Today’s still and chilly weather had stroked a sombre brush along the Somerset coast where the elegant wrought-iron arches of Clevedon Pier strode out from shore into the chocolate brown waters of the Bristol Channel.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
All lay quiet and misty: the Victorian seaside houses of Clevedon, the sluggishly lapping sea, and the narrow old catwalk of a cliff walk that we followed out of the town.
The path wound along the cliff slope through ash and sycamore clumps and dark ilex trees, all bent inland by the never-ending shore breeze. Oystercatchers pointed their orange pickaxe bills into the wind along the salt-eroded limestone pavement above the water, where fishermen crouched in hope of a bass or perhaps a conger eel. A big tanker moved ponderously down-channel from Avonmouth Docks, the thrum of its engines coming faintly to us. Somewhere beyond the ship ran the Welsh coast, nearly ten mile off as the cormorant flies – marshes, creeks and the great sprawls of Newport and Cardiff, all silent and invisible like a dream shore.
We passed the neat gardens of Farley and turned inland, steeply up a field and on into Common Hill Wood. The sun slipped a furtive ray or two through the clouds over the estuary, painting Wales as a pale grey streak along the water.
On the open ridge of Walton Common we crossed an arc of ancient ramparts, scarcely discernible in the grass and bracken. Iron Age tribesmen use limestone boulders to form this great circular stronghold and its straight entrance-way – a ‘banjo enclosure’, very rare in this part of Somerset. Any high ground gave a huge advantage in terms of security and forewarning to those who held it, and they took advantage of a knoll a little further along the ridge to make a hillfort with wonderful views round the country and out over the sea.
Here Lord John Paulet built a hunting lodge in 1615 – Walton Castle, a tall keep surrounded by turrets and a curtain wall, rising out of a thicket like the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. We passed below the castle, dropped steeply down to the coast path once more, and turned for Clevedon with the views broadening all the time – the twin promontories of Sand Point and Brean Down ahead, and out in the Bristol Channel the hummocks of Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands stretched on the water like basking sea beasts.
Start & finish: Clevedon Pier, Marine Parade, Somerset BS21 7QU (OS ref ST 402719)
Getting there: Bus (firstgroup.com) – 361, 362, 363 Bristol-Clevedon; 125 Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon. Road: Jct 20 M5; ‘Clevedon’, then ‘sea front’.
Walk (6 miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 154): Walk north up Marine Parade. In 250m, opposite church (403721), left down walled pathway. Follow coast path (yellow arrows/YA, ‘Gordano Round’/GR) for 2¼ miles to Farley (429745; houses, fences, gardens by path). In another 200m, right on path past post with YAs (430747). Over stile, up slope beside wall/hedge on right, to cross stile to right of house. Cross road (432746); ahead down lane (fingerpost). Pass farm drive (433744); in 50m bear right through gateway; in another 50m take 3rd track on right through Common Hill Wood. In 600m leave trees to cross circular ramparts of earthwork (428738); in 150m, in open area, fork left. Follow main, obvious track, ignoring fainter side turnings, for ⅓ mile through woods, descending to road on bend (424735). Cross with care; left for 100m; right up track by cottage; in 50m, left (fingerpost) on track through Rock Wood. In 700m, through kissing gate (418731); on beside golf course. Through gate below Walton Castle; on along stony track. In 100m, right by ‘Beware of golfers’ notice and fingerpost (415730); through gate by club house; in 100m, by fence, left (414731, YA). In 200m, right (412730); follow fence seaward downhill for 250m. At bottom of slope (410732), left on coast path, back to Clevedon.
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