158 Kewstoke, Sand Point and Middle Hope

The sun is shining. From the garden of my B&B in Kewstoke I can see right across Sand Bay to the peninsula of Sand Point. The air is a little hazy, but it’s still a beautiful view.

view over Sand Bay from Kewstoke, Ruth's coastal walking

My husband has returned to Lincolnshire for the day, unable to get GP locum cover for the complete week. Without him I have no transport and there are no useful bus routes. So I have planned a circular walk: down the beach to Sand Point, around the far headland – an area known as Middle Hope – and then back up to my B&B via country lanes and bridleways.

It’s a short downhill walk to the beach. Sand Bay is a great name and very fitting for this unspoilt two-mile strip of coast. I may be very close to Weston-Super-Mare, but it seems a different world.

view over Sand Bay from the beach, Ruth's coastal walking in North Somerset

A low dune system gives way to a sandy beach, with a wide, muddy, intertidal area below. Wales is visible in the distance. I see the usual warning notices. Sinking mud. DANGER!

Wales across the mud, from Kewstoke beach, Somerset I walk along firm sand, close to the border where it turns to mud. There are plenty of lug worm casts and sea birds to keep me company.

 Flat Holm across the mud, Ruth walking in North Somerset, Kewstoke

It’s very peaceful, with only the occasional dog walker on the beach. After all, it’s a Tuesday morning. Everybody should be at work!

 nearly deserted Sand Bay, near Weston-super-Mare, Ruth walking the Somerset coast

At the near end of the beach I can look across the water and see the ruins of Birnbeck Island.

ruined Birnbeck Island, from Sand Bay, Ruth walking in Kewstoke, Somerset

And, ahead at the far end of the beach, the peninsula of Sand Point draws slowly nearer. I’m not expecting much from this piece of land. It seems to be a lower, smaller, less-dramatic version of Brean Down.

 Sand Point, Ruth walking in Kewstoke, North Somerset coast

I’m sad when the beach comes to an end, and the muddy sand gives way to rocks, with marsh and grass above. I follow a track through the grassland.

end of Sand Bay, Ruth walking the coast in North Somerset

The vegetation here seems unusual. Reeds and grasses, of course. A few lost-looking brambles. And this tropical-looking yucca plant.

 weird plants, Ruth approaching Sand Point, Kewstoke hike

When I reach the peninsula, I turn and walk towards the sea, keeping the low cliff on my right and hoping to find a place I can scramble up. But I don’t see any obvious track and eventually I reach the water’s edge, where I stop for a drink  and watch the tide coming in. And take a self-portrait. (Not bad. Shame about the wonky camera angle!)

 Sand Point, from the shore, Ruth self portrait, on her coastal walk

Turning back, I go to the top of the beach and find an information board and a car park, and a few people milling about. Sand Bay and Middle Hope. I realise much of this raised finger of land is owned by the National Trust.

Following the proper path, I  climb up. It is steep, but nowhere near as challenging as Brean Down.

The view from the top would  be spectacular if it wasn’t for the haze. The nearest headland across the bay is Worlebury, covered in woods and where I walked with my husband yesterday. The farthest headland is Brean Down. Barely visible.

looking down over Sand Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, North SomersetThere is a gently undulating path along the top of the ridge. A few families are up and walking ahead of me.

walking from Middle Hope to Sand Point, Ruth's walk along Somerset coast I walk almost to the end. Sand Point. The path deteriorates into a rocky scramble along a narrow ridge. I give up when it turns into a hand-and-knees job. (It’s good to see the National Trust haven’t felt the urge to make the place ‘safe’. There are no warning signs, no concrete platforms, no guard rails.)

On the way back, I take another self-portrait.

 self portrait, walking back from Sand Point, Ruth on Middle Hope, Somerset And the next part of the walk turns into the best experience of the day. I walk along the north shore of the peninsula, and can see the land extends further than I had anticipated, giving a couple of miles of excellent walking, as good as you might find in Devon and Cornwall. (As long as you ignore the brown sea.)

wonderful walk, north coast, Middle Hope, Ruth's coast walking in Somerset

[Later, I discover that Sand Point marks the boundary between the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel. So, this section of the shore is no longer seaside but estuary. Strange. Because it feels more like wild coast than much of the walking I’ve done recently.]

There are unexpected, pebbly, beaches.

rocky beach, Middle Hope, Ruths coast hike, SomersetAnd strange raised hills – tumuli I believe – with ridged slopes.

ancient tumuli and field systems, Ruth walking on Middle Hope, North Somerset coast Rounding the corner, I see a series of small coves, and dramatic rock formations. Later I learn that Middle Hope is famous for its wonderful and varied geology, including limestone rocks, lava from old volcanos, and fossils.

geological paradise, Middle Hope, Ruth walking the Somerset coast I meet a couple of walkers and turn around to take a photograph of them walking alongside one of the beaches.

 walkers paradise, Ruth walking in Middle Hope, Somerset Like Brean Down, Middle Hope was also used as a testing place for experimental weapons during World War 2.

warning signs, Middle Hope, Ruth walking the Somerset coast A damaged warning sign gives a hint of remaining armaments, without mentioning the word directly.

warning sign Middle Hope, Ruth Livingstone's coastal walkTHE MUD ON THIS FORESHORE IS VERY TREACHEROUS AND MAY CONCEAL SHARP OBJECTS. PLEASE KEEP OFF.

There is another, and similar, sign fixed to a steep stile.

At this end of Middle Hope, there should be the remains of a field-system from the middle ages. I stumble over uneven ground, so may have found the old ridges. I don’t know.

And then I meet some familiar foes. Cows! I was attempting to follow the coast as closely as possible, but with this lot across my path, I give up and turn inland. (It’s not possible to walk all the way around the shore anyway, because the farthest tip is MOD land and fenced off.)

cows at the end of Middle Hope, Ruth walking the Somerset coast

As I come over the ridge, I see the flat lands of Wick St Lawrence and Kingston Seymour spread out below me. Tomorrow, I am planning to walk to Clevedon, just 3 or 4 miles away along the coast. But there are no public rights of way and no obvious footpaths on my map, so I anticipate a difficult inland trek. (But that sea wall looks so tempting… I wonder if it’s worth trying another bit of trespassing…)

tomorrows walk across Kingston Seymour to Clevedon, Ruth walking in Somerset

I turn to the south. I’ll worry about Clevedon tomorrow. Today I am going to enjoy the rest of this walk. Ahead is Woodspring Priory, built by one of the gents who murdered Thomas à Becket, now owned by the Landmark Trust. The high ridge beyond is Kewstoke, and my B&B is there, hidden somewhere in the haze.

Woodspring Priory, Ruth walking the Somerset coast

The footpath leads down along the side of a creek at the mouth of the River Banwell. The tide is high, for a change, and I really enjoy this section of the walk.
creek, River Banwell, Ruths coast walk, somerset 

I follow the narrow track from Woodspring Priory to the nearest proper road. I am surrounded by farmland and the main crop seems to be grass. Hay bales glow in the afternoon sunshine.

country lanes, Somerset, Ruth walking around the coast The bridleway I planned to follow disappears into a field of tall grass, leaving me stranded in a meadow surrounded by thick hedges, with no clue as to where the route goes. So I turn back to the road and find another bridleway. This one starts as a surprisingly narrow path and is bordered by high hawthorn bushes that meet overhead (very scratchy if you were actually riding a horse!).

Later on it becomes an easy track, running alongside one of the many waterways that crisscross the Somerset Levels. In the East Anglian fens we call these drains or dykes. In Somerset they call them rhynes. At least, that is what they are called on my OS map. (I think rhynes is a pretty word, but when I mention it to our landlady she says she’s never heard the name, despite having lived in Somerset all her life. )

Elmsley Lane, Ruth walking the coast in Kewstoke, Somerset 

The track is marked on my map as Elmsley Lane and it gradually widens and becomes more and more road-like, until it eventually turns into a proper road.

I enjoy this last section of my walk, despite feeling unexpectedly tired.

26a friendly horses, Ruth walking around Somerset water lillies on rhyne, Ruth walking in Kewstoke, SomersetNo view of the sea, of course, but a true rural feel. Tumbledown barns, weathered stables, friendly horses, a donkey, goats, strange abandoned machinery, chickens, pheasants – a proper country walk.

And a carpet of lovely yellow lilies on the rhyne.


Miles walked today = 9.5 miles
Miles walked since the start of my round-the-coast trek = 1,546

Route:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 11 Somerset and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 158 Kewstoke, Sand Point and Middle Hope

  1. Rhyne is pronounced ‘reen’, so if you pronounced it ‘rine’ you might have confused her. Not that it would be hard to figure out though.

    Did you catch sight of the Severn Crossing from Sand Point? It should have been visible from the top (haze permitting).

    • Hi Ju. No, didn’t see the Severn Crossing. It was too hazy. And thank you for pointing out the correct pronunciation of rhyne. Of course I said ‘rine’ and so, of course, she didn’t understand the word!

      • Jane Fletcher says:

        I was born in Weston and brought up in Sand Bay we always called the them rhynes or ditches depending on the size of them. I enjoyed finding your blog it was like a trip down a very familiar lane. Thanks
        The beach was a lot different in our childhood being very pebbly at the Kewstoke woods end and becoming more sands and dunes at the sand Point end.
        After the storm in 1981 when the sea breached the wall and caused widespread flooding My Mum and sisters had to wade out to Kewstoke to the safety of an Aunts house.
        Dutch engineers were brought over to dredge and and change the shape of the beach to build it up covering the familiar pebble beach at our end. Hoping to avoid further floods. Since then a lot more sand blows up and onto the road making the area seem more rugged and desolate.

        • Hi Jane. What a lovely place to spend your childhood. Interesting to hear how and why the coast was changed in the area. I thought it was a fabulous beach. Miles better than Blackpool 😉

  2. That haziness persisted for most of the twenty days of my recent walk and is reflected in many of the photos. Headlands some distance away which would normally be quite spectacular just dissolve. Autumn and the frosts provide a better time for photography. How do you do those selfies? Do you have a tripod?

    I’m amused about your aversion to cows. I just walk past them and only ever had one tricky encounter, but they stampeded away from me and crashed through a fence to disappear goodness knows where…. but horses… they worry me. I just can’t tell what they are thinking or likely to do.

    • It’s frustrating, isn’t it, when you *know* the view is spectacular but you can’t actually see it 🙂
      The selfies are taken by perching my Olympus camera on any available rock or post, and using the inbuilt timer. I’ve thought of getting one of those Gorilla tripods, but decided not to as it’s just another thing to weigh down my rucksack with.
      Cows. Hmmm. I’m getting better with cows. But I’ve had a few nasty experiences recently. The worst was when I walked towards a cow standing on the path, chanting to myself ‘I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.’ The cow moved away, to reveal the large bull standing just behind her. Ring through the nose. Head lowered. I turned off the path and scampered to the edge of the field and made a long detour.

  3. Had you continued beyond those cows, you would’ve indeed come to an abrupt dead-end with fencing for military land but right before that, you could’ve found an old pier and a pond-like body of water before that – these are things I only discovered last summer!

    Woodspring Priory’s church is worth a visit in the daytime as I’ve been told they have some kind o art exhibitions inside. I intended to go last summer but we arrived 30 minutes after they’ve closed at 15.00!

  4. mariekeates says:

    Yet another lovely walk. I wonder how that yucca got there? It certainly isn’t a native.

  5. paul sennett says:

    Thank you for inspiring us to do this… the point was amazing.. tide race on a spring tide… plus the dreaded heifers were in another field…the Commodore hotel in keystoke
    village we found did an excellent carvery

  6. Andrew Bennett says:

    Thank you for posting this walk. It certainly is spectacular, but given the terrain it will probably deter some walkers, especially when approaching Sand Point. We walked it today on a beautiful winter’s day but in very high winds and got a little bit nervous towards the end. We noticed what appeared to be a tremendous battle going on between the incoming sea tide and the outgoing water of the Severn Estuary producing a dramatic wave pattern. I have a photo but don’t think I can attach it. We could see the new bridge as well by the way.

I welcome your views

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s