Walking in Avon
The county of Avon has, of course, now been dissected into the four unitary authorities of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath, and North East Somerset. Whilst this might make sense administratively and politically, for our purposes the geographical region of Avon is more convenient. Bristol, located fairly centrally in the region, dominates the communications and economy of Avon.
The other large centres of population are at Bath and Weston-Super-Mare. South of Bristol the region is relatively quiet and unfrequented by holiday makers, giving an air of seclusion to this unspoilt area of undulating farmland and pleasant villages. There is some peaceful if undramatic walking country to be enjoyed in this part of Avon.
In the south east is the beautiful city of Bath from where the Cotwold Way follows the escarpment northwards along the eastern border of the region Both the City and the surrounding area provide excellent opportunities for enjoyable walking.
On the southern border with Somerset lie the Mendip Hills with their characteristic deep gorges, carved over millions of years by rivers flowing through the soft limestone and leaving spectacular cliffs.
The Avon gorge provides some splendid walking including, at Leigh Woods west of Bristol, some Forestry Commission nature trails. There is a riverside footpath along the Avon from Bristol to Newbridge. The famous Avon Gorge bridge, built by Isambard kingdom Brunel, is perhaps the most recognised landmark of Avon, and even today represents an impressive feat of engineering.
OS Maps: Explorer 154, 155
Bristol, the largest and most important city in South West England, is a thriving centre of diverse commerce and industry. It's historical importance, of course, was as a commercial port and the docks area are now being restored and developed as a tourist area.
The Avon Gorge, where the river flows between steep cliffs of limestone, provides some spectacular views from Clifton. The Brunel suspension bridge spanning the Gorge at 245ft. is a marvel of engineering. It was designed by the brilliant engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Because of financial problems it was not completed until after his death and opened in 1864. The deck is 246 feet above the river level.
There are many other locations within the Bristol region providing lovely walking, in particular along the River Frome, Dundrey Hill and Brockley Combes.
Clifton - On the Clifton side of the Avon
Gorge a visit to the Observatory is worth the uphill walk to the summit
of Clifton Down. This can be combined with a walk crossing Brunel's
Suspension Bridge and exploring Ashton Court Estate, following in part
the deer park trail. The route descends to the river and follows the
bank, passing under the suspension bridge. Then follows the climb up
Nightingdale Valley through the exisite woodland of Leigh Woods.
This route is fully described in the guide '100 Walks in Somerset & Avon'
Chew Magna - The former wool village of Chew Magna lies south of Bristol on the B3130. It's 16th century affluence from the wool trade is reflected in the grand houses which line the High Street. The striking Church House on the three sided village green is perhaps the grandest. Close to the churchyard, but hidden behind a high wall, lies Chew Court, a former summer palace of the Bishops of Bath and Wells. South of the village the vast Chew Valley Lake and the older and smaller Blagdon Lake provide lovely waterside walks where a variety of wildfowl can be observed.
A Walk to Chew Valley Lake [ST
OS Maps: Explorer 155
Bath is the most important and best preserved Georgian city in Britain. It is also one of Britain's oldest cities, having been an equally important Roman settlement, named Aquae Sulis after the Celtic goddess Sulis and the warm spring mineral water discovered there. The Georgian architecture is magnificent, from the grand Royal Crescent to the unusual Pulteney Bridge with little shops. The warm colour of the stonework gives the city an appeal which is enhanced on a sunny day by its lively atmosphere of cafes, shops and street entertainers.
The surrounding countryside is glorious for walking, in many ways being similar to the West Country. There are wonderful views from footpaths climbing the hilly terrain, in particular the Cotswold Way, which starts (or ends) at Bath.
Kelston - A walk from the village of Kelston provides good views of the surrounding countryside from Kelston Round Hill and explores part of the Cotswold Way. From Kelston head for Pendean Farm, from where the route picks up the Cotswold Way, climbing the eastern flank of Kelston Round Hill. The route passes Little Down Hillfort, an early Iron Age defense and the village of North Stoke, with a part Norman church.This walk is fully described in the guidebook '100 Walks in Somerset and Avon'
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