Welcome to LEJoG Day 25
Day 25 one-line pre-amble
Well, it’s the only stage that starts and ends in Wales.
LEJoG Day 25 (Sunday 29 July 2018)
Chepstow to Monmouth (17½ miles)
Cumulative: 355 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours 55 minutes. Average speed: 2.96 mph. Weather: Overcast from start; heavy rain in afternoon followed by intermittent showers. Warmer and sunnier at end of walk.
Practicalities: None beyond checking out.
Start: Woodfield Arms, Chepstow, 10:55am. End: Queens Head, Monmouth, 5:15pm.
This is the first walk since Day 14 which follows Andy Robinson’s route to the letter. There are no strip maps to reproduce though, as it also follows the Offa’s Dyke Path all the way, and Robinson recommends you use a guidebook wherever one is available. Here’s the Trailblazer guide for example. It should be easy enough for you to pick up the Offa’s Dyke Path even without a guidebook – I used my OS map and had no issues. While I’m talking about OS maps, here are the Explorer (orange) ones I have used so far:
South West Coast Path – none, guidebooks and Robinson only
Barnstaple to Sampford Brett: OL9, Exmoor
Sampford Brett to Bridgwater: 140, Quantock Hills and Bridgwater
Bridgwater to Chew Magna: 141, Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills West
Chew Magna to Easter Compton: 155, Bristol and Bath (then Robinson only as far as Chepstow)
Today and tomorrow: OL14, Wye Valley/Forest of Dean
Crossed the Wye back into Gloucestershire almost immediately after leaving the hotel. The road bends to the right: take the footpath that goes straight on up the hill. After a brief stretch on Mopla Road, the Offa’s Dyke Path branches off to the left, through a cow-field. Thankfully the creatures were far more docile today. The path rejoins the B4228 for a short while, returns to the woods after heading down Moyle Old School Lane, and comes back to the B-road shortly before Lancaut Nature Reserve.
Here I ignored the path through the field on the other side of the road as it seemed unnecessarily circuitous, and walked up the road. For a couple of hundred yards (involving one sharp bend) the road does not have a pavement, so be careful if you decide to follow it. The path re-enters a wood on the right hand side, and then there’s a flat, quick section through an open field. I definitely recommend choosing it over the road here. Finally you return to the B4228 for the last time, turning left into the Wye valley for good after another half mile of road walking. The key footpath junction is shown here.
The path is dead straight for about ¼ mile before turning 90 degrees before Tintern Quarry and following a high path through dense woodland. You almost return to the B4228, instead taking a sharp left along a much wider track. This is flatter and descends gradually. However, be under no illusions: you will not get close to the riverside. Soon enough you turn right and start climbing again, staying high above the Wye with your view dominated by trees. Occasionally you may spy a worthwhile vista, for example the header image on this post, overlooking Tintern Abbey. I imagine this is a sight to see close up. Today the view from Devil’s Pulpit was somewhat spoiled by cloud and rain.
The ODP sticks resolutely to the woods for a while yet, eventually descending to cross a road called Mill Hill, just north east of the river at Brockweir. At this point Robinson suggests a riverside alternative which I eschewed because it adds 1km to the walk. Instead the path crosses a couple more roads and heads north. It’s mainly fields, although there is a short road section which I confess I don’t remember nearly a year later. You may find fresher recollections, from someone more familiar with the area, here. Soon you are in the countryside again: some tress but nothing like the woodlands that have dominated the walk so far. Then a bit more road, and back into thick woods just before the approach to Bigsweir Bridge. Heavy rain and a late lunch (2:15) in whatever paltry shelter I could find here.
For less than a hundred yards you have the main A466 road for company, before branching right uphill along Stowe Road, and then entering Cadora Woods. The walker is closer to the river, and not as high above it, as they were in the woods near Tintern. However the views are just as relentlessly arboreal, so you may find it a tedious stretch. In fact it probably goes on for even longer – the linked blog suggests 1½ hours before the descent to the village of Redbrook.
After another brief walk down the A466, you fork right and climb quite sharply up the road towards Jamie’s Farm. The long and clear footpath past Redbrook Equestrian Centre to The Kymin is a gentler ascent, but after 15 miles or so I think you’ll probably feel it. Didn’t dwell for long at the summit as I was frankly desperate to reach Monmouth. This was by no means the hardest day, or the longest, but it was one of the least varied and interesting. I think if you’re unfamiliar with the area, look at a map and think “ooh, Wye Valley” you might feel ever so slightly entitled to some riverside walking. But there is none: it’s just hills, fields and lots of woods. On the positive side, tomorrow would go a long way towards compensating.
Anyway, from the Kymin to Monmouth is reassuringly easy walking on very obvious downhill paths, with a short road section (Kymin Road) in the middle. Finally you emerge on the A4136 and cross the Wye into Monmouth. My hotel, the Queens Head, was only one street away from the bridge. Had to phone for entry, but the wait was less than 15 minutes.
After the walk
A lot of clothes needed drying in my room! Had a meal at Pizza Express in Monmouth.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Chart Music #13, from leaving Chepstow to (roughly) lunchtime. Unbelievably this was the first three-hour episode: that’s pretty much a minimum these days. Highlight was Taylor (again) savaging someone, this time Bob Geldof, but plenty of other good stuff.
Chart Music #14, from lunch to just before arriving in Monmouth. Lousy TOTP episode, great podcast.
Picture (taken 29 July 2018) shows Tintern Abbey through the trees, from Devil’s Pulpit, on the Offa’s Dyke Path. Apologies if the abbey itself is obscured by the text.
Next: Day 26 (30 July 2018)… in which I learn what a yat is. Every day’s a school day.