155 Pawlett to Burnham on Sea

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.

looking back, River Parrett, Ruth's coast walk
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.

 farmland and power cables, Ruth walking up the River ParrettLooking 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.

River Parrett Bank and Quantock Hills, Ruth walking the coast
The sky is overcast. The wind is strong. I meet nobody else walking up the river.

The bank is dotted with left-over pill boxes.

River Parrett pill box and Quantock Hills, Ruth walking the coast
The River Parrett twists back on itself. Oddly disorienting. One minute I am heading northwest, the next I am heading due south. Combwich and Hinkley Point swing round to my right.

 distant cows, Ruth walking up the River Parrett
The cows here aren’t used to walkers. My progress causes eddies of panic. Luckily they gallop away from me.

The river curves up to northwest again. I pass over a sluice. I think this is called West Clyce. Mud – glorious mud!

mud on the River Parrett, Ruth's coastal walk
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.

Combwich wharf, on River Parrett, Ruth's coastal walk in Somerset
At the other end of Combwich is the Anchor Pub. I remember enjoying a cider there during my walk last month, along with an unhealthy lunch of crisps and peanuts.

07 The Anchor Pub, Combwich, Ruth walking up the River Parrett
I walk under pylons. They are marching across the river, heading out from Hinkley Point Power Station. The blocky buildings can be clearly seen in the distance.

Hinkley Point in the distance, Ruth's coastal walk, Somerset
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.

 Steart across the River Parrett, Ruth walking the Somerset coast

[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?

boats on the River Parrett bank, Ruth near the mouth of the estuary
The wind is blowing hard and in my face now. I put my head down, beanie on. Time to do some serious walking. (And amuse myself by taking a self-portrait.)

head down, Ruth Livingstone walking the Pawlett Level, River Parrett
I come to Huntspill Sluice. And for the first time I meet a few other walkers.

 Huntspill Sluice, Ruth walking to Burnham-on-Sea, River Parrett
I was worried that I might not be able to cross the sluice (despite the clear footpath on my map) and at first glance it looks as if my fear was correct. I see fences and warning signs. Oh dear.

Huntspill Sluice, Ruth walking the coastBut, in fact, there is a narrow footpath around to the left of the building.

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.]

looking down Huntspill, Ruth walking the coast, Somerset
The view looking over the other side, towards the sea, shows the water level is much lower. And it is very, very, muddy! There are the usual warning signs.

looking up Huntspill, towards the sea, Ruth walking the coast
From the sluice I walk along a low path, close to the shore. Is this estuary or sea now? Hard to tell. I wonder if the path is flooded at high tide. Ahead I can see Burnham-on-Sea.

track by the sea, Ruth walking the coast, Somerset
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.

Burnham on Sea, from bank of river, Ruth walking the coast of Somerset
On my way up the river, I come across a couple of boats.

more old boats, Ruth walking the coastal route of Somerset
And then I reach another sluice – New Clyce Bridge on my map. I cross over the River Brue here.

New Clyce Bridge, Burnham on Sea, Ruths coastal walk
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

Apex leisure park, Burnham-on-sea, Ruth walking the Somerset coast
Cyclists over take me. I meet the occasional dog walker. This is lovely.

cycle path into Burnham on Sea, Ruth walking the coast
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.

Burnham on Sea, Ruth on her coastal walk, north Somerset
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.

Hinkley Point and Devon beyond, Ruth on the North Somerset coast
Then I turn inland and head towards my B&B.


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.

Route:

Or Garmin record.


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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5 Responses to 155 Pawlett to Burnham on Sea

  1. mariekeates says:

    It looks like a pleasant walk Ruth but odd to think of EDF purposely changing the landscape in that way. It all seems very cloak and dagger to me.

  2. David L says:

    Hi, Ruth: Did you go over the R Bure at the road bridge, as your map shows, on on the sluice at ST313472? I think the latter should have been obvious coming from the S and that your photo shows it; I had a strange wander through narrow lanes behind cottages -2 feet wide with high walls either side- to find it from the north.

    Gates further down the riverside path, around Gaunt’s Farm (close to your starting point) in wonderfully dire condition, supported by bits of binder twine on either side. Some avoidable by decrepit stiles, some not. At Gaunt’s Farm one collapsed completely when I untied one end, and I struggled to return it to anything approaching the vertical….

    • Hi David, yes, you are quite right. I crossed over at the sluice, not the road bridge. (If you zoom in on the map it becomes more obvious.) And I remember those decrepit gate too 🙂

      • David L says:

        Ah, yes, I see now I zoom in. You crossed the sluice then up to the road bridge before doubling back down the next lane north (Tyler Way/Newtown Rd). As the expanded map shows there is a more direct way through, zig-zagging N through a series of ginnels between and behind cottages to reach Newtown Road almost directly N of the sluice.

  3. Pingback: We never knew it was here! | Lois Elsden

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