Day Fifteen, Friday, 11th May, 2012

Wild garlic in woodland above The Wye
Wild garlic in woodland above The Wye

The day started with a tasty but minimalist breakfast. The staff at Bistro Prego were excellent and allowed us to dry our sodden clothes from the day before in their tumble dryer. This was tucked away in a corner of the cramped laundry. The front-loading door didn’t shut properly and had to be wedged shut with the aid of a short pole. But the end result was dry clothing – marvellous!

The Monmouth to Chepstow section is the final, long walk for many dykers, but we had opted to stay in Tintern for our last night some two-thirds of the way to Chepstow. We therefore felt that time was on our side and went shopping – sandwiches and apples from Marks & Sparks, and various bits of apparel chosen for their lack of weight as well as their aesthetic qualities, naturally. Having entered the town over The Monnow Bridge, we left via the more prosaic Wye Bridge. Our re-introduction to England started with a beast of a climb up The Kymin. We were glad to stop and chat to a lady walking her dog; the views west were beautiful; the day promised to be clear and bright. The Skirrid, which was hidden in the mist and drizzle when we were underneath it at White Castle on the previous day, seemed close enough to touch today.

Looking west from The Kymin. The whale-backed hill is The Skirrid
Looking west from The Kymin. The whale-backed hill is The Skirrid
The top of the Kymin was crowned by a curious two-storey, whitewashed roundhouse and the garish naval temple, both surrounded by the incongruously well manicured lawns. Having climbed to this great height, and knowing that tomorrow’s end would be down at sea level (or at least at estuary level), we were lulled into believing that our path would be predominantly downhill from here. There were indeed lazy descents into the pretty villages of Redbrook (Upper and Lower), and further on at Bigsweir Bridge. But each of these excursions down to The River Wye was followed by arduous climbs to regain the wooded ridge to the river’s east. But it was good walking on a day when we really felt the warmth of the sun. The path through woods and pasture provided  ever changing vistas and aromas.
The bridge at Redbrook
The bridge at Redbrook

We nipped into The Bell at Lower Redbrook for a swift pint – another pub in which we were the only customers. We passed a gaggle of Dykers travelling north on the slopes above Redbrook who reported that two garrulous Welshmen were about an hour ahead of us. This was reassuring – it looked as if our acquaintances made on the previous day had managed to tear themselves away from the jazz and the beer, and were on course to reach Sedbury before the day’s end. We ate our M&S lunch basking in a meadow having descended through Highbury Wood.

Bigsweir Bridge
Bigsweir Bridge

By late afternoon, we descended from ODP to meet The Wye  for a third time at the hamlet of Brockweir. Here, our guidebook showed a path running parallel to the river which would seemingly  bring us to Tintern. We followed the well worn path, only to reach a dead end where woodland met the water with no clear way to cross the fence that marked the boundary of the wood. This highlighted the one problem that we encountered with the guidebook: it is gratifyingly accurate if one sticks rigidly to the official path, but it’s guidance is patchy to say the least if one branches off on one of the byways. The only solution, although it increases the weight and volume of what one has to carry, is to take Ordnance Survey maps!

We retraced our steps, and found a path that climbed into the wood and followed the

Old bridge over The Wye near Tintern
Old bridge over The Wye near Tintern

river but at a greater altitude. The Tintern path descended to a rickety wooden bridge over The Wye and brought us to the village. The Abbey was looking picture-postcard pretty. We were staying just over the road at Tintern Abbey Hotel; as agreed on booking, our room had a view of the ruin; the evening sunlight however was an unexpected, unpaid for, bonus.

We had a leisurely beer and spent very little time choosing from the hotel’s menu. Although the choice was limited, the food was well presented and tasty. (To start: whitebait, brie with pistaccio; mains: sausage and mash, pepper,stilton and mushroom pie) One day left, only six – seven miles to complete, and the weather forecast promised us a gorgeous day. We went to bed in a positive frame of mind.

When we booked the hotel, they promised us a view of the abbey
When we booked the hotel, they promised us a view of the abbey!

 

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