Doorstep Walk: Weston Woods

Another walk from my doorstep in Weston-super-Mare. Across the town of Worle, up to the woods on Worlebury Hill and then down towards the sad state of Birnbeck Pier.

Sunday 31st January 2021

I was feeling as though I’d exhausted my local jaunts out to Sand Bay and Sand Point. I was craving a change but, driving somewhere was still out of the question. I’d climbed and descending the Monk’s Steps but hadn’t, before this day, walked in to Weston Woods.

From my home in St. Georges (Weston-super-Mare), I left early and was soon walking west through Worle. Pavement, cycle paths and grey routes would guide me most of the way.

I crossed a previously-unexplored green area known as Lynch Farm, with a play area for kids near the top of the hill. While this park itself was close to the eastern toe of Worlebury Hill.

Up along a bridleway and I was soon walking between and beneath trees. Still heading west towards the main woodland. These initial paths were familiar, as I’d walked this way en route to Monk’s Steps fourteen days earlier.

This time, I paused at the head of one vertical footpath to take in the view. I could even see much of the western Mendip Hills that I’m currently missing.

Across from Milton Hill and along Worlebury Hill Road. But before reaching the car park (which was likely to be busy), I veered off to the left, along an entrance to Weston Woods that I’d probably never followed before.

A number of trees had been felled, sometime in the past. Possibly ash trees, while ash dieback reeks almost as much having in the natural world as our own pandemic…

These paths were broad and muddy but not ankle-deep, as I’d seen on previous walks to and around Sand Point. Waymarking was very welcome when and where required. There are plenty of ‘paths’ here, as in any woodland. But the main public rights of way are clearly signed.

Up here, the water tower is an unmistakable landmark. You can even see it from several miles away.

Running west-to-east, an almost-wheelchair-friendly path runs parallel to the the central bridleway along the spine of the wooded hill.

Further informative signs. I’ve not been to the Old Town Quarry but I’ve often been told of its creative hub. Hopefully this’ll all survive these recurring lockdowns.

Before too long (and before it got too busy), I was approaching Worlebury Camp; An Iron Age hillfort. My local hillfort!

When I think of local ‘hillforts’, this one never comes to mind. Possibly due to its location… In a seaside town and within an area of woodland commonly referred to as a “dog toilet”. Otherwise, I’m drawn towards forts across the Mendip Hills and further south through Somerset.

At the start of 2020, it was announced that a large number of trees would be felled from the site of Worlebury Camp, in order to protect and preserve the historic fort. I believe that permission for this work has only recently been granted and will take place throughout 2021.

Again, ash dieback may be an issue. But I can also imagine thirsty tree roots starving the landscape and potentially raising and disturbing the ramparts.

I’ve also read that views out to the Severn Estuary could be improved once all of this treework is complete.

Looking all the way across to South Wales, I could see Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains. Sugar Loaf happens to be the subject of the only Welsh walk I did in 2020.

Looking north up the coast of Sand Bay, I could see the rather slender line of Sand Point, where I’d previously been walking.

Down a flight of steps and I was on towards the seafront. Well, not quite.

Across the Prince Consort Gardens, I could see Birnbeck Pier. An old Victorian structure that’s been closed since 1994. What a state…

In short, the owners have done nothing to repair or maintain it through the past decade. North Somerset Council have made recent efforts to acquire it themselves and, instead, it has moved in to the hands of a brand-new company… Headed by the same man as the firm who let it go!

NSC are still keen to force through a Compulsory Purchase Order, with the ultimate aim of then handing it to the RNLI, so that they can repair it and also grant themselves a proper lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island. Fingers crossed!

From the (former) Toll Road, I made my way back up in to the woods along a clear bridleway. It was increasingly busier than I’d seen earlier in the day.

For this walk, I’d worn my Barefoot-style running shoes. Not waterproof in the slightest but, as I mentioned earlier; the mud was never too deep in any places. With so much pavement pounding in recent walks, I’d felt as though my big leather boots were just overkill for what I was doing. It was a decision that paid off, on this occasion.

Heading back towards the east, I passed a largely deserted Worlebury Golf Course… By which I mean, golf was obviously off the agenda during lockdown… Because these green spaces weren’t deserted; dog walkers were roaming all over. There are no rights of way that cross the green and hopefully, this action won’t upset the landowner and management too much.

I’m not aware that “walking wherever you feel like” is quite permitted during a pandemic.

I then slid my way down a slick path that skirts an old quarry. Probably would’ve been more assured wearing proper boots!

From the eastern edge of Kewstoke, I would begin my tarmac trek back across Worle. These paths – running between housing estates – were not easy to follow on a map but saved me having to walk alongside the busy B-road. Many of these paths were new to me.

I’d recognise the occasional road, having driven past this area a number of times. I was on course to arrive back home just in time for lunch.

This final half-hour or so was blessed with the falling of snow. Not anything that would settle in this part of the south-west but, even as the blizzard thickened, it was a good experience.

Length of this walk = 9.25 miles

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

3 thoughts on “Doorstep Walk: Weston Woods”

  1. A nice write up. This brings back memories for me. Many years ago (late 1990s) I remember going to Weston-super-Mare for a day trip and getting very lost in those woods (I didn’t have a proper OS map). I think the toll on the road was still charged back then. When did it go?

    As to golf courses, it’s exactly the same here. Dog walkers have taken them over as a giant dog exercise area. One local course has put up signs telling people to get to the paths because there is maintenance work going on (well, not most of the time), but it’s widely ignored. They might have a shock when golf is allowed again.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Jon. I’ve only been driving since 2004 but have never travelled along that road with the toll in place. I can’t find a definite answer but a quick Google suggests it was scrapped somewhere between 2000-2010 as it became unfeasible to arrange the collection of the toll. This money was originally used to fund reinforcement of the cliffs beneath the road, safety barriers and other measures to minimise the risk of accidents. Some are still up in arms about the “illegal” 25mph speed limit.

      I don’t quite understand why people are suddenly walking all over these golf courses. Is it new dog walkers and new lockdown walkers? Has someone started a Facebook group titled “reclaim your green” or something?? I’d hope the majority would be more sympathetic and considerate that to trample wherever they please.

      Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good week.

      Like

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