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I’ve driven over the the Second Severn Bridge crossing from England to Wales many times but I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the bridge up close.
So, on my recent visit to Bristol, I decided to visit Severn Beach. A small riverside town that allows you to walk beside the River Severn estuary with amazing views over Wales. What’s even better is this trail actually lets you walk under the Severn Bridge!
However, something that really took me by surprise on this walk was the fact that you’re stepping into the past. I got to learn all about the famous Severn beach resort that once thrived here in the 1920s – 1940s.
Here’s a complete guide for the Severn Beach walk, with the history, where to park, tide times and more.
The forgotten history of Severn Beach resort
You wouldn’t think it now, but Severn Beach used to be a popular seaside resort almost like Blackpool!
In the 1920s, it was transformed into a pleasure beach and there were amusements and tearooms all along the promenade. This was mainly due to the arrival of the Severn Beach railway station in 1922.
A local entrepreneur called Robert Stride enhanced the riverside resort at the time. He built wooden bungalows as holiday accommodation and rides like the toboggan coaster and ghost train.
The Severn Beach resort then had a grand hotel, funfair, a boating lake, pleasure gardens, amusement arcades and shows happening all the time!
Perhaps the most famous part was the Severn Beach Blue Lagoon, a popular swimming area that used to be packed in the summer.
Before the Severn Crossing, day trippers used to make their way by steamer boat over from Portskewett on the Welsh side. They would also arrive by train from all over the UK!
By the 1960s, the world was changing and people were preferring to travel in their motorcars over the railway. Eventually, this once shining star and popular beach resort was abandoned.
The Blue Lagoon, boating lake and all the amusements were demolished to make way for flood defences.
The arrival of the Prince of Wales Bridge, or the Second Severn Crossing, came in 1996. This meant that cars could bypass the town on the M4 and skip it all together!
Severn Beach today
Today, Severn Beach leaves almost no trace of the once amazing pleasure beach resort that it was.
Many of the shops were demolished, cafés were closed down, the legendary Severn Beach Hotel and the Severn Salmon pub were destroyed to make way for housing.
All of the seafront is covered in a huge sea wall of cement with large railings. It’s almost post-apocalyptic.
The only evidence of the amusements are a few statue fragments outside of the where the Blue Lagoon used to be.
Shirley’s Café that opened in 1945 is still running today and there is a small convenience store and bakery in the town.
The Pilning and Severn Beach local history group do have a small heritage trail that allows you to follow in the footsteps of the town’s colourful past.
The information signs have some amazing maps and photos of the beach resort that time forgot. A lot has to be left to the imagination though and it’s rather upsetting to know that this used to be a riverside resort full of so much life!
Is Severn Beach nice & still worth visiting?
Although there are no amusements here today, Severn Beach is still worth visiting as it does have panoramic views over the Severn Estuary.
I would hold off on your expectations on this being a sandy beach though. It’s not the sort of place where you can go sunbathing. It’s a shingle and the estuary at low tide reveals a large bed of mud.
You’re more likely to get stuck in it if you were to ever go swimming in that mirky water – It is not recommended for your safety.
However, this sort of environment means that it’s a popular place for bird watching as many migratory birds use this as a resting place before they head over the Atlantic Ocean!
On a sunny day, the views over the Severn river cannot be beat. You can walk all the way along the estuary looking out over to Wales on the other side.
The best part about this place is you can access the Severn Way trail from here and walk under the Severn Bridge!
Can you walk under the Severn Bridge?
YES you can and it’s very easy to do on the English side of the river from Severn Beach. The walk over to the Severn Bridge from there is really short along the sea wall.
It’s actually quite weird walking under this bridge as you can hear all the loud cars zooming above you and the bridge shakes!
It’s definitely a bucket list experience that I would recommend and something that’s a little different.
How to walk under the Severn Bridge from Severn Beach
Here are some detailed directions on how to walk under the Severn Bridge from Severn Beach near Bristol.
The walk to the bridge shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes from the main Severn Beach area. It’s also located on a rather flat pathway beside the estuary, so it’s accessible.
The easiest way to arrive at Severn Beach in Bristol is to drive but there are still trains services out of Severn Beach railway station.
Update: on my last visit there was some construction going on until August 2021. So, I had to venture off the flat sea wall path and walk along the small shingle beach. Then, climb over a few boulders to reach the path under the bridge. Until August, this path may not accessible for all.
Firstly, check the Severn Beach tide times
Although it’s not impossible to do this walk at high tide, it’s much better to pick a time when the Severn river tide is lower.
This is because you won’t be able to access the Severn Beach path nearest to the river at High Tide and you’re limited as to how far you can walk under the Severn Bridge.
So, just to be sure, it’s always best to plan your visit around low tide. You can check the tide times here.
Severn Beach walk parking
Once you’ve picked your time, the best place to park for the Severn Beach walk is on Beach Road.
The Severn Beach Road postcode is BS35 4PE.
This is a long street nearest to the sea wall and there is plenty of free roadside parking that doesn’t have a time limit. You’ll see the Just As You Are Tea Cottage nearby.
So, if you were planning on doing the Severn Bridge loop walk or head out on the Severn Way trail from here – it’s the perfect place as you’re not restricted in any way.
Take the Severn footpath along the Severn Way
From Severn Beach Road, it’s just a short walk over to the sea wall where you can walk beside the Severn river.
From here, you can either continue on the sea wall which is the best option at high tide.
Or, if it’s low tide you can take the Severn Beach path on the shingle beach over to the Prince of Wales Bridge!
The views you get on this walk are fabulous, especially if it’s a sunny day like I had. You can see blue skies, the bridge and the coast of Wales in the distance.
Arrive and walk under the Severn Bridge
As there was some construction, I had to walk over the beach and over the river bank boulders in order to carry on the pathway to the bridge.
But, even then, the walk only took around 10-15 minutes to reach the Prince of Wales bridge. Mainly as I kept taking lots of photos!
Once you reach the Second Severn Crossing there is a large pathway that’s underneath the Severn bridge for you to pass under.
It does feel surreal walking underneath as you can’t see any cars but you can hear them driving fast above your head.
You can get great views of the end of the bridge as it reaches the Welsh side from here, it’s the perfect place for photography!
There are plenty of places around here to take photos of the Severn Bride and it’s a unique composition.
Can you walk over the Second Severn Crossing?
Unfortunately, no. The Prince of Wales Bridge is strictly for cars and there is no pedestrian pathway on the bridge that allows you to cross over it on foot.
However, if you were keen to walk over the river Severn from England into Wales it is possible just a few miles away from Severn Beach.
The original Severn Bridge Crossing suspension bridge was built in 1966 which replaced the Aust Ferry and is a popular walking trail and cycling route.
The easiest way to access this walk would be to park in the village of Aust or the Aust Services, then walk over the Severn bridge from there.
The original Severn bridge crossing from England to Wales is 2 miles. You can then carry on your walk to the historic town of Chepstow!
Carry on to the Severn Way trail
Once you cross under the bridge, you can carry on the path through to the other side of Severn Beach.
The promenade carries on over to the Severn Way where you walk over to the first Severn Bridge!
I only walked a little way on the Heritage Trail to the end of the estuary path and then made my way back. But, it was incredibly scenic.
There were lots of green fields with poppies and cows grazing, farmhouses, benches to enjoy the views and some signs with information about the forgotten Severn Beach resort.
You’ll even pass the old Bristol & South West Union Railway. There is a sign to remember the Terminal Pier station where people would get the train heading to Portskewett. The station was also abandoned and destroyed following the creation of the Severn Rail Tunnel.
Also, this Masonry pier acted as Ferry Stop for those day trippers who would arrive at Severn Beach by steam boat.
An ‘Atlantic Service Station’ for birds
Once you walk to the end of the Severn Beach path, you’ll find a salt marsh that lies in front of you. This muddy area is actually like an international service station for birds who are flying over the Atlantic!
There have been over 240 types of birds recorded here. They travel thousands of miles from South Africa, Russia, Iceland and even Greenland.
Common bird sightings are Curlews, Dunlins, Turnstones and the Bar-tailed Godwit!
It’s now an International Ramsar Site, Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
It’s important to stick to public rights of way to protect the birds during migration routes. You should avoid walking on the salt marsh and meadows.
Shirley’s Café Severn Beach
If you were looking for a place to refuel in Severn Beach, the best place to do so is Shirley’s Café which is almost an institution here! It’s the oldest café on Severn Beach.
It first opened its doors in 1940 during the time of the pleasure resort and has been serving up lunch and cream teas to happy customers ever since.
You’ll find the café on Station Road next to Faith House. They have all sorts of home baked goodies to enjoy with a tea or coffee.
Is Severn Beach dog friendly?
Yes! All the areas around Severn Beach are dog friendly. I saw lots of dogs walking on the beach here without leads.
But, the area around the migratory bird salt marsh is a protected site. So, dogs should be kept on leads there at all times.