[Continued from this morning…]
I leave the pub in Mathern and return to St Tewdric’s church. My face is still pink from the embarrassment of being chased down the street for not paying my bill.
The Wales Coast Path ducks behind the churchyard. An old stone archway hints at the long history of this place.
I meet my first Welsh sheep. They might be an English breed of course, and just living in Wales. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m really looking forward to walking through fields of sheep rather than cattle.
After the fields I cross a golf course…
… before wading through a field of sweetcorn. The path here is difficult to see among the stalks, and the corn is only up to my shoulder. It will be really tricky to navigate when the crop is fully grown.
I cross over a sleepy-looking railway line and am surprised a few minutes later, when a goods’ train rumbles past.
I reach a small creek and find a few sailing ships sheltering within its steep and muddy banks. A lighthouse is just visible on the higher bank beyond. This is more like it. I must be close to the river again.
I’m carrying my OS Explorer Map (no. 154). It covers the western side of Bristol and has been my guide as I walked up the Severn river from Clevedon to Portishead, following my diversion along the Avon to Clifton and back to Avonmouth, and during my trek up the Severn to the beginning of my Severn Bridge crossing yesterday.
But the no. 154 doesn’t cover Chepstow. So my walk today has been map-less – a condition I find surprisingly disorienting. It has made me realise how much I love my maps. Not only do they guide me when I’m lost (a surprisingly frequent occurrence) but they also help me work out where I am. Tracing my route and noting the names of the places I walk through is part of the joy of walking.
Now I discover I have just crept over the edge and am back on the map again. What a relief!
This little creek is a place called St Pierre Pill. Climbing higher up the bank, I can see the Severn Bridge. The red cliff in front of the bridge is named, rather unimaginatively, Red Cliff.
The path follows the river bank. I turn away from the old bridge and look into the west. Ahead are the impressive pillars of the Second Severn Crossing.
Walking along the bank is a joy. It’s good to be beside the water. Flat and easy walking. I make rapid progress.
They appear to have been dredging the ditch on the other side of the path, piling up the earth on top of the bank, shoring up the flood defences. The path is clear, but is becoming muddier. And ahead I see a steamroller. A steamroller? I blink. It’s still there.
The steamroller is flattening the path along the newly raised bank and I am grateful it has already rolled most of the track I’ve been following. The short section of unrolled mud beyond is very sticky and slippery.
I come to the limit of my access along the bank. Out in the Severn the tide is coming in, ruffling the water with furious energy as it surges around a rocky island out in the stream. I check my map. That is Charston Rock, with its lighthouse.
Reluctantly I turn to follow the Wales Coast Path as it heads inland, yet again. But I can’t resist another photograph of the old Severn Bridge.
This area seems popular. Black Rock. I meet a few strollers and see an elderly couple perched on fold-up seats, looking out over the new Severn Bridge. At first I think they might be painting the scene, but they are not doing anything – just sitting and admiring the view.
The path leads past an electricity station. This gives me an early warning. I am about to enter pylon-country.
I walk through the residential outskirts of Sudbrook; not exactly a ‘new town’ but once a ‘new village’, built in the nineteenth century to accommodate workers building the Severn Tunnel. An information sign suggests I might be able to feel the ground shake when a train runs through the tunnel, somewhere deep below my feet.
But I’m too impatient to wait for a train to make the earth shake. It’s getting late – 4:30 pm already – and the light will be fading in an hour’s time. Onwards.
I can’t resist snapping this gentleman enjoying the afternoon sunshine, with his bike beside him, looking out at the giant arches of the Second Severn Bridge.
Now my path runs beside the river again. I walk quickly along the bank, raised just above the flat, marshy shore, towards the looming bridge supports. As I approach, I can clearly see the curve of the structure as it snakes out from the bank and heads across the river.
I walk beneath the wide belly of the motorway. And stop to take far too many photographs.
On the other side my path splits into two concrete tracks – both running along the bank – one high and one lower. A few men are out, walking their dogs. Someone is carrying a large piece of driftwood they found on the bank. For firewood? Or to construct something?
I make use of a convenient rock and take a self-portrait.
The concrete ends and I walk along a grassy bank, into the evening sun. The way stretches ahead. Flat and featureless. Reminds me of walking through the marshland of the Dengie Peninsula in Essex.
It looks tranquil in the photograph above, but in reality I was constantly aware of the noise of the M4 motorway, running parallel to the river bank and just above to my right.
At one point I hear the chatter of a family and see a man lifting a small child up. At first I think they are walking on a parallel path, but then I realise their car has broken down and they are standing on the hard shoulder of the motorway. What a nightmare! The man looks over towards me, as if wanting to join me on my grassy bank. But we are separated by a screen of thorny bushes.
A short time later and the Wales Coast Path heads inland again, rising and passing over the M4 via a footbridge. From this high vantage point I can’t resist another photograph of the Second Severn Crossing.
On the other side of the motorway the path narrows. I walk through an overgrown meadow, under pylons overhead, past a sewage works.
This is Rogiet Moor, an area of open land just south of the town of Caldicot. My path curves to the west and joins a ‘Private Road’. Hedges on either side.
The sun is low in my eyes. A few cyclists whiz past. It is 5:30 pm and these are workmen, cycling home. And a couple of cars go by – I wonder what they are doing here.
This final stretch is hard work. I stop for a quick drink of water and one cyclist nearly hits me. He apologises. With the sun in his eyes he didn’t see me.
My planned rendezvous with my husband is at the Severn Tunnel Junction station. (This station seems to be placed in the middle of nowhere, but we chose it as a handy reference point for the pick up.)
My private road joins a proper road – although it’s a very quiet one because it leads to a dead-end. I turn northwards and walk along this road, heading for the railway line. But I soon come across a sign announcing a temporary station car park. This appears to be in a field. There are several cars parked, but no sign of hubby.
I phone him. Where is he? We work out he is somewhere on this same stretch of road. He tells me he is parked right beside where the path joins the road, waiting for me to emerge. No he isn’t, I tell him. Yes he is, he insists. Drive back towards the station, I tell him.
We meet eventually. Turns out he’s been waiting beside the wrong path.
Miles walked today, from Chepstow to Severn Tunnel Junction = 11
Total miles walked around coast, from Kings Lynn = 1,618