Day 071: Combwich to Uphill
Distance: 34.66 miles
Ascent: 1728 feet
Accommodation: The Phillip's Household
During the rest day I looked through my schedule spreadsheet and noticed a rare red flagged day for this Wednesday (tomorrow) which means there were possible serious issues with the route/day. On reading my notes I had to laugh ‘Generally a day with lots of small issues, some more serious, possible trespass issues, tricky river crossings etc. but should be fine.’ It’s alright to sound so confident when sat in a flat in London planning but when confronted by it in reality I was not so happy. My solution was to extend today, so that if I encountered any issues tomorrow I would have the time to make a diversion. The issue being today was already scheduled to be 26.5 miles, and my proposed extension would increase this to 34.5 miles. I would not even attempt 34.5 miles if the conditions weren’t perfect; completely flat, sunny, expected good path quality, and if I made it to Uphill also having a bed.
So I set of from Combwich, completely replenished after having so much nice food on my rest day and was immediately onto the River Parrett embankment which would be my home for the next 20 miles or so. It was scenic and easy walking apart from a couple of very short muddy patches and a bit of a scrabble to get up and down from the A39 to cross the river, but I was soon after 8 miles on the outskirts of Bridgwater where my rest day host Lorna, and also Dick joined me/treated me to breakfast at the cafe in the headquarters of Class Publishing which just happened to be right on the path. I could not stop long as I had to get a significant wiggle on due to the mileage.
The next stage now took me back up the other side of the River Parrett 8 miles to Combwich, after saying I don’t get bored in my weekly blog, I must admit this bit was a slog and I was just so happy when I reached the part in line with Combwich as it then felt like I was making progress. Unfortunately, I also encountered a little flock of ewes and lambs on a narrow strip of land either side of the embankment path just after Combwich, and after my recent issues was very apprehensive as there were lambs on both sides of the path. But after walking slowly and detouring into the bog to get around them I made it to the other side without any issues which I was happy about.
The path continued along the embankment, until it reached the sluice gate just west of Huntspill. My map and the signs showed the path crossed the river here. But on reaching it I suddenly thought there was no path, then suddenly I noticed the thinnest alley bending around the side of the sluice gate about 15-inch-wide and not even wide enough for my backpack. But it got me to the other side and must be the official path.
Just shy of Burnham-on-Sea the embankment turned up Brue Pill, and after crossing an interesting old bridge come sluice gate I was finally off the embankment path, and the scenery changed as I hit Burnham-on-Sea and the incredibly long sandy beach. I stopped for a very late lunch at 3.30pm in Burnham knowing I still had 13 miles or more to go.
After lunch I followed the sandy beach for its entire length about 6 miles. Along this section I passed the Burnham lighthouse which was very interesting as it was a tower on stilts literally on the sand which gets surrounded at high tide, it was a very attractive structure. Finally, I reached Brean and it was not long till I was climbing up the steep steps to the plateau atop Brean Down. Brean Down is an incredibly beautiful hill at the end of the beach rising up out of the flatlands, and at it’s end it has a surprisingly intact Palmerston fort.
The next part was the first possible issue I had noted, that would have been part of tomorrow heading from Brean Down Farm to the sluice gate crossing point. It was immediately obvious that even though this first part was definitely a path marked on the OS map that signs had disappeared, even on the part from Brean Down descending to Brean Down Farm and then no signs for the part that took me passed Brean Down Farm and onto the River Axe embankment. In fact without a map and the knowledge that others had encountered the same issue before, there is no way I would know this part was a path. Strangely after 2km this path does stop on the OS map in the middle of nowhere, before it has reached the sluice gate. I had read that the part to the sluice gate was now a permissive path as part of the Brean Down Way works and so I carried on and encountered no private signs or locked gates so I am assuming this was correct. I was fortunate as it was now dusk to see two small groups of deer on this stretch one each side of the river, and I was surprised to do so as this didn’t seen the sort of area I would expect deer with no woodland for a fair distance.
If I had been walking this a year ago, I would now have had an extra 3 or 4 miles as the sluice gate was inaccessible but late 2017 the Brean Down Way opened linking Brean with Uphill and Weston-Super-Mare beyond, which crosses this sluice gate. So, I crossed the sluice gate and though it was now dark, I did not bother with my headtorch as this is a cycle route as well meaning it was incredibly easy to follow just using the moonlight.
I finally arrived at Uphill around 19:15 having walked almost 35 miles, and thoroughly exhausted, where I was met by Neil one of my hosts for the evening. After an amazing Lasagne courtesy of Emma, a shower and a sit down for once my body was still not back to normal. But hopefully after a good nights sleep it will be back to almost normal tomorrow.
So a scenic day, if a little monotonous at the beginning and definitely the longest of the whole walk as I cannot see any other situation I would attempt this sort of mileage again. On top of that I now have a shorter day tomorrow and it looks like the major issue of tomorrow may have been sorted but will leave that to tomorrows diary.