At the end of June, with two months of not hitting my walking targets behind me, I was beginning to wonder if I’d been a tad over optimistic with my pledge to walk two thousand miles or more and finish the coastal walk by the end of the year. Pulled in all directions by a zillion things I had to do, most of which didn’t involve walking, it felt like an impossible task. Still, I could no more give up walking than I could give up breathing so I decided to plod away at it and see what happened.
What happened in week one was 30.95 miles, including the Race For Life, the Marwell RR10 and a trip to the dentist with a wander in the Hatch Grange meadow. This wasn’t in target hitting territory but it was a start. It also took me to the Severn Bridge, at least the one you can actually walk across. This would be my last week in Wales. Ruth came this way in October 2015, going in the opposite direction of course, and her post about it makes me glad I don’t have to cross this bridge for real. Of course I’ve driven across it several times but walking it looks more than a little scary.
By all accounts the views are well worth the being scared and walking beside the motorway traffic. Even so, I’m not sure I would like it much. The bridge was the first to cross between England and Wales. Replacing the Aust ferry it opened in 1966 and cost eight million pounds to build. These days there is a second bridge, crossing the river nearer the mouth but this is the only one you can walk across.
The week two miles came mostly from chasing all over town after zebras and a shorter than expected walk across Redbridge. Yet again I fell way short of the miles I needed to meet my pledge with just 32.91 but leaving Wales behind felt like a huge step in the right direction. The week ended with me on a cycle path heading for Portishead Marina, having covered Bristolian ground I have walked for real. The path runs through a nature reserve and Ruth’s blog makes it sound lovely, walking past lakes and bird hides. After the bridge crossing it would be a welcome relief if I was walking this for real.
This area was once a deep water docks supplying coal and goods to power stations nearby. These days it’s a modern Marina with a vibrant and growing community and the power stations and a chemical plant have got ne, replaced by houses. The Ashlands to the east of the harbour, once filled with power station waste, have also been developed and beside the new housing is the Ashlands Nature Reserve where my week ended. Some of the new streets are narrow and winding with colourful houses to mimic Polperro in Cornwall and there are bars and restaurants, including a Costa. It sounds like my idea of heaven.
Things were looking up in week three with a long walk on the hottest day of the year looking for zebras, a wander around Janesmoor Pond and another long walk through Monks Brook Meadows to Lakeside I’ve yet to tell you about. This was more like it with 46.27 miles and took me to Hutspill Sluice. When Ruth crossed the sluice at the end of August 2015, she was surprised to see a very straight, suspiciously canal like river. This was no coincidence
The River Huntspill is an artificial river, built in 1940 to supply water to ROF Bridgwater, an explosives factory. The idea of building a river to improve drainage in the area was suggested by J Aubrey Clark in 1853 but it was the explosives factory’s need for four and a half million gallons of water a day that brought to idea to fruition. The sluice I found myself on at the end of my week’s walking is at the river’s western end and separates it from the River Parrett. Much of the surrounding land has now been designated a National Mature Reserve so it would have been pretty walking if I’d been there for real.
Most of the week four miles came from zebra hunting, with a little marshalling for the Spitfires five mile race and some parkrun walking thrown in. The 38.76 miles I walked weren’t quite enough but they took me to Chapel Cleeve, heading for Blue Anchor. Ruth passed through in July 2014 and was surprised by a steam train running close to the shore.
The train was the West Somerset Railway, a heritage railway popular with tourists from the Butlins Holiday Camp at Minehead. Some of my first holidays were spent there and I may have travelled on the train but I don’t remember it. Of course, a steam train wasn’t such an unusual sight back then. Blue Anchor takes its name from a seventeenth century inn, once painted by JWM Turner back in 1818. The cliffs here are filled with fossils and alabaster, if I was walking for real I may have ended up with pockets full of stones.
So, the month ended with 148.90 miles, almost eighteen short of the miles I needed to complete my pledge. Even so, Progress was made. Wales was behind me and Somerset feels far closer to home. Perhaps I won’t make the two thousand miles I’d hoped but I might just make it back home before the year is out.