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.
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.
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!
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!
At the near end of the beach I can look across the water and see the ruins of Birnbeck Island.
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.
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.
The vegetation here seems unusual. Reeds and grasses, of course. A few lost-looking brambles. And this tropical-looking yucca plant.
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!)
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.
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.
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.)
[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.
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.
THE 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.)
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…)
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.
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.
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. )
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.
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