Wye Valley Way – Part 1

Two old ladies take on the challenge of 135 mile trek from Chepstow to Plynlimon
Why? Jenni  just happened to say she fancied doing the Wye Valley Way as she lives near Hay on Wye and enjoys walking that stretch. I have done 3 charity treks of various lengths walking up to 5 days continuously – Venezuela/ Cuba/ Mount Etna – but never a 15-day long walk.

Jenni & Jackie starting off So, I got the guide and we met up in the New Year to decide where the overnight stops should be. Organised B&B accommodation via the internet – this took some searching to find places in the right stop-off points at affordable prices.

January – May was spent training. We needed to walk an average of 9 miles a day every day, occasionally a shorter distance of 5 miles, and make sure our boots fitted well. The first time I wore them again after a break, I found all the places where blisters would start. The seam down the centre back was a problem so a strip of padded moleskin made all the difference.

Day 1: Chepstow to Llandogo
What a hard day! Started at 10.00 am with a climb and went on from there – every time we started a new page of the guide it said “after a steep flight of steps …”.

Disappointed it was so cold and wet when we reached Tintern Abbey, but  the woodland we walked through was magnificent – lime trees, beech woods, traditional British forest all carpeted in a fantastic violet-blue haze of bluebells (late this year due to the cold winter). There were wonderful shades of pale lime green through to deeper olive greens in the forest canopy and weird contorted tree trunks creeping and curling around each other.

Wild garlic We decided the official guide is excellent. We reached the bottom of a slope into a fantastic patch of wild garlic before crossing a field “keeping to the right of the half a telegraph pole we can see in the middle of the field..” as instructed. There is an official card you have stamped at all the main stops along the way, then a certificate of achievement they send afterwards – proof you did it!

Day 2-3: Llandogo to Symonds Yat East
The landlady said we looked in better nick than most by the time they got to her so we must be professional walkers! Unfortunately, this meant she sent us on the “challenging” route back up to the path. It was a hard start to the day as the climb up to the ridge felt like it was nearly vertical at times, along a tarmac lane for at least a mile. But, once up there it was beautiful woodland, bluebells and wild garlic everywhere with dappled light shining through.

We joined the old rail track to Redbrook and on to Monmouth alongside the river. A nice young man generously used his phone to help us find the B&B, and the landlady sent her husband to meet us so that we wouldn’t get lost. From Monmouth it is a lovely stretch along the river, then across Biblins Bridge to join a long flat stretch of railway track to Symonds Yat East.

Day 4: Symonds Yat to Ross on Wye – a BAD day!
The weather was fine, but today was all climbing with some very difficult stretches. We missed a turning along the track from Symonds Yat so did at least 1 mile detour all round, but did see a fantastic carpet of dense blue bluebells in the woods.

ABluebell woods fter the long curve of riverbank at Welsh Bicknor, we finally crossed the river at Kerne Bridge. There is a steep climb from the village then downhill, through woods and fields, onto the road at Coughton and eventually a hard climb up Chase Hill. We finally got to Ross at 7.30pm after a 9 hour day so were glad to fall into bed.

All hills from now on are judged by this one – REALLY hard going!

Day 5-6: Ross on Wye to Hereford – now done 50 miles!
This was a long trek to Fownhope – 11.5 miles – but for some reason we seemed to make excellent time. We stopped in fields alongside the river, enjoying the sunshine and view of Foy Church on the opposite bank. On to Hereford the next day, it was much easier, mostly flat, including 2 pub stops on the way. In Mordiford, we arrived before the Moon Inn was open (to get our card stamped) but they did serve us coffee outside in the sunshine.

Day 7: Hereford to Monnington
Another long day and we did really well until we reached the apple orchards. Where the guide said the track doglegged, Bulmers had planted new areas but not put signs up to show the route through. We had to work through 3 options before we got onto the right path, and basically followed our instincts to walk in the general direction of the river and on to Monnington.

Day 8: Monnington to Hay on Wye
Another hard slog up the road to reach Merbach Common with fantastic views over 11 counties (according to the book). We rested at the top then followed the ‘sunken lanes’ -rocky, hard, often muddy steep stretches that kill the ankles and knees. Avoiding the cows near the golf course, we finally reached Hay on Wye and met up with partners for the night. Half way through our walk and tired but still enjoying the challenge. The final stretch is still to come – hard walking and two 12 mile sections to trek.

For guided and independent walking holidays, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Ramblers Walking Holidays.

•  Read Wye Valley Way – Part 2

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