I would feel very unhappy walking through this site on my own. Luckily my hubby joined the footpath at Pawlett and has already been through here. He assures me this is the right way. At the back of the recycling plant, we see a footpath sign. And we end up in a large yard with old railway tracks running across it, and a couple of parked lorries, their drivers sitting in their cabs. Again, I would feel very uneasy walking here on my own, but hubby says, yes, this really is a public footpath. Come on. We climb into the adjacent field. This contains the bull, he says. I take a quick photograph of what appears to be a group of cows, and we scramble over the raised bank and walk around the far side of the field to avoid them. Only later, when I enlarge the photo, do I realise my husband was right. There really is a bull. He’s sitting down behind one of his cows. We cross the field without injury, only attracting the belligerent attention of one solitary cow, after we nearly stumble over her young calves who are lying in the long grass. From here onwards the walking is easy, following a track that runs along the top of the bank. The sun shines intermittently. The landscape glows. Ahead we see a beat-up old Landrover. I had noticed the same farmer yesterday, from the other side of the river. He drives along the bank for a while, and then heads off down into a field. We see him getting out to open a gate. He has a variety of dogs with him. But he is soon back on the bank and pulls alongside us. I’m feeling nervous, wondering if he will challenge our right to walk across his fields, and I have the map ready to show him it’s an official public right of way. But I needn’t have worried. He only wants a chat. It’s a nice place to walk, he says, although few people use the path. They’ve had trouble with dogs worrying sheep, and he lost a ewe and several lambs this year. But he knows who the guilty party is. A local woman who lets her dogs run free. Then he talks of townies who don’t understand the countryside, who leave gates open and allow livestock to escape. He describes an incident where a truck illegally dumped asbestos in a field, and left the gates open. The cows got onto the busy A38 and it was lucky no one was killed. He can remember boats going up and down the River Parrett – and talks of a journey on one when he was young. But the channel is dangerous, as the mud-banks constantly shift position. Now there is only one sand boat and a dredger. (They started dredging the river again after the recent floods.) He is busy. Driving around his fields and checking on his sheep. Recently a cow got itself trapped in the mud on the bank. They tried to pull her out, and the fire brigade came, but they couldn’t free her. The tide came in. They thought they were going to watch her drown and then – when the water was up to her nostrils – the river lifted her free. He continues on his way and we stop to take some final photographs of each other. Ahead is Brick Yard Clyce, and we are leaving the bank at this point and heading up into Pawlett to find the car. Today was only a short walk, as we have a long drive home to Lincolnshire. I was keen to get this stretch of walking over and done with, as I thought I would be really tedious and anticipated spending most of the day trudging along the busy A38. But, it turned out to be a memorable walk, with the bonus discovery of a wonderful riverside path. In fact, it was much more enjoyable than my battle with weeds along the terrible River Parrett non-Trail yesterday!
Miles walked today = 5 Miles since beginning = 1501 Route: