From the infamous Severn Bridge we follow a cycle route heading south and we have PLENTY of water. Coming down a hill onto a long straight stretch of coast road we walk past some wonderful metal garden ornaments.
Down on the road several camper vans are parked and people are out enjoying the morning sunshine. There is a great view from here where you can see both bridges at the same time. Well – if you screw your eyes up you can.
On we go following the coast path, past a place called Redwick and then eventually to Severn Beach which is where the railway stops. Here the sea wall is well maintained and forms part of the Severn Way which starts in Gloucester and has been recently extended to Bristol. Severn Beach is a village of modern houses built to replace most of the infrastructure of a seaside resort (complete with open air swimming pool), popular in the 1920’s. Visitors came mainly from Bristol, encouraged by the less strict licensing laws. I imagine that a lot of the inhabitants now commute to Bristol for work. The village has no through traffic and spectacular views.
Half way along the sea wall we meet an elderly gentleman on his equally ancient bicycle. He looks like the father in Steptoe and Son and is very keen to tell us how old he is – he offers advice on how to keep young – no TV and lots of cycling apparently.
The smooth path of the sea wall now turns into a sandy track through rough land but before continuing I have to sit down and inspect the beginnings of a blister. Off to the left a silent power station keeps watch.
Next to the bench where we sit and rest are some information boards about birds of the Severn Estuary and some local terminology. I find myself wondering if I would ever need to use these words but you never know.
From here we decide to by-pass the industrial wastelands of Avonmouth and follow a cycle track alongside and over the railway line, under and over two motorways – the M49 and the M5 (I’m beginning to notice a theme here). After a few wrong turnings we find ourselves meandering around a surreal collection of massive brand new warehouses – the sunlight reflecting off the metal surfaces is almost painful.
Suddenly I am stopped in my tracks by the sight of a swan waiting patiently in front of the open door of an HGV.
A minute later it is greedily guzzling down the large lumps of white bread being offered by the Rumanian lorry driver. “My friend!” he exclaims excitedly “I have friend in England” It makes me think of how lonely the life of a long distance lorry driver may be, far from home and with only a tenuous grasp of the language.
Anyway, we eventually rejoin the cycle track to end crumpled up on the grass verges of a town, which could possibly be the most unattractive place I have ever had the misfortune…….this is Lawrence Weston.
After a sandwich or two and lots of water we make our way up a hill and branch off onto the Severn Way again through a lovely patch of woodland. Then down into a town called Shirehampton and another bridge over a motorway. This what I mean when I tell people that coast walking is not always what they think it is.
The first part of the bridge has the cycle path screened off but when we get to the middle we are suddenly exposed to the full horror of walking beside cars hurtling past at 70 mph. – the noise is horrendous.
We scuttle down the slip road and meet one of those sad memorials we now find on roads all over the country.
We still have a few miles to go to Portishead and we are both tired. A cycle track turns into a minor road and we then turn left up through a nature reserve to meet the first outlying houses of Portishead. The houses are modern, the gardens freshly landscaped, all competing for a sea view. A smooth tarmac path guides us back to the Marina.
Distance: 15 miles