Tuesday 24th April 2018
21.08 miles today (including the wandering around and retracing steps at the Avonmouth Bridge). 277.06 total.
This was planned to be the longest day so I was up and breakfasted and out an hour earlier than if I had been camping.
The first challenge came after following the footpaths to the Avonmouth Bridge. I couldn’t see any way to get up to it and wasted an hour exploring the various cycle and footpaths around the base of the pillars, feeling more frustrated every minute. I had been told there was a cycle track across, thought I had read instructions elsewhere about how to find it, and my map still showed one, but by this time had almost decided these were figments of my imagination and there was no access. If this were true it would be a ‘Very Big Mistake’ and would mean I would have to return in six months time to add on a longer alternative route. It was quite a depressing thought and I felt quite tearful with frustration.
After following each turning with no joy I even climbed a set of maintenance access steps to peep at the motorway to try to see the path. No joy, just the crash barrier and lots of cars. I wasn’t going to set foot on the motorway itself so retraced my steps towards the service station calling at a farm – no one there – and formulating alternative plans to get across the river, none of which met my ‘rules’. With time, energy and distance wasted, I was getting quite upset with myself at the apparent planning failure.
Eventually I headed for the church looking for local knowledge (I wasn’t convinced that police in their cars at the service station would know much about foot and cycle paths) and knocked on the first door I found. A man called Grafton was able to confirm the existence of the cycle path but couldn’t get me to understand how to join it. Bless him, he drove me through Pil, left me at a gate with instructions to turn left, and after wading through knee high grass I found a stile to the cycle way. Phew! A few yards further on and I could see where I turned around previously, around twenty feet and an apparently locked gate away. So near and yet so far. But with a happy ending.
Having expended so much effort to get up there the view from the bridge was unspectacular. The tide was out and the light was a bit murky. I was the only pedestrian among the lycra-clad men on bicycles.
After this the route went to plan although I was then worried all day that the time lost and tiredness from the extra distance covered might make me late for my train at Chepstow. “Just keep on walking.” “Briskly.”
And when the negative thoughts start, they can be quite hard to chase away. I spent a lot of the time making up positive rhymes to sing to myself, and to distract from the minor foot injury which I’d taped up for the day (it worked quite well).
Bristol Docks seemed interminable with dusty pavements and heavy lorries, but human kindness was still surrounding me. I called into a fuel station to buy a bottle of sugary drink and the cashier paid for it when he found out I was walking for charity.
The Severn Way was long and bleak with the river looking muddy and uninviting. The surface was fascinating though, with such a variety of patterns caused by tide, wind and river flow. Despite enjoying open-water swimming I wouldn’t want to swim in the Severn!
I was almost counting my steps to the two bridges as they were the major landmarks. Below is the last picture I took before crossing the toll bridge to Wales. At this point the weather was overcast, but looked otherwise OK.
Then as soon as I began to cross the M48 toll bridge the weather suddenly changed from the uninspiring greyness to full-on wind and rain blowing sideways along the Bristol Channel. It felt as if I might be blown off my feet and I quickly zipped everything closed and stuffed my map case inside my jacket. The rain was spiky on my face and very cold. It was more of a challenge than I really wanted at that stage of the walk and there is nowhere to hide for that 1.75 miles. However I was here, I was doing what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to stop just because it was difficult. I counted down the lamp posts and kept walking as fast as I could.
Despite the energy I was expending, by the time I reached Chepstow I felt quite cold, so I went into a pub for coffee and a chance to sit down and drip on their carpet. I chose the vinyl-covered seats 🙂
The last two miles were as much a mental as physical challenge although the scenery was diverting.
So close to finishing Phase 2, but so many steps to go. Only another mile. “Keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
I arrived at the railway station with an hour to spare before my train time, pulled some extra layers of clothing on, and sat snuggled next to my rucksack in the cold rain until the train came. I’m posting this from the train. Wet feet, but otherwise reasonably comfortable.
Phase 2 complete – 277.06 miles walked so far.