Sunday 17th January 2021
For my second Doorstep Walk in Lockdown 3.0, it was going to be hard for me to not tread on familiar ground from the previous weekend’s walk. I had thoughts about heading up to Weston Woods and I wanted to try and avoid becoming too familiar with Sand Point… So, I settled on the idea of taking in the Monk’s Steps.
A little earlier than on the previous Sunday, I left St. Georges at 8:30am. I’ll talk about this another time and in another post but there was once a light railway running through here, from Worle, north to Clevedon and then, to Portishead.
Instead of following that same old road up to Ebdon Farm where I’d join the bridleway; I walked west, heading deeper in to Worle itself, following a hard carpet of grey beneath my feet. I’d not travelled along here since the first lockdown – possibly even before that.
This soon led me to the breathing space of Castle Batch. North Somerset Council’s ‘Rewilding’ project is under way, here, with dozens of new trees having been planted over the last year. Being so early in the morning, I had the place to myself. Not a single child or sound on the swings, as Weston Woods rises ominously beyond.
This green-ness wouldn’t last for long, as I crossed the next road to the north of Worle.
I was a bit to quick in thinking at one junction, where I found myself wandering too far south-west of my intention. An attempt to correct myself saw me following the wrong road still!
This was where I briefly met St. Martin’s Church on the aptly-named… Church Road. Worle is a pretty big place and it is older than the main part of Weston-super-Mare. Having spent my live previously living in villages, I feel as though I could never get to know and understand it all.
Almost opposite the church, I followed an unmarked path that looked like it could’ve been a private driveway… But did in fact lead me on a slight incline towards the trees. Greenery!
There are several disused quarries closed to here and several rights of way pass above them. It was only when I met this stone wall – and the great steps beside them – that I realised I had walked here once before… Towards the end of my first walk in Lockdown last year.
For me, there’s definitely a positive feeling in leaving an endless sea of houses behind.
I’m not sure of this wall’s original purpose although, it was probably to form a perimeter of the quarries below.
I wasn’t expecting to find a house along here! These footpaths are broad and quite muddy in places. A four-wheeled vehicle would fit in many places… But this is strictly a footpath and yet, I had spotted the tyre tracks of cyclists. Something that I’ve noticed increasingly since the rise of 2020.
I continued my muddy walk to the west. Determined to prolong the inevitable road passage for as long as possible.
On this occasion, I wasn’t about to brave the busy woods of Worlebury Hill. I’d told myself that I might… But I’m still saving that for a future Lockdown Walk. Perhaps with an even earlier start to beat any crowds!
From the road of Monk’s Hill and then Woodspring Avenue, I arrived at the top of Monk’s Steps. I haven’t photographed them at all well here but, from this point – not a million miles from the old hillfort in the woods – you can just make out the line of Sand Point and Sand Bay before it.
These steps can be a hazard at the best of times. Walking in wet and muddy conditions only made the descent more dangerous! I passed a man and his dog on their way up – definitely the easier option, in my opinion.
Just before the top, I’d been walking parallel to another man who’d decided to stick to the road. As I reached the bottom step of my own downhill saunter, we met again. Had I not paused at the top to grab a couple of snacks from my bag, I’d have surely beaten him!
Cross the next road and a very-dog-unfriendly set of steps lead you on towards the church… Would it help to know that the handrail feels loose?! Again, these are easier to climb up than down – in my opinion.
At the end of this path (look out for sculptural art in the neighbouring garden), I meet another road, opposite St. Paul’s Church in Kewstoke.
No-one truly knows the true history behind Monk’s Steps – also known as St. Kew’s Steps. It is most commonly believed that they were built by the former Monks of Woodspring Priory…
Which you can just see in the photo above, some two to three miles away. But with St. Paul’s Church at one end and a hillfort [beyond the housing estate and dog-toilet-of-a-woods…] at the top… This was clearly a significant route for someone. Perhaps it even travelled much further, before the gross expansion of Weston-super-Mare.
I’ve also read online that the ‘Priory Cup’ was found here, during building work in 1849. A wooden bowl, believed to have held the blood of Thomas Beckett upon his death. What remains of this relic is available to view at the museum in Taunton.
Looking further north, you can just make out Clevedon, up the coast.
I followed Kewstoke Road to the east, briefly, where other routes could lead down to Sand Bay. From the next public footpath, heading down in to Norton, I could clearly see Sand Point and Middle Hope. Cared for by the National Trust – who also look after the aforementioned mystery steps.
Looking at my OS Map, there are apparently several other ‘stepped paths’ approaching the woods from the south-west… But none of them are titled with any significance. I may yet investigate on another day.
A decent day for views across the estuary to Cardiff and South Wales.
On to a fairly busy Norton Lane, next. One that I’d formerly travel when driving out to Sand Point from locations that were further than my current home. I met with the bridleway that passes Myrtle Farm. In the reverse of my group walk, two weeks earlier… And somewhat wetter under foot!
This was all before I met the familiar mud. I didn’t think it had rained all that much in the week leading up to this.
For the first hour of this morning, I’d questioned my decision to wear boots when I could’ve easily pounded those pavements in the comfort of my running shoes… But I had persevered for the sake of the mud that I knew I would encounter.
I would then take the bridleway of Foss Lane – eventually passing Woodspring Nursery – for the very first time… Unless I’m travelling by horse in the future, I may not bother again!!
By the time I’d retrieved a clean pair of shoes from my car boot, bagged up the filthy ones and carted them up in to my tiny flat, it was only 11:30. My “Daily Exercise” was over. I’d minimised my risk and exposure to others. I was home in time for lunch and would have the whole afternoon to spare (yet somehow, ‘boot cleaning’ didn’t find its place on my agenda…).
We’re already coming to the end of our first month back in Lockdown, in England. I do wonder, for how long I’ll be able to remain sane with all of this doorstep walking… If this was in the summer or spring of last year though, I’m sure I’d be finding things tougher, with that urge to travel far and explore more under better conditions.
Length of this walk = 7.5 miles
Thanks for reading.
2 thoughts on “Doorstep Walk: Monk’s Steps”
Another interesting read and pics again Olly. You must know every inch of the landscape in your local area by now? Dont worry though, maybe in a couple of weeks or so you will be able to travel further afield and hopefully not have to wade through rivers of mud as well. Good luck, keep writing and walking.
Yes I prefer to get out early to avoid the crowds. It does seem at the moment that everything is quiet until about 10am and suddenly people are everywhere, on previously quiet paths!