Chew Magna Walk

Sunday 5th March 2017

I have very recently turned thirty-two and, to celebrate the occasion (albeit, eight-days later), I decided that I would lead a walk for a group people…

In spite of my struggles with social anxiety, a lack of social skills and other issues, I felt like doing ‘something different’ and wanted to share a walk in one of my favourite areas. I stopped doing things to keep up with other people (like drinking) nearly ten-years ago and I dislike loud parties and crowds.

That walk took place yesterday and I was amazed to have ten people walking with me. Weather was also very much on our side! Back in early March, I set out one Sunday morning on a bit of a ‘reccy’ for a few hours, to investigate a series of different footpaths.

I started from the concealed village car park behind a pub off the B3130, which is entirely free to use. It was almost half-full when I arrived – I imagine it’s used by residents, pub-goers and café-shoppers alike. Not forgetting the nearby medical practice… Starting a group walk from here probably wouldn’t have been the best of ideas.

I would go on to start my Post-Birthday Walk at Chew Valley Lake – it costs £2 to park all day but there’s a café serving all-sorts on site.

Back in Chew Magna, I headed immediately for the rear of the church where a second village pub can be found lurking near by. I’d also presume it’s generally less-busy than the one on the main road.

Walking west now, I would follow a riverside path just south of The Rookery. There was a stone squeezer stile providing access from the road – I haven’t photographed and probably because I was fixated on the sound of falling water.

It was a slippery stretch on this grey day in March. Yesterday, however, the conditions were near-perfect for us to stop on this hillside for lunch.

Another weir lay in wait before I would reach the next road.

I’ve never actually looked in to the purpose of a weir. I’d presume it’s something to do with reducing or regulating the flow of water… Not that it really matters to me.

Chew Magna; Chew Stoke… This whole Chew Valley is a wonderful place for walking.

I had my sights set on reaching what must be the lesser-known of the nearby reservoirs, with Chew Valley Lake being the No.1. I quickly realised it was private, as expected and that access was only permitted to members of Knowle Angling Association… Knowle, being a suburb of south Bristol, some seven or eight miles to the north.

So, I decided to cut this bit from Saturday’s walk and instead, we would head for Chillyhill House Farm.

A high security fence deters the right of way clear of a nearby property. Very out of keeping with the rest of Chew Magna – at least, as much as I have seen.

To continue on from here, I had to follow a road bridge over the water before taking an eastward path to the south of the less-attractive reservoir. If you like old bridges, Chew Magna is a good place to explore, with its many river crossings.

Crossing over the B3130, I began climbing a field opposite, with the hedge on my right. It had also begun to rain and I could immediately feel water seeping through my “showerproof” Regatta trousers. There was also this rather redundant gate, which is one of the narrowest I have come across.

My exploration took me to the top of Pagans Hill, before following an almost-level route towards North Hill Farm in Chew Stoke. We’d also follow a similar route during the main event.

You can just see Chew Valley Lake and, on a sunny day, the light reflecting off the many parked cars may be blinding.

It was at North Hill Farm, back in November, where I came face-to-face with the landowners while absently walking along the private driveway… At least now, I knew of the correct route to follow. But, yesterday, we’d already begun turning downhill before reaching the farm.

I didn’t fancy following a dog walker on what looked to be a wet descent of the final field before reaching the road. So, from Whitling Street and, close to Nempnett Thrubwell, I followed a bridleway that would allow me to join the Two Rivers Way at its end.

It was still quite wet but there was no great quantity of mud and I was able to remain on my feet.

Suddenly, the sky had turned blue. All fears of further rain had vanished, as I found myself walking in the real Chew Valley, once again.

Heading east now, I passed the church of Chew Stoke on what was most definitely a Sunday morning.

There were now a couple of options available to me, with a return to Chew Magna in mind. I would take the most direct route back, in order to minimalise any road walking.

Passing the school grounds, I would also see a property listed as Chota Castle, which looks to be a private residence.

This was quite a nice stretch of walking but ultimately heading away from the lake and start point of yesterday’s walk

Back in Chew Magna now, I’d follow the road over Tun Bridge with an old mill over to my left. A sign now buried within the brambles welcomes you to Tunbridge Mill. Did they use to house visitors, here? I wonder when it last opened its doors?

A red skip out the front suggests the council may be ready to approve a proposal to knock the building down and build more bloody housing in its place.

My earliest memories of passing through Chew Magna involve witnessing the high-rise pavements that still exist throughout the village today. While flooding is a continual risk to the area, I can only imagine these were of greater significance in days before the large reservoir/lake was completed.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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