Searching for the South West Passage

Sunday 19 January 2014- Bristol: St Mary Redcliffe- Troopers Hill- Barleymow

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One and the DJ

IMG_1003Urban ramble, gloriously sunny day (finally). The (in the end) six mile route took us from St Mary Redcliffe, along the Avon and the Cut to Troopers Hill, then back through Barton Hill to the Barleymow.

We started the walk proper outside St Mary Redcliffe, where after brief consultation we decided to go east rather than west, to see if we could find a complete pedestrian route along the river. Thus down Cattle Market Road to join the river towpath (the ‘Whitchurch Way’). The Avon was in full fast flow, with cormorants, gulls, geese and alarming-looking currents.

IMG_1009The river loops along the south side of what we discovered used to be known as the ‘Island’ (the north side being the Cut), St Philip’s Marsh, and learnt the tale of a famous local ratcatcher- Albert “Hopper” Chinnick- who used to bite the heads off rats. Somewhere in Avonmeads, the towpath turned into an extremely muddy footpath which had been partly washed away by the floods, and ended under a couple of railway bridges.

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We cut up through the industrial estate to Feeder Road, then along the Cut through Netham Park (scene not just of Paddy Garcia’s past football glories, but home of the brillo pad too. Who knew?). Then over Netham Lock to follow the Avon again. We climbed up to Troopers Hill to admire the chimney and the view of Bristol.

We then rambled through St George and Barton Hill (past Octavius Hunt, Europe’s largest smoke factory), stopping for a quick drink in The Swan. Feeling that another pint would be beneficial, we then rambled on to the Barleymow, following the ‘Wesley Way’ back through Pilemarsh, past the Rhubarb, and along Gas Lane (to add to previously seen Cheese Lane and Strawberry Lane) to the Dings. Top chips in the mow. Then we called it a day and strolled home.

Overall, hard to ask more of an urban walk than this. Remarkably green (or rather mud-brown) for an urban ramble, but properly industrial too. We proved to ourselves there is a route west to east along the river (with one small diversion) and joined up lots of bits we’ve walked separately. We learnt new things about mighty industrial Bristol we really should have known before, and walked some routes you’d never guess were there.

St Mary Redcliffe needs a return visit when it’s not Sunday, glad to have done the Swan once (only), and must remember to visit the Barleymow more often.

Life after Geoff

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Sunday, 12 January 2014- Nailsworth and Avening

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate-Force-One, Burge and Magic Dave

WallExperimental walk from Burge’s Christmas book, Walks in the Cotswolds by Harry Drury. No map, no compass, fog. And a guidebook written in 1981. What could possibly go wrong?

The six-mile(ish) route took us from the main carpark in Nailsworth, through the village (more than once until we found the right road) to Avening. Circular route took us back to Nailsworth down a long bridleway and into the village along the marvellously-named Tabrams Pitch.

Brief stop for food supplies and a browse of overpriced garden furniture in Nailsworth before we hit the road. No pub stops (pasties, Nik Naks, leftover pizza, chocolate mini-eggs, apples, sausages and coffee by a gate for us), but both the Weighbridge Inn halfway (“2 in 1 pies”?*) and the Cross Inn in Avening looked promising. Enjoyed the Norman church at Avening, reputedly built in a fit of remorse by Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror after consigning a man who rejected her to Worcester Prison (and presumably his death). Happy times.

WalkThe going muddy and wet but not difficult, plenty of up and downs and good views, even on a misty day. Mr Drury, as interpreted by Paddy Garcia, was a reliable guide, except for a mistake after the Lone Tree which led to some barbed-wire hopping.

Much beautiful water one way and another. Clear streams, mill races, astonishing green lake at Longford Mill by the Weighbridge Inn.

Overall, a good walk, fears of getting lost largely unfounded, although possibly better in reverse, as it seemed a bit short on the way back (or perhaps a pub stop would solve that). Attending ‘Pig Face Day’ in Avening or the Oyster Bar in Nailsworth both good resolutions for the future.

*Local knowledge says this is the best pub in the world, and 2-in-1 pies are half pie, half cauliflower cheese. Definitely one to return to.

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Sunday 5th January 2014- Englishcombe

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate-Force-One, Magic Dave, Mr P and Madame Citron

Not so much a walk as a brief outdoor prelude to Sunday lunch, but the first stroll of the year undaunted by the terrible weather.

We met at the church in Englishcombe, enjoyed the view of the Wansdyke and the extremely friendly churchgoers, then wandered a quick route (maybe 2 or 3 miles) around Englishcombe via Breach (Beech?) Woods. Me suffering from near-total loss of map-reading skills, Paddy Garcia had to take over. Constant rain and not enough pairs of waterproof trousers between us.

Decamped to The George at Norton St Philip for warm fire and Sunday lunch. Despite extremely muddy state, managed American Hustle at the cinema on the way home. Despite the extreme wetness, a grand opening foray into 2014.