Day 073: Clevedon to Black Rock

Distance: 26.52 miles

Ascent: 2169 feet

Weather: Sunny Spells

Accommodation: Wild camp Black Rock


I was off early this morning not long after 7, and fortunately though it hadn’t fully stopped raining it had lightened enough that I set off in my dry set up, on the assumption it would stop soon which fortunately it did. The first part of the day took me along the cliff path from Clevedon to Portishead, on a gently undulating path. This should have been an incredibly easy section, but the mud though not deep was incredibly sticky (luckily not slippy) which made every step a little more effort. I had expected this 6 mile portion to take a little under 2 hours but actually took a fair amount more.

The marina area at Portishead has obviously undergone a massive renovation with several high-rise block of flats, and the standard Costa coffee etc at ground level. I actually really liked this development and was the first major new development I had seen in a while. Just after this I headed out into the nature reserve and for the next part it was not completely clear what route I would take as the OS map had gaps, but google maps, and other walkers had detailed routes though here, so I was not worried. In fact it was very easy, following exactly what I had actually plotted and I was soon on sheepway, before turning onto the bridleway.

This bridleway wended in and out around the massive car importing yards, with literally new cars as far as you could see, vaguely following the route of an old railway line. Just before reaching the M5 I encountered a cherry picker crane that was blocking the path a bit. I was just going to squeeze around but the worker came down, and wound the stabilising leg in to give me more room which was very kind and very unexpected.

From here the path climbed up and onto the M5 for the bridge crossing over the Avon, it really is unnerving having cars and lorries flying passed you at 70mph only a meter or two away, even if there is a little barrier between you. On the other side I dropped down some stairs into a scene from an American crime thriller, with the gravelled ground, big concrete bridge columns and general cavernous wasteland feel under the bridge. What I hadn’t expected was a builders food van, and I was so surprised and so hungry that I grabbed a bacon sandwich which was so good. This was the last pleasurable thing for a while.

The next part had no real route, so I just followed the nearest road to the coast which skirted around the dockland and depots. Unfortunately, this was a busy road full of HGV’s, so for the best part of an hour I walked along the pavement of an industrial lined, rubbish strewn, busy road. This was not pleasant but eventually I reached the turn off onto the footpath, essentially the beginning of the Severn Way.

Things improved immediately, feeling rural (if still noisy) and on crossing a little bridge over a pipeline, I decided to stop and have my lunch. The path continues in its march towards the Second Severn Crossing, which is quite simply a magnificent bridg completely dominating the skyline. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have pedestrian access so I had to continue up the river to the next bridge the First Severn Bridge. It was quite a circuitous route to get onto the bridge passing near to the toll booths but finally I was onto the bridge, and what a fabulous suspension bridge it was. When I stopped near the middle I suddenly realised how much the bridge was vibrating which for some reason you could not feel at all when you were walking. I was very interested in the weird shaped things hanging from the vertical cables (see photo below), and was not entirely sure what they were though assumed they were some sort of dampener. On googling tonight it turns out they are Stockbridge Dampers, and the masses swing when the cables vibrate dissipating the energy.

I was looking out for a nice sign to tell me I was in Wales but apart from a little one presumably marking the exact spot on the bridge there were no others. On the other side I joined the Wales Coast Path which seems unbelievably well signposted and if it continues like this it will be very hard to get to lost in the next 6 weeks. I reached Mathern my proposed finish spot for the day, but had decided to head a bit further down to the actual coast for a better pitch location. Unfortunately the ground was so waterlogged I had to continue walking for a couple of miles until I reached Black Rock where tucked out of the way I found a perfect flat pitching spot from where I can see the Second Severn Bridge and I hope the slight background car noise will lull me to sleep.

So a successful day, the rain stayed away and I am very happy to get to Wales for the next part of the challenge. Hopefully it will be a good home for me for the next 6 weeks or so.

charles compton