Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A few titbits of information on... the Severn Way, the Bristol to Brecon Walk, the Community Forest Path, the Samaritan’s Way South West & Monarch’s Way (Footpath Nos. 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21)

It’s typical that on the first weekend with consistently decent weather I’m under instructions to rest up! As there is no long distance training walk to write about this weekend, I thought I’d continue to give you all the low down on the next stage of my planned route on the Little Stroll. In the last instalment we had meandered south for about 145 miles along the Offa’s Dyke Path, criss-crossing in and out of Wales until we got to Chepstow so we’ll pick it up from there... at the Severn Bridge.
Now... when I say the Severn Bridge, to those of you who drive, I mean the old Severn Bridge – the one that carries the M48 and more importantly for this route, National Cycle Route 4. Once over the bridge we're back into England and it’s onto the Severn Way, a mammoth trail that runs for 223.9 miles along the entire Severn Valley from the sea... and which I will only be following to just past the newer Severn Bridge carrying the M4 to Severn Beach, before turning south-east on the Bristol to Brecon Walk heading in the direction of Easter Compton. It’s a shame really as I’ve heard great things about the Severn Way... but you can’t walk the length of every scenic footpath on this route otherwise you would never reach the end!
In a similar vein I’ll only be on the Bristol to Brecon Walk for a relatively short distance, until it connects to the Community Forest Path, although technically the two routes coincide for several miles thereafter... but who’s being picky? The Community Forest Path looks a beauty. It’s a path that follows a route around Bristol using footpaths, tracks and some sections of rural lanes providing a variety of landscapes with views of the Mendip Hills, Severn Estuary and the Severn road bridges. It takes in Ashton Court, Blaise Castle and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
I’ll be joining the Community Forest Path near Easter Compton and following it anti-clockwise across the fields, over the M5, into Henbury in Bristol and right past Blaise Castle. Blaise Castle is not in fact a castle at all but a late 18th century, Grade II listed mansion; immortalised by the fact that it was described as "the finest place in England" in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.
From there the route will take me through the Sea Mills area of Bristol, onto Clifton, where I’ll come to, and have to cross, the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge. The Clifton Suspension Bridge towers 245ft above the high water level of the River Avon below and spans 1,352ft... so, true to form, I will no doubt be jogging across it, singing loudly and trying not to look down!
Once across the bridge my route will touch the edge of Leigh Woods, before heading across the fine Ashton Court Estate and past Ashton Court itself, another splendid mansion house that resides within Bristol.
From there it is a good distance south across the open countryside to Dundry, past Dundry Hill, which is where I footpath hop onto the Samaritans Way South West - a route devised by Bristol RA to raise funds for the Samaritans through sales of the publication and based on youth hostels along the way. Although I won’t be sampling any hostels, it looks like a fantastic route through the Chew Valley.
From Dundry my route will take me past Chew Hill, until I reach Chew Magna, a village close to the northern edge of the Mendip Hills (a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the village itself was designated a conservation area in 1978). Chew Magna has long been the largest village in the district, and can trace its importance back to Saxon times. So, where other than such an historic and beautiful place to stop for a customary pint of ale and a hearty lunch... it would be rude not to!
From Chew Magna I’ll trudge ever on, further south-west still, past Woodford Hill and then at some point hopping onto another footpath, the Monarch’s Way, which I will follow until Compton Martin. The Monarch's Way is a 615-mile (990 km) long-distance footpath in England that approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. It runs from Worcester via Bristol and Yeovil to Brighton, but alas, just as was the case with the Severn Way earlier, I will only be following it for a matter of miles. Once at Compton Martin, it’s back onto the Samaritans Way South West, where I’ll turn westward towards Charterhouse and the infamous Cheddar Gorge.

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