Sunday 10th January 2021
This was my first ‘Doorstep Walk’ of the year, with England having been set in to its third iteration of Lockdown, with the dawn of 2021. As hard as it appears sometimes, I do feel it’s very important to abide by the rules and to stay local to where you live.
I hope this post shows that, in my situation at least, it is possible to find a good amount of green space without travelling too far.
For reference, I live in St. Georges in Weston-super-Mare. To the north-eastern edge of the seaside town, bordered by the M5 motorway on one side. My walking options are several limited, compared to other areas I’ve previously lived in. But, just as I did during ‘Lockdown 1.0’ last year – and indeed, shortly after I moved to this area in 2019 – I decided to walk out to the headland and peninsular of Sand Point.
I was out the door at around 9am. Boots on, as I clomped my way down stairs from my flat and out the door. A pair of clean shoes went in to the back of my car, meaning that I could change my footwear after the walk. This is important to me, when I live in a building with several others and with mud being very hard to avoid at this time of year!
From the River Banwell, I made my way out to Ebdon Lane; crossing the line of what was once a railway, linking Worle with Clevedon and Portishead. Far on the horizon, I could see the Mendip Hills beneath the light. More than five miles away, this AONB remains out of reach for me… At least, until we’re out of Lockdown. Again.
I then followed the road up to Ebdon Farm. I would sometimes take the fields across to Ebdon Court Farm – but the owners there like to close some of the gates on a weekend. Legal or not, it’s a trick they began to employ in March/April last year.
Crossing the River Banwell, I could then take the bridleway running through the farm and towards the top of Collum Lane, close to Woodspring Priory. It is the most direct ‘green’ lane between Sand Point and where I live. Meaning I’d probably head home along the same way, later in the morning.
South-west of here stands Worlebury Hill. One of the very few significant lumps in the scape of this seaside town. Weston Woods is a very popular area at the best of times and one I’m quite keen to avoid during a pandemic… But with few other options for variants on this Doorstep Walk, I may end up braving it soon enough.
A short walk up the road and I’d reach the eastern end of Middle Hope, with its free car park, open 24/7. Woodspring Priory is currently closed to the public, as I’d read on a sign here the previous weekend. I wasn’t surprised to find the car park close to full at around 10am.
It was a chilly morning and I’d crossed a few frozen puddles to get this far. I was grateful to not have had to de-ice my car.
There’s no public access running north from Hucker’s Bow. It’s always been a great shame. There are plans for a walking and cycling route to be created between Wick St. Larwrence and Kingston Seymour (fingers crossed that the work begins this summer) but it won’t be a true ‘coastal’ route, making use of an existing sluice bridge and quiet country roads.
Up on to the headland, then.
Up until a few years ago, there was a pier protruding from the structure to the left of this photo. I assume it was removed with public safety in mind…
As much as St. Thomas’ Head remains off-limits to the public (and holes in the security fencing have been repaired), neither the MOD or anyone appears to be using the space, currently. I don’t see what ‘danger’ may lie beyond, now that all buildings and structures have been removed. Yet a security company is being paid to keep it closed… I’d love to see it one day opened up for public roaming.
Some ‘instruments’ remain down in the water. But fishermen are always down there looking to catch something (I saw two on my walk).
Following the line of the coast, running west; I thought of how interesting I find the space of Middle Hope. Strictly speaking, it is not Open Access Land. But much of if is owned and cared for by the National Trust… Which I presume is what grants us the right to roam all over and within the boundaries. There is no public right of way at any point in the eastern half. Yet, we’ve always been able to roam here and even the farmer is welcoming to that, should you ever see him attending to his flock of sheep or cattle.
Despite this being a cold winter’s day, the views across the Severn to South Wales weren’t as crisp as I’d usually expect. I could make out some of the hills and Beacons (without being able to name them). Like the Mendip Hills; they were highlighted by the sun. I was surprised not to see them illuminated with a covering of snow.
Heading down towards the bay, I now wanted to find a space somewhat secluded so that I could get a cup of tea on the go…
I’m very self-conscious at the best of times. But during ‘Lockdown 3.0’, “picnics” are not allowed and I didn’t want some “armchair warrior” to snap and shame me, or something.
This would be my first successful attempt at using my Trangia 27 Kettle with my Triangle stove setup. I bought the kettle after burning myself (twice) with a 650ml mug while in Yorkshire. In the weeks leading up to this, I’d always forgotten to take something on my walks… Whether it was the tea bag or, the fuel or, water – as had happened previously – the mug (or so I thought).
With the power of some cheap matches I bought in Lidl several years ago, it didn’t take long for the bio-ethanol fuel to light. With an alcohol stove, there’s always that moment of uncertainty, when you have to carefully feel for the heat as the flame won’t rise straight away. For some reason, Lidl haven’t stocked matches for a long time and I rarely see them available elsewhere. But I’m not sure why?
It took about ten minutes for this 600ml pot of water to come to a boil. I dropped a peppermint tea bag in to my folding mug and waited; allowing the tea to brew while all of the cookware could cool down before I’d risk packing it all away.
A hungry dog tried its best to disrupt my ‘short’ break (which was no pushing on towards the thirty-minute mark). But no harm came of it and I was pleased to see the “patina” growing on the underside of my shiny new kettle. This is one of my favourite things about alcohol stoves that you rarely get with gas.
When it was time to move on, I climbed back up to the higher path and made my way west through an open field gate, where some might otherwise have chosen to cross the ladder-stile to the right. Crook Peak could be seen on the horizon. How I’ve not been up there for a couple of months, now… I used to take one for granted but, with this ongoing restrictions, I do miss it and will try my best to stick to the rules.
I have previously (prior to the pandemic) looked at the idea of plotting a longer doorstep walk out to Crook Peak… But the sheer volume of tarmac and pavement does not make it an appealing journey.
Normally, I’d walk further west past the trig point and on to the narrow, rocky tail of Sand Point itself. But I was there only eight days ago, with my Weston walking group and I was more concerned with getting home in time for lunch.
Down through the National Trust car park and on to Sand Bay, then. Oddly, the large portion of the pay-and-display car park here has been closed through the winter. Spaces are very limited, leading to some drivers parking along the road in a less-considerate manner. These gates would usually be locked overnight. I don’t yet know why they appear to have been closed indefinitely.
At this northern end, Sand Bay is better-known for being wet and muddy under foot. Yet some still brave the terrain going west and closer to the receding tide.
Meeting the sand, there was a surreal noise coming from the masses of people further south. From what I could see, they were fairly well distanced from each other… But groups of people talking… I felt as it was the soundtrack to a market town on a busy weekend! Maybe a small sporting event. Having seen and heard so few others until this point of my walk, I just found it a bit hard to believe.
Birnbeck Pier is another interesting quirk to Weston-super-Mare. Closed to the public since the 1990s; it’s owners have left it in a state of ruin. Each time a new storm approaches, fragments of it are lost to the sea, even while the core structure remains. North Somerset Council have made recent attempts to try to buy, while the owners are toying with the idea of carrying out essential repairs…
For people living locally, it’s a difficult one. We’d all like to see something productive take shape, here and the RNLI would like it to house their new local headquarters. Perhaps time will tell.
I walked only half the length of the beach before turning inland to follow a right of way through Sand Farm. This soon led me on to familiar bridleways – where I briefly crossed paths with one of my group members – and on towards my outgoing route, through Ebdon Farm.
For some reason, I then took a longer route along the road and passed The Bentley Road Baker – something I’d spotted previously on one of my local runs. I don’t know what makes such a site “Covid Secure” but I wasn’t about to challenge that.
Across a few fields and I was almost home; now following what would usually be my summer route, for walks and runs between Wick St. Lawrence and home. I will always moan about living here and how I don’t have the same access to countryside as I have known in places like Wrington and Cleeve… But this is where I am right now and it’s not all bad.
Would you believe, it was less than half a mile from my own doorstep, where I encountered the muddiest patch of my entire day! My boots were caked. But thankfully, I could change them in the boot of my car, bag them up and keep the communal stairs clean for all residents!
Length of this walk: 9.75 miles
A brief note on the boots…
These are the Altberg Malham boots, which I bought from Taunton Leisure, after trying them on around the store in Taunton. They are excellent boots. I bought them just before Christmas (a gift to myself) and haven’t done anything more than ten miles in them yet. But on these Doorstep Walks and with so much road and pavement to trek… I do feel they’re a bit overkill and a bit of a step up (literally) from the low, barefoot-style shoes that I’m more used to wearing these days.
In time, I’ll write more of a review on them and do a video.
Thanks for reading.