Walking Day 6 – Severn Beach to the Second Severn Crossing
First Trip With Baggy Pants
Baggy Pants is 4. There are two things that rule her life and her decision-making abilities – ice cream and sunshine. Put these two things into her day and it’s an almost guaranteeable win. Our trip to Severn Beach was no exception. I can’t say that we got terribly far (there were far too many things to look at!) but we had a splendid day none the less.
We parked by a McColls convenience store and a toilet – both of which landed up featuring highly in the day. The sun was marvellous – not too hot and not too cold – and there were several people sitting outside the bakery on the main road. ‘Does anyone need a wee before we set off?’ I asked the troops.
Dog cocked his leg obediently on the car and Baggy Pants declared that she never needs to wee. Ever.
Ok then. 30 seconds from the car Baggy Pants found an interesting looking metal Thing on the edge of the pavement. A knotted affair with a concrete base, it took me a while to find out what it was. In the 1920s, Severn Beach was ‘The Blackpool Of The West’ with a large lagoon type swimming pool, boating lake, amusement arcades, donkey rides and a train connection to Bristol. This knotted statue with faded blue paint was the only remaining evidence of the old Blue Lagoon swimming pool, which was demolished in the 60s to improve the sea defences. Baggy Pants spent ages investigating the shape, texture and solidity of the ornament which was oddly appealing and she soon had us all kneeling down and examining it. ‘Oooh look Mummy! I’ve found another stone!’
We walk a lot (even before this crazy quest) and spend a fair amount of time ferreting around looking at things. Baggy Pants often finds the popular painted rocks that have been popped about the place by children and adults alike. The problem is we are never entirely sure what we are supposed to do with them. I think we are meant to move them somewhere else and take a picture of us with them, which is supposed to go onto social media. Honestly, I haven’t once posted the pictures of the rocks anywhere as I just forget, but they have brought Baggy Pants a huge amount of joy! This one was no exception.
After a considerable amount of time examining the Strange Metal Thing and the painted rocks, we ambled towards the seafront to find somewhere to sit down and have our picnic lunch. I should add there is one more thing that Baggy Pants loves as much as ice cream and sunshine – and that is a picnic. She treats each and every one as a glorious adventure in food, nature and alfresco dining.
The promenade on the Severn Beach seafront is a long affair with a steady stream of dog walkers, cyclists, kids on scooters and bikes, mobility scooters and people out for an amble along the seafront. All to the glorious and striking backdrop of the New Severn Bridge. I have never been so close to this bridge (although I ran a 10k over the old Severn Bridge – which was fantastic – but that’s another story…) and the stupendous concrete and metal structure was a sight to behold. We had our picnic lunch sitting on a bench in the sunshine and it was all very pleasant indeed. ‘I think we might need to get an ice cream before we walk to the bridge,’ I suggested to The Family. An idea that was met with enthusiastic approval from all points. ‘And I need a wee,’ I added.
Ice creams in hand and bladders emptied we started back towards the seafront. We journeyed a teeny bit further this time and found some huge steps – part of the sea defences – to sit on and snaffle the ice creams down. As it turned out Baggy Pants couldn’t finish hers (Magnums are huge!) so Dog helped her with the arduous task of ice cream disposal. This could well have been one of the best moments of his life, although I suspect the Sausage Cake for his birthday last year probably trumps it. There were some interesting structures as part of the sea defences, which made for excellent climbing and balancing. Baggy Pants amused herself for some time whilst we took in the sun and people watched.
And then, ‘I need a poo!’
So Daddy Pants spirited her back to the toilets by the car. Whilst they were away I sat and watched a jackdaw doing some aeronautical acrobatics. I haven’t ever seen a jackdaw having quite so much fun. Usually, they are just hopping about pecking at things. But this one was diving and bombing over the edge of the water. It was so mobile that I thought I must be mistaken about it being a jackdaw but then it landed right next to me as if to say, ‘See? Aren’t I a fine bird with the most divine silver hood?’ And yes, I did talk to the jackdaw whilst I waited for The Family to return. Dog was hot and hid under the bench I was sitting on. He couldn’t even be bothered to bark at my new Corvidae friend.
The Severn Estuary is home to hundreds of migrating birds that come to nest, rest and eat in the wetlands. You’ll find the ringed plover, redshanks and whimbrels wading about on the shoreline – although I only saw the jackdaw and several Herring Gulls. Under the water, there are all sorts of beauties including significant numbers of Atlantic Salmon and the Common Eel, which spends most of its life here before it migrates back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. I find eels the most fascinating of creatures but have never seen one in the wild – only in the aquarium.
This part of the coastline has been awarded an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which basically means it’s uniquely awesome and needs to be protected for all the flora and fawna in the area.
Never judge an area by its muddy shoreline – you never know what wonders lie beneath or wade through the brackish waters.
Speaking of wading….we saw three mentalists wading deep into the muddy estuary to go fishing. We watched them clomping and slomping through the water for ages until the Coast Guard suddenly turned up and demanded they get out the water. The Severn Estuary Mud Flats are dangerous places and every year someone gets stuck. The tide comes in quickly – faster than most people can run – but holidayers can’t help but investigate the flats as they are wonderfully alluring (and, of course, muddy).
When The Family returned we checked our FitBits and realised we’d walked 6kms without actually going anywhere except just traipsing back and forth to the toilets/ice cream shop. Undeterred, we sauntered on to the bridge. And ‘sauntered’ is very much the correct word for the speed and operation of travel. When one is walking with a 4-year-old, one must be prepared to examine every little stone, railing, cove and bush. The massive bonus of this is that you can actually look at things and not pass blindly by without seeing. A huge problem for most adults when they are locked in the tiresome tragedy of Adulting. We all do it, but not so the 4-year-old.
‘Do you think it’s going to be noisy underneath the bridge?’ I asked The Troops. We stood and considered the Second Severn Bridge for a few moments. I felt like it was going to be noisy underneath it but looking from the outside the underneath looked as though it were almost another world. It was so brilliantly sunny where we were standing and the underneath of the bridge was sunk to almost blackness in shadow. The Second Severn Crossing – soon to be renamed the Prince Of Wales Bridge – is a cable-stayed bridge which means that it has towers from which the cables support the deck. And standing underneath it – or very nearly at that point – it feels absolutely massive and unendingly strong.
We finally stepped into the shadow of the bridge and the temperature dropped considerably. You could feel that you were walking into an area that never, ever sees sunlight. Much like walking into a cave. Cool and damp, with a refreshing breeze from the water. It was bliss to get out of the sun for a moment as the day was really pretty hot. Dog settled himself into the shadows with the air of an animal that doesn’t intend to move for quite some time.
We all stood and listened to the traffic overhead. It was bizarrely quiet and not nearly as loud as I thought it was going to be. It was, in fact, oddly calming. A trembling, tumbling rumble of lorries and cars swept over us. The mud seemed to absorb the sound deep into the core of the planet.
And then, ‘Muuummmmmmmyyyyyy! I’m huuuuunnnnnggggrrrrryyyyy.’
So we had another wee rest and something to eat. This time we found a lovely piece of driftwood on the promenade that Baggy Pants declared was her ‘Giant Squid Friend’. It was about this point that BP also announced that she really, really, really was too tired to walk anymore. So we climbed up onto the higher path and started walking back.
We did a little bit of off path investigating as there were a few Geocaches scattered about the place on the route back. We are avid and enthusiastic Geocachers. Our current find count is 142 – which means that we’ve rummaged through undergrowth and explored hidden hidey holes 142 times successfully. I won’t go into the ins and out (and obsession) of Geocaching but I can tell you that it’s incredibly fun and keeps BP occupied when we are walking. She adores searching for them – and of course – finding them! One of the great benefits of Geocaching (except giving the smallest members of the family something else to do when walking) is that they take you to places that you would never have normally gone to. We have discovered all sorts of interesting, weird and wonderful palces thanks to Geocaching – and this was no exeption.
Whilst looking for the second off path ‘cache we came across the happiest looking chickens you’ve ever seen. They were chickens as chickens should be – plump, feathery, and lively. They came pecking towards us as we neared their fenced off area on the edge of an allotment. There was an honestly box to drop money into and eggs to collect. Baggy Pants chose half a dozen brown and speckled eggs to pop into a box which she proudly held up for Dog to sniff.
‘Thars a lovely dog yuv got tha,’ a voice from a shed said. We all looked up and an old-ish, topless and very tattooed man ambled out of his lean-to. Dog immediately decided he liked him immeasureably and proceeded to snuffle and rub himself against him. The man kindly patted him on the head and told him he was a ‘luvverly hound’. Which Dog always responds to enthusiastically. ‘Hot tha,’ he added as Dog panted at him.
‘Are they your chickens?’ Baggy Pants enquired.
‘They are! We’ve ga Ban’ams, Orpin’tons and some Rhode Islands in tha as well. And if you look real careful you’ll see that tha are some chicks. They’re in the house.’ We all peeked into the house and sure enough there were some pretty teeny chicks pecking about. ‘Have you ever had a Ban’um egg?’ He asked BP. She shook her head. ‘They’re tiny and pe’fect and jus’ the righ’ size for a lil princess like you. My babber loves ’em! Would you like some?’
BP nodded happily. ‘Yes please!’ The elderly-ish tattooed man handed over 6 tiny and perfect eggs to our very excited daughter. ‘Thank you!’ She grinned at him.
‘Oh tha’s ‘right. No one wants ’em, see? Too small.’ And with that he ambled back into his shed.
Baggy Pants carefully clutched and nurchered her wee eggs all the way back to the car, even past the final few geocaches that we bagged on the way back. When we got home we blew the insides of the eggs out, scrambled them and BP painted the outside.
All in all a very successful day out!