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Bristol walks: The Three Peaks Circular

 

There are many sign-posted trails close to Bristol that deserve more attention. The Three Peaks Circular is one of them. It starts in Dundry and can be done with public transport or bike to the start.

The three peaks are Maes Knoll, Knowle Hill, and Blackberry Hill. It goes through the lovely North Somerset countryside and the trail passes through both Pensford and Chew Magna so you’re covered with great food options.

Highlights: beautiful vistas from the three peaks south of Bristol, quaint villages, pub stops, the amazing Pensford viaduct, two lakes, a few woodland reserves. You won’t believe you started at the edge of Bristol’s suburbs as the walk feels quite remote.

Stats: Full day walk. 27km/17 miles, rolling terrain, the peaks are more like hills, it was muddy in March, wore my gore-tex trail shoes and was fine (didn’t miss my boots)

Start/Finish: East Dundry Road, Whitchurch (about 15 minutes drive from the centre of Bristol); you can take the bus to Whitchurch and walk to the trail head. If driving, park at the bottom where the road turns into a lane opposite sign to Hill Farm.

Alternatives: It is also a flexible walk that can fit how much time you have:

  • You can do it over a full day or cut it short by linking up with the Community Forest Path at Norton Malreward. I’ve done this when I only have a few hours to spare and want to get outside for it. It also crosses the Two Rivers Way, which is another shortcut option.
  • I also did a half-day walk by starting at E Dundry Road and going via Pensford and finishing at Clutton. You can catch the bus back to Whitchurch from there (and about a 15 min walk from Whitchurch back to your car on East Dundry Road). The bus comes every 30 minutes from the main road through Clutton, which the trail crosses.

Signposting: pretty good, but a few patchy spots (eg, through Pensford). You’ll need a map. Or, follow my GPS tracks here.

The Long Distance Walkers’ Association has a zoomable map, which I used en-route on my phone, shown below. The Three Peaks Circular is shown in red, and the light green routes are the Community Forest Path and the Two Rivers Way — both options for shortcuts.

Food options: pack a picnic or stop in Pensford (two pubs or buy sandwiches from the post office) for lunch; afternoon tea in Chew Magna where there’s a few pubs and shops to choose from (I like the Bear and Swan and they have a beautiful beer garden). If you bring a picnic, stop at one of the lakes (both are before Clutton).

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Gardens near Bristol: Tyntesfield

Sometimes all I want to do is live in a garden. The kitchen gardens are my favourite, with rows of edible yummy things, orchards, and bright flowers. There is beauty and practical focus of providing food. They are not just arty or creative, they are productive.

Tyntesfield did not disappoint, despite the frowney faces at the entrance when I respondeded that I wasn’t a National Trust member. 


There were a lot of people and we got there not long after opening on a cloudy Sunday. But it is August and the car park was packed. For two adults and parking, it cost £23, plus some of the fresh produce for sale on the benches in the kitchen garden. You won’t be able to resist either. Be warned there is also a used bookshop that I had to tear myself away from. Lots of the usual cafes and gift shops.

The gardens and orangery were all we needed to see. You could spend half a day easily, especially if you go a bit earlier in summer when the rose garden (not many roses) is in peak form.

The house was pretty too. I may go inside next time?! Should’ve just joined the National Trust …

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Adventures, Beaches

A beachy winter holiday to Western Australia

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In the great south-western tip of Australia, the beaches are vast with soft white sand and clear blue bays. Most days you’ll be there on your own, especially on a weekday in early December.

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Based in Denmark, WA, I spent a significant amount of time swimming in the protected natural Greenpool (like a saltwater swimming pool) and walking on the surfy Ocean Beach. Denmark had a bunch of markets and arts events on. Did you know hippies still exist? There was yoga a plenty, river kayaking in town, and coffee and cake stops throughout town. Raw chocolate cake anyone? Iced coffee with ice cream was a daily treat. A great little yarn shop and a bookshop are also there.

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The two long distance tracks from Perth to Albany go through Denmark: the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike Track and the Bibbulman Track, both approx 1,000km. There is also the long-distance Denmark to Nornalup track.

Despite the flies being in peak season and the snakes, I did a bit of walking. A tiger snake about as tall as me did cross my path at one point on the Bibbulman — the Denmark section has a lot of marshy reedy areas so prime habitat for this snake.

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The wildlife is everywhere — huge lizards, parrots, pelicans and birds everywhere, including the local Blue Wren, emus, and kangaroos. They find you as well. No need to go on a wildlife search.

There were a tonne more beaches and parks around Albany to explore. Only 30 minutes away.

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There are more nature reserves and national parks in the Southwest than private land or so it seems. No need to go anywhere else.

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St Paul’s in the winter sun

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Cycling

Get better riding holidays

The natural metropolitan is not just a hiker, she’s a cyclist, too. Way back in 2013 we travelled to Bourg d’Oisans for some riding and walking. Most cyclists down there come just to tackle the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez but we were forewarned about what a highway it is and took a route recommended by Cyclist magazine. Even our cellphone camera couldn’t make it ugly as we circled the valley! In fact, we liked the route so much that we thought we’d put all of Cyclist‘s great rides on RideWithGPS for you to browse and download to your Garmin. The page will be updated every month as the magazine comes out so bookmark it now!

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Adventures, Mountains, Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc: Day 1

TMB Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines

From Gite Michel Fagot to Chalet Contamines with a hot lunch stop at the restaurant in Bionassay. Six hours of walking including a few stops to wait out the rain, plus a one hour lunch stop.

Trail notes: gentle uphill to the col in the rain, lots of road walking, beautiful rivers and forested sections.

If rushed on time, I would recommend skipping this section — the easiest day of the Tour — and the scenery gets much better.

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Munros accessible via public transport

Wild about Scotland

The Mamores from the Carn Mor Dearg arete The Mamores from the Carn Mor Dearg arete

Climbing Scotland’s munros by public transport is often not as difficult as you might imagine, and certainly adds to the sense of adventure.  Whether you’re keen to reduce your carbon footprint or simply don’t have a car there are many options available.

It’s estimated that 212 of the 282 munros can be climbed using public transport – that’s 75% – and I’ve found two very informative websites that catalogue the details of the access and walking routes:

Munros by public transport (Steve Rabone)

Scottish Hills by bus and train

Of course, using public transport normally takes longer – sometimes much longer.  Bus or train services may only run a few times a day or just a few a times a week.  This means you have to have time at your disposal  – not everyone does – and also need to be ultra organised so…

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