The ruin of Kilve Chantry, founded in 1329 is now a listed building “at risk” and it certainly looks that way. There are tea rooms next door but we are just starting our walk, so out of the question…..
On reaching the coast where we turned left a couple of months ago, we now turn right, heading off in the direction of Hinkley Nuclear Power Station.
From running along the top of the cliffs the path crosses freshly ploughed fields – flocks of chiff chaffs dart up from the hedgerows and fly off with a cute bobbing motion. And we can soon see the power station in the distance………………….
Further on, the path turns into a car wide dirt track and then a high viz arrow directs us off to the left of this coastguard station and closer to the coast.
Next we are faced with 100 yards of loose stones that are very difficult to walk on……..
I am hoping that we can continue to walk along the coast in front of the power station but this is not to be…………..mere mortals are being turned inland on a 2 mile diversion.
…………….this is where we could have walked……………………………………………….
Ah well – by this time we are in need of a rest so we find a newly planted orchard to rest our weary bones. All around us are young fruit trees and as we walk around the highly fortified perimeter fence, I realise that all around the power station large areas have been planted with young trees – 12.000 of them apparently. Is this to keep away prying eyes or thwart a potential terroist attack? It certainly makes it difficult to take photos. This is as close as we can get, on the far side of this enormous campus.
The first plans to build a series of new nuclear power stations in the UK began in 2008. Since then there have been numerous disputes over financing of construction work, environmental concerns and viability of the Hinckley Point project. However, despite opposition, not least to Chinese investment, it is now estimated that the power station will be providing electricity for the UK by 2025 – at an estimated cost of £22.9bn. However, a report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in 2016 found that there were viable alternatives. These include wind and solar farms, connecting the UK grid with other countries and gas fired power stations – a combination which would not only be cheaper but also meet climate targets. This was ignored.
We walk past a car park where a fleet of busses stand ready to ferry people to and from the site and for those that stay, there are accommodation blocks for 1,000 workers. But all is not well.
“In August 2019, it was reported that among the staff working on the site there had been a surge in suicide attempts, a rise in the number of people off sick with stress, anxiety and depression, and an increase in workers suffering from mental distress. Officials from the Unite union reported that they have been told of 10 suicide attempts in the first four months of 2019. A report by the Guardian newspaper explained that the main causes of the distress appear to be loneliness, relationship breakdown and the struggle of being sometimes hundreds of miles away from family” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station
Last but not least the power station is now responsible for adding an extra 2 miles to our journey and we are beginning to feel it.
Coming back to the coast we turn right towards Stolford hoping that the village may offer a tea shop. Alas! we are left with our half bottle of warm water and a couple of pork pies – I start to worry as I know there is nothing but a banana between here and our destination and we still have a couple of hours walking to do. Onwards – over a patch of very unusual sea defences.
Not quite sure how they work…………..but later research tells me that they are a Dutch design known as Hillblock which can reduce wave energy by up to 30%. The project was funded by EDF, the owners of Hinkley – obviously protecting their interests and keeping the neighbours happy.
From here we follow a dirt track which runs alongside the edge of the marshland. This will eventually fold out into the nature reserve known as Steart Marshes, recently created as a buffer against rising sea levels.
The trail seems to go on forever, it is hot and we are thirsty – with very little water left. Apart from disturbing people in the few farms we pass, the only source of water is the toilet block at the carpark and that is a couple of miles away. I wonder whether they may be a tap in the church. But the church is closed……
I try to distract myself with the names and pictures of birds one can expect to see from the beautifully made hides that line the trail.
Eventually, we reach the toilets and they are closed! I am starting to feel like Ralph Fiennes in the film The English Patient, where he struggles across the desert, dehydrated and desperate to find help for his injured wife (well not quite).
So, we eat the banana and head off down the River Parrett Trail to Combwich. Close to the village we start to see dog walkers and I allow myself to fantasise over a pint of cold lager.
The pub in Combwich is heaving with people attending a 50th birthday party but there are a lot of extra bar staff so we order and make a quick exit. As we sit and savour our drinks outside, we feel the first few drops of rain. It has been a long quite exhausting walk but at least it was in the sunshine.
Distance: 16 miles