Day 21: 13 Apr 2014; Westbury to Bristol

Day 21: 13 Apr 2014; Westbury to Bristol
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 21
Date Sun 13 Apr 2014 Start to end time 09h 01m
Start point Westbury End point Bristol
Miles today 21.72 Cu miles 394.25
Ft today 2,715 Cu ft 67,384
Route miles left 1,076.11 Route ft left 131,011
Today’s weather Bright and sunny all day. No rain. Light North Westerly wind. About 14 C
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)

“I knew that today was going to be a long hike to Bristol, and that I’d also got the Mendips to climb en route. I also knew that I had a short stretch of walking alongside the busy A371 to Cheddar at the start, and wanted to do that before the traffic got too heavy. So I didn’t overdo the complementary cider last night, and went to bed early. I set the alarm for 6 and, as I’ve now got packing up and de-camping to a fine art, was away before 7 am.

The morning started out fine and bright but cold, and the weather stayed that way pretty much all day. I walked through to the town of Cheddar, where everything was pretty much all closed at the time I arrived. Then I climbed up the 800 ft or so up the West side of the Cheddar Gorge – a stiff climb but at the top the path suddenly opened up onto the Mendip plateau, and with the gorge itself on the right hand side. The Mendip plateau is a slightly surreal place. The topography is gentle rolling hills, but it’s pretty desolate and quite cold. The plateau is around 1000 ft up which explains the temperature and the bleakness. But the going was good, over springy grassland in the limestone countryside.

I took a detour over to the edge of the gorge, but couldn’t actually see very much as it was heavily wooded at my vantage-point and the gorge itself was in early morning shade. But from the sounds coming up from the road through the gorge, I got the impression that the ride through the gorge is probably a bit of a magnet for bikers – and the impressive Harley Davidson bikes at a pub near the end of the gorge seemed to confirm that.

I walked on past the end of the gorge and crossed the rest of the plateau on narrow country lanes which was pleasant enough going, without being spectacular. However, the approach to Bristol was interesting in more ways than one. First of all, my route was completely blocked by an LPG tanker delivering fuel to a cottage on the roadside. I didn’t really fancy a 3 mile detour to get round, so I found the house-owner and he agreed to let me walk through his house to bypass the blockage. He did look a bit apprehensive though, as he asked “is it just you?”. I think he was probably a bit concerned that I would be bringing a group of muddy hikers through his front living room.

Then I arrived at Dundry – a small village perched high on the edge of the Mendips overlooking Bristol. This was an interesting place, with a curious church with very elaborate steeple, and stunning views North to Bristol and up the Severn. I was able to glimpse from there the M48 Severn Bridge, which I will be crossing tomorrow.

The rest of the walk to Bristol was straightforward, through suburbia which is much the same I guess as that you’d find in any town. I’d read another long distance hiker’s account of hikes through cities – the city centres are great, with lots of interest and plenty of amenities. But the suburbs can seem endless and monotonous, without much to differentiate one from the other. I think he may well be right.

A big day tomorrow, as I cross into Wales, and close the “South West England” chapter of my walk.”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Above Cheddar Gorge this morning Cheddar gorge is eroded into limestone which creates “Karst” landscape, with these clints and grykes
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A bit worrying to see this wildlife trust describing camping as an “inappropriate recreational activity”! The route was comprehensively blocked by this LPG delivery tanker. It got through it by walking through the man’s house (I did ask first…)
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Whovever planted these trees as a winbreak seems to have rather missed the point Bristol Marina – buzzing with activity this afternoon
Blagdon Lake – and impressive reservoir, well populated today by fishermen enjoying the sunshine
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