Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Blagdon to Bristol (Henleaze)

The beginning of the fourth week. When originally scheduling it, I had overlooked the fact that this was the extra Jubilee Bank Holiday, but having booked all the B&Bs it was too late to change. So it was an early train to Bristol, a taxi to leave my large bag at Mayfair Lodge, and then onwards to Blagdon, the precise point where I’d finished up a month earlier.

Looking back over Blagdon Water
It started raining just five minutes before we got to Blagdon, as a result of which during the course of the day I enjoyed (?) the whole transit of this particular depression.

The first stage was to travel East to get to the Monarch’s Way, a prominently marked long distance footpath. This meant walking along he southern side of Blagdon Water. Good footpaths, but almost overgrown where they go through hayfields – which was for the majority of the time. I was sufficiently a purist not to use the nice metalled road which paralleled the footpath, but the other side of notices stating that the lake surrounds were accessible only to permit holders. It’s a notable trout fishery – though I didn’t see anyone on the water.

Within an hour my “waterproof” boots proved they weren’t, and for the rest of the day my feet squelched in wet socks. Perhaps it’s just too much to hope, when wading through grass up to thigh level, that you can keep anything dry. Though I do have to admit that my newer waterproof trousers, bought back in Padstow after the last soaking, did seem to do the job.

The country here is quite attractive, but nothing exceptional. After the bottom end of Balgdon Water it was at last possible to turn North towards Bristol. This was an uphill section on a minor road – with the water streaming down in the opposite direction. But after a couple of kilometres there was a shortcut across a field to cut out a few hundred metres of road. Mistake! 

Jubilee decorations on every gateway in Regil

Mud up to my ankles to get into the field, and then at the gateway into the next. Here I slipped – trying to avoid the deepest of the mud I managed to find the slickest, and than I was on my hands and knees in it. So after struggling to my feet it was on through the rest of the mud – not caring how deep it was – and back down on hands and knees in the long grass to get the worst of it off. At this stage I was actually glad for the continuing rain. And within minutes of resuming it was hard to believe that my trousers had been anywhere near mud: the water streaming down them had washed it all away.

This was the point where I reached to Monarch’s Way. An encouraging sign on a stile just where I expected it, and the stile itself in good repair, too. But what of the footpath? Not a sign. So it was navigation by filed boundaries. There were two fields down to a farm, all with waist-high grass and great patches of nettles, and horribly uneven because they’d obviously been grazed relatively recently. I wonder what use such fields can actually be put to? It’s hardly seems like the raw material for hay or silage, and certainly nothing like prime grazing. And it’s slow, tiring walking, because you have to lift your feet and place them carefully to avoid being tripped or having an ankle turned.

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Brunel
(though he didn't live to see it completed)

So after reaching Walnut Tree Farm it was back to roads, for the next three miles or so. First through the village of Regil, with every gateway lavishly decorated in red white and blue for the Jubilee – but nobody in evidence in the rain – and then Winford, whre I stopped for a well-earned pint.

I thought this was half way, but it proved not to be. On, then, up towards the Bristol reservoirs, around then on reasonable footpaths (short grass!), and then resuming the Monarch’s Way at the North end of the Reservoirs. More promising – it actually looks like a proper footpath. And the rain had stopped, too.

But the promise was short-lived. It was obvious where the footpath was when it went through woodland – though in places there was not more than a metre of headroom. But it was the same old story hen it came to open fields – navigation  possible only by field boundaries.

The final stretch was somewhat better. After a climb up from Long Ashton, and a half mile where the track was meant for mountain bikes rather than people, it was the open downs of the Ashton Court Estate, covered with wildflowers and with skylarks everywhere. Then the Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Avon, far beneath, and a final two miles across the Downs. I certainly didn’t have the same level of energy as all the joggers!

The view down to the Avon at low tide

Rain from the beginning of the trip, heavy at times. Stopped at about 4:00 p.m., but still very cloudy and damp. Temperature estimated 10-14C. 30.51km; 229m ascent, 247m descent (per Map-my-Walk; probably nearer 350/320m). Undulating. Footpaths largely through hayfields, which should have been cut by now, but haven’t been because of the weather. Wet up to waist level as a consequence. Occasionally very muddy. About 40% on minor roads. Moderate.

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