Walking Day 3 – Sheepway To Portbury
Cycle Path, Train Lines And Parked Cars
This little bit of the ‘coastal’ walk is not really one to be attempted with small children – predominantly because you’re in danger of being flattened by commuting cyclists but also because it’s really fairly dull! Dog wasn’t massively impressed either as it’s hard to let him off for fear of collisions with the Wheeled Ones.
We walked the route on a quiet Friday lunchtime before the hearty cyclists started coming home from work. Try it in rush hour and you’ll be buzzed by whizzing cyclists every 5-6 minutes. We marched through the route, mostly for the sense of completeness, but luckily there are always new things to spot and see. No matter the strangeness of the walk.
And this little bit of the walk was really quite odd, but even odder is that we have done it before! It’s not possible to walk through Avonmouth Docks as it’s all private land so you really can’t get that close to the water. But we have committed to walking the whole of the GB coastline, and we felt that this also meant walking as close to areas that technically you can’t get to. Plus, there are always some geocaches to pick up en route, which basically makes any walk worthwhile.
As we came off the Sheepway and onto the cycle path, we immediately hit the huge wire fence that surrounds the Toyota Import Centre. This is a massive, endless car park full of brand new cars and vans (not all Toyota – all sorts). There are cars as far as the eye can see, all with white plastic on the rooves and the bonnets to stop them getting damaged in transit. Apparently, there are 25,000 cars at any one time there and I can truly believe it. It’s quite a sight. The day wasn’t too warm but still balmy enough so we got quite a trot on as we were keen to get the walk over and done with. Cyclists (mostly) politely slowed as they passed us, as the path really isn’t that wide. We had to keep Dog on the lead or he’d definitely have stood his ground to an oncoming cyclist and put them both in hospital.
The cars went on and on and on. And just when we felt sure that there weren’t any more spaces in the world for yet more cars – a new (currently empty) car park appeared. ‘Who on Earth buys all these cars?!’ I asked Daddy Pants as I stared at the yet-to-be-filled car park.
‘What?’ I followed his pointing arm to the edge of the small access road that we were standing on. ‘Hang on…..that’s the….’
‘Train line,’ he confirmed. ‘A very cut train line.’
Now there’s a reason why this is important. For years, local government have been promising the people of Portishead a new train station. The plan has always been to re-open the train line that opened in 1867 and was shut down nearly 100 years later in 1964 as part of the infamous Reshaping of British Railways report and the Beeching Cuts. The people of Portishead have been crying out for it to be re-opened ever since. Portishead has grown stupendously in the last 10 years – at one time it was the fasted growing city in Europe. Houses and apartments went up mega quickly and people flocked to the town (our family one of them).
Sadly, houses and apartments were not sufficiently backed up by suitable access routes into the town (don’t try and travel here between the hours of 4pm and 6pm as you will be in gridlock on the Avonmouth Bridge all the way to Portishead – a good 6 miles) or infrastructure to satisfy the needs of such a fast-growing town. Schools were oversubscribed, doctors heaving, dentists unobtainable and don’t talk to me about the public transport. The train line was offered as a carrot to the miffed residents. It offered the promise of a fast route into Bristol and London, without having to clog up the motorway.
At least, this is the theory. The whole thing has been fraught with problems. ‘It’s going to cost more than we thought,’ they said. ‘The government has denied funding,’ they told us. ‘But don’t worry, it’s still going to go ahead.’
And as DP and I looked at the cut up train line with a car park access road paved over the top of the old railway line we realised with a sinking heart that They had no intention of delivering on their promise of a train line. ‘They could put a level crossing in,’ Daddy Pants suggested hopefully.
‘Wouldn’t they just do that when they were laying the road though? Why actually CUT the train line? Surely that’s got to be more expensive in the long run if they were intending to actually re-open it? They’re not going to do it.’ I said sadly. He nodded in agreement.
Obviously, we have no idea what the true plans of local government are or why they felt the need to cut the train line. And maybe we are completely wrong about the level-crossing. But it seemed very weird and made us both pretty quiet for a good few miles as we considered the implications. And then we wondered why no-one had noticed this. I keep my eyes peeled on all social media sites relating to the train line and all Portishead information, and no one had breathed a whisper of this.
In all honesty, the rest of the walk consisted of us talking about who, how and why the train line plans would be halted so abruptly. And there wasn’t a lot to see with high hedgerows further on along the cycle path. We had an Ugly And Strange Picnic sitting on top of a concrete block, positioned nicely next to some barbed wire fences with fly-tipping adornments. We did, however, find some geocaches on the circular walk on the way home again.
So onwards and upwards. We’ll keep the sea on the left and see where and what we find next!