PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 June 2013
This walk, starting in the middle of Sand Bay, enjoys the advantage of an inland and coast walk all-in-one, with highlights being the ancient Priory of Woodspring, the Middle Hope Nature Reserve across the spine of Sand Bay Down, magnificent views up and down the Bristol Channel, Second World War defences and a walk on the beach.
Directions to the start:
From Weston-super-Mare follow signs to Kewstoke along the old toll road to the north of Worlebury Hill and leaving the toll road take an extreme left (almost bearing back on yourself) to Sand Bay.
Follow the road for approximately one mile and park in the central car park.
From Junction 21 M5, skirt the north of Weston-super-Mare and follow signs for Kewstoke and then Sand Bay.
Boots on, Let’s go ....
1 From Car Park proceed to north for a very short distance where you will see a footpath marked near to signs for a caravan park, which leads to Sand Farm on a metalled drove. Adjacent to farm paddock enter a narrow footpath and proceed easterly.
2 Carry straight on across fields and over stiles and bridges (exercise caution as some of the bridges over the rhynes are narrow). Sensible shoes and lower garments are advised – not shorts and sandals as the author found to his cost.
3 You will emerge onto a metalled minor road near to Culm Farm where you turn left and proceed north towards Woodspring Priory on the road.
4 Here you may take a right fork to continue the walk or alternatively proceed as a diversion to Woodspring Priory, which is well worth a visit. It was a house of Augustinian Canons, endowed by William de Courtenay in the early C13th and dedicated to St. Thomas the Martyr. It is now owned by the Landmark Trust, which lets it to holidaymakers, but a small museum may be visited (see below). Return to 4 and turn left marked National Trust Car Park and Coast Path.
5 Beyond car park ascend steps onto seawall and turn left, hereafter follow footpath to narrow gate, which you enter and follow the hedge to the right of you. Pause to take a good look back at Woodspring Priory. Follow the path through two fields and with a moderate climb to reach the ridge of the Down.
6 Emerging on the ridge you are greeted by a magnificent panorama of the Severn Estuary from Clevedon, the two Severn Bridges, South Wales and the Black Mountains. To your right is the MOD research station of St. Thomas’s Head, now in private ownership. You will now need to turn back on yourselves to head west towards Middle Hope Nature reserve.
7 Across this windswept landscape run some massive boundary walls some undoubtedly from the ancient Priory, others more recent and built by French prisoners of war from Napoleonic times. A succession of humps and hillocks in the landscape represent Celtic field systems and this rugged primeval terrain is still home to some impressive cattle in almost every colour from black to white, from red to beige. From the footpath on the ridge and on the lower on the cliff walk, one can see small deserted pebbled beaches but some accessible. At low tide sand banks are visible with upright stakes that held fishing nets to gain the harvest of the sea.
8 At the OS Trig Point turn back on yourself to the left to ascend to the northern car park, alternatively continue to the end of Sand Point to enjoy the spectacular views of Brean Down, Steep Holm, Flat Holm and the coast of Wales, then turn back. On reaching the road follow it for a short distance until you come across a Second World War pill box to your right and here gain access to the beach. This part of the beach is classic salt marsh but soon opens up the broad sandy beach that is Sand Bay. Look out for Evening Primrose and Yucca plants. Follow the beach until you see a red ‘open’ sign on the bank by the road and emerge close to the tea-rooms and car-park.
Chris Sidaway is a local historian who regularly leads walks across historic Somerset for interested groups and parties. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 01278 453216.