Somerset Avon – Somerset
This northernmost part of Somerset encompasses the beautiful Avon valley, from picturesque Bradford on Avon through to the Severn estuary. Despite the proximity of Bristol and Bath, there are meandering rivers, picturesque lakes and ancient woodlands just waiting to be explored.
Perhaps the most dramatic way of escaping Bristol is to take the small boat out to Steep Holm island and explore the ruined Victorian gun batteries and World War II lookout stations perched precariously on the cliffs. Another place to appreciate the swirling vastness of the Severn estuary is Sand Point, where sea caves and a secret cove await, and there are spectacular sunset views.
The precipitous limestone cliffs of the Avon Gorge offer caves and caverns for exploration and the same craggy rocks were used to create circles and burial chambers at the quiet sites of Stanton Drew and Stoney Littleton. It is, perhaps, not surprising that this region was the birthplace of modern geology. William Smith, who lived in a small cottage at Tucking Mill, worked out the geological processes that formed the Earth and calculated its true age. Smith arrived at his final conclusions by surveying the nearby Somerset Coal Canal at Combe Hay. Its fascinating old ruins now lie abandoned and overgrown.
The lush valley lakes of Chew and Blagdon, to the south of Bristol, are wonderful places to cool down in the heat of summer. These fishing lakes do attract picnickers and swimming is not officially allowed, although a discreet swim may be possible. But if you follow the Chew river downstream, there are several places to dip after an alfresco lunch.
Along the river Avon, in the heart of north Somerset, there are wonderful opportunities for canoeing, wildlife-watching and wild swimming. The river pools are deep, the water quality is good, and most places are easily accessible by cycle and train. The most beautiful stretch is the Limpley Stoke valley from Bath through to Bradford on Avon, a tranquil boat-free zone where herons, kingfishers and otters abound.