Today has been a very mixed day, and I am glad to be on the train home.
It started very well. I had a lift down to the seafront at Weston and, after attempting to leap out of the car in a bus stop and being sharply beeped by a bus, got onto the beach just about where we left last night. The morning was fine again – there was rain about 6am but it had gone off, and although it was not so warm or bright as yesterday, it was still very good. Slightly windier perhaps.
I had a lovely walk along the firm packed sand at Weston, then rounded the headland to the north, past the old burnt out pier at Birnbeck. Alongside what is known as the Toll road (despite tolls having disappeared some 150 years ago, there is a track through a rather pleasant stand of trees. After a mile or so, it drops down onto the beach at Sandy Bay. Another walk along the sands for a good couple of miles and I was eating up the planned 18 miles.
At the north end of sandy bay is a National Trust headland. I climbed up and could see across to Portishead. A brief discussion with a man in a van who told me I was about trespass, led me back to the right path, just beside the river Yeo. According to the map, you can’t cross the Yeo for miles, but I had been informed that a new crossing had been made for walkers and cyclists, so I had my eyes peeled, but could see nothing. I continued along a lane until I reached a point where a bridle way was supposed to cross the fields to Wick St Lawrence. The sign pointed across a field, next to a lane which read ‘private’. I must say the signage in Somerset is terrible. I haven’t seen a coast path sign since south of Weston. The gate onto the bridleway was tied shut. Undaunted, I hopped over, and walked through a field. Only when I reached the end could I see there was no way out, and that the bridleway must be along the lane. I returned and managed to open the gate this time.
Along the lane and into a field which had a helpful notice written on a plastic picnic plate ‘bull in field’. This was hard to believe. Even the most cantankerous farmer wouldn’t keep a bull on a bridleway. I looked around and the field appeared to contain only sheep. Some very poor signposting later, I emerged onto a track. This decanted directly into a farm yard, with a padlocked gate at one end and more scrap than Steptoe and Son’s yard. I could see another track, so, thinking that must be the exit I followed it through piles of rusting junk. Another locked gate. Up and over.
Finally, a third gate, which could be opened, and I emerged to see three startled people in the lane. I was prepared to give them a piece of my mind about the locked gates, had they challenged me, but they confined themselves to a surprised hello.
I kept walking along the lane to Wick St Lawrence, hoping al the time to see a sign for the river crossing, but nothing. Eventually, I decided to google it. Fortunately, I had signal. All I could find was articles about delays to its construction. I found an article from another coast walker describing her long, tortuous and, ultimately unsuccessful journey to find it. I concluded that I might as well just follow the road, over the M5 to Hewish – the only place where a crossing is visible on the map.
Unfortunately, this was so far that I knew I could not make my rendezvous with Jane at Portishead for. Lift to the station. Disgusted with the whole thing, I left a message asking if she could rescue me early. She was tied up for an hour, but could come then, she said. I agreed to meet in Kingston Seymour. This meant continuing east and then meeting the A road, before turning back north and slightly west to cross the river. As I walked along the S road, I saw a bus pass by and thought that might be a better option. I found a stop and saw that I had 25 mins to wait for a bus to Clevedon, back on the coast. I left a message for Jane to revert to plan A and waited for it. It was not especially late, and I arrived in Clevedon town centre about 1.45. I had got cold waiting, so had a quick but excellent coffee and friand.
There was a good 15 mins walk to get to the seafront, but I picked up the path thee that goes all the way to Portishead along the cliff edge. I was glad I had not given up. The walk was pleasant and easy, with the sound of the sea in my ears. I made excellent time, and was quite surprised when I came to the end of the path considerably earlier than expected. As usual, there were no way markers. I walked up the road, and found myself in one of those housing estates that are like a maze. I asked the way to the main road. The man looked surprised when I mentioned my destination, but directed me. When I got to the junction, it looked nothing like the map – no wonder I was surprised at my speed. I had not come nearly as far as I thought. I had at least 2 miles to do on the road. Thoroughly annoyed by now, I snagged another bus, and got to the meeting point with just enough time to buy food for the train.
After a long wait at Bristol Parkway, I am now on train, but feeling rather grim. I think the sandwich I ate has disagreed with me. Looking forward to my own bed. My knees are hurting. And so are my ears. A woman on the train is yakking without drawing breath. Not a silent second from Bristol to Didcot so far.
16 miles of a below-average ‘cotton’ day.