Every year in September, members of the Titchmarsh Walking Group head off for their annual weekend away. This year’s destination was Chepstow in Monmouthshire. Nestled on the banks of the River Wye, the old market town is a place steeped in history and natural beauty. Its most iconic landmark is Chepstow Castle, a medieval masterpiece that stands as a testament to the town’s rich heritage. Built in the 11th century, this formidable fortress remains the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.
Beyond its historical significance, Chepstow is a gateway to the stunning Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town serves as an ideal starting point for exploring the lush landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and enchanting woodlands that characterise this region. So it was that on Saturday morning, a very jolly group of walkers set off across the old iron bridge which connects Chepstow to Gloucestershire on the opposite bank of the Wye. Their destination: Tintern and the site of Tintern Abbey.
Walking from Chepstow to Tintern, the route meanders through rolling hills, ancient woodlands, and picturesque villages. At various points along the way, the group were treated to spectacular views across the valley. Rising around 100 meters above the River Wye, Wintour’s Leap was just one of many notable stopping points. The site is said to have taken its name from Sir John Wintour who, in 1642, is alleged to have galloped over the top of these precipitous cliffs in a bid to escape from the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. According to local myth Wintour survived the leap, landing safely in the Wye below, before swimming to safety in the nearby Chepstow Castle. What happened to his poor horse is less certain!
Despite many steep inclines and descents, much of the route towards Tintern took the group along the relatively level course of the old Great Western Railway (GWR) track bed. Today, while many of its tracks have been reclaimed by nature, the remnants of this railway tell a story of innovation and progress. The rusty tracks, overgrown with moss and ferns are much in evidence, creating a unique blend of man-made infrastructure and natural beauty. The many bridges and tunnels, though worn by time, still stand as a testament to the engineering marvels of their day.
The impressive civil engineering of GWR isn’t the only mark left by man on the landscape. Walking in the borderlands between England and Wales, at some point you will inevitably encounter the remains of Offa’s Dyke. This large linear earthwork is named after Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction in the 8th century. It ran from the River Dee estuary in the north all the way to the Wye estuary in the south. What’s amazing is that even after 1,200 years, it is still possible to identify the structure as it traverses the land.
After 7 miles the walkers finally reached Tintern. Here a well-earned lunch was in order at the Wild Hare Inn overlooking the gothic abbey. After refuelling it was time for the return leg to Chepstow, this time on the opposite side of the Wye.
It was an afternoon of many more ups and downs as the occasionally precipitous route tested the groups fitness and supply of jelly babies. The intermittent drizzle also made things slippery under foot at times. Even so, Titchmartian spirits remained predictably high – especially as the promise of a shower/bath and a curry were on offer at the end of the walk.
In total the loop from Chepstow to Tintern and back was 14.5 miles.
A much shorter outing of around 9 miles took place on Sunday – before another large lunch. After which it was time for goodbyes as most of the group headed off home to Titchmarsh.
It had been another fine walking weekend (to add to a seemingly endless list of similar annual outings). Special thanks to Di and Derek Ellis, and Kate and Jim Moules for organising this year’s event. A lot of work goes into pulling these things together – not only planning the walks, but also arranging all of the meals and food orders to feed the hungry walkers!
The Titchmarsh Walking Group remains one of the most social gatherings in the village. It encompasses walkers of all ages and abilities. Walks are held on the first Saturday of every month and typically cover a distance of 4 – 5 miles followed by a pub lunch! Occasional “Full Moon” evening walks are also arranged.
Everyone is welcome. For more details please contact Maggy Chapman.
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