The weather has been erm…challenging…so I havent been planning any grand expeditions recently. The order of the day has been shorter and and much more local walks recently. To that end, Sunday looked likely to have a reasonable weather forecast but still with showers around, so I picked the Wye Valley. Growing up in the area I now live in, I was privileged to have close access to not one but two great walking areas. The Brecon Beacons are my favourite but a close second is the Wye Valley.
The main Wye Valley is bounded by the Forest of Dean to the east and Usk Valley to the west, with Chepstow to the south and the main “terminus” north being Monmouth. The Wye river stretches further north of course but the area encompassed by the above description is a concentrated area of superb walks. Within this area there are steep wooded valleys, ruined abbeys and churches, significant visible sections of Offa’s Dyke, pretty villages, fantastic pubs, hundreds of miles of tracks and of course the broad river Wye itself.
So on Sunday I decided to take the kids and head to a bit of a honey pot for tourists, but still a cracking area, Tintern. This little village is of course home to the famous Tintern Abbey but today we walked past this monument and headed across the river. On the far bank of the river Wye by Tintern, is the trackbed to the old Wye Valley railway. Whilst trains have stopped running here long ago, the trackbed forms a great walkway for exploring with the kids.
The trackway today was especially muddy but we didnt care. It felt great just to be out in the fresh air and not be cowering under umbrellas. We decided on sticking to the railway trackbed rather than heading up into the woods and attempting to find the Devil’s pulpit! We walked for a couple of miles taking in the abandoned railway tunnel before heading back to the bridge. To say we were muddy footed is a bit of an understatement 🙂
Because the afternoon was still fine, we decided to go up the wooded slope across from the abbey to visit another little ruin, The church of St Mary. This ruin is very easy to miss from the road but is well worth a visit.
The church is a ruin because in 1977 it was partly destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt. The main roof was consumed by the flames but the tower and retaining walls are largely intact. The graveyard is overgrown but apparently not completely abandoned!
There is a sign advising you not to look inside the church but of course that’s a red rag to a bull 🙂 Peering into the interior, its amazing what 30 years of exposure to the elements does to a building. The stone floor is mostly covered in muck, moss and saplings. So much so it looks like a miniature wood.
It is an amazing snapshot in the “evolution” of a ruin. We are used to seeing ruins but not necessarily watching them being created. I havent got any photographs of the church at the time of the fire sadly but can remember it happening. Therefore watching it slowly crumble in on itself is like seeing history happening in a way.
After wandering around the ruins for a little while it was time to make our way back to the abbey and a well earned ice cream. As we drove off, the by now expected rain began to fall again. Still, in the afternoon we had managed a couple of short walks and a mooch around a fabulously atmospheric ruin.