Once again I travel down to Highbridge and Burnham by train and arrive on schedule. My return ticket costs £27.50 as I booked in advance which is a pretty good fare. Helpfully outside the station I can take bus 112 from here to Brean where I ended my last walk. (Note that this route no longer runs, but there is a similar replacement route, details at the end). I have about 20 minutes to wait for the bus but it soon arrives and gets me to Brean around 30 minutes later. The weather today is rather varied with sunshine and heavy showers. My walk will also be one of two halves – a coastal walk to Highbridge after which I’ll be following the River Parrett for the rest of the walk. This is because the lowest bridge across the River Parrett is in Bridgwater, so I will have to walk a long distance inland to cross the river, probably because there are no large settlements north of here.
I soon reach Brean and leave the noise and crowds of the theme park behind and head along the same path I used last time to get down to the beach. This is a bridlepath through the dunes back down to the beach. As I’m walking along the path a white dog (a scottie I think) comes charging towards me and runs right past. About a minute later a man comes running along the path out of breath and asks me if I’ve seen a dog. I tell him I have and it was heading for the road. I feel a little guilty that I didn’t try to stop the dog, but I’m not sure if I’d have been able to anyway, the speed it was going. Soon I reach the beach and it is beautiful here.
The tide is fairly high so I can see the sea this time and Steep Holm out in the channel with what looks like a very heavy shower over it.
I turn left along the beach and enjoy walking along this wide beach. It is warm and humid with some hazy sunshine and some heavy showers about. Despite being a Saturday in August the beach is not too busy and there is plenty of space. I head down to the waters edge and walk near the sea and soon come to a few little shipwrecks which I explore, although begin to regret doing so when I realise the sand turns to soft mud around it! I soon realise you need to be careful here as there are large areas of soft mud mixed in to the sand and I head back further up the beach nearer the shore, soon passing a warning sign for said mud.
I can see the sky ahead is turning very very black and I worry I am about to get caught in a very heavy downpour and start looking for places to shelter, but there don’t seem to be any.
Soon I see a sight I didn’t expect to see, a Hovercraft heading at high speed along the beach. As I get closer I realise it is the coast guard, so I hope someone isn’t stuck in the mud.
There are a lot of branches and sticks washed up along the back of the beach here and I suspect not many people walk this way. Despite the proximity to towns, it feels very remote. The sky out to sea is now getting very black and with the sun shining on it, the contrast is amazing.
Soon I can see heavy rain falling just out to sea, but only a few drops reach me. Soon I am nearing Burnham-on-Sea, signalled by the arrival of plenty of dog walkers. I can also see the amazing lighthouse ahead, which is unlike any I’ve seen before (or since) along the coast – a wooden red and white clapper-board building mounted on the beach with the light at the top. It is a wonderful site and a much photographed feature of this area.
I hope I can reach the lighthouse before the heavy shower I can see approaching reaches me, as I hope I can shelter underneath the lighthouse. Thankfully the shower holds off and I pass the Lighthouse, seeing it is black and white on the other side and it looks very atmospheric with the brooding sky behind it.
I can now see the town of Burnham-on-Sea ahead and the huge expanse of sand ahead, which several people seem to be exploring.
The town of Burnham-on-Sea looks very pleasant, with the different buildings along the sea front and the church tower behind. The beach itself here is narrow and non-existent at high tide, with the concrete sea wall behind providing sea defence. Ahead I can see the rather pathetic excuse for a pier. A single building (a cafe) jutting about 20 metres over the beach does not make a pier in my view!
As I reach the pier ahead I can see we are due another very heavy shower. I seek shelter in an amusement arcade just behind the pier just in time, as the heavens open. I spend a few minutes inside but it doesn’t really keep me entertained and I soon head back outside to shelter under the shelter whilst the worst of the rain passes. I stand here for around 10 minutes before impatience gets the better of me and I decide (correctly, as it turns out) that the worst of the rain has finished and will soon finish. I get my umbrella out and head along the promenade, at least there are plenty of shelters, if the rain gets heavy again. Out to sea I can see the mouth of the River Parrett ahead and the little island of Stert Island just out to sea and the inviting coast at Steart ahead, but it will take me another couple of walks to reach this.
Soon the promenade ends and I reach another little river I must cross, the River Brue. Here there is a good cycle and footpath along the north bank of the river, which I follow briefly heading away from the river past some small lakes.
This soon brings me to a road which I follow to reach the A38, the lowest crossing point of the River Brue. As I’m approaching this I can see another shower approaching and pick up my pace to hopefully reach the road before the rain. I reach the A38 and spot a bus stop to the left. I decide to shelter in this and just as I get there the heavy rain starts again. Opposite is the very depressing looking Highbridge Cash and Carry and a look inside shows it is just as depressing inside! Returning outside to the bus stop I wait for a few minutes for the rain to ease and am grateful the bus does not come in case the driver thinks I am waiting for the bus rather than sheltering from the rain! I don’t get a particularly good impression of Highbridge from this street, it looks run-down. The rain soon stops and I continue my walk, following the A38 south, passing a long closed pub which is boarded up and looks to be held up with scaffolding, doing nothing for my impression of Highbridge! Soon I am over the River Brue and take a footpath over a stile immediately after the road crosses the river, pleased to be away from the traffic and noise.This is now a good river-bank path which brings me back to the larger River Parrett, where I turn left, after a final look back along the coast to Burnham-on-Sea.
I follow this path over the very flat landscape next to the river for around a mile to reach a sluice gate over the Huntspill River.
There are a lot of rivers and streams in this area, which flow over the Somerset Levels and many here have been altered by man to keep the fields around here drained of water. The path heads along the sea wall past an area that looks to have been deliberately flooded, something I quite often come across on the coast. The sea wall path soon heads back to the bank of the river again as the river turns to head to the west. Another heavy shower is brewing ahead, I can see the black clouds, and there will be nowhere to shelter in this remote area. Soon I pass under power lines and follow the river as it turns to the south. I hear a rumble of thunder and this is worrying, as in such a flat area I’m about the highest thing around, other than the power lines so I have the added worry of getting struck by lightning. Thankfully the storm just misses me and although I can see rain nearby only a few drops blown on the wind reach me. Soon I’m opposite the village of Combwich on the other bank of the river, which looks inviting.
I was concerned if I would make it to Pawlett as it is a long walk but I need to get there because it’s the next place I can catch a bus, but have made good time this time, thanks to a flat and easy path and now un-planned diversions. I have the option of cutting a corner by heading east here along a track but as I have enough time and energy (despite it being a long walk), I continue on the river path which is more scenic.
The River Parrett is another muddy river, with a large tidal range and as the tide goes out it reveals the muddy river banks. I think the river is still navigable, at least to Bridgwater, but I don’t know if it gets much use these days. The weather soon brightens up to sun again as I follow the meander in the river to it’s south edge, opposite Stallington’s Clyce on the map (Clyce being a local word meaning Sluice). I then head north passing New Close Clyce.
I can soon see the church of Pawlett ahead here and to the left over my shoulder I can also make out the Hinkley Point power stations further around the coast. This is a pleasant walk with the sun glinting on the water of the river which as the tide goes out further also reveals some large mud banks which I imagine make navigating the river difficult. Soon I come to the first buildings I have seen on the path for ages, Brickyard Farm at Pawlett. I turn north along a track here away from the river and soon onto a road where I turn left again. I pass Vicarage Lane on the right and Keward Farm on the left as the road soon heads uphill.
My next challenge is to find where the bus stops in Pawlett. Although I know there is one, the timetable doesn’t even mention Pawlett. I’m not sure if the bus keeps to the A38 rather than come through the village, so I turn right along Gaunts Road and head for the post office. As I reach the post office I spot a bus stop and read the timetable. Hearing an engine I look up and realise the bus is just approaching and is going to Bridgwater, – great timing! I flag it down and having to fumble for my wallet (I wasn’t expecting the bus so soon) I soon get on. It is a quick journey to Bridgwater and I get off at the bus station on the basis I know where I am, because it’s marked on my map. This is a little under a 10 minute walk from the railway station and I get there with enough time for my booked train.
It has been a very enjoyable walk with varied weather, but I’ve been lucky to dodge the worse of the heavy showers and enjoyed varied scenery. I had wondered if the walk along the river would turn out to be quite dull and was not especially looking forward to that bit, but as it is I enjoyed all the parts of the walk. I have a fairly good journey home via Taunton and although the train is a bit late it is not late enough for me to miss my connection at Reading.
Pawlett has the luxury of two bus routes both running quite frequently, – First route 21 and Webber Bus route 15/75. The two bus companies are competing for business on similar routes, which means there is an unusually good service from Pawlett.