23rd July – Chepstow to Monmouth

Monday

For the first time on the trip I had some company today. My friend Wyn is going to accompany me for the next 4 days on the Offa’s Dyke path. We walked the northern section together in the spring.

20180723 Tintern Abbey on a hazy morning from the Devil's Pulpit
Tintern Abbey on a hazy morning, viewed from the Devil’s Pulpit.

We grabbed some breakfast at the station and lunch at a convenient Tesco’s before leaving Chepstow at 8.00.  The path climbs out of the town into the hills east of the Wye passing Wintour’s Leap, the impressive Tintern Quarry and the Devil’s Pulpit, before descending to the river at Brockweir.

It was great disappointment to find the pub closed and we continued our walk beside the Wye to Bigsweir.  From there we left the river to climb over the ridge in very pleasing woodland before dropping down to Redbrook.  Once again the pub was closed and the shop only has one teabag for their machine!  I enjoyed my tea while Wyn made do with Lucozade…

20180723 Naval Temple at the Kymin above Monmouth
The Naval Theatre at the Kymin

We climbed steeply out of Redbrook up to the Naval Theatre and Round House, a 19th century banqueting house, which overlook Monmouth.

20180723 Round House at the Kymin
The Round House at the Kymin.

We arrived at the Punch House at 5.45 to find a slight problem with our room.  The landlady could not have been more helpful in sorting things out.  We later had dinner in the pub, which is highly recommended.

20180724 Punch House Monmouth

Tomorrow we head off to Pandy in the Black Mountains.

20180723 Black Mountains and Monmouth
The Black Mountains and Monmouth

18th July – Aust Services to Chepstow

Wednesday

I finally managed a lie-in, and had breakfast at 7.30 – such luxury!  I left the hotel around 9 o’clock.

Task of the day was to cross the Severn estuary via the Old Severn Bridge, and then just pootle up to Chepstow to pick up my hire car.

Trying to cross the Severn bridge…   Ah!  There’s a footpath 🙂

Having avoided the traffic on the bridge, I reached Chepstow, collected the hire car and joined the traffic on the M4 to return to Wantage, arriving home in time for lunch.

17th July – Gordano to Aust Service Station

20180717 Crossing the Avonmouth bridge
Crossing the Avonmouth bridge

Tuesday

Today was a surprisingly good day considering that it started crossing the Avonmouth Bridge and continued through the outskirts of Bristol.

20180717-blaise-castle-c18-folly.jpg
Blaise Castle, an eighteenth-century folly

After a large breakfast I left Gordano at 7.15 via a convenient path to Easton in Gordano, thus avoiding the lethal motorway roundabout. Having crossed the Avon, suburbia was almost immediately left behind with the route passing Kings Weston Hill, Blaise Castle, Blaise Hamlet and Henbury. From Henbury I crossed the M5 and then Spaniorum Hill before dropping down to Easter Compton. As the Fox was open I stopped for a pot of tea.

20180717 Blaise Hamlet
Blaise Hamlet

From Easter Compton I followed the road to Pilning. The guide route was described thus ” The paths are little used and mostly invisible, the cattle can be worryingly inquisitive and the footbridges overgrown and thorny.”  Not a great recommendation!!  Even he suggests using the roads.

From Pilning the way followed tracks and field paths, via Holm Farm and Bilsham Farm to Aust and the Boar’s Head. I arrived at 1.45 and stopped for lunch with only around another mile to complete.

For once the paths had been fairly well kept and maintained which made a huge difference to the enjoyment of the walk.  Approaching Aust I was pleased not to have had any more bovine experiences.  Coming to the penultimate field I was faced by a common problem: cows with calves, and in this case, a bull.  Naturally this was a large field and I needed to cross it diagonally.  I sorted out my poles and started to cross.  The cows decided to come and see me and the bull tagged along.  Luckily he was not at all interested in me, and stayed at the back of the herd.  One cow was particularly persistent and I was delighted to get through the next gate.  I should perhaps explain that cows make me nervous these days, as two years ago I was butted by a large Friesian and badly bruised.

Old Severn Bridge                        New Severn Bridge

Aust Services is a poor place now with only a WH Smith’s, a Costa and Burger King.

As it is only 4 miles to Chepstow I could easily have finished today.  Catch 22 again.

Tomorrow I am going to lie in and then amble over the Severn and collect a hire car to get me back to Wantage and a break until next Monday.

16th July – Cheddar to Gordano Services

20180716
King John’s Hunting Lodge, Axbridge near Cheddar

Monday

A much better day than yesterday as it was marginally less hot, with a cooling breeze at times. The route was also more interesting.

I left the rest of the hostel occupants sleeping and crept out at 6.45.

20180716 tunnel on the Strawberry Line trail
Approaching the tunnel on the Strawberry Line Trail

Knowing the Mendips quite well I did not see the need to go up the gorge and climb over Beacon Batch. I took the more obvious route following the Strawberry Line trail to Yatton. That way I got 11 miles done before having a late breakfast at 10.30 in the Strawberry Line cafe at Yatton Station.

Sitting at the station I remembered that in 1978 I caught the early train from there when I first moved to Debenhams. Instead of putting me up in a hotel in London they agreed to let me travel First Class each day. I was only an Assistant Buyer. How the job market has changed.

20180716 Kenn Moor road
The (Kenn Moor) road goes ever on…

From Yatton I followed the 3.5km straight of Kenn Moor Road and then took to the fields along the drainage ditch to the Blind Yeo before emerging onto the B3130. All easy walking except for a slight altercation with an over-friendly herd of cows and their big friend.

20180715 Some locals who shared their field with me
Some of the locals who shared their field with me

I was looking forward to some tea, at the cafe at Golden Acres Nursery and Fruit Farm, only to find the whole site derelict and abandoned. Fighting my way through brambles and vegetation I managed to find the exit from the site and continued up to Cadbury Camp.

From there to Clapton Court was a nightmare trying to force my way along a path which was so overgrown I almost had to go on hands and knees to get through at one point.

I stopped for a drink at the Black Horse at Clapton in Gordano before reaching the hotel at the motorway services at 3.45. Just after I arrived there was a heavy shower of rain!!

The hotel is undergoing renovation, so it is cheap, and I can get a subsidised breakfast tomorrow at Harry Ramsden’s.

Tomorrow I cross the Avon and head for Aust.

15th July – Bridgwater to Cheddar

042 First harvested field on the trip
First harvested field on the trip

Sunday

This was a hard day. It was very hot, there is very little shade on the Somerset Levels, and the route was long and boring. I have joked with several people that if I ever take on another trip it will be in Holland.   Today showed me the error of my ways.

042 Typical Somerset Levels road
Typical Somerset Levels road

I left Bridgwater at 6.45, crossed the M5, and then made my way, via roads and virtually non existent paths, to Bradney, Bawdrip, Cossington, Gold Corner and River Brue before arriving at Blackford.

043 Typical Somerset Levels track
Typical Somerset Levels track

The Sexey’s Arms provided some much needed non alcoholic refreshments.

The trail finally rose up to Middle Stoughton and Brinscombe Hill before entering Cheddar via Cheddar Reservoir.

046 Axminster from Brinscombe Hill
Axbridge from Brinscombe Hill

I arrived at the hostel at 4.40 to find it closed until 5.00. From then on life improved as they had a restaurant and bar.

On a nostalgic note I remembered that Lin and I had our first camping trip together in Cheddar, on another very hot weekend, in 1975.

The best thing to say about the day is that another 20 miles have been completed.

14th July – Bicknoller to Bridgwater

Saturday 14th July

031 Masons Arms Williton

The Mason’s Arms, a 16th century inn, at Williton was very comfortable and I had an early breakfast and was back at Bicknoller by 8.20.

032 SW from Quantock Ridge
South-west from the Quantock ridge

 

 

Today started with a 250m climb up onto the Quantock ridge.  The views were magnificent and justified the hard work. Once on the ridge it was easy walking over Thorncombe Hill and Black Hill before dropping down to Triscombe Stone.

035 Somerset Levels from Lydeard Hill
Somerset Levels from Lydeard Hill

 

The route then goes over Wills Neck 384m, the highest summit in the Quantocks, before unusually not going to the summit of Lydeard Hill but contouring its north slope. Leaving the Quantocks behind I dropped towards Bridgwater across farmland. Here there was the normal problem of paths being nonexistent on the ground or deliberately not maintained. Only in Devon have they been basically passable.

040 Enmore School 1810
Enmore School, 1810

Eventually I reached the road to Enmore and stopped in the village to look at the school. This was established as the first free elementary school in England in 1810 and is still in use. The Tynte Arms provided much needed liquid refreshment.

From Enmore I choose to follow the lanes to Bridgwater via Andersfield and Goathurst. This was uninspiring, but quick, and I reached Bridgwater at 4.00pm and my guesthouse for the night, just in time to see England lose to Belgium. The Admiral Blake Guest House is homely and welcoming but not in the most salubrious part of Bridgwater.  Walking up to the High Street it was noticeable that all the shops had steel shutters.

I am planning another early start tomorrow as it is 20 miles to Cheddar with little opportunity to cut corners and lots of extra miles possible if some of the route is impassable.

13th July – Luxborough to Bicknoller

20180713 Brendon Hills
The Brendon Hills on a gloomy morning

Friday

Today I crossed the Brendon Hills leaving the Exmoor National Park behind at Monksilver.

I had a late start at 9.00am after a fine breakfast at the Royal Oak. I changed my plan last night when I discovered that the pub had drying facilities so took the opportunity to get some clothes washed. When I was on Ride-Stride-Glide, my John O’Groats to Land’s End trip, my brother Alan took care of all the support work, but this time it is down to me.

20180713 Peacock Butterfly
Peacock butterfly

Today’s route was a third less than yesterday in distance but with around the same amount of climbing. Basically it was a roller coaster of ascent over ridges before descending to river valleys.

A steep pull up from Luxborough was followed by the descent into Roadwater. Two kilometres of up hill later I went downhill to Monksilver where I had tea at the the pub.

20180713 Church at Nettlecombe
Picturesque church at Nettlecombe

Travelling on to Bicknoller involved another up followed by the inevitable descent. Somehow I missed a turning off of the main route. I was very pleased that I had made an error as I had assumed that the bus stop I wanted would be in the village. However, it was on the main A358, just where I joined, it and a bus arrived within 5 minutes at 3.03.

Five minutes later I was at Williton looking for the Mason’s Arms.

Tomorrow is a much longer day, 25k with 580m of ascent. The good news is that I can get just under half of the climbing done in the first 2km ascending to the main Quantock ridge.

20180713 Main Quantock Ridge
The main Quantock ridge in the distance