Sunday 5th November 2017
Bonfire night! But, before all of that, I drove over towards Portishead for a fairly local walk with Brunel Walking Group.
I found it refreshing to be able to drive across North Somerset and avoid Bristol altogether, on this one. We would all meet and start close to Clapton-in-Gordano, with a number of us parking our cars within the darkness of the M5 flyover.
Leading was down to Stephen on this one; someone who has spent most of his life in and around Portishead and knows the area well. I think we were following the Gordano Round initially – a local route of 26 miles that I’ve only walked portions of.
We’d end up walking through Weston Big Wood, on the southern outskirts of Portishead…
I walked through here on my own a couple of years ago, following one of the routes available in the Walk West e-books. I was nearing the end of my walk and winter darkness was beginning to creep in… I spent, I reckon, a good hour within these woods – which Geoff, the author, describes as a ‘navigational nightmare’ – grateful to eventually find the exit… Any exit before dark!
Somehow, Stephen steered us through on the correct path. There was no turning back and the absolute minimal of hesitation. Dog walkers must know it well… Or, walk so far then carefully retrace their steps!
With wind heading in from the channel, we reached the coast path near Portishead. I’ve walked the full stretch between Clevedon and here on several occasions. It’s quite enjoyable and very easy to follow.
I imagine it won’t be long before the England Coast Path team are erecting signs and further improving access along there. I can’t imagine there’s much more to do – more importantly, work is needed to establish a coastal route running south from Clevedon.
We reached the Black Nore lighthouse with the intention of pausing for a bite to eat. Simultaneously, rain began to fall and we would have to move on.
There are no sandy beaches to explore, this far north of Weston-super-Mare. I don’t think you’d find another one without crossing in to or at least, bypassing Wales.
We walked as far as Battery Point (with its iconic black lighthouse – not pictured); stopping for lunch on the headland behind the outdoor swimming pool (it wasn’t a great day to be swimming without a roof but, the café looked busy).
Actually, before this was one of the best examples of a ‘Herd Panic’ I’ve experienced in my five years with this group…
There’s a toilet block near the Marine Lake where you have to pay 20p at the sole point of entry. Beyond this are the ladies’ and gents’. A few of us were keen to go… Mark was the only one willing to pay the price. Behind him, I think just about everyone (myself included) piled in and queued to us the respective loos!
I estimate that North Somerset Council missed out on a couple of quid, there! Although, on a previous visit, I did notice that someone has stuffed a rag in place so that the door never actually closed.
Feeling refreshed and full of food, we continued our walked around Portishead Marina, crossing the narrow bridges towards Portbury Wharf.
There are several art installations nearby, here. I don’t know if any of it was really necessary to attract visitors but it is a distraction from the site of Royal Portbury Docks beyond.
Portbury Wharf is a wetlands nature reserved that was controversially taken over by North Somerset Council a couple of years ago. It’s future remains uncertain and some of its bird hides have been targeted by vandals in recent months.
I don’t believe it’s under any threat of housing development (although, in other pockets of North Somerset, building on moorland and close to riverbanks is already underway, if not complete). I imagine the England Coast Path will run through here. There is a a cycle path, 1km south of here, running all the way to Bristol (I’ve walked it) but it remains a distance from the muddy water.
Skirting around a giant car park with many thousands of cars that had likely been imported, we walked in to Portbury village, crossing the M5 motorway from the north. Here, we’d continue up to and through Priors Wood (a beautiful place to walk in the spring) and then, follow the Gordano Round to our cars in Clapton-in-Gordano.