Clovelly to Hunters Quay 30.6.19

Clovelly has worked its charm on me and I cannot stop taking pictures.

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But it’s time to move on – down a wide leafy lane which skirts Clovelly Court Gardens and leads into woodland running parallel to the coast. Turning a corner we come across a beautiful wooden shelter beside the path. A place to rest.

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The path continues through the woods until we come to an ambiguous sign which could either take us straight on or sharp left. We deliberate, the map is not helpful so we decide to carry straight on. This turns out to be the wrong decision but we are then pleasantly surprised when we arrive at a small wooden church tucked into the cliff with a stunning view over the valley and cliffs beyond. It is very quiet…..

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Carved into the lintel of the door is this inscription “non fatuum huc persecutus” which translates as “it is no will o’ the wisp that I have followed here”. In folklore a will-o’-the-wisp, is an atmospheric ghost light seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. The phenomenon is said to mislead travellers by resembling a flickering lamp or lantern. In literature, will-o’-the-wisp sometimes has a metaphorical meaning, e.g. describing a hope or goal that leads one on but is impossible to reach, or something one finds sinister and confounding. I take the inscription to mean that even though we took the wrong turning we were not misled to this wonderful place for a spot of soul searching.

Retracing our steps the path takes us down into a deep wooded valley and then up and out into the open onto Windbury Hill, from where we can see Blackchurch Rock – a sea stack in the form of an arch perched at the end of the cove.

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From here the path continues to follow the coast in and out of woodland for miles – it’s a trek, uneventful but exhilarating. That is all about to change. Time for a photo in the daisies.

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Round about West Titchberry we are directed through a field where Damian spies a short cut down a steep bank. I protest but am over won, and anyway it doesn’t look too dangerous. Damian goes first and as I am slowly picking my way down the slope he kindly offers a hand – this was a big mistake. I realise afterwards that taking his hand must have upset my precarious sense of balance. I stumble, try to right myself and then slowly but inevitably tumble head first into a patch of brambles and nettles! Ow!

Fortunately I suffer nothing more serious than scratches and a bruised knee which only stiffens up later in the evening – the curious bend of my arm is genetic. Onwards!

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By this time we are very hungry and desperately looking for a nice spot to eat our sandwiches. Round a corner we spy a welcoming bench with a fabulous view over the sea but just as we head towards it another couple appear and get to it first – Damn!

Onwards we plod in the hot midday sun……..maybe there will be a bench up by the satellite?

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Sadly no….it’s fenced in.

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Hartland Point is where we stop – to clean my wounds, gobble sandwiches and stretch out in the sun. The lighthouse on the other side of this promontory is closed to the public today so after a rest we carry on. Walking up a concrete path to the top of the next cliff I become aware of a very brightly coloured pigeon (or rock dove) that decides to walk along beside us. It seems very at ease in such close proximity to humans and sure enough it has a ring around its leg. Perhaps a carrier pigeon. It then decides to become our leader, walking  just a few paces in front and showing no fear or inclination to fly off. At some point it is so close that I cannot resist leaning down to stroke the iridescent green and purple neck feathers, but that is too close and it flies off.

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Our hotel for the night is at Hartland Quay, where we set off a few weeks ago to walk in the other direction to Morwenstow. The hotel, as I remember it then, was a pale yellow colour but it has now had a face-lift. New bay windows, grey stone walls and wooden shutters have been added – but all FAKE. The hotel is being used as a film set for a new version of Rebecca by Daphne du Marier. This “stone” boathouse, built into the cliff is (as one of the set designers tells us) “nothing but cardboard and glue” . A slight exaggeration but astounding nevertheless. We are told the the boathouse is destined to be burnt down in the film.

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After the usual well earned pint of cold beer I am sitting reading in our hotel bedroom with the window wide open when I’m startled by a scrambled clatter from the window. Looking up I see a pigeon on the window sill – about an arm’s length away from me. We sit and stare at each other for a full 3 minutes before I reach out to try and touch its beautiful feathers. It takes off immediately of course – I like to think it is the same pigeon that joined us on the path earlier.

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Distance: 15 miles

 

 

Horns Cross to Clovelly 29.6.19

Walking down the lane from Horns Cross towards the coast we meet the pink cottage again and it’s still empty. Like so many beautiful houses in Devon and Cornwall this is a summer let or holiday home.

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Turning left at the coast we walk though beautiful woodlands until we end up on the beach. Stumbling across pebbles we realise that something is not quite right and that we have missed a turning. Great driftwood though.

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Retracing our steps we continue to walk through the gentle dappled light of Sloo Wood and Worthygate Wood – it is a beautiful day. Eventually we reach Bucks Mills, a pretty little hamlet where we buy water from a real “hole in the wall” . Some enterprising soul has converted their living room into a small shop, using the window space as a hatch. We continue up through the village.

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From here we walk again through long stretches of ancient trees, the path lined with foxgloves – it is easy walking.

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After about 2 hours the path opens up into a car wide road called “The Hobby” which takes us over a beautiful stone bridge and on to “Hobby Drive” . The stone bench gives us a little history of the road.

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We descend the steep valley into the village of Clovelly, seen through the trees.

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P1040273From the visitor centre where we have left our car we totter down the incredibly steep cobbled lanes into what used to be a thriving fishing village. Not much has changed here since the 16th century apart from the depletion of fishing stock. Owned by one family, nearly all the buildings are listed and they are all rent payers – no property speculation here.

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No cars are allowed in the High Street and transportation of goods and people used to be be on donkeys. Nowadays the donkeys are for children’s rides and sledges are used to drag essentials down into the village.

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Some parts are not for public access…..

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We find our Bnb and walk down to the harbour for a pint. There is a noisy wedding going on in the Red Lion but the Snug bar is open for food. I wolf down a huge plate of fish and chips and we then go for a stroll to the end of the harbour wall.

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………and then back up the cobbles to our beds.

The link below has more information about the village.

https://tammytourguide.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/clovelly-devons-prettiest-village/

 

Distance: 8 miles

 

Hartland Quay to Morwenstow 5.5.19

I have had Hartland Quay in my head for months and when we arrive after miles of driving down a narrow twisted track it does not disappoint. Round the back of the hotel, perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the jagged profiles of black granite cliffs slide into the sea. Perhaps due to its isolation, the atmosphere around the hotel reminds me of a ski station.

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After checking that we have enough water (a lesson recently learned the hard way), we set off south along a wide grassy track. We have been told this may be a difficult walk with more than its fair share of steep ascents and tricky descents but I’ve learned not to listen too closely to people’s opinions. We all have different pain thresholds.

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Our climb takes us up and down St Catherine’s Tor – there is road access here and a few people have arrived with surfboards. Looking at the sharp tooth comb of rocks on the beach I wonder where they are thinking of surfing.

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Say no more…….

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From here the path meanders across the top of cliffs and there are no more serious climbs or scrambly descents – we make good progress. I do however, know from all accounts that the first part of this walk is easy and the torture comes later. At Mansley Cliff the signpost directs us down onto a narrow tarmac road and then things go a little awry. The repetitive walking on tarmac in hot sun results in a lack of concentration and us missing the point where the road joins the coast path again.

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We find ourselves in South Hole, a well heeled hamlet full of pretty well kept summer homes – there is no-one around.

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We do eventually find a Londoner who points us in the right direction with a recommendation – the bluebell woods further down the road. And indeed it is a lovely walk down the shady lane.

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Eventually we follow a footpath off to the right which takes us down into Welcombe Mouth where there are stepping stones – I love a stepping stone.

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From the bay the path rises steeply but on the descent we discover a poet’s hut. The hut was the retreat of the poet Ronald Duncan and is now looked after by his daughter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Duncan

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Inside is a visitors book to sign, photos from his life and excerpts of poetry.

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I am a little underwhelmed by his work but struck by another poet’s contribution.

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Thinking of the razor blade rocks of this coastline I think the choice of the word “eviscerated” is genius. Unfortunately I thought I had written down the name of the poet  but no.

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Onward we walk in the hot sun, up and over Marsland Cliff where we are suddenly back in Cornwall.

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…and then almost immediately the path rises steeply again up and over Cornakey Cliff and then one more – the bizarrely named Henna Cliff.

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….and who is this charming fellow not exhibiting a trace of exertion?

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Eventually the spire of the church at Morwenstow comes into view and the path levels out.

But before we finish we have another hut to visit.

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Down a short flight of stone steps to the right of the coastal path is the smallest National Trust property in the country. The hut was originally built from wood from shipwrecks by the eccentric clergyman and poet Robert Stephen Hawker. This was his refuge where he allegedly spent many hours writing poems and smoking opium.

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And what a view!

 

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Coming back over the fields we rejoin our car in the carpark of the wonderful Bush Inn. It has been a hard but exhilarating walk and to top off the day we are treated to an evening of folk music from a band of local minstrels settled comfortably in a corner of the inn.

Distance: 10 miles (although it felt more like 20)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Widemouth Bay to Bude and Morwentstow to Bude 4.5.19

Leaving the car at the Beach Hotel we set off for the short walk to Bude across the top of the cliffs. It is a beautiful morning, the bright sunshine lighting up the yellow sandstone  cliffs.

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The path runs parallel to the road almost all the way but there is not a lot of traffic – we walk at an easy pace over the springy turf.

An hour later Bude comes into view – the town is overlooked by a pretty octagonal tower which some say was a refuge for coastguards and others that it was built for its ornamental value – a folly.

Damian does love a photo…..

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Down the hill into Bude Haven the River Neet separates us from the centre of town but further up we find a bridge. The town, which is the transport and commercial hub for this area of North Cornwall is quite attractive but like a lot of towns in this part of the country I am glad I’m not walking through it in high summer.

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It is now mid morning but we have plenty of time to collect our car , dump our luggage in the hotel in Bude and drive north to the hamlet of Morwenstow – the plan is to leave the car there and walk back to Bude. The logistics of these walks beggars belief sometimes.

We arrive in Morwenstow, leave the car in the car park of the 13th century Bush Inn (where we will be staying tomorrow night) and set off down the road, past the church and onto the coast path.

Need I say more…….

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After crossing the small stream known as The Tidna I look up from my feet to see the outlines of a string of satellite dishes on the horizon – the path will take us past these later on. But first we must negotiate a series of coombes involving a steep, often perilous drop down a narrow path, sometimes stepped but not always, followed by a back breaking climb to regain the lost height.

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Previously used by the RAF during the second world war the site was later redeveloped as an Anglo/American Satellite station. The antennae are generally orientated towards satellites of the INTELSAT, Intersputnik, and INMARSAT communications networks over the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, and the Indian Ocean, as well as towards the Middle East and mainland Europe. And they’re all eavesdropping. The area is protected by two tall parallel metal fences with a “no man’s land” of a couple of metres in between. At regular intervals a string of close circuit cameras on tall posts stare blankly downwards. Someone means business…

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It is very quiet….

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We have reached Steeple Point which, so we’ve been told, is the last leg of this roller coaster ride. From here it is supposed to be easier.

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There is however one last slide down into Duckpool.

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This is the path – with a very steep drop down to the beach. I am so glad I have my walking pole. Damian scorns them – instead he’s often seen frantically waving his arms around as if he’s swatting a persistent fly, in order to maintain his balance.

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And yes from here the walking is much easier across open heath and fields and I have time to look down at the sea. These sharp slabs of black rock jutting out to sea make me think of how easy a ship could come to grief on this treacherous coastline.

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Not far to Sandymouth now where there is road access and a cafe – weather permitting, which of course it is.

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The cafe is very busy but we top up on tea and biscuits and watch people trying to control their dogs and children.

Just before Bude this wonderful bench presents itself. I don’t know what kind of wood it’s made of but it’s solid and what wise words! Go with the flow…..

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Just outside Bude, on the cliffs overlooking Summerleaze Beach, is a wonderful surprise – Bude Sea Pool. Built in the 1930s to provide safe bathing in sea water, but away from the dangerous Atlantic currents in the bay, the pool is part-natural, and partially man-made. It is tidal, topped up at high tide by the Atlantic Ocean – and it’s free.

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As we watch we see two kids in wetsuits larking about on the walls of the pool trying to catch waves which will sweep them in to the pool. It is high tide and the waves are hitting the walls of the pool with a loud smack – the lifeguard seems unconcerned.

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In the bay the surfers are out.

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We walk round the back of the beach to our accommodation – tired but satisfied.

Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

Crackington Haven to Widemouth Bay 3.5.19

Gone are the days when I could just set off for a quick walk in Kent or Sussex – North Cornwall, with its dearth of public transport is a long long way from London. Anyway, we arrive in Crackington Haven in the middle of the day, leave the car in the car park and after a cream tea top up, set off up the cliff path.

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A photo opportunity…..

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After climbing up to the headland of Pencannow Point the path dips steeply down and then almost immediately up again. The path is narrow and stony, running between closely packed gorse bushes –  I need to keep my eyes on my feet to avoid twisted ankles, which is just as well since some of the precipitous drops would probably make me feel a little queasy.

Thankfully, the path eventually opens up onto a stretch of gently rolling hills, an area called Lower Tresmorn.

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– this sign on a gatepost makes me laugh.

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We walk past Cleave Strand and Chipman Strand – an obvious Viking legacy (“strand” is Danish for “beach/coast”) If anyone is interested, the link below has more information on the influence of those who came to “rape and pillage”

https://icelandmag.is/article/vikings-left-their-mark-european-map-here-our-guide-help-you-find-them

At this point we are treated to a short stretch of woodland – twisted trees patched with moss and lichen watch over a blanket of bluebells interspersed with bright green virgin ferns.  Beautiful….

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We have reached Dizzard Point from where we can just about see the sands of Widemouth Bay which is our destination for today. Later I am told never to pronounce the first syllable as rhyming with “side” but rather “sid”. This goes against all my training in the teaching of English pronunciation where adding the “e” makes a long vowel. Examples are “sit” and “site”, “pin” and “pine”, “shit” and ……………….but then there are so many exceptions to the rules of our mongrel language.

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Coming down into the valley we cross a pretty little stream and then it’s up and down the other side into Millook Haven.

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Towering above the beach are cliffs of what look like sandstone and something darker laid down in chevron folds. This is apparently one of Britain’s top 10 geological sites, leading the “folding and faulting” category.IMG_3780

Perched above the small stony beach is a pretty wooden house – obviously a summer residence. I dread to think what it must be like to live here in the winter – there is road access but a very narrow one and it really is miles from nowhere.

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A little later the path joins the road and down on to Widemouth Sands – we have a stream to cross and then up onto some sand dunes to reach our destination – the wonderful Beach Hotel.

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If you ever come across it, do not be put off by the down at heel exterior. The interior is surfer/traveller chic, colourful and homely. Small meditating buddhas sit serenely amongst the shelves of books, musical instruments, toys and surf boards. The walls are covered with striking paintings by the owner’s mother and the food is delicious and beautifully presented. The staff are friendly and efficient and our waitress didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked her to freeze an ice pack and prepare my Chinese medicinal herbs. So there ‘s a plug (which I don’t usually do).

Related image

This is a picture from their website, obviously taken in Summer but we had the same view.

Distance: 9 miles

Again – if you can’t see the map below, just click on the URL link at the bottom of the page. Still working on it.

 

 

 

Severn View to Portishead 21.4.19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Distance: 15 miles

Magor to Severn View Service Station (yes really) 20.4.19

Our lovely Airbnb host gives us a lift from Magor back to the sea wall where we finished yesterday. Turning left we set off eastwards on the grassy raised bank. It’s going to be another hot day. Lost in thought and eyes on my feet I lift my head to take in the view and catch sight of a field of cows (or are they bullocks?) off to our left. I have never been frightened of cows, I spent my childhood working/playing on a farm, but while doing this walk I was once chased and forced to scramble over a barbed wire fence, ripping my waterproof trousers in the process. Since then I have heard quite a few stories of killer cattle injuring people, so I suddenly feel a little anxious as there is no fence between them and us. To add to my worry, on seeing us, the whole herd set off at a determined trot towards us. Damian is not perturbed and thankfully, on realising that we are not coming to feed them they halt their advance and stand and stare.

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We walk on. Up ahead is a stretch of coastline marked on the map as a danger area -shooting practice for the military perhaps. We do hear intermittent gunfire. This means that we have to walk inland up a track which then joins a cycle track and a bridge spanning the M4.

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The coast path then turns back to the coast, leading us UNDER the M4 and the new Severn Bridge – what fun!

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…..until we reach Sudbrook, a village which marks the beginning of the Severn Railway Tunnel which opened in 1886. Most of the houses in the village were built for railway workers. Towering over the village is an enormous pumping station once used to pump water from the tunnel.

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By now both of us are feeling a little peckish so when a stretch of grass, trees and picnic benches appears, we stop for a rest. The area is named Black Rock and from here the original Severn Bridge can be seen. It looks beautiful but we will later come to hate it.

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A little later on the path turns inland again, running through fields, past a few farms and through a village named Malvern. It is here we pick up a cycle track and an innocent  grassy approach to the bridge we need to cross. It is still extremely hot, we are tired and have run out of water.

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Crossing the Severn Bridge is a huge disappointment for me as I was looking forward to being on close terms with such an iconic structure. The noise of the vehicles whizzing past is deafening and there is very little protection from the road for cyclists or walkers. The sun is beating down on my tired and worried brow – I get out my scarf (cotton) and drape it over my head and face. The bridge just seems to go on and on. I occasionally emerge from my head tent to squint up at the first of the two rugby post towers but to my dehydrated brain it never seems to get any closer. Half way across Damian calls a halt – I realise I am panting. I feel like a refugee heading for the border of a promised land although the difference is that there is no danger of being turned back.

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At last we reach the end and can see a motorway service station a hundred yards up the road on the other side – there is a bridge over the road (a constant theme of this walk). Hobbling in to the Costa I concede to drinking an ice cold Cola and a burger from Burger King – I cannot remember the last time I did this, if at all. We call it a day and ring an Uber to take us into Bristol.

Lesson learnt: always make sure you have enough water – but it is only April!

Distance: 15 miles