Yesterday was a good day for weather, so much so it almost caught me by surprise. I spent the morning doing bits and pieces and by lunchtime realised that the weather was still good if not particularly warm. So I decided to revisit the Wye Valley and stretch my legs a big further than I have recently. I settled on doing a classic walk that takes in a big riverbank section following the line of the old Wye Valley Railway followed by a section of the Offa’s Dyke pathway. Its only 8 miles in length but takes in some of the best views available in the Wye Valley and is always a pleasure.
Depending on what you want to do and in what order, there are several possible start/finish points (this is a circular walk). Some people start at Bigsweir bridge on the Welsh side as there is a side road for parking. Some people cross the river and then start up at the Coleford road carpark. Personally, I like to take the third option which is a start/finish point at the little village of Redbrook. Why this spot? Well, depending on what you fancy, Redbrook is home to 2 decent pubs, the best of which is The Boat Inn nestled on the Welsh side of the river. You can reach it by crossing the river by a small footbridge that abuts the old railway bridge which is still standing.
I find that finishing at the Boat Inn is great for two reasons. One, yes you guessed it, liquid refreshment but also secondly the view you get as you descend from the ridgeline back down into Redbrook.
So starting off, I passed The Boat Inn and proceeded to follow the track of the old railway line before descending onto the pathway that skirts along the riverbank proper. Normally I dont think twice about this route but today I wondered if it was going to be boggy because of the recent rain. I decided it was worth the risk as the river views are stunning.
However, I did soon run into marshy sections but shrugging my shoulders I merely ploughed straight through them. Still, the sun was trying to peep through the clouds and it there were plenty of swans and Herons to marvel at whilst squelching through the swampy pathway. Eventually even this pathway migrates back onto the track bed of the old railway. Continuing on this I happened to bump into an old work colleague whom I hadn’t seen for over 4 years. He was going in the opposite direction heading for, you guessed it, the Boat Inn. Seems that he remembered my recommendations about the place from years back and decided on this day to actually seek it out. Bizarre… 🙂
The last mini-section of this part of the walk does revert to a country road but still the views are gorgeous and the bridge at Bigsweir is a lovely spot to aim for. Just before I crossed the iron bridge at Bigsweir, I paused to look at the old toll house (recently renovated) and hopped down the steps to go behind it. There in the grass, which you wouldn’t spot from more than a few feet away, is a relic of world war 2.
The lookout bunker buried in the ground is still intact and you can go inside it, although I declined on this occasion! After that short history interlude I crossed the bridge stopping to take in the river views. I continued across the bridge and took the right hand fork in the road which climbed steadily until I reached the edge of the woods.
From here, there are various signposts directing you to follow Offa’s Dyke footpath. Some of the footpath follows the line of the dyke, some slightly below and some actually on the line of. Today the pathway was largely deserted which made the walk very self-absorbing. Having said that there were enough muddy patches to amke me take notice and care of where I was placing my feet. I found that the Fizan poles I recently bought were very useful for this section of the walk, although I will review their performance in another post at a later date. The good bit about this section is that the pathway is undulating, and crossed varied terrain from pastures to woods to scrub and back again.
I finally made it to the highest point on the walk just before the final steep descent back into Redbrook. At this point, as I made my way down the slope, a fallow deer crashed through the undergrowth not 5 feet away from me. I am not sure who was more scared, him or me but he was a big brute and I was definitely glad he bounded away without colliding with me! Once past the last of the woods, the slope opens out to give stunning views of the Wye and Redbrook village.
By this time it was getting late and although I had promised myself a pint, I decided to get in my car and head back home. I made up for the lost pint with a few at my local with some friends in the evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed the short walk and it felt good to really stretch my legs and also get a chance to test out the Fizan poles. The Wye Valley isnt generally challenging or wild but it does have a charm all of its own. And next time I will have that pint!