159pm Kewstoke to Clevedon

[Continued from the morning.]

I am walking along the southeast bank of the River Yeo, heading for Phipp’s Bridge, only a few hundred yards away. Technically speaking I am trespassing. But this shortcut saves me over two miles of needless walking along official footpaths to get to the same place. (And there is no guarantee the official paths would be passable anyhow.)

This is farmland, with fields of cattle. There are no stiles, but the fences I come across are easy to climb over.  I wave to some watching cows, who ignore me.
b01 fields of cows, Ruth walking in Somerset
There are swans on the river, birds in the sky, and – if I block out the drone of traffic on the nearby M5 – I could be in the middle of nowhere. After all my earlier difficulties with overgrown and obstructed footpaths, this is very pleasant and easy walking.

But in the next field, everything goes horribly wrong.

The cows seem startled by my sudden appearance and begin stampeding around the field. Alarmed, I duck down off the bank and walk near the edge of the river, hoping if I disappear from their skyline, the animals will settle down.

This tactic doesn’t work. I hear the sound of hooves above, and look up to see a row of cows lined up on the bank and staring down at me. Unable to resist a photo-opportunity, I swing my camera up. And so I catch through my viewfinder the alarming sight of a charging cow.

The beast rears up and lunges down the bank towards me and, at the last moment, turns to the side and prances back up the bank again.
b02 mad cow, Ruth walking in Somerset
It does this several times. Its eyes are wide and rolling. Ears up. With each lunge it seems to get nearer.

By this time I am no longer taking photos, but running as fast as my boots will allow to reach the next fence. There is a small black cow down by the water, dead ahead of me. I turn and briefly look back, but there are more cows behind me and the last fence is a long way away.

I keep running towards the small cow by the river, who – luckily – scurries out of my path. Meanwhile the charging white cow is leaping up and down on the bank above me, rearing onto its back legs and thrashing down with its hooves on the grass, like a bucking bronco.

Time seems to slow down. I wonder if the white cow would follow me if I ran into the river. I wonder how deep the mud is and whether I would get stuck. I wonder if anyone would ever find me. Is it preferable to drown in deep mud or be trampled to death by a mad cow?

I reach the fence. There is wire mesh between the planks of wood, making it difficult to get a foothold, but I pull myself up with my arms and manage to fling a leg across the top. Straddle the fence. My heart beats like a drum and I am covered in sweat. But at least I am higher than the cows.

For a moment, I wonder if they will charge the fence, which suddenly seems a flimsy barrier. But they simply mill about in a mob and glare at me.

b03 herd of killer cows, Ruth in Somerset

With wobbly legs I climb down onto the other side – weak with relief and badly shaken. From a safe distance, I take a photograph of the gang of cows. Now standing guard on their side of the fence.

I hope that Phipp’s Bridge really exists and that I can cross the river safely at that point. But of one thing I’m sure: there is no going back the way that I’ve come. Nothing would induce me back into that field!

Phipp’s Bridge is a grand name for an ugly metal walkway across a sluice. But I’m really pleased to see it.

b04 Phipp's Sluice, Ruth walking in North Somerset

a footpath sign at last, Ruth in SomersetThere is even a welcoming footpath sign. A bit damaged, but the first proper footpath sign I’ve seen all day.

I suddenly realise how hungry and thirsty I am. It’s 2pm and I have been walking for nearly four hours without a break – and without making much progress.

Pulling out my map, I work out I’ve only travelled 2 miles as the crow flies. I am still nowhere near Clevedon and certainly nowhere near the sea. What a frustrating day this has been so far.

I sit down on a concrete step at Phipp’s Sluice and eat a snack bar and have a drink. Then onwards… to Kingston Seymour. My next task is to cross back over/under the M5 and my map shows a passage through a culvert under the motorway. It should be only a few yards away.

Surprisingly, the path is signposted and I reach the culvert without any difficulty.

b06 culvert under the M5, Ruth walking in North Somerset

Despite the unfriendly metal fencing around the passage, and the roaring traffic a few yards away, I see the bright flash of a blue bird in the bushes near the water. A kingfisher! My spirits lift.

When David Cotton walked this way, he took one look at this culvert and decided it was unsafe. So he walked on to the next M5 crossing point, a bridge over the motorway.

b07 dark tunnel with slimy weed, Ruth walking in north SomersetBut I don’t know what he was worrying about. The steps down are clear of brambles and nettles. The path seems well maintained.

It’s not until I am peering into the tunnel itself, that I realise there is a problem.

Part of the walkway is under water. Although it’s probably not very deep, the area below the steps is completely covered in green slimy stuff. A thick carpet of foamy weed. At least a foot deep. It would come over the top of my boots.

I consider my options. I could wade through – it’s only weed, I tell myself, and won’t hurt me. But my boots would get filled with filthy fluid and I still have miles to walk.

More worryingly, I can’t see the way up at the far end of the tunnel. What if the exit from the tunnel is impassable – and I have to wade back again?

My experience under the previous culvert is still fresh in my mind and my confidence has been shaken by my close encounter with the marauding cows. I decide to take the easier option. And I turn away from the culvert.

It is such a relief to find the path onwards is signposted.

b08 alternative footpath, Ruth's walk in Somerset

And leads through a featureless field. More clover. Grass. M5 traffic roaring to my left. But not a cow in sight!

b09 long plod through a featureless field, Ruth walking in Somerset

The path gradually bends away from the motorway and, at the other end of the field, runs through a lovely apple orchard. The trees are heavy with fruit and there is a delicious cidery smell.

b10 walk through an orchard, Ruth in Somerset

I follow a track on the other side of the orchard. The cider-apple smell is replaced by the stink of cow slurry and I pass by a steaming compost heap. I’m not sure if it has caught fire spontaneously or is the remains of a giant bonfire.

b12 steaming compost heap, Somerset, Ruth Livingstone

The track is covered in cowpats, but it leads upwards, and I realise I am about to pass over the motorway.

b13 farmer's bridge over M5, Ruth walking in North Somerset

I can’t resist another photograph of the M5. It’s been my constant companion – and barrier – on today’s walk. I’ve been under it twice, and over it twice, and now I am going to leave it behind. Kingston Seymour, here I come!

b14 over the M5 motorway again, Ruth walking in Somerset

I don’t actually walk through the village of Kingston Seymour, but along the looping lanes that lie between the village and the sea. It’s rather like Wick St Lawrence, a collection of houses, farms and light industry – all strung out along the narrow country roads. Plenty of drainage ditches and rhynes. Pleasant walking.

b15 Ruth walking through Kingston Seymour

A couple of swans provide another photo opportunity. Their nest is empty and I don’t see any cygnets – maybe they’ve grown up and left home. The male swan is protective of his mate and hisses at me.

b16 hissing swan, Kingston Seymour, Somerset walk

I find this hard going. With proper roads to walk on it should be easy. But I am hurrying now to make up for lost time. And, although I can smell the sea, and the air has that light, clean quality you find by the seaside, I can’t actually see the coastline. Its is on the other side of fields.

Ham Lane, Broadstone Lane, Middle Lane, round the corner at Channel View Farm, past the sewage works, Back Lane, Poplar Farm, Lower Farm… and then, almost as a shock because I’ve walked such a long way to get to this point… I realise I am at the beginning of the permissive footpath that will lead to the sea. To the sea!

b17 beginning of permissive footpath, Ruth walking the Somerset coast, Kingston Seymour

Hurrying along a lane, past blackberryers and dog walkers, I finally reach the coast.

This is beautiful. The low light of late afternoon lights up the scenery. I hadn’t realised the sun had come out! And there is a steady stream of people – walkers and joggers – using this permissive route along the shore. Lovely.

b18 sea walk, Gullhouse Point, Clevedon, Ruth walking in north Somerset

Why isn’t all the coast accessible  like this? This permissive path could easily be extended all the way down to the mouth of the River Yeo and, with a footbridge crossing, it would be possible to walk between the wonderful Sand Point and Clevedon, following the bank alongside the water. It would be a truly lovely walk.

What a shame a proper coastal route doesn’t exist. Maybe one day.

I stop and have another snack and finish my water. I am feeling very tired now, but raise the energy for a self-portrait.

b19 self portrait, Ruth in front of Blackstone Rocks, Clevedon

As I approach Clevedon, there is one more river crossing to negotiate. The Blind Yeo. What a strange name. And ahead I can see yachts pulled up on the muddy banks, with raised land beyond.

b20 mouth of Blind Yeo, Clevedon, Ruth walking the north Somerset coast

But that is tomorrow’s walk. Today I am heading for the lovely St Andrew’s Church, on the edge of Clevedon, where my husband is picking me up. Despite all my difficulties, I’ve arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

 St Andrew's Church, Clevedon, Ruth walks the Somerset coastline

I flop down in the grass in front of the church. This has been a challenging and exhausting day. Possibly the most frustrating day of walking I have ever done. I hope tomorrow will be easier.

Miles walked today = 14
Total miles since beginning of round-the-coast trek = 1,560

Route today:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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35 Responses to 159pm Kewstoke to Clevedon

  1. Rita Bower says:

    Well done Ruth – a really challenging section of walking & such a scarey encounter with the cows – I’d have been terrified! So pleased you escaped them. I always look for an escape route if I enter a field of cows! Sounds like the Somerset walking has been full of challenges…not least non-existant or overgrown footpaths…. Really well done…you’ll no doubt be pleased to get over the border to Wales – where the walking apparently is fantastic! Good luck with the final push before the Welsh border!


  2. Liz Wild says:

    Hi Ruth,
    I did the stretch between Middlehope and Clevedon last Friday (26th) and met lots of problems with footpaths (or rather non-existent footpaths) too. You were far more intrepid than I was, I could see nothing but difficulties before I even started the walk. I too tried various footpaths only to find I couldn’t continue to the end and eventually gave up as I didn’t think I would reach Clevedon before dark if I tried them all!
    I was warned by a dog walker I met at the start that I would not be able to walk along the sea wall and shortly after I set off I came across my first locked gate. I walked down from Woodspring Priory to the bridleway that led to Ebdon Farm (nearly put off by the ‘Private Road’ sign). On reaching Ebdon Farm the last gate leading to the road was padlocked so I had to climb over, feeling very sorry for anyone who had come that far on a horse only to find they couldn’t get out!
    I then tried to find the footpath that led through Ebdon Court Farm to Bourton which started off clearly marked but in trying to look at the map and trying to find all the footpaths leading off that path I tripped in a hole in the track and fell flat on my face hurting my nose and lips – I sat there waiting for the nose bleed but it didn’t happen (now got bruises on nose and chin!). It was only when I looked down at my map again that I realised that I had damaged my little finger – it was sticking out at a rather peculiar angle – I thought at first I might have broken it but decided in the end it was probably just dislocated. Anyway I came to a dead end and had to retrace my steps back to Ebdon and followed the road named Ebdon Lane Farm to Bourton and then turned right to cross over the M5 via the single lane bridge. Rather than try the footpaths you tried (I couldn’t see a way across the Yeo) I decided I would cut my losses and go on to the A370 and turned up to East Hewish from where I walked along a footpath which started with a sign saying no unauthorised people to enter. I queried this with the man from the house next to the gate and he pointed me to where the footpath went and advised me, when I reached Phipp’s Bridge, not to go under the M5 at that point as it would be very wet but to go parallel with it and to the next bridge over the M5 (farm track) and the footpath leading to Kingston Seymour. This footpath amazingly enough actually existed!
    Instead of your route from Kingston Seymour I took the road leading to Elmleigh Farm and then onto Riverside Farm from where I took a footpath which disappeared so I walked along the stream bank until I reached Back Lane. (I looked for the other end of the footpath (and found it) but it was difficult to see exactly which route it took across the field!) I walked up past Lower Farm and turned left onto the permissive path leading to the seawall from where it was plain sailing the rest of the way.
    P.S. The dog walker I met at the beginning of my walk did say that negotiations were ongoing with the various landowners to open up the route along the sea defences – alas too late for us!

    • Oh Liz, your experience was even worse than mine. Hope that poor little finger has recovered. Pleased to hear that there are negotiations about opening up a route along the sea wall. It would be lovely.

  3. You inspire me always…thank you. Close call with the cows!

  4. Using Google Maps I have spotted a route that should be a shortcut – On Wick Road, just past Icelton, 1/3rd Mile heading towards the M5, there is clearly a track coming off North East, which is predictably marked ‘private’ at the gate on streetview, which heads up to and crosses Oldbridge River and the Yeo, marked as sluices on OS, but clearly nice wide tracks on SV, bringing you out near Yeo Bank Farm. This would bring you to the sea wall and the most upstream crossing saving lots of shoe leather! This should be made into a permissive path and I wonder if anyone has had the bravado to go this way, although as a responsible walker I would never encourage trespass….hmm! Of course it is one thing looking at this route on a PC and quite another thing in real life, depends if it is a ‘Git orf moi larnd’ scenario! I just cannot see why foot traffic would cause any problems for the landowners whatsoever…

    • Hi Gemma. Just had a look at Google Maps and I see exactly what you mean. And I remember I passed that private sign. I wonder if anybody has gone that route? Would be interesting to hear if they managed to get across the Yeo that way. Would be much shorter and probably much nicer, because you wouldn’t have to cross the M5 twice.

  5. A great read as always, but what a nightmare!
    For the benefit of future walkers I took a much easier short-cut, much of it along the disused Weston-Clevedon railway bed between Wick Road and Yeo Bank Lane, when heading south during my end-to-end in 2010. I’m pretty sure it’s the one you’re talking about above.
    Pete Hill used the same route recently, unaware at the time that I’d used it too. It does require a little bit of trespassing, but nothing too daunting. The old railway bridge over the Blind Yeo river has long gone, only the legs are left, but they’re right next to a large sluice gate where it’s wide enough for farm traffic to drive over. This would be an ideal walking route between the two towns if only they would opened that short section to the public.

    My GPS track is here;

    My blog entry written on the day. I refer to the route I took in the fourth paragraph. There’s a picture of the railway bridge remains too;

    • Wow, Gary; that’s great to know – so it is accessible, if not strictly ‘kosher’. I will use this on my route next year, unless of course the landowner ‘doesn’t take kindly’. I really don’t like confrontation, but as I have said previously, unless there is a genuine reason to block access, such as disease control or serious and genuine health and safety issues, these numerous time saving routes need to be made fully legitimate, and I challenge a land owner to prove any negative impact on their holdings. I hope we have got away from the days when it was just a tactic to keep the rabble out of sight! I had no idea it was a former railway, as it is almost obliterated looking at Landranger OS map, probably shut well before SUSTRANS could have stopped it being parcelled off to all the landowners.

  6. I’m glad to see you made it all the way to Clevedon but what an experience! I quite often find that cows will run towards you and then run away. I often think they’re curious but still undecided. I’ve had individual cows do it – it’s as if they suddenly lose their bottle – and almost a year ago, I was playing some ‘game’ with an entire herd that kept running towards me and turning back; each time, they would keep retreating from a further distance!

    I’ve not see a cow jumping up and down before. Was it doing this before you started running? I often feel uneasy heading in to a field of cows where the path cuts right across the middle. I prefer the ‘protection’ of a hedge to follow. You must’ve felt very exposed walking along that bank.

    A lot of cows will back down or at least pause if you stand up to them. I hold my hands up high and outstretched – apparently, cows have very poor eyesight, hence their curiosity. Some people say you should wave your arms while others warn that it can be seen as a form of attack (like a big cat or something). A group of us was almost eaten by horses last spring – they do scare me because they are quick, have powerful legs and huge teeth!

    Looking forward to your next. 🙂

    • Hi Olly, the white cow was the problem, and she started prancing and making mini-charges at me before I started running! Up until then, I was congratulating myself on my sangfroid attitude to cows – something I’ve been working on recently, trying to overcome my fear of cattle! It was strange behaviour. Obviously a mad cow. :/

  7. Blimey! That’s a proper Bad Cow Experience. I’ve not had anything that worrying.

    I have had an entire herd follow me at about three paces, which was unnerving. And I had a herd try to run away from me by running right past (and very nearly over) me, which was worse, although that would have been an accidental trampling. And I admit I have avoided the odd field of skittish bullocks. But cows, which live their lives in constant fear and confusion, are usually deterred by acting ‘large and confident’.

    I guess you must have just spooked them because they didn’t see you coming. Especially if they’re not accustomed to walkers in their field (a potential problem with going off the well-used track).

    Anyway, I’m glad you were able to get out of their field!

    • Worst experience so far, Ju. And just when I thought I had conquered my fear. Perhaps coming down off the bank was a mistake, as it made them more curious and made me seem small and insignificant – too unthreatening. I think they were very unused to people, it wasn’t a public footpath after all.

  8. David L says:

    Best advice with troublesome bullocks is to run towards them waving any stick you’ve got. Yell and shout. With luck they’ll bolt to the opposite end of the field and you can cross in peace; at worst you force them back a few dozen yards and can walk on before having to turn an repeat the experience. Running away is dangerous; they can run faster than you can.

    I’ve got this section in front of me next and find all comments most helpful, if not entirely encouraging. Thanks, Ruth! From what I can make out there is an agreement, with landowners paid off @£10000 each, to open a permissive cycleway over Tutshill Sluice (http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Plans-cycle-route-coastal-towns-step-closer/story-19111037-detail/story.html), but it isn’t open yet, with Somerset Council shoring up flood defences instead following last year’s fiasco: https://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/Transport/travel/Cycling/Documents/cycling%20update%20(pdf).pdf

    • Really good news about the plan to open up Tutshill Sluice- I assume that’s the route taken by Gary Qualter and Pete Hill, as mentioned above, The sooner the better. Maybe it will be open by the time you get there? Fingers crossed.

  9. grahambenbow says:

    I’m glad I read this before going out this morning with my wife who’s really scared of cows. Today we had to cross a field of cows in the Wye Valley and diverted to the far side, had I read your report to her before the walk she would never have crossed the field. Don’t know what will happen next time hopefully she will,have forgotten.

    It was a very exciting piece of writing, at least we knew you would survive as he you had to have had to write the blog!

    Excellent stuff well done!

  10. David L says:

    Went over Tutshill Ear Sluice (Gary LQ’s route) N to S yesterday. Was standing at the junction of Yeo Bank Lank and the lane up to Yeo Bank Farm farm, deciding which way to try to slink along, when a chap in overalls drove up, looking like he belonged to a farm, so asked him whom I should ask permission from. Said he’d drive ahead on me and ask at the farm, so I followed and re-met in the yard. ‘It’s okay, but he’s not happy about it’ was the verdict, ‘He has a lot of trouble with cyclists’, with the advice that I could either go over a locked gate with barbed wire on top to reach the sluice, or through an field gate beside the track and follow a dyke round. I tried the latter, which I’d maybe misunderstood, and found it led to a greasy 6 inch plank over the dyke with a mud and brambles scramble on the far side. Not rating the chances of a safe crossing, I went back to the barbed wire gate, which was on the main track. Found it was a single strand wrapped tightly round the top bar, so doubled my oldest fleece across and gingerly swung over, without wounds. The track beyond swung behind farm cottages and onto the river back. A woman shouted to demand if I’d got permission, so promised her that I had. After which it was plain sailing over the two sluices and along a track to Wick St Lawrence, with just a couple more unwired gates to climb, past ruins of the railway bridge, muddy sea channel of the Yeo, bullocks pounding down the opposite side of a fence…. Hopefully it won’t be too long before this is a permissive route, without the barbed wire. Your route, Ruth, sounds more complex, longer, and not exactly pleasant.

    • Oh, ignore my reply above! I see you’ve made it. It was very polite of you to ask permission and interesting to hear the farmer was fed up with cyclists. Perhaps if he just opened up his gate and let people use the track there would be less trouble?!

      • Martin Wigginton says:

        I, too, am walking the coast and, by coincidence, did the Weston to Clevedon stretch last Sunday. From Ebdon, I took a series of rather poorly-marked footpaths eastwards to the Icelton – Bourton road. Being somewhat unsure of where I had joined the road, I asked a local for directions, and in the course of conversation he suggested I take the old railway track (that is signposted ‘Private’ on both gates), saying that “no-one will mind, especially on Sunday morning”. I was doubtful, but decided the benefit of a super shortcut was worth the risk. All was well until I reached Yeo Bank Farm, where I encountered the aforementioned gate with barbed wire lovingly coiled around its top bar. Unfortunately, it creaked as I was carefully hauling myself over it, and the (young) farmer came out of the house none too pleased. A somewhat taut conversation ensued, but it became more comfortable as we chatted. Somerset County Council have apparently wanted for some time (years?) to open the route to public access, and would like to make it a cycle route. But Yeo Bank Farm is resisting. However, the involvement of Natural England may speed things along – see http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/access/coastalaccess/aust/default.aspx
        I eventually gained access to the sea-bank by Channel View, via a short lane marked, inevitably, with a ‘Private Access’ notice, which I interpreted, ahem, as meaning for vehicles.

        • Hi Martin, and how wonderful to meet another coastal walker! Sounds like you took the easiest route and glad you made it despite the farmer. The sooner that particular route is officially opened the better 🙂

          • Martin W says:

            Hello Ruth, I have meant for some long time to add my thanks to you for posting so entertainingly on your coast walk. I have much enjoyed reading your accounts of your daily walks, both in prospect of doing them myself and, having now done them, in retrospect too.
            Like most others, I’m also sectional walking, as and when the opportunity arises and when the weather forecast is good. My usual method is: Park > Walk > Bus back to car (seniors’ bus pass!), and loop along the coast in that way. It’s worked very well, with only a very rare need to take train or taxi or helpful lift in a private car. My initial intention was to walk only the coast of England (just Lancashire and Cumbria remaining), but might start on Wales when that’s done.
            All good wishes for your 870 m Wales walk, which I shall look forward to reading about.

  11. Wingclipped says:

    Wow, Ruth! Those cows didn’t like you, did they? A few years back I was in the middle of nowhere in Yorkshire at about 6am in the morning and had a similar experience. Not fun at all. I’m gald you got out without having to dive into the river!

    • I wonder if it was one maverick cow that caused trouble for you? I saw on TV (on Countryfile I think) that you can come across the occasional hard-to-handle cow. They showed the typical appearance of one of these troublemakers – prancing about, eyes rolling, ears back, unpredictable behaviour – but all cows look like that to me!

  12. Bronchitikat says:

    Well done, Ruth. Cattle en mass are scary, big for starters. It looks like you came across a herd of mixed breed beef cattle, the white one was a heifer. Oh the detached way in which one can view such things when they’re in photos not in the flesh! You could try carrying a stout walking stick for such occasions. Be very thankful you didn’t have a dog with you, though you could have let it go and the cattle would have chased after it. Probably!

    Particularly enjoying the current stretch of walks – childhood stomping ground and all that.

  13. Helena says:

    Sounds like a very frightening experience, especially for someone walking alone. I must admit I’m right on the cusp of being scared of cows, although I always try to face my fears and a couple of times I’ve had to do the stomping, shouting and waving my arms thing (it has always worked so far!). Most recently I was spooked by a curious horse that followed right behind me across the field, nibbling at my back pack! I’m not normally scared by horses but this one was just too ‘friendly’ and didn’t pay any heed to my attempts to shoo him away!

  14. mariekeates says:

    What a frightening and frustrating walk! Cows and ponies scare me to death and I’ve come across plenty in the New Forest. Even so none have ever actually charged at me although the ponies do the end to crowd around in an alarming manner. As for the burning compost heap, they do often combust spontaneously as the action of decomposing generates a lot of heat. I’m glad you made it to the end unscathed.if it was me I’d probably still be wandering around lost now.

  15. Pingback: 159am Kewstoke to Clevedon | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  16. Rita Bower says:

    Hi Ruth

    Will be attempting to walk from Weston Super Mare to Clevedon next weekend. Really hope I don’t meet that white bullock! Wish me luck!!

  17. Karen White says:

    What a terrifying experience with the cows. Sounds like the rogue white one was the problem and incited the others! Thank goodness you got out in one piece.

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