Today I am walking up the east bank of the River Parrett, from Pawlett to the mouth of the estuary at Burnham-on-Sea. I anticipate a flat walk but am apprehensive about the state of the path. This is not a national trail, just an ordinary footpath.
I needn’t have worried. The grass on this side of the river bank is either cropped short or worn into a farmer’s track. Apart from occasional debris caused by winter flooding, the going is easy.
I can’t help comparing this with my trek through the overgrown wilderness on the other side of the river – the almost-impassable River Parrett trail.
To my right is a rural landscape. An odd mix of agricultural fields, barns and old villages with their churches – and modern pylons.
Looking to my left I see some old friends on the other side of the river. Combwich (a sleepy village, soon to be turned into a bustling port, according to EDF Energy’s plans to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point). And beyond are the blue heights of the Quantock Hills.
The bank is dotted with left-over pill boxes.
The river curves up to northwest again. I pass over a sluice. I think this is called West Clyce. Mud – glorious mud!
I walk past Combwich on the other side of the river. All is quiet. The marina seems empty of water with yachts marooned on muddy banks. I find it hard to visualise how EDF is going to use this as a port. In all my walking up and down this river, I have yet to see a single floating boat.
The river curves around and I am walking along a wide track, heading north-east. Across the River Parrett is Steart marshes, where I tramped along the grassy river bank in August.
[Just a couple of days ago, I heard on the news that the Steart river bank has been breached – deliberately – to allow tidal water to flood the Steart marshes and create a wildlife habitat. Suddenly, all the difficulty I had – and the bizarre ‘Construction Site’ notices I saw – make perfect sense. It was all part of the plan. Weird to think that the path I struggled along last month no longer exists!]
I stop for a snack at Cobb’s Lease Clyce. And come across the first boats I have seen on this side of the river. Wonder if they are ever used?
From the sluice, I take a photograph up the river. It looks most unnatural. Dead straight. Like a canal. [Later, I discover Huntspill River is an artificial river, created to relieve the risk of flooding further inland.]
The bank curves around. Here is another estuary, where the River Brue meets the sea. I stop for a snack, hunkering down to try to escape the wind. Burnham-on-Sea looks very near, but I have to detour up the river to find the nearest bridge.
And walk along streets for a while, until I reach the cycle route and follow a very pleasant walk up the river bank. To my right, I get glimpses of parkland, and the sun comes out, making the landscape glow in the mellow light of late afternoon
I reach the beginning of a promenade. To my left is a small marina area, with ships pulled up on the muddy banks. There is a fisherman and families are out walking. I stick to the beach and head around and up towards Burnham-on-Sea.
Ahead is the shortest pier in the universe. The seafront looks lovely but the afternoon sunshine fades away and, sadly, the light is too dull for decent photography.
I take a final view across the sea. There is the flat spit of Stert Point, with Hinkley Point power station and the blue Quantock Hills. I can even see the promontory of Minehead and – I would like to imagine – trace the coastline all the way back to Devon.
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Miles since Kings Lynn = 1,513
It’s worth looking at the Environment Agency’s Steart Marshes website, to understand what is happening to this area. And I found a marvellous video on the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust site, showing the marshes from the air.