Severn Beach

by Derek Morrison

2nd Severn Crossing from Severn Beach
1. Second Severn Crossing viewed from Severn Beach village.
Attribution: Matt Buck [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
Click to view larger image.
Severn Beach has history
Once Blackpool of the West
Only ghostly echoes now remain
As commuters build their nest
Shirley’s Cafe near the shore
Mug of coffee from an urn
Silent juke-box in corner
Turntable doesn’t turn
Giant slab of fruit cake
Adds to energy store
At value-for-money prices
That tempts you into more
Visit near empty promenade
See Severn Bridges in the sky
Listen to the whisper
Of past’s fast-fading cry.

[To listen to this verse select below]

Commentary

I thought I had cycled all the routes that can be completed within a day in my vicinity, but the old resort of Severn Beach on the mouth of the River Severn in South Gloucestershire was a new one for me (image 1). I normally head straight over the Old Severn Crossing into Wales but this time I turned left on to NCN Route 41 (Ingst Road) just after the village of Olveston towards Ingst and Pilning. This connected me to the B4055 where I turned left and then a right  on to Northwick Road. In turn that connected me to a tarmac cycle path that went under the M4 and eventually looped me on to New Passage Road and back over the M4. A quick right turn at the roundabout and it was then down Green Lane and into Severn Beach (see image 2).

Severn Beach route map
2. Severn Beach route map via Olveston and Tockington. Click to view larger image.

I visited this on a cold November weekday but I have seldom experienced anywhere so empty of people. There were houses, but few souls around. It was similar to a visit I made many years ago to Milton Keynes when it was still very much a new town, with infrastructure awaiting people to populate it. In the case of Severn Beach it was like everyone had left.  They probably had because the old seaside resort is now pretty much a dormitory for Bristol and elsewhere and so I hope summer evenings and weekends shows more signs of life. There isn’t much to the village now. There’s the all important commuter railway station, a single cafe promenade/beach linear park, a bakery, a convenience store, public toilets; and that’s pretty much it. But there is a certain faded beauty to it and there is an impressive view of the two Severn Crossings on the skyline. Shirley’s Cafe is the only horse in town for refreshment (image 3). Putative coffee connoisseurs,however, better stick to water or tea or enjoy the offering from the urn, but the food is good, the portions generous, and the value-for-money unquestionable.

Shirley's Cafe location
3. Severn Beach showing location of Shirley’s Cafe. Click to view larger image.

As my verse perhaps suggests, Severn Beach stimulated a sense of poignancy within me; but the circa 54 mile ride was probably worth doing because of that. I can see why it is popular with commuters and retirees looking for a very quiet life but that train service, single shop, single baker and sole cafe leaves the community pretty vulnerable should any one of those go.

Downloads

SevernBeach54m (GPX data for this ride contained in a zip/compressed file). GPX is the simple ‘open’ text/number based data format that can both be recorded, and read, by the satellite navigation devices now being used by walkers or cyclists, e.g. many Garmin devices – including the eTrex and Edge series. To make use of my data unzip/uncompress the GPX file and place it in the appropriate directory/folder of your GPS device (they vary), or upload to your routing application or service for viewing/editing. If you want to try this out and you don’t have a satnav device but have access to a computer then you can still view/edit the routes recorded in my GPX files by loading them into the free GPXEditor online service (http://www.gpxeditor.co.uk/). A right mouse click will open a menu so you can load and view my data on a map. Alternatively, my favourite viewer/editor and route creator is GPSPrune (now at version 16.2). This free but powerful application requires at least the runtime version of the Java language to be installed on your computer but this is also free and for this application alone is worthwhile doing.

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