C&B Group Walking Holiday based in Bath - August, 2017 Reported by Graham, with photos from various contributors
Monday, 31st July We met the coach at Sandon Village Hall at 8am, to take 47 of us down to Bath. The journey was longer than expected with traffic jams on the M25, but we reached Morrisons in Chippenham in good time for a lunch break. Just after 2pm we arrived at Bath University to collect our keys for rooms in the ‘Acer Quad’ hall of residence. Settling in took over an hour since some of us found the electronic keys would not open the doors!
With signs of rain we donned jackets and umbrellas for a really scenic downhill afternoon walk into Bath City, lead by Doug C. It was great to wander around the busy tourist hotspots like the Royal Crescent, the Circus, the Jane Austen Centre, the Roman Baths and of course Bath Abbey. After crossing Pulteney Bridge we took narrow steps down to the river Avon and eventually found our way to where the regular service bus took us back up the hill to the University campus on Claverton Down. Evening meal was served in the secluded Wessex Restaurant. Although the lasagne option was very tasty, the quantity served was rather meagre and the kitchen had not prepared the side salad selection we expected. This caused us to complain and for the rest of the week things improved with enough food provided for many of us to go back for second helpings!
Tuesday, 1st August It was fortunate we got down to breakfast early at 7.30 as the self service Lime Tree Restaurant was catering for us and several other groups many of whom were foreign students attending Summer courses. The food choices were good and plentiful with many of us eating more than we normally would at home!
At 9.15 the coach took us a short distance down to Bathwick, where Graham H lead the long 10 mile walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon. The short distance walkers, lead by Doug BH, stayed on the coach and were dropped of at the Canal Visitor centre not far from the Dundas Aqueduct for a 5 mile walk into Bradford on Avon. This very pleasant and popular walk runs mostly parallel with the River Avon and the railway line. We saw plenty of colourful canal boats moored alongside and others chugging along at leisurely speeds. We often stopped to see them passing through the locks.
It began to rain on the long walk as we approached the Dundas Aqueduct, but then eased off as we sat down outside at tables for lunch at the Visitor Centre. The cafe provided tea and light lunches. The little museum next door had displays and information leaflets on the canal history.
After lunch we backtracked a short distance to cross the Dundas Aqueduct and continued a few miles to Avoncliff and another grand aqueduct. The old workhouse there was re-used in the 1980’s for University student accommodation, but has since been upgraded to smart private apartments. The nearby tea garden was closed, but the canal path just under the aqueduct took us to the Cross Keys pub for a welcome mid afternoon drink. It was very pleasant sitting out in the sunshine on the hillside and looking at the aqueduct and River Avon and railway station below.
Only two miles away was our destination, Bradford on Avon where we stopped first to look at the 14thC Great Tithe Barn and surrounding buildings which are now craft shops and galleries. A footbridge over the Avon lead us to the Saxon Church of St Lawrence founded in AD 705. It reminded us of St Peter’s at Bradwell in Essex. As we walked back over the roadbridge and passed the old prison ‘lock-up’ it began to rain quite heavily. This was our cue to dive into local tea shops before we all met up at the railway station for the waiting coach.
Wednesday, 2nd August
The weather forecast was for heavy rain all day, and so it turned out to be. Nonetheless we all went out; some choosing to visit places in Bath, with the rest evenly split between the long and short walks.
Rod lead the 6 mile short walk after being dropped off in Biddestone. It passed through Corsham to finish in Lacock owned by the NT. There was plenty of time to look around and visit the Abbey, tea shops and the famous Fox Talbot museum of photography.
Chris led the 10 mile long walk which followed the Cotswold Way from Cold Ashton near the Elizabethan Manor, to the Abbey in Bath. It was an invigorating up and down walk and the rain occasionally eased up to give us some nice views towards Bristol. Major points of interests were the various battle sites on Lansdown Hill from the English Civil War and the storyboards telling of the retreat of the Royalist army into Bath. We probably followed in their footsteps.
On the outskirts of Bath we were relieved when the rain finally stopped. But there were still a couple of surprisingly steep hills to climb before reaching the City centre. By the Abbey we spotted the circular plaque on the ground marking the end of the Cotswold Way. Just around the corner we found the bus for the ride back uphill to the University. After dinner Elaine organised a fun quiz with Andrew as the comical quizmaster. It took so long we decided to postpone the last few rounds until Friday.
Thursday, 3rd August
Geoff had planned a fig 8 walk from Monkton Combe, with the option to walk all day or just the morning. But because of coach access problems we had to be dropped off just beyond the Canal Visitor Centre and then find a little used lane with fine views up to Monkton Combe and the School buildings. The route followed Midford Brook as far as Midford, then a disused railway line and the remnants of an old canal. We were on a named path called the Limestone Link which took us up a steep hill to the village of South Stoke. Here we had to take a breather and look across to the other side of the scenic valley where we came up. After a short section of quiet road we took a long downhill path to a wooded stream which met another road at Tucking Mill, not far from our lunch destination at Monkton Combe. In the afternoon, the group split up with some preferring to walk down hill to catch a service bus to Bath, while the rest continued with the planned walk. A shock was in store when we climbed the steepest hill of the day over to Limpley Stoke. After that were flat fields and a long downhill stony byway from Pipehouse to Midford. Here we took the old rail line north passing the remnants of a station platform and poster memorabilia of the filming of ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’. The path (shared with cyclists) eventually goes into a tunnel, but we avoided that by climbing up the side and over to Combe Down. The rest of the walk was all downhill to Monkton Combe again and the best view of the day towards the River Avon, the K&A canal and the A36 viaduct. Taking the path by Monkton School we reached the Visitor Centre just as the coach arrived to pick us up.
Friday, 4th August Malcolm planned the walk along the Two Rivers Way starting at Chew Stoke for the long walk (lead by Malcolm) and Pensford half way along for the short walk (lead by Carole) with a finish at Keynsham.
After first dropping off the short walkers, the coach carried on but soon got caught along a narrow road just closed by the local police. By the time the driver turned around and followed an alternative road, we were around 50 mins late in starting the long walk. From Chew Stoke village we took the road up to Chew Valley Lake for a short stop at the visitor centre. To our surprise there were more police cars around searching for a pet crocodile which someone had let loose!!
The valley walk by the River Chew was easy going and we passed through two more attractive villages; Chew Magna with its ancient Tun Bridge and Stanton Drew where a Stone Circle was spotted. A high disused railway viaduct marked the entry to Pensford and our lunch stop.
On leaving Pensford we noted a roadside bench dedicated to the musician Acker Bilk who had lived there. There were more fields to cross alongside the river at Publow and Woollard and then a diversion over a hill and through woods to Compton Dando. By the time we reached Chewton Keynsham and passed through a mucky animal paddock, the main town was not far away. After strolling through the pleasant local park and buying ice creams we found the bus stop for our coach pickup back to Bath.
Saturday, 5th August
After our last hearty breakfast it was time to pack our bags for home, but not before Janet lead a 7 mile morning walk along the K&A canal from Semington to Devizes. By the bridge at the start we noticed another bridge bricked up where the now derelict Wilts & Berks canal once joined the K&A. We read of long term plans to restore this canal to link with the Thames at Abingdon.
Along the way we noticed many more locks, bridges and swing bridges as well as small marina areas where boats could be hired, repaired and restored. At Lower Foxhangers Bridge the path changed to the southside and we were soon approaching the impressive multiple lock system which passes over Caen Hill at Devizes. This too is a popular tourist spot with many people out with families watching boats going up and down the ‘staircase’ of locks. We stopped for lunch at the very busy small Caen Hill Tearoom. Most of us sat out on the grassy area by the lock, hoping it would not rain again! We were due to meet the coach at 3pm by the Wharf car park, which allowed us a couple of hours to look around Devizes, drink more tea or beer, before leaving. Our Driver took a road through the rolling Wiltshire countryside crossing over the Ridgeway where we had walked on a previous Group holiday. Turning onto the A4, we passed by Silbury Hill, the largest man made hill in Europe and through the attractive market town of Marlborough, before the final motorway journey home.
Thanks to Bath University, Centurion Coaches and the C&B Organising Team for making it all happen