Search Results : Monmouthshire

Dec 112021

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
view north from foot of The Skirrid 1 fabulous barn, Llanvihangel Court view north from foot of The Skirrid 2 view north from foot of The Skirrid 3 view north from foot of The Skirrid 4 Skirrid peak from western side 1 Skirrid peak from western side 2 Skirrid peak from western side 3 path to the peak 1 path to the peak 2 Skirrid peak from northwest 1

The River Severn’s estuary was at a fantastically low tide as we crossed the ‘new’ bridge on a day of no cloud whatsoever. Looking seaward through the stroboscopic flicker of the bracing wires, we could see the tidal outcrop of the English stones fully exposed and slathered in red mud.

Downriver, the little hump of Denny Island off Portishead stood marooned in a huge desert of sand. Other sand and mud banks lay around the widening tideway like beached whales.

We were heading to Llanvihangel Crucorney, a placename whose sound put the immortal walking writer John Hillaby in mind of ‘a toy train scampering over points’. Llanvihangel Crucorney lies in the River Monnow valley that forms the eastern boundary of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. It’s a great jumping off point for walks westward into those mountains, but today we were aiming east to climb The Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr, the ‘big split one’), a tall hill that lies north-south with its head cocked and spine raised like an alert old dog.

The Skirrid is made of tough old red sandstone lying in a heavy lump on top of thin layers of weaker mudstone – hence its history of slippage and landslides. We came up to it in cold wind and brilliant sunshine across fields of sheep, skirting its western flank through scrub woods, gorse bushes blooming yellow and holly trees in a blaze of scarlet berries, with the dark purple crags of the northern end hanging over little rugged passes of landslide rocks fallen in a jumble.

The ascent is short, steep and stepped, but it’s the sort of ‘starter mountain’ that families with six-year-olds can manage. Many were out – mums, dads, children, students, ‘maturer’ folk such as us.

Once at the peak in this unbelievably clear weather we gasped to see the landscape laid out in pin-sharp detail a thousand feet below and fifty miles off – Malverns, Black Mountains; farmlands rising and falling towards Gloucestershire and the Midlands; the slanting tabletops of Penyfan and Cribyn over in the Brecon Beacons; Cotswolds, Mendip, Exmoor; and the south Wales coast trending round into far-off Pembrokeshire.

Nearer at hand a grey streak of softly glimmering sea showed the tide rising in the Severn Estuary past Brean Down’s promontory, the slight disc of Flat Holm and the hump of her sister island Steep Holm, their lower edges lost in mist so that they looked like floating islands in some fabulous sea.
How hard is it? 6½ miles; strenuous short climb, some stumbly parts.

Start: Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney, Abergavenny NP7 8DH (OS ref SO 326206)

Getting there: Bus X3 (Hereford-Abergavenny)
Road – Llanvihangel Crucorney is on A465 (Abergavenny-Hereford)

Walk (OS Explorer OL13): Opposite church, lane (gateposts) to cross A465. Down drive; right at wall (325204); follow Beacons Way/BW arrow waymarks. Pass wood-framed barn; in 100m, right (328202, BW, gate). Follow BW across fields to lane at Pen-y-parc (336192). Right; beyond ‘Steppes’ house, left (332191, stile); follow BW to foot of Skirrid (333186). Right on path along west side of Skirrid to rejoin BW at southern foot of mountain (327169). Follow BW up to Skirrid summit (331183). Return; in 200m, sharp left beside hollow (331181); path descends to north foot (333185). Retrace BW back to lane at Steppes (332191). Left; in ½ mile, opposite Llwyn Franc, right (325190, gate, fingerpost ‘Crossways’). Follow hedge on right to gate/stile (325192). Half left across field, crossing Great Llwyn Franc drive (324193); on down to Crossways House (323200) and Llanvihangel Crucorney.

Lunch/Accommodation: Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney (01873-890258,

Info: Abergavenny TIC (01873-853254,

 Posted by at 01:32
Feb 282015

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The twin cherubs on St Arvans’ village fountain have been discharging streams of water – dried up these days – from their cast-iron urns for well over a century now. Distinctly underdressed, on this cold St David’s Day they looked and felt half frozen. We left them to their invisible pouring, and followed a wide grassy ride west across the fields to where the barns of Rogerstone Grange overlooked stud farm paddocks of horses in thick winter coats.

Field paths led us on through a broad, undulating landscape typical of these southernmost Welsh Borders. In the margins of Chepstow Park Wood a buzzard mewed like a frightened kitten as it side-slipped the dive-bombing attacks of a pair of angry crows. Turning back east through the conifer wood, all was still and windless, though the tree tops roared a hundred feet above our heads.

At the forest edge we sat on a bench and looked out across sunlit slopes and the first yellow-green buds of this year’s daffodils to a wide silver streak of the Severn Estuary. Then we plodged on along puddly lanes and paths to Gaer Hill, trenched with the concentric ramparts of a magnificent Iron Age hill fort. It was built by the Silures, dark-complexioned, curly-haired and famous for fierceness in battle.

With the flat, tree-encircled crowns of the Forest of Dean ahead we dropped downhill and went west to where the Wye Valley’s sheer limestone cliffs walled in their gorge. From the Eagle’s Nest lookout on Wyndcliff there was a spectacular view over the deserted village, ruined church and working farm of Lancaut, cradled in a great meander of the flood-reddened Wye. Then we plunged down the steep metal stairways and slippery, worn-away stone treads of the 365 Steps, a 19th century tourist attraction (I counted 306).

At the foot of the cliffs a last stretch through sunlit meadows brought us back to St Arvans, where the wintry afternoon sun had brought a touch of warmth to the fountain cherubs’ cold iron limbs, if not a rosy glow to their green-painted cheeks.

Start: The Piercefield Inn, St Arvans, Chepstow, Monmouthshire NP16 6EJ (OS ref ST 519963)

Getting there: Bus 69 (, Chepstow-Monmouth
Road – St Arvans is on A466 Chepstow-Monmouth road

Walk (8 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL14.): From The Piercefield, left along A466. At right bend, ahead along Devauden Road. Left along Church Lane; right round east end of church; left and on through kissing gate (516965) and down hedged ride (yellow arrows/YA). At kissing gate in valley, ahead on broad grass ride. At Rogerstone Grange’s barns (507965), right along track to farm road. Right; immediately left (fingerpost, ‘Tewdrig Trail’/TT). In 200m, left through gate (506968, YA); on along edge of wood; through next gate (502968) and over stile beyond (499969, YA). Follow fence down to ford stream (496968, stile, YA). Follow hedge on right. At far end of field, right over stile (YA); left down hedge to ford another stream (492968, stile, YA). Aim right of Park House; cross stile into lane (489966, YA).

Along lane, then road. In 300m, right (488964, ‘Devauden’ fingerpost) into Chepstow Park Wood through metal barrier, and up forest road. In 100m fork right; follow forest road for 1½ miles. At sharp left bend (502974), bear right past 2 benches and leave wood to follow sunken lane to road (507978). Left; in 70m, right (fingerpost, YA), following TT across fields. In 700m, at third fence/hedge (513981), don’t go through gate ahead (YA), but go through gate on right (unwaymarked) and follow fence on left. Through gates on left of barn (515980, TT); on along drive. Opposite Gaer Hill Farm, left through ‘stepthrough stile’ (516979); bear right (anticlockwise) round field, following hill fort rampart on your right, to cross stile (518979, YA). Downhill by fence on right to cross road (520979). Ahead up ‘No Through Road’. In ¼ mile, right (522982) up drive, past Porthcasseg Farm and on (YAs) along grassy drive. Cross stile (529981, YA) and follow right-hand hedge to cross stile (YA) into Black Cliff Wood. Right here (531980, ‘Wye Valley Walk’/WVW) along upper edge of wood.

In ⅓ mile path bends right; in another 250m, at waymark post (528975), turn left downhill to Eagle’s Nest lookout. Return to WVW; left along it for 200m; at bend, turn left at waymark post (527974, YA, footprint symbol), steeply down the 365 Steps. At the bottom, bear right (fingerpost), following WVW past old quarry and on along track, with A466 50m below on left. In ¼ mile at waymark post (525972), WVW, footprint and yellow triangle all point uphill to right; don’t follow these, but fork left and continue on path parallel with A466 for 200m to cross minor road (523971, stile, fingerpost, YA). Aim up slope opposite to tall tree; on to road by cottage (519972). Left into St Arvans; left (516969) to Piercefield PH.

NB: 365 Steps have handrails but are steep, slippery, uneven!

Lunch: The Piercefield, St Arvans (01291-622614;

Info: Chepstow TIC (01291-623772);;;

 Posted by at 01:13
Jan 072012

Shirenewton sits pretty on its low ridge, a well-cared-for village of flower gardens and neat stone houses.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Why such a small South Wales borders settlement on the road to nowhere in particular should be hemmed in by four pubs is a matter for conjecture, but here in the land of songful devotion a thirsty walker can only hymn the Lord for His munificence.

The children of Shirenewton and neighbouring Mynydd-bach were squealing fit to burst in their schoolyard as we set out into the tight, tumbled countryside of green hillsides and wooded valleys. Looking back from the heights of Itton Common, we found the prospect had broadened to lay the Severn Estuary open to view – the stork-like white gateway piers of the Old Bridge, a leaden gleam from the river, and the long line of the north Somerset hills beyond.

It was one of those steamy days when the rain threatens, but never definitely arrives. We could see a faint gauze of rain rippling up the estuary, obscuring the English shore. The faintest of sprinkles came to us on the wind, along with the barking of a couple of collie dogs and the fruitless commands of their distant owner. They circled us, fulfilling the genetic imperative of sheepdogs as they tried to herd us where we didn’t want to go. ‘Ah, leave ‘em – stupid sheep – up on their hind legs, eh? – what’ll they think of next?’ yapped the collies to each other as their master hauled them away with an apologetic grin.

Between the plough rows of the fields, little round buttons of fungi punched up pale caps crazed across with dark zigzag cracks. Down in the lanes near Coetgae Wood the hedges were thick with fruit – elderberries in dangling clusters turning from green to black, scarlet hips and crimson haws, blackberries green, red and indigo on the one stalk, and necklaces of deep orange bryony berries as plump and tempting as a witch’s redcurrants. The open-handedness of nature, so casually stringing the countryside with wonderful colours, shapes, and means of sustenance for winter-bound creatures, struck home for the ten thousandth time.

There must be a fabulous gardener at Little Pant-y-cosyn on the way back to Shirenewton. The cottage flowerbeds were still bright with late-flowering geraniums. From the turn of the drive we looked back at the parent farmhouse of Pant-y-cosyn, three-storeyed and many-windowed, a house built for farm servants and big families back when Welsh Border farms were self-contained communities. A few steps more and we were staring down across the twin bridges of the Severn, over into rainy England, another country.

Start & finish: Tredegar Arms, Shirenewton, Monmouthshire NP16 6RQ (OS ref ST 479936)

Getting there: Bus – Service 63 (Chepstow-Cwmbran) to Shirenewton Road Junction
Road – M4; M48 Jct 2; A466 (‘Chepstow’); in 1 ¾ miles, left (B4235) to Shirenewton

WALK (6 ½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL14):
Leaving Tredegar Arms, right (‘Chepstow’). Pass Tan House PH and bear left downhill. In 150 m on right bend, fork left over stone stile (482938; fingerpost); cross field, aiming between houses. Over stile (yellow arrow/YA); on to cross lane (484941); left down green path (‘Chepstow Road’). Cross B4235 by Carpenter’s Arms PH (485942); on down track opposite. At bottom it curves left, but keep ahead down grass path, through gate, over stream and uphill, keeping right of Roughet’s Wood. Through gate at corner of wood (486947), through next gate and the following one, keeping trees on left. Beyond next gate, right (483952) along hedge; left at field corner to barn (485954). Diagonally left over next field to cross stile (484957, YA). Down right side of wood to cross road (481958). Footpath down 2 fields to cross stile to crossroads (479960) at Rhyd-y-fedw Green.

Go over, up lane past Pyotts Cottage and on for ½ mile past Coetgae Wood. 250 m past wood, left (471964; fingerpost) down Coed-llifos Farm drive. In 100 m, right along plantation edge. In 100 m pass barn on right (469965). Don’t go left or right here, but aim ahead down rubbly slope to tarmac lane with barns on left. Follow lane to right. Keep right of house, through gate; down field slope, through gate (467963); down next field, into wood. Across footbridge (466961), up path, over gate (wired up); up field slope to far right corner; left down grassy lane, through Pant-y-cosyn farmhouse gate (465959). Ahead between house and shed; on up drive for ½ mile to cross B4235 (466952).

Up bridleway opposite (fingerpost) to T-junction (466949); left past Marls Farm to road (464946). Left for 100 m, right across mouth of side road (‘Earlswood’); over stile (fingerpost). Down field, over stile; left over stile into lane (463944). Right past Upper Argoed Farm. At crossroads (462943), hairpin left (bridleway sign). In 100 m, right over stile fingerpost). Down field slope past lone tree; through gate immediately below beside another tree (463940). Cross dirt track; keep ahead up field slope, bisecting field, to top corner (left of a gate); bear left through neck of woodland (463939). Through gate; cross field to gate on skyline (464937); right along gravelled lane (not sharp right along footpath!). In 100 m lane bends right; keep ahead here on grassy green lane for ⅓ mile, down to road (469932). Left to junction opposite golf clubhouse (474934); left to Shirenewton.

NB: A walk for those who can find their way confidently with map/compass/GPS. Detailed directions (essential!), online map, more walks:

Lunch: Tredegar Arms, Shirenewton (01291-641274;

Information: Chepstow TIC (01291-623772);
Shirenewton Community Council:

 Posted by at 17:14
May 202017

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Take your umbrella if you visit St Briavels on Whitsunday evening, because it’ll be raining bread and cheese. Those humble comestibles are hurled from the top of the Pound Wall opposite St Briavels Castle, while the townsfolk hold upturned brollies aloft to catch as many morsels as they can for good luck.

St Briavels stands on the eastern fringe of the Forest of Dean. Legend, myth and arcane customs hang thickly about this ancient slice of forest where Gloucestershire meets Monmouthshire and England stares at Wales across the beautiful valley of the River Wye.

Below St Briavels Castle we found a field path running along a side cleft of the Wye Valley where ewes with lambs at foot stood staring as we went by. Through the bluebell woods of Slade Bottom ran the Slade Brook, a stream laden with calcium, depositing thick layers of the stuff in miniature dams and pool rims over which the water sparkled.

This is all steep green countryside, heavily wooded and set with scattered farms. At Great Hoggins a chestnut horse and its Shetland pony sidekick came up to look us over. Willsbury Farm sat well down on its slope, all white walls, tall chimneys and tiny windows. Forest of Dean locals have always been inclined to plough their own furrows without so much as a by-your-leave; and when the Reeve of St Briavels decided to build himself a fine house at Willsbury back in 1230, he did so without permission. The Reeve’s illegal farmstead has stood unchallenged for almost 800 years. So much for respect for the law around here.

In Rodmore Grove below the house the brook ran red with mud through clumps of brilliant gold marsh marigolds. A glimpse opened out across the trees of Pickethill Wood to where the grey River Severn broadened between hills to its estuary under a sky of giant white puffed clouds, trampolines for angels.

We left the trees and walk up the long meadow to Highgrove Farm where lambs went kicking the itches out of their heels. A last climb up a hedge of may blossom, and we were cresting the ridge towards St Briavels in the first low sunbursts of a beautiful spring evening.

Start: George Inn, St Briavels, Glos GL15 6TA (OS ref SO 559046)

Getting there: Bus 701 (Coleford), 707 (Coleford-Chepstow)
Road – St Briavels is signposted from A48 (Chepstow-Lydney)

Walk (7½ miles, woodland and field paths, OS Explorer OL14): Opposite St Briavels Castle, down Mork Road beside church (‘Bigsweir’). At left bend, ahead (557049, ‘Mork Lane’). In 40m, right down drive of Tyltham’s Tump (yellow arrow/YA on telegraph pole). Follow YAs down garden to cross stile; ahead, contouring hillside for 500m to enter wood (561053). Follow path above Slade Bottom and through woods for ¾ mile to cross B4228 at Bearse Farm (572051).

Up drive opposite (fingerpost). Fork left along drive (‘Little Hoggins’); over stile; at field end, left (573049) and follow hedge on right. At top corner, right through kissing gate/KG; aim 50m left of gate opposite. Through KG (575046); half right across field to KG; stiles in paddocks to road near Great Hoggins Farm (578045). Left along road; in 300m, fork right off road (581045, fingerpost) along field edge with hedge on left. At far end, over stile; half right over brow of field, aiming right of Willsbury Farm, to cross 2 stiles (585044, YAs). Bear right to skirt pond anticlockwise. Cross south end of pond (586042); right over stile (YA); follow path through Rodmore Grove and other woods for 1 mile to road (588028).

Right along road; pass drive to Clanna Lodge, then footpath crossing road. In another 100m on right bend, fork left downhill on stony lane (582028). In 150m, where lane forks and bends left and downhill, keep ahead on woodland path. In 300m, round sharp left bend (580032), returning southward down west side of valley for 500m to stile out of woods (578028). Keep ahead for ⅔ mile through three long fields to pass below Highgrove Farm. After crossing last stile (570033), bear left in front of rock outcrop with fence/hedge on left. In 150m, left across stile (568035); up field edge; right along top of field. At next corner, left over stile (565034); on with hedge on left. Through gateway (563034); right with hedge on right for ½ mile to stile on right into lane (561041). Left to cross B4228; down roadway opposite; in 50m, right down Pystol Lane to George Inn.

Lunch: George Inn, St Briavels (01594-530228,

Accommodation: St Briavels Castle YHA (0345-371-9041,

Info: Coleford TIC (01594-837135,;;

St Briavels Bread & Cheese Scramble: 4 June, 7.30pm (

 Posted by at 02:05