Chepstow to Monmouth 17-22miles
The Cicerone guide estimates this to be about 17 miles but the walkmeter app on my phone measured it as 22 miles. I left Chepstow by returning to the bridge, crossing back into England and climbing back up the concrete path, continuing up the hill past where I had joined it from Tutshill (about a mile). There was a good view across the river to the castle and it was obvious how difficult it would be for would be invaders to take the castle from this side. Towards the top of the hill I turned into a field and passed the base of an old windmill, now partially restored to contain a garden seat.
The OS maps indicate this was an old lookout tower, but there is no evidence that this was so. I walked along the top of a large quarry and then along a lane that passed some large houses on the outskirts of Woodcroft.
The path re-entered woodland to arrive at the viewpoint called Wintour’s Leap. This is said to be the spot where the Royalist Sir John Wintour escaped the Parliamentarians by galloping over the cliffs. As the cliffs are high and sheer it is difficult to believe that he could achieve this and live (an information board says that the cliffs were not as steep in the 1600s). It is now a popular rock-climbing spot.
The path continued through fields and along lanes until it entered the attractive Worgan woods where it joined some low remnants of the dyke. Like most of the woodland on the walk, the wood consisted mainly of deciduous trees so there was plenty of undergrowth and the greenery and the birdsong made pleasant walking. However, views across the Wye valley were few and far between.
Eventually I arrived at the Devil’s Pulpit with excellent views over the ruins of Tintern Abbey. This was a 13th Century Cistercian abbey that was a victim of Henry VIII reformation. There is a myth that Satan preached from the rock to tempt the monks to forsake Christianity.
Just below the path, in the trees, there was a tree that appeared to grow out of the rock. I decided to have a rest and a few minutes later two ladies called down to me. “Are you holding a pagan ritual” they asked? Reassured I wasn’t they joined me. According to their walking guide the tree was a site for pagan ceremonies. I can reassure the reader that no rituals took place, and after a rest we went our separate ways.
The path continued through the woods called Passage Grove, alongside an impressive section of the dyke. In a lot of the woodland on the walk the dyke appears at risk of being undermined by burrowing badgers. In some places you walk along the top of the dyke so presumably there is a risk from walkers as well.
I emerged from the wood at Madgett Hill where there were good views up the valley. The route now splits with one way crossing hills through farmland but I chose the low level route to follow the Wye. I descended to pass through the village of Brockweir. This used to be an important centre of trade. Large boats could navigate up the Wye as far as here where the cargo would be transferred to or from barges which were hauled up river by teams of men called bow hauliers. There was a boatbuilding industry here as well. Now it is a very quiet village.
I now followed the Wye for about 2 miles as far as Bigsweir Bridge, where the alternative routes merged. I followed a lane uphill for about a quarter of a mile. There was now a long walk through woodland, accompanied by sections of the Dyke. Occasionally there were views across the forest of Dean but mostly I was surrounded by trees. Never mind, woodland walking is peaceful and there would be plenty of opportunities for expansive views later in the walk.
Eventually the path emerged from the trees and descended steeply to the quiet village of Lower Redwood. This was been an important centre for iron, copper and tin mining from Roman times until the mid 20th century. Tin mining was the main industry here from the mid 18th Century and the tin plate was reputed to be the thinnest and finest you could get. The tin was mined here until 1961. It was originally transported away by barges downriver. The slag from the mines was recycled to produce black bricks that can be seen in the walls of buildings along the Wye valley.
It was hot and I was quite tired by now, so I was please to be able to buy an icecream and an energy drink from the village shop, so many have shut over the last 20 years or so. I now made my first route finding mistake. Someone has put up acorn signs (the acorn is a waymark on all English and Welsh National Trails; it is a thistle in Scotland) directing would be buyers into a residential estate. I followed this without checking the map (schoolboy error!) and had got a quarter of a mile uphill before I recognised my mistake. I was soon back on track, leaving Lower Redbrook and re-entering Wales by a steep country lane which then became a farm track running between fields. I walked along the edge of Harper’s Grove before heading into trees as I approached the Kymin.
The Kymin is a hill now owned by the National Trust. As well as offering excellent views over the Wye valley there are two buildings of historical note. One is the Naval Temple, which was built in 1800 “to perpetuate the names of those noble admirals who distinguished themselves by their glorious victories for England….” At that time it was Georgian fashion to travel up the Wye and the Kymin was visited by Admiral Nelson in 1802. His victory at the Battle of the Nile is commemorated on the monument and there is evidence he breakfasted at the Round House on the hill which was built in 1794 for members of the Kymin club and notables who lived in Monmouth to dine or picnic there and admire the views.
I now descended through woodland into Monmouth and the Punch House Inn.