Wednesday 4 May 2016
Caldicot to Avonmouth, Bristol
Oli and Laura’s house, Cardiff
Such a beautiful morning, very sunny but then it got mistier as we approached the Severn Estuary. Oliver dropped me back at Caldicot and I got straight on the coast path, crossed the M4, and headed for the new Severn Bridge. It didn’t take long for the most to burn off.
I passed underneath the first bridge (built in 1996) and immediately came upon the village of Sudbrook; built to house workers constructing the Severn railway tunnel 1873-86. It took 3000 men to build this 4-mile long tunnel. The original pumping station is still in use.
Black Rock picnic area is the site of the only remaining lave net heritage fishery. People wade out into the Severn and catch salmon in nets that look like a bigger version of one a child would use.
I could see the old Severn Bridge; a bit hazy in the bright sun.
I started walking along the estuary towards it but soon the path veered inland across farmers’ fields. One farmer was out sheering his sheep, blocking a gate I needed to get through. He was very friendly and rounded his sheep up into a smaller pen to allow me to get past. It was only after I’d gone past that I realised I was on the wrong path. Oops. Well I couldn’t go back so I had to adjust my route slightly but it wasn’t a problem.
I walked through the village of Mathern, with its statue of the Celtic King Tewdrig of Gwent. He defeated the Saxons in battle near Tintern but was mortally wounded and died on his journey to Flat Holm. Mathern Church was built where he died and the village grew up around it.
I made it to the bridge. A magnificent suspension bridge opened in 1966, a long time after the train tunnel. I walked across it and into England. (It’s actually 4 bridges.)
I noted that the sun was shining and hoped that was a good portent as it rained on me when I reached Scotland, was sunny when I crossed from Scotland to England, and grey when I entered Wales. Those initial weather signs would each be good descriptors for the weather I encountered afterwards. I hope it’s the same this time!
I walked across the M48 tolls and into the service station, where I sat down to wait for people to join me for my first walk in England. My ex-friend, Sally, had written to the Radio 4 Ramblings programme and so Clare Balding and her producer, Lucy, were coming to walk with me. I was not looking forward to it and had roped in Laura to join us.
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with cars we all set off from Aust to an industrial estate on the outskirts of Avonmouth. We were following the Severn Way Path so that made navigation a bit easier having left the Wales Coast Path behind.
It turned out to be a really fun afternoon and they were good company.
It remained sunny all afternoon as we walked along the estuary, past Severn Beach and under the M4 bridge (for the second time today).
Because of the uncertainty of today I had arranged to spend one last night with Oli and Laura, so I was driven back into Wales one last time. Laura and I went straight to the park for an icecream to celebrate a fun afternoon.