A Severn Stroll
Walk Start Point
ST 42565 86910
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2. Pollen Time
4. Wild Hops
5. Zeb & Mates
6. Country Cottage
8. Redwick Museum
9. Hedgerow Larder
10. Milk Machine
11. Sloe Bush
13. Gray Hill
14. Severn Bridge
15. Old Nog
16. Blackberry Time
17. Severn Bridge
18. A Maizing
20. Soggy Doggy
It's Sunday, it's a bank holiday and there is no way I am going anywhere near anything with tarmac and white lines. I have been banging on for ages about the abnormally large crops of hedgerow fruits and so now it's time to put up and shut up. We hadn't really planned a route except the stroll involved the quiet lanes around the Gwent levels and Zeb the dog. In the end the stroll lasted for six and a half miles - see ill. 1 here. Should anybody want to follow it, the red lane we followed from Redwick to the river is in fact private so use the path marked by a green dotted line.
The sun was out and the hedgerows were alive with bees - see ill. 2 here, butterflies, damsel flies, and dragon flies. It must be high mating season for the damsel flies as most of them were at it in mid-flight, their version of the mile high club I suppose. The subtle hues of the morning contrasted from the golden harvested field to the livid, berry decked hedges with a subtle stagnant green of the weed blanketed reen - see ill. 3 here. High up in one section of hedgerow the branches were covered with hops, all interweaving amongst the spindly branches - see ill 4 here, which was something I had not seen outside a hop field or draped around the inns of Kent. Yes, I have definately seen a fair few of those. Sadly I don't think there were quite enough to make a hedgerow brew but still a beautiful sight. These little reen lined lanes area truely amazing, mile after mile of flat roads that just seem to meander over the landscape. As Zeb found out, this means that the 'local lads' can get alarmingly close should they want to inspect who's on their patch, - see ill. 5 here. For a bank holiday there seemed to be not a soul around, they were probably all stuck in some horrendous traffic jam on the M4, but it was marvellous to amble down the deserted lanes. Just before coming into the village of Redwick is what I would class as the perfect county cottage, small, good views and a mature garden filled with fruits of all kinds - see ill. 6 here. I would imagine that many would describe the property as being, "in need of attention", but why? Heaven forbid there is no double glazing for a start, so what say I. My little cottage on Dartmoor was the same, in the winter you had to pin the curtains to the walls to stop the draught coming in - but not once did I catch the flu and I remember nights curled up under a heavy quilt with the wind blasting across my face - absolutely bloody amazing, and I used to sleep like a log. But just look at the character of this little cott, age worn and still smiling, the orchard laden with apples and the flowers adding the final touches of colour.
Approaching the small village we came across a roadside farm and obviously as Sunday is the day of rest everything was resting. This included the farm dog who it seemed was not too keen on the idea, I think it wanted to come out and play with Zeb who was rather sadistically taunting the confined beast - see ill. 7 here. First impressions suggest that Redwick is just a small village, there is a pub, church, and what turned out to be a small 'museum'. The little building is a treasure trove of artefacts from over the centuries, all built into its walls see ill. 8 here. This alone will take a separate web page which after some research I will post at a later date.
As it transpired the little 'green way' we took is on private land but the narrow lane is literally flanked with high hedgerows made of of hawthorn, sloe, spindle, and brambles, each one loaded with berries - see ill. 9 here. It was as if you were walking inside a blood vessel, the overhanging branches met to form a tunnel that was coated in livid red berries. All manner of wildlife was feasting on the harvest of fruits and pollen, insects filled the air with their humming and buzzing. Dragon flies hovered and darted up and down the bushes like large alien spaceships in a red galaxy. In a break in the hedge Zeb found another friend but this one was more intent on grazing than playing, afterall its a busy schedule producing milk for the breakfast table - see ill. 10 here. Toward the bottom of the lane the hedgerow seemed to be dominated with sloe bushes, again every one was full of succulent, matt black berries - see ill. 11 here. I always think that sloe bushes should carry a government health warning as one of the worst 'allergic' reactions I have ever had came from drinking a bottle of home-made sloe gin, it took a week to lose that hangover.
Upon exiting the 'red tunnel' you are propelled once more into the bright, eye-blinking sunlight and are faced with a huge bank that looks as if it was built to repel all invaders. Except that on climbing the 'earthwork' you quickly realise that the invader is still mercilessly assailing the bank but from the opposite direction. This is the sea wall built to keep the Severn from reclaiming that which it once owned. To the south east, Portishead appears just a stone throw away and the tiny Denny Island could be a stepping stone to getting there. In actual fact the nearest point of England is about four and a half tantalising miles away. The whole of this Gwent shoreline is studded with the relics of man's efforts to control the mighty Severn, every now and again old rotting breakwaters jut out of the mud like the ribs of some mighty giant - see ill 12 here. For thousands of years man has hunted, fished, and farmed this area, a couple of miles south west of here is where archaeologists have found evidence of Mesolithic man in the form of flints and actual footprints. At Redwick there is evidence of Roman occupation and further up the shoreline are signs of Bronze Age and Iron Age activity. Behind the wall exists a whole monastic landscape fashioned by the monks of Tintern as the vast network of reens/rhines/reans or drainage ditches can testify. On the far northern horizon looms the truncated ridge of Gray Hill where Bronze Age man built a ceremonial site complete with standing stone and stone circle - see ill. 13 here. The north western horizon is dominated by twentieth century man's attempt at a landscape feature in the form of the new Severn Bridge - see ill 14 here. There are several things that hack be off with this thing, firstly it's French owned, secondly the £4.90 toll is extortionate, and thirdly there is always a speed camera van lurking on its on its approach lurking. It is bad enough having to cough up nearly a fiver but then to have to cough up £60 as well is disgusting. The van sights itself on a bridge that can only be seen as you round the corner by which time it's too late for the unwary.
The mud flats are teeming with bird life, gulls squabbling, curlews plaintively crying, all overseen by 'Old Nog' the heron who patiently stands at the waters edge waiting for his lunch - see ill. 15 here. As always when needed where were the binoculars, oh yes, in the large rucksack at home, bloody marvellous. I know there are numerous other wading birds around but they are too far away to identify. However an unmistakable clatter and whirring of wings exploding from below marks the presence of a snipe as it zig-zags out into the river. At this point the edge of the sea wall has been colonised by blackberry bushes, natural palisades waiting to impale any hostile invaders. The inevitable can no longer be postponed, out comes the plastic boxes and in go the juicy blackberries. Thorns tear, berries squash, and nettles sting but as there is no 'gain without pain' one can't grumble and the prospect of blackberry and apple pie eases the agony. Ever known a dog to eat, and when I say eat I mean relish, blackberries, no neither have I, but I do now! I am sure Zeb is a vegetarian at heart, I have regularly seen him eat carrots, cucumber, swede, and all manner of fruit, but now blackberries? - see ill 16 here.
The bridge gets closer - see ill 17. here, and the shoreline begins to get cluttered with flotsam as the bank curves away from the muddy waters The view in the opposite direct now hints that the sprawling city of Newport seems but a stone throw away - see ill. 18 here. Another lane comes down to meet the sea wall and it is this that leads back to Magor, and bonus, it's a public right of way. As we trundle up the dusty track I happen to gaze into a nearby field, never pass an open gate, when I spotted what looked like miniature Goonhilly's dotted all over it. Suddenly it dawned on me what they were - puffballs - see ill. 19 here, I hadn't seen any of these for years. Thought train, puffballs, Hue Fernley Whittingstall and feast, time to dine. I would imagine that if all the puffballs in this field were picked they would weight around 25kg, all across the field were perfect circles formed by the bleach white orbs. As always, take only what you can eat, which meant delicately placing four of them into one of the dog's unused 'crap bags'. Now dinner was truely going to be a 'free feast' of countryside delicacies and I will confess I have never tasted puffball. Walking back up the lane I was only thinking how, unusually, Zeb had not disgraced himself with muddy slurry pools or rank reens for which he has a penchant and ... splish, splash, splosh - shouldn't have thought so soon - see ill. 20 here. Having extracted the dog from the green, weed covered reen, and having got the compulsory shower as he dried himself, we, along with an unearthly stench of rotting, wet vegetation wafted back up the lane. Suddenly there was an explosion of white from an overgrown reen and on turning around I saw the dog looking aimlessly into the air and a white egret flapping off into the blue yonder. Despite some desperate fumbling I couldn't get the camera out quick enough and have since discovered I have some wonderful pictures of a blue, devoid sky ...
ps. That night we dined on Gammon Steak, puffball fried in breadcrumbs and garlic, peas and oven roasted potatoes followed by blackberry and apple pie - the king was in his castle..