Station: St Andrews Road
Trains: Usually hourly from Bristol Temple Meads. Some services operate from Weston-super-Mare.
Allow: About 1 hr 20 mins
If you are looking for a walk in the beauty of the English countryside, this may not be the one for you! The section between St Andrews Road and Chittening is along along the side of St Andrews Road, which is the main link between the industrial estates with their multiple distribution centres and the M48 (the old M4).
A little further North there is another section from the entrance to Seabank Power Station to near the roundabout entrance to SUEZ Energy Recovery Centre where, again it is a pavement walk and there are a lot of heavy lorries on this road.
Having said that, there is quite a lot of this walk that is truly delightful with a lot to see and discover. From long-gone industrial sites that fed the ravenous war machines of both WW1 and WW2 to glimpses of natural wildlife-friendly locations, with the ever-present railway line that links them all. I certainly had the feeling that this area officially known as the Lower Severn Vale levels is something of a “forgotten landscape”.
If travelling to the start by train to St Andrew’s Road, check your timetable carefully: some trains do not stop at St Andrew’s Road. Should you find yourself, like me, speeding through this station, don’t despair – either revise your plans and walk the route in the opposite direction or, alternatively, stay on the train for the return journey when it will stop at your chosen destination.
While I have described this walk from south to north, the choice of direction is yours. One consideration as to direction is that there are better refreshment facilities at Severn Beach.
From the platform of St Andrew’s Road (1), cross the line by the footbridge. In sequence turn left and right to emerge on St Andrews Road itself. Do not attempt to cross the road here but turn left and head north along a wide pavement.
Eventually this comes to an end, but a pedestrian crossing enables a safe crossing to the other side of the road.
Turn left and continue in the same direction northwards away from Avonmouth along a long straight busy road with many lorries. Eventually, St Andrews Road bends gently to the right and changes name to Smoke Lane (2).
Just out of site over on the estuary side of the road sandwiched between Wainwright’s and King Lifting Is a remnant of Avonmouth’s WW2 history: the remains of a four-gun Heavy Anti-Aircraft battery for the defence of Avonmouth and Bristol (3).
Smoke Lane then bends back to the left and here is a roundabout with two large signs declaiming the entrance to Cabot Park (4). Cross this roadway entrance, Poplar Way West, and continue as before along Smoke Lane here rising gently as it crosses the Henbury Loop railway line by a road bridge (5). Here you have re-joined the Severn Way.
If you look over the parapet of the bridge to the right, just about at the limit of your vision, on the left of the double track, once stood from 1917 to 1964 the long-gone station of ‘Chittening Platform’ (6) briefly mentioned in the Flanders and Swann 1964 song “Slow Train” [ … indeed, “… no passenger waits”]
After crossing the bridge and at the bottom of the slope down, the road bends sharply to the right. Our path goes through the metal gate on the opposite side of the road. It is safer to walk on, away from the bend, cross when safe to do so and return to the gate by the pavement on the opposite side.
The metal gate bears the waymark of the Severn Way. It has a little-used kissing gate on the right hand end and a gap in the fence on the left. Go through and walk on for about 50 yards to an un-marked path on the right hand side (7). (Do not go straight on along the track or you will end up in an impenetrable area of seriously overgrown sidings.)
Turn right onto the unmarked path and in a couple of yards is an overgrown siding with a waymark fixed to a sleeper. Turn left here walking along the wooden sleepers. In a short distance leave this siding by a well-worn path with overhanging bushes to the right. The path here wanders a little but generally heads in much the same direction.
Cross a second siding and pass a memorial seat. The footpath heads north again along the narrow strip between the Severn Beach line on the left and a factory complex on the right.
The sidings you have just crossed were built in 1917 by the Ministry of Munitions to service the site on the right then known as Filling Factory No.23. In conjunction with nearby foundries and chemical works, by November 1918 with largely unskilled female labour force this facility had produced nearly 85½ million mustard gas shells. Officially the human cost of this production was 1,213 cases of serious illness and two deaths (later attributed to Spanish Flu). Unofficially there were 3,000 casualties and several deaths.
Shortly after the armistice of 1918 the factory closed and converted to civilian use Eventually the path re-emerges again onto Smoke Lane (8) where it bends sharply to the right again to run parallel with
the estuary. Do not go into the road as there is no pavement here.
This corner is littered by fly-tipping but our path continues in the top corner near the road and continues close between road and railway. Near the entrance to Seabank Power station with its distinctive towers the path re-joins the road (9) and continues north on this pavement which is a bit overgrown in places.
Just before a roundabout (which provides access to the futuristic-looking recycling facility) the path turns left off this pavement (10) turning right alongside the Severn Beach railway track. There are large dry drainage ditches on the right hand side between the path and the road.
In a short distance the path emerges from the shrubby trees and bushes to a cleared fenced area with a bridge and weir draining to the channel (11). After crossing the bridge, the path turns to the left and crosses the railway line by a pedestrian level crossing (12). It then turns right to closely parallel the rails.
Eventually, this path diverges gently to the left, away from the railway and into more scrubby woodland.
Another clearing, this time with a pumping station (13) on the left and large iron pipes crossing under the path marks the final stage of our northward journey.
The official Severn Way path continues straight ahead in the same direction along the vehicle track. However, if you would like a change of scenery, turn left down the track alongside the pipes. At the end of this track, turn right and follow the footpath through the scrub just above the high tide line till on reaching a small picnic area (14) you re-join the Severn Way again. Turn left here and walk along the top of a low concrete sea wall until you reach a metal gate on the southern edge of Severn Beach. The next service road on the right takes you to the station or other facilities.
Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the route description, FoSBR cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions, or for changes in the details given. Hedges, footpaths and fences can be moved and redirected. Paths can become slippery, boggy and dangerous in wet and wintry weather. Take special care when crossing major roads.
Check for service disruption before setting off.
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