Day 7 – Aust Services to Wickwar
Whilst having breakfast, my host John mentioned that there were high winds and the First Severn Crossing was partly closed to traffic. A short while later I got a text message from Lee in Swansea to the same effect, and after confirming this online I phoned Highways England to check on the situation with regards to pedestrians who wished to cross the bridge. They advised me that the bridge was still open for pedestrians but that they used the bridge at their own risk. After thinking it over, I decided that it would be best to play safe and to start today’s walk from Aust Services instead. I phoned Anita who was driving over from Cardiff to advise her of the change and to let her know that she would have to travel via the New Severn Crossing. I then finished breakfast and packed my things and when I was ready, my host John drove me to Aust Services, stopping en route in Thornbury to buy some maps and to replenish my blister patches.
Anita was waiting for us at the carpark at the services and after getting our waterproofs on we headed to the viewpoint looking out at the Severn Bridge to take some photos at the start of this leg. The tide was in and the River Severn was a muddy brown colour and fast flowing. We started walking at 10:00, and after a minor hiccup where we missed the turnoff for the path at the edge of the services area, we were walking up the river on the top of an embankment by the side of the river, buffeted by strong winds and driving rain. A short distance up the river, the path turned inland, and we started walking across grassy fields many of which had sheep in them. There was moderate rain for all this stretch, and we were glad to be able to have a mid-morning break in the shelter of the porch of the church hall at Littleton-upon-Severn. I found out later that we had deviated slightly from the line of the Jubilee Path at this point, but a short while later we regained the path and climbed up a slope towards Hay Wood. Parts of the path here were quite tricky to traverse due to the muddy conditions, but we successfully negotiated these hazards and on reaching the top of the slope the path levelled off as it continued east towards Thornbury. At the edge of the Thornbury golf course, we saw a post in the middle of a patch of brambles with two Jubilee Path way markers on it. This brought Brexit-related issues to the front of my mind, as I thought that it was a perfect analogy for the current situation where the prime minister appears determined to plough on regardless of all the problems which people are warning her about (the bramble thicket) without pausing to reflect that things may have changed since the original plan (map) was published!
Shortly after this we crossed the playing fields at the edge of Thornbury and climbed up a slope to emerge onto the High street. By this time, it was half past one, so we stopped to have our lunch sitting on a bench by the community notice board. The rain had stopped by now, but it was still quite cold. We got some strange looks as I tended to my feet and changed my socks! Continuing on our way, I had to stop for a time to do an interview with Radio Tircoed, a community radio station in Swansea. I had quite an interesting discussion with the presenter Jan, a friend of my wife’s, and was asked if I would mind if they call me back in a week’s time to check on my progress.
Crossing the A38 we headed along a minor road into the village of Tytherington, passing an active limestone quarry on our right with an older inactive quarry to our left. On entering Tytherington, we saw several picnic benches next to a children’s play area opposite the church and decided to stop there for our mid-afternoon break. By this time the rain had stopped totally, the wind had died down, and there were blue patches in the sky, so it was a very pleasant afternoon. Whilst we were sitting there drinking our coffee a passer-by came over and asked if he could take our photograph – I think that he had been intrigued by the European themed flags on display in the middle of the village. We talked with him for a time about the current Brexit impasse, and he expressed his exasperation at the way in which the government kept pushing back the deadline to arrive at the current situation. Leaving the village to continue, we noted again the old red phone box (which had no phone!) and walked past our second Swan pub of the day, the first one having been in Thornbury High Street.
Heading east, we walked first alongside a fairly busy minor road before continuing on a minor road which was flooded in two places where we had to deviate into the adjacent fields in order to bypass the flooded stretches. As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the appearance of the landscape changed, and I remarked on how different the weather was from when we had started out in the morning. As we were tiring after the day’s exertions the last stretch seemed to go on forever. The benefits of carrying a detailed Ordnance Survey map were made clear when I deduced that a building on the outskirts of Wickwar, which I first thought to be an old windmill, was one of the ventilation shafts for a railway which ran under our feet. Arriving in the High Street of Wickwar we turned left and headed along to the Butnay Inn pub where my host John for tonight was waiting to collect us.
Today we covered 12.6 miles (20.5 km), starting from the Aust viewpoint at 10:00 and finishing in Wickwar at 17:50.