Walk 2 - St. Andrew’s Church and Poets’ Walk
Two Enchanting Walks across Clevedon and its splendid surrounds.
Walk No. 2. St. Andrew’s Church and Poets’ Walk
This walk starts from the Salthouse Fields car park. The Salthouse Fields are Clevedon’s main amenity area with play facilities for children and toddlers and of course the ever-popular miniature railway. There are also facilities for tennis, pitch and putt and crazy golf.
Looking north-east across Elton Road you will see the impressive upper structure of a mansion built in 1853 by Conrad Finzel a German sugar merchant whose wealth came from sugar cane importing and processing in Bristol. This wonderful building has had a wide variety of users including the Bristol Aeroplane Co during the Second World War and for many years until 1987 was a private school for girls.
As you walk along the promenade and head for Poets’ Walk you will see to your right the Marine Lake.
These sea water lakes were popular in the last century particularly in areas like Clevedon with very great tidal ranges. It was a cheap way of providing a safe swimming pool, many of the older Clevedon residents will tell you they learnt to swim in the Marine Lake.
The Poets’ Walk starts with a flight of steps, a right turn in the path leads to a spectacular viewpoint with central circular seat. There are sweeping views to the Welsh coast across the bay to the pier and the houses on the slopes leading up to Dial Hill. (see map)
The path then leads steeply uphill to another viewpoint on the edge of a precipitous slope above the sea. This structure is the remains of a castellated look-out also built by Conrad Finzel. He certainly had an eye for the dramatic. Regaining the path you are now approaching Clevedon’s oldest church, St Andrew’s dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen. This church had its origin in the second part of the 12th century and has existed in its present form for nearly 600 years. The church has many features which demand a closer inspection.
Two events give a flavour of the church’s long heritage in Clevedon. One of the graves is of Frederick Durbin, a local man who, as a result of his strong views against slavery, joined the US Federal Army and was killed at the battle of Gettysburg in1863.
He left instructions that if he was killed his passing should be marked at the parish church of Clevedon.
A particularly tragic but touching event is covered by a commemorative tablet inside the church to two young members of the Elton family who in 1819 were swept away by the tide off Birnbeck Island, Weston-super-Mare.
Abraham and Charles were aged 14 and 13 at the time. When their bodies were recovered they were found to be locked in each others arms. Hence the inscription on the tablet: “The flood was stronger than their strength though not their love.”
The church is notable in having two sanctuary rings and for its pagan connections with “Sheelana-gig” and “Green Man” images.
The walk continues to circum-navigate the peninsula which is the site of an Iron Age hillfort.
There are extensive views to Woodspring Priory, Steep Holm, Flat Holm, the North Devon Coast and the outline of Cardiff is visible on a clear day.
The path now descends to the Pill and here the Land Yeo and Blind Yeo rivers discharge into the sea. This was a harbourat the time of Henry VIII.
The path is now urban street pavements skirting the side of the hill and returning to the car park. however, it is not without interest. You will pass two very interesting white painted houses with thatched roofs, these both date from the early seventeenth century.
On completing this walk you will have appreciated that large parts of Clevedon are built on ground which 250 years ago was tidal marshes. At that time “the church on the headland” was sometimes quite difficult to reach. In 1982 high tides and a westerly gale caused considerable flooding from the sea and many houses in the West End of Clevedon were affected. The flood defences were improved as a result but, with new warnings of rising sea levels and more violent storms,1982 is a warning we would be wise to heed.
The walk measures about 11/2 miles and will take about one hour. Do not rush it, there are lots of views to enjoy and things to investigate particularly concerning the history of St Andrew’s Church.