This was never going to be one of the most beautiful or enjoyable days on the trail; as the book puts it, once you get to this point the Avon, Bristol and the Severn all stand between you and Wales and there aren’t very many optional ways of going over/round them, so this will be a short post.
I diverged from the suggested route, which goes through every scrap of greenery possible between Easton in Gordano and the Severn Crossing. My original plan was to head straight for the side of the Severn using the cycle trail (no 410) which runs over the bridge, then follow the waymarked Severn Way up to the bridge to Chepstow. The first part of the plan worked well, and the cycle trail made for fast walking, albeit a bit hard on the feet – it’s relatively pleasant but there’s a limit to what you can do with industrial estates and built-up housing.
The bridge over the Avon was the first hurdle. It’s surprisingly high up, and the footpath goes next to the traffic; the closer I got the scarier it looked. At the foot, there’s a hammer and spanner sculpture commemorating the work to strengthen the bridge. I hoped fervently that the work had been successful and walked as fast as I could until I was safely back on dry land.
The Severn Way south of Severn Beach proved to be completely impassable. Having waded through waist-high brambles for a bit, I was completely unable to see the line of the path to the river; I turned back and ended up trudging round the industrial warehouses near the docks, with enormous lorries zooming past, feeling dusty, tired and cross. Right at the end I found a short stretch of green track, leading me round the power station.
I opted to walk on the road up to Severn Beach, where the Severn Way turns into a very walkable track with great views of the Severn and both bridges – just what I’d had in mind in the first place! Passing under the M5 bridge was great, with the huge concrete arches stretching out into the distance.
As I approached the Severn Bridge it started to cloud over, and once I was on the bridge itself it started to rain. The bridge is huge – it took me about 35 minutes to cross it – and feels extremely rickety, with patches of tarmac worn away and the walkway shaking every time a lorry passes. I dared to take a (very grey and rainy) photo from the middle of the bridge but couldn’t bring myself to linger. A bit more walking and I was in Chepstow – I had made it to Wales!
Highlights: An entertaining if slightly barmy man who told me about his working past in the car depot whilst waving around a 6-foot piece of metal pipe; a slow-worm coiled in disused railway tracks by the Severn Way; monumental engineering and natural beauty in the Severn estuary.