Day Sixteen, Saturday, 12th May, 2012

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey

Azure skies. Hey! I carried them fruitlessly for two weeks, but on this last day, I could air them. I wore my shorts to breakfast, and took them to meander around the ruins of Tintern Abbey. The sun was warm, and the last day of our sojourn promised to be glorious.

We left the village by the same old tram bridge that brought us hither on the previous evening, but when we reached a sylvan crossroads, we headed south …..and got thoroughly lost. When I say lost, I mean that we failed to find ODP. We were travelling south on the east side of the River Wye and so we knew that all should end well. In the woodland, my handheld GPS gave wildly different answers to the same repeated question, and seemed to delight in its shamefaced lies.

Lost! Somewhere east of the lower stretches of The Wye
Lost! Somewhere east of the lower stretches of The Wye

In addition, my late grandfather’s compass had become hopelessly waterlogged during our predominantly waterlogged fortnight. But we new the time, we knew where the Wye was, and the sun was in the sky. Sure enough, after a couple of miles, we fell into line with the reassuring acorn signs. Our slight regret was that we had bypassed Devil’s Pulpit with its “sensational view of Tintern Abbey”. Ah well.

The Path continued through woodland before it opened out to reveal the majestic Severn. By an incongruously formal private garden, we passed a young man who had started out from Sedbury that morning – he was walking ODP solo and intended to camp whenever possible. We did not detain him as he was aiming for a campsite in Monmouth for that evening.
Chepstow Castle from ODP
Chepstow Castle from ODP

The ODP was taking us down that narrow tract of land between the muddy Wye to our right and the Severn to our left; our journey would end close to the confluence of the two. There were occasional spectacular views over the Wye valley and the castle at Chepstow, but the final couple of miles were a little disappointing as we followed a tortuous route down residential lanes and across some extremely boggy pasture. In the village of Sedbury, the path ran along the bottom of gardens on a housing estate. We were happy to be engaged in conversation by a gardener; he congratulated us on reaching our goal; we admired his blooms. After a fraught quarter of an hour crossing our final pasture which was flooded, we reached Sedbury Cliffs with its plaque set in stone and its views of the older Severn Bridge. Our picture was taken by a couple who were embarking on the morrow on a half-ODP to Knighton. They had come out to Sedbury to get their bearings and plan their embarkation. They were full of questions about blisters (they were underwhelmed by our combined tally of one), marauding cows, and flash floods. As they were not going as far as the Clwydian Hills, we reassured them of the benign nature of their proposed hike. We clean forgot to warn them to avoid all the pubs in Llangattock-Lingoed.

Journey's End - Sedbury Cliffs
Journey’s End – Sedbury Cliffs
Having reached our destination, we were in a rush! We performed a forced march back to the village of Sedbury to catch the C1 ‘bus to Chepstow where we transferred to the number 63 to Cwmbran via Usk. The Cwmbran ‘bus depot is part of a busy shopping centre. It was odd to be amidst a throng of busy people; we were also aware that shorts, walking boots and rucksacks made us somewhat conspicuous. We found the taxi rank and took the short journey to the Parkway Hotel, our quarters for the night. With its low profile brick facade and its manicured lawns, it gave the appearance of a crematorium, but it was welcoming and comfortable.
We woke on Sunday, 13th May, and swam in the tiny pool in the hotel’s leisure club. 63 lengths in 10 minutes – a personal best. We had what could be described as a continental breakfast as we couldn’t face another full English or full Welsh. Besides, without a decent hike, there was no excuse for caloring up.  We were picked up by Jonathon, one of Julia’s cousins, and joined the festivities to mark Aunty Joyce’s eightieth birthday in Croesyceiliog. Finally, we were taken to Cwmbran railway station and caught the train which, broadly speaking, retraced the steps of our walk. We changed at Crewe and arrived in Stoke-on-Trent bang on time. British public transport! I’m a real fan!