Festive fun

21 January 2017 Boiling Wells

Me, PG, KF1

The annual Wassail at Boiling Wells. Tiny slice of tradition, frost and gamechanger cider. Precious.

img_0757Also reminds me we managed a few lovely- not quite walks- more like short strolls and nice times over the festive season, which have gone unrecorded. Inaugural company Christmas lunch in Ludlow in December, with a cold, crisp stroll around Mortimer forest and a rapid run around the castle and town as it went dark. Must go back, so many beautiful buildings and brilliant blue plaques…

On Boxing Day, enjoyed the duck race in Kenilworth, although could hardly see the ducks for all the people… and then a great trip to Suffolk for New Year. Tudor barn, costumes, silly dancing, 24 hour pork and another beautiful town (Lavenham) to stroll around: if only it wasn’t so far away.

img_0891And two lovely Sunday outings to open the year as well… an interesting east-west stroll around Bristol harbour with Slide and family (8 Jan), from the Barleymow along for lunch at the Cottage. Good singing to get us through the last stretch home, and Annabel taught PG essential dabbing. Then a damp and chalky walk around the stones at Avebury (15 Jan) with KF1, Magic Dave and the Faringdon archaeologists followed by lunch in the Red Lion. Atmospheric.






24 April 2014- Hanham

Me, PG, Mother-of-Two, Slide, Two and the H’s

IMG_0015A walk to enjoy the bluebells, many other delights encountered too. Me n PG a bit chaotic but made it to the rendezvous point only a little bit late. We parked in Hanham and headed through the woodlands above the River Avon in a downstream direction. Fascinating landscape of quarries and streams, with carpets of bluebells, anemones and small yellow flowers (whatever they were). Utterly lovely. Then we reached the river and walked back downstream in the sunshine.


IMG_0016We stopped for quite sometime to watch the heronry on the other side of the river (Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve I think). Never seen- or heard- anything like it. So many birds nesting, squawking and flapping around over the river, incredibly prehistoric and otherworldly somehow. Marvellous. Then it was under the ring-road and on to the Old Lock and Weir for refreshment. We watched a solitary heron standing statue-still on the weir and as always wondered what it was thinking… I am heron. What is heron? Heronry: is it what herons do? Where are the fish?



Gone Fishin’

23 August 2015- Easton to Oldbury Court

Me n Paddy Garcia

Impromptu walk- not sure how long but it took three hours- inspired by extreme downpours and the search for new fishing spots. We knew we’d get wet, and we did…

IMG_2804Followed PG’s walk to work out through Easton and Eastville Park, around the boating lake. Then departed from his usual walk to continue on through Snuff Mills on the Grove Wood side, before dropping down to walk along the river through the Oldbury Court estate. How beautiful it is, ashamed I’ve never been there before.


We turned round at Frenchay and headed back along Repton’s Drive to the playground/ house site for a cup of tea, before following the river back, crossing over through Snuff Mills itself and back home.

IMG_2806River was in full spate- levels high, weirs with impressive flow, roaring water, not a trout to be seen, but PG felt the potential. Really lush dripping greenery, lots of wet dogs, and learnt good things about the history- Humphrey Repton (explains the well-organised paths and steps), mansion sadly vanished, long-gone mills with special boilers. Saw the local heron and wondered what it was thinking…




Birthday ramble

Sunday 21st September- Conham to Keynsham, and back

Me, Paddy Garcia, Burge, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, The Boy, Mother-of-Two, Mr P and The DJ

A seven-miler (+ run up) from Geoff to celebrate the birthday of Paddy Garcia, following the north bank of the Avon all the way from Conham to Keynsham, then crossing over to roam south of the river back to Beese’s Teagardens.

IMG_1476Departure from Easton laced with  uncertainty, me being (a) in bad mood* and (b) having formulated a non-Burge-approved plan for meeting up with the DJ. However, after an unscheduled stop on Church Road and rendezvous correction by Burge we successfully crossed paths with the DJ beside the Avon at Crew’s Hole.

From there, we followed the towpath south-eastwards, beneath the Troopers Hill chimney. The river looked sluggish in the sun, with many coarse fishermen out on the banks- very different to the raging torrent we walked along in January (Searching for the South West Passage). It’s a beautiful thing how quickly this stretch morphs from light industry and residential into a wildlife corridor. Under a hour at a fairly slow pace from Church Road and we were meandering through greenery and watching buzzards on the wing.

The route headed through the grass and woods of Conham River Park until we passed under the Ring Road. Somewhere along the way we passed the memorable landmark that is the first ever pylon to feature in Pylons of the South West and happened upon possibly the best sign ever: “KEEP OUT, UNQUANTIFIABLE HAZARDS”.

Then we happened on a pub, hurrah, so it seemed only right to stop for a birthday refresher at the Old Lock and Weir. It’s a grand spot in the sun, and PG was lucky enough to receive his birthday DVD Taffin “they needed a hero, they got a one man army”**. Needless to say we are counting down the hours until there’s chance to watch it. Also sampled nice wasabi popcorn and then we were off.

IMG_1482The next stretch included an encounter with possibly the smallest, fluffiest cows we’d ever seen (Welsh Blacks?), and an embarrassing incident in which I confused a small drainage ditch with the mighty Avon, thus demonstrating the important lesson of thinking before speaking (me: but where’s the Avon gone? the DJ: it’s behind you). By this point, it dawned on our weary selves that we were indeed walking all the way to Keynsham, which I think it’s fair to say Burge/ Geoff hadn’t fully apprised us of.

The ex-Cadbury’s factory loomed on the horizon as we walked our way around the loop to Keynsham Lock, where we stopped for a very satisfactory picnic- spanish omelette, sandwiches, sausages, homegrown pears and a mighty double layer “moist” sponge cake. Then we crossed the bridge to wend our way past Keynsham railway station and out of town on the south side of the river.

IMG_1496In true Geoff style, the return route included a hair-raising run across the dual-carriageway A4. Followed in short order by a brisk walk along the back of a set of archery targets (in use: what is it with us and dangerous sports?), and a noisy stretch by the road and railway. Not long recovered from the A4, a similarly alarming crossing of the ring road (also dual-carriageway) nearly saw refusals, but we all survived unscathed, if not unrattled. A gentle climb through a field of cows and we were into the back streets of Brislington and onto Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve. A final flourish of Geoff-based milling as we lost the route before we headed straight down the main path to Beese’s Teagardens.

Glad to relax by the riverside and meet our non-walking chums. Beese’s has been serving teas since 1846 next to the Conham ferry, also still running. Amazing.

A flat stroll but an interesting one, made special by the unexpected September sunshine. Great to be by the river, although we all despaired at the rampant Himalayan Balsam. It may have entertaining explosive seed pods, but it’s a Very Bad Thing.

IMG_1495* post-meat club snoring.

**he’s also “as quick with his wits as he is with his lightning fast martial arts moves.” Who else but Pierce Bronhomme….?

Let us meet together

Sunday 27th July 2014- Blaise Castle

Me, Paddy Garcia, Burge, the DJ, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Mr P and Madame Citron

IMG_1344Six miler from Geoff’s second book, remarkably not completed before. It was, even by Geoff standards, an ambiguous start from the carpark at Blaise, but after a certain amount of milling, we were off through Echo Gate and heading west through the woods and across the hillfort.

We crossed the small footbridge over the main road into the Kings Weston estate. After a quick stop at the grotto to channel some classical deities, we walked along the terrace (past the wartime urinals) and along the rides to admire the view of Kings Weston house in the distance.

IMG_1355The route then cut south towards the Avon. After passing a deserted cricket pitch, we arrived at a second where a Ladies County Cricket game was underway (Cornwall v Shropshire), so we stopped for lunch. Many chicken legs, seaweed snacks, watermelon and a frankly too-bottomless tub of bombay mix. Couple of sporting faux pas (walking in front of the sight screen, kicking over the boundary flags) and we were off.

A swift change of sport took us along the edge of Shirehampton Park golf course (‘Caution, Poison! Do not lick the balls!’) and another sporting faux pas (picking up the balls- no licking- and chucking them around). Spectacular views down over the Avon towards Pill. It might be slimy but the river bend looked lush and interesting in the sun.

IMG_1358Bit of hairy crossing of the A4 into a field with crazy cricket action (the small green noisy things, not the sport), then a descent through woods to cross under the railway, and wade through long grass alongside the Avon. Close up view of the slime.

We turned up into Sea Mills along the Trym, up a small green corridor through the suburban landscape* (slight aroma of sewage from the water) and then back through the woods of the Blaise estate to the cars.
Extremely fine icecream at the cafe before going our separate ways.

Not a bad Sunday stroll, pleasingly green although still very urban, with lashings of Englishness.

* Some dissent over stopping/ not stopping at pub here for cider. We didn’t.





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.


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.