The Wye Valley Walk around Chepstow is beautiful. If it was good enough for Wordsworth, Coleridge and Turner it is good enough for us. All created wonderful works in the Lower Wye Valley.
The Wye Valley Walk follows the 136 mile long course of the River Wye from its’ mouth and confluence with the River Severn at Chepstow to the place of its’ source at Plynlimon in North Wales. It crosses five Counties and a wide variety of scenery including densely wooded gorges, riverside meadows, broadleaved woodlands, orchards, arable fields, hills, mountains and open moorland. The full walk should take approximately 12 days for the average walker and will take you from Chepstow through Tintern, Monmouth, Ross-on-Wye, Hereford, Builth Wells, Rhayader and on to Plynlimon. On the way you can look out for bats, buzzards, peregrine falcons and red kites.
Here at the Greenman Backpackers we have detailed first-hand knowledge of the first leg of the Wye Valley Walk and we suggest two possible approaches. There is a circular three hour walk beginning and ending in Chepstow and then there is another longer walk to Tintern which ca end in Chepstow or carrying on further up the Wye and beyond.
This walk is generally on level terrain and we would describe it as “easy”. Leave the Greenman Backpackers and walk up Bank Street to the Town Gate. Through the Gate turn right into Welsh Street. Follow the road and half a mile later go past both entrances to Chepstow School and Leisure Centre on the right-hand side. One hundred yards past the second entrance up a slight slope and marked “Footpath” is a doorway in the stone wall. Go through it and follow the path to a cattle grid which gets you on to the back of Chepstow Racecourse. Follow the line of the race track and make your way to the derelict but beautiful Piercefield House, known locally as “The Mansion”. The original building was built in the 1630’s but was bought by the wealthy Valentine Morris in 1753. The landscaping followed as did major alteration and neo classical additions to the existing building designed by John Stone. The Doric portico and wings were further later additions.
In 1861 it was sold to the Clay family and the writer’s family came from Ireland to enter into Service there. In 1926 it was sold for a considerable sum to the newly formed Chepstow Racecourse Company (four of its Directors were Clays!). Sadly, the decline of this lovely now Grade 2 Star Listed building began and this was exacerbated in WW2 when American soldiers were billeted on the land surrounding the Mansion and used it for target practice. Look and you will see bullet holes and shell damage.
The Piercefield Walks were declared a Nature Reserve when re opened in 1970. There have been many abandoned plans to restore the building and grounds as a golf course, as a conference centre, to name a few. It currently rests in private ownership and its decay is accelerating with the large stable block virtually gone.
Pass the Mansion and go over the style in to the wood. Shortly afterward the path splits to the left and right. Go right and look down 180 foot to Horseshoe Bend. This is a world famous incised meander. At the right time of year, you can also see the remains of the twelfth century St John’s Chapel across the River at Lancaut. This may have been the site of a leper colony!
Following the path through the woodland you are taken to the right and will discover the Grotto that was put there by Valentine Morris. Go in, look around and you will see quartz crystals, iron cinders and copper embedded in the stone work.
The path now takes the walker past the one hundred and eighty foot drop into the River known as “Lovers Leap”. Morris once fell off it and his life was saved by a tree!
And now the most wonderful thing. The path finds its’ way to “the Lookout”. This is an ideal place to stop for a cup of tea and a sandwich while you take in the view.
The path now climbs some wooden steps and brings the walker to a left hand turn in to a fenced walkway at the back of Chepstow School and in to their car park. To the left you will see that the whole path is parallel to a massive badger community. The evidence of this is under the fence itself.
In the car park you can read the Wye Valley Walk Information Board. You can return to the Greenman Backpackers by crossing the car park, turning left and walking down the hill.
There are some steeper parts to this walk and depending upon how the walker decides to use it for their own wishes, it could take up to a full day.
Begin as suggestion 1, but turn right at the first School/Leisure Centre entrance. Go straight across the car park and see the Information Board referred to above. Follow the path, this time with the badger colony on the right-hand side. Drop down the wooden steps to the Lookout. Then follow the path to the Grotto. Carry on to the point where the path either carries on or turns to the left to the Mansion. We suggest that the walker takes a brief diversion here and goes to look at the building. It is worth it.
Then follow the original path which runs quite close to the entrance to the Otter Hole Cave System. The walk moves on to Wyndcliffe, with beautiful views from the Eagles Nest and the 365 steps. From there it is on to Tintern. As an add on, some folk might choose to walk through the village and then follow the river from the church to Brockweir (check out the steep slope on the Brockwier Village side of the bridge) and then walk back along the old Wye Valley Railway Line to the Tintern picnic station.
If you are continuing onward we wish you a pleasant journey and if we can help with your onward journey, we will try. If you are returning to the Greenman Backpackers here in Chepstow it’s either back the way you came or back along the A466. There is regular bus service.