When outdoor adventures go wrong
Any adventure, no matter how big or small, has the potential to avoid going quite to plan. Weather, kit, planning and physical ability can all stop even the best laid plans in their tracks.
As it turned out, my plans weren’t very well laid at all.
I had set out that day to try out another of my adventures by train. It was something I’d been wanting to do for ages. Something I’d realised could fit nicely into my 2022 quest to find out how many of my favourite outdoor activities I could enjoy by train rather than car.
My plan was to walk across the Severn Bridge into Wales.
It was a great plan.
- I knew which one of the two Severn Bridges had a footpath
- I knew which train station would get me closest to them
- I knew what distance I was expecting to walk
- I knew where my friend was going to leave his car
- And where he was going to meet me
What I forgot to check was footpath closures on my planned route.
For future reference, and to stop you from ending up in the same predicament as me, if you’re planning a walking route that includes one of our many long distance or national trails, the Long Distance Walkers’ Association provides really helpful path closure information.
Especially when the path’s going to be closed for several years.
Which is the case with the current extensive Avonmouth and Severnside flood defences and ecology mitigation project.
I did cross the Severn Bridge eventually but my approach to it wasn’t quite what I had planned.
My Severn Bridge adventure by train (and car)
The train journey from Devon to Severn Beach station went really well. I especially enjoyed the final section out of Bristol. The track didn’t pass under the Clifton Suspension Bridge but it did allow me glimpses down into the Avon Gorge.
It was a fascinating journey.
The train and I (and a chihuahua called Chi Chi Nigel) went out under the M5 Avonmouth Bridge, through the dockyards and up the side of the Severn. As so often happens with wide open outdoor spaces, the light changed as we approached the expanse of the estuary.
I was hooked before I even got off the train.
Severn Beach and the Severn Way
At Severn Beach Station it was easy enough to find the footpath. There wasn’t really anywhere else to go and there were plenty of signs for the Severn Way.
All I needed to do was turn right and head towards the bridge.
The Prince of Wales Bridge in fact. Which is the newer, green suspension bridge that carries the M4 and all its traffic into Wales.
The great thing about this walk was that I could see my destinations (the two Severn Bridges) for almost the whole journey.
Well I would have been able to if I had walked the whole journey.
Walking under the new Severn Bridge
I loved walking under the Prince of Wales Bridge. There’s something entirely fascinating about being underneath a structure you only usually visit at height. I discovered on my Birmingham to Worcester canal walk that this is especially true when you walk underneath motorways.
Thinking my path ahead was easy, I lingered for a long time.
And took far too many photos. There was plenty of history to discover along the way. I passed the location of the now disused New Passage Pier railway station where, before the building of the Severn Tunnel in 1886, passengers used to disembark the train to catch a ferry across to Wales.
And then I came to an abrupt halt.
As far as I could tell, the rest of that section of the Severn Way between New Passage and the old Severn Bridge was closed for sea defence renovations. The work is quite interesting if you want to take a look.
But I wasn’t initially amused!
The day was hot, Wales was still a good eight kilometres away, and I was facing an unknown (and long) diversion without much helpful information. So I did what any hardy, committed adventurer would do.
I accepted the offer of a lift from my friend.
As it turns out, the works in this are so extensive that it’s even difficult to find the way around by car but he managed, and we eventually found ourselves stepping, like the intrepid explorers we were, onto the Severn Bridge.
It was well worth all the hassle to get there.
Walking across the old Severn Bridge
The views were like none I have ever seen, the swirling eddies and tide lines below were fascinating, and the bridge bounce was enough to make a timid one like me feel like I was on a roller coaster.
But it was hot!
I know! It was too hot and the air was too still on the bridge that often closes because of the wind, and carries bad weather warnings whenever it is described in walking or cycling routes.
It was so hot we sat down on the path as soon as we hit some Welsh shade on the other side.
It was so hot my friend tried walking barefoot for some of the way back.
Perhaps this would have been a world record if he hadn’t run out of white lines to keep his (also white) feet off the slightly warmer dark surfaces, and put his boots back on.
An adventure nearly by train
One day, when the sea defence works are finished, I’ll go back and do this walk properly. I might even do the whole loop and travel back from Severn Tunnel Station on the other side of the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Then I’ll be able to add it to my Adventures by Train series.
But only if I check for path closures first!