Walking in Avon
The county of Avon has, of course, long been dissected into the four unitary authorities of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath, and North East Somerset. Whilst this might make sense administratively and politically, for our purposes the old geographical region of Avon is more convenient. Bristol, located fairly centrally in the region, dominates the communications and economy of Avon.
The other large centres of population are at Bath and Weston-Super-Mare. South of Bristol the region is relatively quiet and unfrequented by holiday makers, giving an air of seclusion to this unspoilt area of undulating farmland and pleasant villages. There is some peaceful if undramatic walking country to be enjoyed in this part of Avon.
In the south east is the beautiful city of Bath from where the Cotwold Way follows the escarpment northwards along the eastern border of the region Both the City and the surrounding area provide excellent opportunities for enjoyable walking.
On the southern border with Somerset lie the Mendip Hills with their characteristic deep gorges, carved over millions of years by rivers flowing through the soft limestone and leaving spectacular cliffs.
The Avon gorge provides some splendid walking including, at Leigh Woods west of Bristol, some Forestry Commission nature trails. There is a riverside footpath along the Avon from Bristol to Newbridge. The famous Avon Gorge bridge, built by Isambard kingdom Brunel, is perhaps the most recognised landmark of Avon, and even today represents an impressive feat of engineering.
Bristol, the largest and most important city in South West England, is a thriving centre of diverse commerce and industry. It's historical importance, of course, was as a commercial port and the docks area have been restored and developed as a tourist area.
The Avon Gorge, where the river flows between steep cliffs of limestone, provides some spectacular views from Clifton. The Brunel suspension bridge spanning the Gorge at 245ft. is a marvel of engineering. It was designed by the brilliant engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Because of financial problems it was not completed until after his death and opened in 1864. The deck is 246 feet above the river level.
On the Clifton side of the Avon Gorge a visit to the Observatory is worth the uphill walk to the summit of Clifton Down. This can be combined with a walk crossing Brunel's Suspension Bridge and exploring Ashton Court Estate, following in part the deer park trail. The route descends to the river and follows the bank, passing under the suspension bridge. Then follows the climb up Nightingdale Valley through the exisite woodland of Leigh Woods.
There are many other locations within the Bristol region providing lovely walking, in particular along the River Frome, Dundrey Hill and Brockley Combes.
OS Explorer™ maps covering Bristol area - OS 154, 155
Travel West have produced some walks exploring Bristol City and its environs. These include route finding instructions, descriptions of places visited and a map. The walks can be downloaded from the following website:
The former wool village of Chew Magna lies south of Bristol on the B3130. It's 16th century affluence from the wool trade is reflected in the grand houses which line the High Street. The striking Church House on the three sided village green is perhaps the grandest. Close to the churchyard, but hidden behind a high wall, lies Chew Court, a former summer palace of the Bishops of Bath and Wells. South of the village the vast Chew Valley Lake and the older and smaller Blagdon Lake provide lovely waterside walks where a variety of wildfowl can be observed.
A Walk to Chew Valley Lake [ST 576632]
Chew Magna lies to the north of the vast Chew Valley Lake, opened in
1956, which supplies a high proportion of Bristol's water requirements.
This walk explores the undulating countryside to the south of the village,
before climbing Knowle Hill. This lofty vantage point brings views across
the vast reservoir to the Mendip Hills and beyond. From Knowle Hill
the route descends to the lake shore and a short stroll along a section
of its northern shoreline. From the reservoir the walk returns to Chew
Magna along the banks of the River Chew. About 4.5 miles.
Best Pubs for this walk
Bear and Swan, South Parade Tel: 01275 331100 (Good Pub Guide)
Excellent bar food and restaurant
The Pelican, High Street Tel: 01275 332448
Pretty pub serving good bar food
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks near Bristol
and Bath' by Nigel Vile.
Bath is the most important and best preserved Georgian city in Britain. It is also one of Britain's oldest cities, having been an equally important Roman settlement, named Aquae Sulis after the Celtic goddess Sulis and the warm spring mineral water discovered there. The Georgian architecture is magnificent, from the grand Royal Crescent to the unusual Pulteney Bridge with little shops. The warm colour of the stonework gives the city an appeal which is enhanced on a sunny day by its lively atmosphere of cafes, shops and street entertainers.
The surrounding countryside is glorious for walking, in many ways being similar to the West Country. There are wonderful views from footpaths climbing the hilly terrain, in particular the Cotswold Way, which starts (or ends) at Bath.
Kelston - A walk from the village of Kelston provides good views of the surrounding countryside from Kelston Round Hill and explores part of the Cotswold Way. From Kelston head for Pendean Farm, from where the route picks up the Cotswold Way, climbing the eastern flank of Kelston Round Hill. The route passes Little Down Hillfort, an early Iron Age defense and the village of North Stoke, with a part Norman church.This walk is fully described in the guidebook '100 Walks in Somerset and Avon'
OS Explorer™ map covering Bath area - OS 155
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