1. Clifton to Portishead

The first post I’m making describes the route I took from Bristol. I don’t live in Bristol but decided since I’ve walked the longest stretch of coast continually from Bristol round to Norfolk this would give me a good number of walks to write up that I’ve already completed. The next challenge is that I’ve described this walk as in Somerset. Pedants will point out Somerset doesn’t exist as a council any more. Some of it got split off to becomes Avon, this later became various unitary authorities (Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and so on). So I’ve decided from the M48 bridge down to Devon I will call Somerset, for the sake of this blog!

June 2008

I did this walk from home, by driving to a local railway station, then took a train to Reading, another from Reading to Bristol and finally the little Severn Beach line from Bristol to Clifton Down. I was travelling on Advance train tickets which meant it was very cheap (£16 for the return journey) but had the downside I was walking to a deadline, if I missed the 6pm train from Bristol I’d have to buy a new ticket. I made an early start and so arrived at Clifton Downs station at around 10:15, giving me a good amount of time to reach my intended destination, Portishead. All the trains were on-time, which is always helpful.

Of course my own rules mean I can cross river estuaries at the lowest crossing point, which would be the Avonmouth bridge, carrying the M5 in this case. However I had decided that the Clifton Bridge is far more beautiful and in a stunning location (I had been before), over the Avon Gorge. This seemed a far more spectacular place to cross so settled on starting this walk from Bristol. It also meant I could join a previously completed walk (The Kennet and Avon Canal) to the coast, which was a bonus.

I began from Clifton Down station and followed the residential roads as best I could heading west to the Clifton Bridge. I soon passed Bristol Zoo, which is worth a visit. Unusually this zoo is in a suburban area, surrounded by houses on all sides. It must be an interesting experience to wake up to the sounds of animals more at home in Africa than Bristol!

I soom emerged onto the beautiful Clifton Downs, above the gorge. Initially I followed the road due south until I came to the Clifton Observatory perched above the gorge and there beyond the Clifton Bridge. This is such an elegant and beautiful bridge, and it never fails to take my breath away. The most striking thing is the height above the gorge, everything below looks so tiny, especially all the cars on the Portway. I wander around the east side of the gorge for a while taking photos (and photos of other visitors). It is a clear sunny morning, perfect weather for walking and many people are here enjoying the views.

The Clifton Bridge

Soon I go onto the bridge and cross, on the walkway on the north side. The view from here is wonderful, with views along the Avon Gorge to the north and to Bristol to the south. Bristol is a large city, but looking north from here it is very rural, other than the busy road on the east side of the river, few houses or buildings can be seen, and it’s a lovely view. Sadly this is also a known suicie spot, as the Samaritans signs remind me. I take plenty of photos on the bridge and am soon across. Pedestrians thankfully can cross for free but motorists I notice are charged a toll (50p now, but I think it was 20 or 30p back in 2008). Whilst I can understand the need to keep this wonderful bridge maintained I can’t help think the toll must create an awful lot of congestion, something Bristol already suffers badly with.

The Avon Gorge

Once over the bridge, I can see the path I want to take below, but it’s a long way down and there is no direct route (unless you jump I suppose!). So I continue across the bridge and turn right into the first road (North Road), a clearly wealthy area, with some chalet type houses that would look more at home in the Alps. Soon there are paths to the right, which I take and follow the right most through the woodland. This is a pleasant walk through Leight Woods, although the path is muddy in places. As I near the river it becomes very muddy as I pass under the railway bridge and to the river.

The Avon Gorge

The gorge is spectacular, with the high rocky sides and that lovely bridge now high above me. I turned left and then follow the good path on the left side of the river. This continues for a little over two miles and offers great views of the river and the gorge, as the cliffs becomes lower, as we near the sea.

The River Avon

I can see Sea Mills on the other side of the river and soon a train trundles over the bridge here.

Sea Mills

The path is still good and follows closely the banks of the river as it turns to head west. I have to head a little away from the river to get round a muddy inlet near Chapel Pill Farm. This continues inland and soon passes a business park on the right. Here the path I’ve been following, the River Avon Trail heads into an old railway tunnel. So I pick a footpath a little to the right, nearer the coast, that stays above ground. This takes me across a couple of fields and then to the little harbour at Pill. Although domainted by the M5 above, this is quite a pretty little harbour with a few small boats in it, if you can ignore the not so pretty flats opposite.


Rounding the back of the harbour I can continue on a good path alongside the road and join the banks of the Avon again. This is sadly short-lived, because whilst a path heads ahead to the Royal Portbury Docks it is a dead-end (at least thats what the map shows), so not wanting to walk up and back along this dead-end I follow the residential streets as close as I can to the coast around the edge of Pill, soon reaching the unusually named village of Easton-in-Gordano, with it’s pretty church. I’m near the M5 now and crossing it proves the next challenge. The road Marsh Lane goes across. For reasons I can’t really recall now I decided not to take this and instead picked up the path heading west to the M5 junction 19. This is initially across a field, but the path soon brings me to the car park of the M5 services at the junction. I feel very out of place in amongst the motorists stopping for a break. The path is a little tricky to follow here so I keep to the access road to the car park, just south of the M5 to the junction. I cross with care, as it’s very busy and see a path ahead to Portbury and the church.

Portbury Church

Whilst the path doesn’t quite follow the route shown on my map (which shows the right of way goes south to the road and does not connect with the roundabout) it is well walked and soon brings me to the correct right of way heading for Portbury church. I pass the church and then join the minor road, heading west. There is then a footpath to the right off this. Again for reasons I don’t remember, I didn’t take this but continued on the road as it joined the main road and headed west into Portbury. I then turn right along Station Road (sadly no station exists now though), I pass through Portbury and then reach the M5.

Walking the coast might make you think it’s all by the sea with nice beaches, but this shows the reality, parts of the route you can walk may be some distance inland and along roads to get around industrial areas, such as the Royal Portbury dock. Still these diversions only help to increase my enjoyment of the parts where you can walk right by the coast. Once over the M5 by the bridge I continue on this road through the village of Sheepway. Thankfully the road is not too busy. I soon leave Sheepway and follow the road which crosses the railway line and continues on the road to the edge of Portishead. Here a lot of new housing is being built and I pick my way north through the estate as best I can (much of iit not being marked on my OS map). On reaching an industrial estate, I turn right soon crossing the railway line again, then turn left and soon find myself beside the Marina – back to the coast at last.

A lot of new flats are being built here but it being the weekend there is no work going on. So I follow the path beside the marina, with the water on my right to soon reach the pier and the mighty Severn. It is great to reach the coast proper and to the right I can both Severn crossings, and Wales beyond.

The Severn at Portishead

The Severn Estuary at Portishead

I turn left and follow the narrow road alongside East Wood. This soon brings me to Batter Point and Portishead Point and what a view! The views over the river are wonderful and whilst the beach is mostly mud, it is far more beautiful than I expected. The Severn has a massive tidal range and it must be lovely to live here and be able to watch this ever-changing landscape.

Woodhill Bay, Portishead

I head south along the road beside Marine Lake. As the road turns to the left away from the coast I pick up a footpath that soon brings me back to the coast. This is marked as the long-distance walk The Gordano Round. I have made good time and decide rather than end here I’ll continue along the coast for a bit and pick up the bus from here, as the timetable and map shows it runs in a loop along the main road closest to the coast. This is a good path past the golf course and soon reaches a small black lighthouse, where the coast is now lined with houses.

The path continues right along the coast on little grass areas behind the houses, and it’s lovely. At Black Nore I pass a little white lighthouse on stilts. THe beaches here are rocky and pebble and mud at low tide, but still very beautiful.

Black Nore, Portishead

I continue past a large and impressive building on the left and past a few more houses before I decided I must catch the bus. I join Hillside Road and turn left. At the end I reach the road and turn left. I’m pleased to quickly spot a bus stop and wait here for the bus back to Bristol.

At the time I took the 358 or 359 bus back to Bristol. It was a slow journey, initially not that busy to Portishead, but the bus is almost full on leaving Portishead and it’s quite a slow journey with a lot of stops and a lot of traffic on route. Whilst Portishead seems a nice place to live I think the traffic getting into Bristol could soon get very frustrating! The bus takes a little under an hour to reach Bristol. If you’re planning the same walk I can see these buses were replaced with a new First X2 and X3 route which runs every 2 to 3 times an hour Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. I have a quick wander round Bristol before heading to Temple Meads station. I often forget that this is not very close to the city centre and have to hurry a bit but make the train with a few minutes to spare.

This was therefore two lovely stretches of walking, alongside the Avon and along the coast at Portishead mixed in with a bit of road walking in the middle which is not so nice, but does take in a couple of little villages. I enjoyed this walk a lot though, probably helped by perfect weather conditions.

Bristol to Clifton Downs to Severn Beach train timetable

First Bus X2 and X3 timetable (Portishead to Bristol)

Complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow


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1 Response to 1. Clifton to Portishead

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