After a frustrating and frightening struggle yesterday – through brambles, obstructed footpaths and fields of mad cows – I am really hoping my route will be easier today.
My husband drops me off by St Andrew’s Church, right on the southern edge of the Clevedon coast. I walk past the cemetery chapel and head for the bank of the river with the strange name – Blind Yeo.
From a resting spot, I take a photo of the river estuary beneath me, tracing the route I walked along yesterday. Unfortunately, a murky mist shrouds the distant view and makes for poor photography.
Sadly, my steep path comes to a dead-end in a patch of brambles. There is no further way up the slope. Ah well. I retrace my steps and find the proper signposted path – the Poet’s Walk – a much tamer affair compared to the wild scramble I’ve just attempted.
Poet’s Walk leads me up to a ridge of high land that runs along the coast on the south side of Clevedon. This is the site of ancient iron age forts, and the remains of a rabbit farm dating from the middle ages. I didn’t know such a thing existed.
At the top is grassy heath, and from here the path descends gradually through bushes and woodland towards Clevedon. The views, sadly, are obscured by high vegetation. But, even when visible, the murky atmosphere makes everything look grey and uninspiring.
Down through woods and I arrive at an unexpected stretch of enclosed water. This is Clevedon’s Marine Lake. It looks a little sad and unused. I wanted to walk along the sea wall – but signs say this is forbidden because the walkway is crumbling and unsafe.
[Later I learn there are plans to restore the lake, repair the leaking outer wall, and encourage water sports and, I hope, swimming again. Will be lovely when finished.]
Beyond the Marine Lake is a promenade and some pretty pastel houses. It is a Thursday morning and there are older people about, young mothers, pre-school children. The ice-cream kiosks are closed, but the outdoor cafes are doing a brisk trade. Coffee and cakes.
Clevedon Pier is an elegant structure, although the poor atmospheric conditions make for lack lustre photography. And the landward end of the pier is obscured by scaffolding. Still, I would have like to walk along it for a few minutes, but you had to pay. So I didn’t bother.
[Later I learn that Clevedon Pier is a Grade 1 listed building – the highest protection that can be offered. And the scaffolding is part of a redevelopment plan to improve the access area of the pier.]
Beyond the pier the road bends inland. Private properties obscure my view of the sea.
Somewhere here is a coastal footpath – part of the Gordano Round long-distance footpath trail. There are no signs (or none that I see, anyway) and so I nearly miss it. But instinct tells me to go down a bland and uninteresting looking alleyway… and as it narrows and continues onwards, I realise I must be on the right track.
The path winds along the outside of a wall and then around the backs of properties. The surface is asphalt or Tarmac (I don’t know the difference) and well maintained. I meet a couple of joggers and dog walkers. This isn’t exactly a wild coastal footpath I was expecting, and I don’t know whether to be relieved at the prospect of an easy walk or disappointed by the tameness of the route.
But I needn’t have worried. I leave the houses of Clevedon behind. The landscape widens out, while the path narrows. There are rocks below, and I come across the occasional little shingle beach, hidden in a quiet cove.
It’s half an hour since I met anybody on the path. Then, coming towards me and balancing with difficulty on the narrow path, I see a couple of middle-aged women.
What a difference a bit of sunshine makes. Suddenly I notice the lovely autumn colours and the wild flowers. It’s been a mild autumn and the plants are showing off.
Somewhere along here I pass by a holiday camp of static caravans. This means litter in the bushes. Dog dirt on the path. Sigh. But at least a workman is keeping the path clear of brambles and overhanging branches.
I stop for a snack in a little cove. Nobody is about. The coast is devoid of identifying features. I pull out my map and trace the route I’ve walked. Ladye Point, Backhill Sands, Margaret’s Bay, Pigeon House Bay, Culver Cliff, Walton Bay. I’m not sure exactly, but I think I’m in Charlcombe Bay.
After this, I reach Redcliff Bay. I know where I am because tall fences guard an industrial complex. A fuel storage place, I think. Not a very friendly walk.
Out in the water I see a giant ship heading up the estuary. It looks rather like a roll-on-roll-off ferry – with a snub bow and a flat stern. But its sides are very deep with no portholes, and my map doesn’t show any passenger ferry routes along the shore. So it must be a cargo ship. But no sign of containers on the deck. A mystery.
As I approach Portishead, the path decants onto a housing estate and I have a short stretch of road walking to do. A convenient bench is inviting, but suffers from that usual Somerset disease – lack of maintenance. (Note: a sea-view seat is useless without a sea view.)
Below are Black Nore rocks. Their lighthouse provides a useful reference point.
I meet walkers and dogs, and know I must be approaching the main bay of Portishead, where I’m meeting my husband for lunch. This section of the walk is wonderful – with old trees and an unspoilt shore. Ahead is Sugar Loaf Beach. What a lovely name.
And now the path leaves the waterside and crosses over a wide green space of mown grass. Shame it is hard to get a view of the sea, because of the high bushes. But I do get a glimpse across the bay to Portishead Point on Battery Point, and its lighthouse.
Found an interesting blog about Clevedon here: Lyrical by the Sea on the Richly Evocative site.
Distance walked today = 7 miles
Total round the coast = 1,567 miles