After a little pause so I could catch up on a few other blog posts (which I hope you’ve read?!), my weekly blog returns with a post featuring a handful of local wanders I’ve had recently.
It’s been a good few weeks. Since I last shared a weekly blog, back at the end of March (so not that long ago), I’ve been a busy bee. I spent a weekend at The Wave living the surfer life, visited Cotswold Farm Park to see the newest editions to their bunny family, spent time with my church friends celebrating Easter, and had a couple of days out to local towns for some exploring in the sunshine.
Of course I’ve also been working, keeping up with the home chores, cooking dinners (I made this Enchilada Pie earlier this week – highly recommend if you’re looking for a tasty veggie midweek meal to add to your meal plan), and making preparations for our forthcoming road trip in Europe. But I have no complaints; it’s been a pretty decent time. I even managed to write and publish five blog posts, which I’m feeling good about.
Anyway, while it wouldn’t be a weekly blog without the preamble, I’ll stop the rambling and get on with the topic for this update – a bunch of local wanders I’ve enjoyed this month so far.
Closed Footpaths at Severn Bridge
What is it about bridges? I just love them. Human engineering is a wonder.
This is not a new place to me – I last visited Severn Bridge back in November 2020 on my way back from a short hiking trip in the Quantocks AONB (read about the two short hikes I did that weekend here). I said then I wanted to come back to walk a loop taking me under both of the two Severn crossings, and that was my intention on this visit. A 8.5-ish-mile route on OS Maps from ITV’s 100 Favourite Walks (responsible for my five minutes of fame) was my route of choice; I parked up in Severn Bridge, and headed off up the river path.
First, I walked under The Prince of Wales Bridge, or the Second Severn Crossing, which takes the M4 over the River Severn. I stopped to take far too many photos of and under the bridge, but I had all afternoon, and I was only holding myself up, so who’s to judge?!
Check Before You Hike
I could have – should have – checked that the footpath was actually open. But you know, I didn’t. So when I got to Red Ledge about 1.5 miles in I was surprised to find a bunch of Heras fencing and no entry signs. The signs on the fencing explained that the works were to create flood defences, so very important, but it kind of put paid to my planned route. I did have a bit of a mooch around to see if there was a sneaky way around, but alas it was very much a muddy and marshy riverbed, there was no way. Ho hum.
With my planned route sacked off, I headed back to Severn Bridge and continued along the river path in the other direction. I got maybe a mile closer to Bristol, and found another barricade marking the start of more flood defence works. It’s a good job I was having a nice time walking along the same stretch of the River Severn!
Instead of going to the effort of finding a third option, I decided to head back into the village and see if the bakery I’d spotted on my way in was any good… a cheese and tomato turnover and Belgium bun later, eaten sat on the wall overlooking the river.
My walk under both bridges remains on the list for another day. Have you done that particular route from the country’s favourite list? Is it worth me heading back when the flood defence works are complete?
Countryside Walk around Berkeley Castle
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, is a little town with a lot of history. A significant settlement way back in Medieval times thanks to its position on the river, and it had its place on the map solidified when Berkeley Castle was built in the 12th century. One of the March Castles, it is the oldest building in the country to be inhabited by the same family who built it.
This is also where Edward Jenner, said to be the father of the vaccine, was born. He returned to practice medicine in the town after training in London. There’s a small, thatched building in Jenner’s garden, where he inoculated local people, free of charge. He called it the Temple of Vaccinia, and it’s considered the birth-place of public health. Seems an appropriate history lesson for our current times.
Castles and other similar places seem to still be requiring visitors to book ahead to limit numbers, so I wasn’t able to get at ticket to go into Berkeley Castle itself this time. Instead, I thought I’d do a walk to get views of the Castle from the outside. This 8-miler I found on OS Maps included a stretch along the River Severn, but I only had an hour on this occasion, so I plotted a shorter three-mile route looping the fields surrounding the castle.
An Excellent One Hour Outside
The walk was lovely. It was a bright and warm day, perfect for my One Hour Outside. The village itself was worth a wander, and on my way out into the fields I passed the museum, church, and skirted around the castle grounds. Most of my walk was around and through fields just starting to turn yellow, thankfully it was dry underfoot and the farmer has kept footpaths clear of crop so it’s easy to find the right way.
I crossed a stream at Brownsmill Farm and followed it back into Berkeley town. Berkeley Castle itself had been well camouflaged by walls and trees until this point, but the view opened up here and I could have a good look at the outside of this 12th century year old castle from below along this stretch.
I love the local legend that says the town was once home to the Witch of Berkeley, who sold her soul to the Devil in exchange for wealth. It is said that, despite taking refuge in the church, the Devil carried her off on a black horse covered with spikes. Nice!
Getting Lost in Cirencester
We visited Cirencester before Christmas after getting spendy at the Cotswold Outdoor flagship store, not realising that it was Christmas market weekend (read Weekly Blog Episode 92 for more on that). We had a nice wander, but it was so busy we couldn’t have a proper look around. So, we headed back last Saturday to see some of Roman Corinium properly.
Unfortunately, the walk we chose was a bit of a fail. We found the Whereat Trail online, which looked promising. But in all honesty the fact there’s a big bit missing from the map with no description on how to get from place to place meant we gave up midway through. Apparently, it’s way marked but we didn’t spot the signs. We ended up putting that route away and just followed our noses to see the various pieces of Roman history still visible in this very old town. It didn’t matter – we still had a lovely time exploring.
The most interesting feature for me was the amphitheatre. The massive earthwork remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain are on the outskirts of the town (which we did find using the route mentioned above!). It was built way back in the second century, when the Roman city of Corinium was second only to London in size and importance, with a population of over 10,000. The amphitheatre could hold about 8,000 spectators – absolutely massive.
Apart from that, we saw what is said to be the tallest yew tree hedge in the country (40 feet high), at the gate to the Bathurst Estate, had a lovely wander through Querns wood, and strolled through Cirencester Park.
Cirencester is a lovely Cotswold-looking town with heaps of Roman character. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Apparently, there’s a very good ice cream parlour just out of town which we didn’t visit this time, so we’ll be needing to go back some time to try that out.
The Most Interesting Cathedral in England
We spent a couple of hours on bank holiday Monday wandering around Worcester. Not long ago we headed to the city to try out Hanbao, a burger place that came recommended by a friend and colleague, and that I’m happy to pass the recommendation onto you, too. After dinner that evening, we had a brief wander in the centre to see what the place was all about, and decided then that we needed to come back to see it in daylight.
Worcester really is a lovely city to explore. Small but with lots going on. It’s a University city with shops and cafes, but it also have plenty of historical buildings and green spaces to explore. Even in the half day and thousands of steps we gave it, we only scratched the surface, and I’m already in the process of arranging to go back with a couple of friends to explore some more of the nooks and crannies of this small yet packed place.
We wandered along the River Severn, watching members of the local rowing club pootle up and down, and then headed over the lock and up the Birmingham and Worcester canal and around the Diglis Basin, reminiscing about good times on our narrow boating holidays.
Inside the Cathedral
I like to wander around churches and Cathedrals, so we headed into the Cathedral for an explore inside. The bells had been peeling the entire time we were there, beckoning us inside, it had to be done. The tagline on the leaflet I picked up said it’s said to be “the most interesting Cathedral in England”, which made me smile – don’t tell either Lincoln or Gloucester!
I guess the thing that Worcester Cathedral is most known for now is the tombs of King John (from 1216), and Prince Arthur’s Chantry (1502). These being here are said to be what saved Worcester Cathedral from decimation during the Reformation; Prince Arthur was Henry VIII’s brother, and it’s said that he ordered that the faces of the statues in the chantry should be scratched off, but everything else should be left alone.
It really is a very interesting Cathedral, and one that’s well worth visiting. Is it more interesting than Lincoln Cathedral? Maybe! It’s free to get in (donations are welcome), and in the summer months it’s possible to pay to go up the tower, which is definitely on my list.
Apparently, Worcester is one of the most haunted cities in England – I think I need to join one of the walking tours to learn more.
It’s Bluebell Time
If you haven’t been out to see the bluebells yet, now is your time – that purple covered ground is out and it doesn’t last long. I wanted to make sure I got to see our local woodland in full bloom, so I used my One Hour Outside earlier this week to visit on the way home from the office. I’m so glad I did – the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was a beautiful sight.
I didn’t have the woods completely to myself, but it was far from busy, which was nice. It’s still the Easter holidays here so I wondered if, seeing as it was such a beautiful early evening, there would be lots of people heading out for a walk before dinner. And it had even dried out under foot, which is quite something as this particular woodland seems to be in a quagmire state most of the time!
I’ve said before in my weekly blog posts how I should go for intentional walks on the way home from work more often, and this was another occasion that reminded me why that is such a good idea.
For Your Bluebell Walks
Ordnance Survey have published a list of ten bluebell walks in Great Britain which may provide some inspiration for you, or if you’re local to the Cheltenham area you could try this walk I have previously mentioned through one of the woodlands below Cleeve Hill and Common.
It should go without saying but I’ll do so anyway… When you’re hunting for bluebells please keep to the path. Bluebells are an ancient flower which don’t cope well with being trampled on. I’m told it can take up to seven years for trampled bluebells to recover. Straying from the path, even just for a photo, also ruins the scene for everyone else. And remember that many of the ancient woodlands here in Great Britain are privately owned (including the one I walked through to take these photos – on a public footpath winding through); doing damage, even unintentionally, risks them being closed off to everyone. Please just keep to the path.
Here Endeth the Blog
As you can tell, I’ve had a lovely couple of weeks making the most of exploring places not far from home. It really has been great to get to know these places – there really is nothing better than exploring on foot for that.
There will now likely (almost certainly) be another pause in my weekly blog posts – in any blog posts – while I am away travelling for a bit. Gone are the days when I have the time and energy to write and schedule posts in advance of going away. If you want to see what I’m up to in close-to real time, come and give my Instagram a follow – I’m @Splodz on there, too. And I’ll see you back here when I’m home. In the meantime, have fun without me!
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