Newport- Chepstow- Symonds Yat- the Forest of Dean- Chepstow loop
(2 days- 67 miles)

Day 1- Newport- Chepstow- Symonds Yat (36 miles)

Google maps would have you cycle around the Newport marshes to get to Chepstow, a pleasant enough ride, but not a direct route. The easiest way to get to Chepstow from Newport is along the main trunk road, the A48. It has cycle paths along it, but in places, they are no better than riding across an allotment. It is a fast road, but with a good back day light, the cars stay clear of you. The most interesting archaeological curiosity along the route to chepstow is the Roman fort of Caerwent, just after, I headed through some lanes (part of the National cycle route 4) and back out onto the A48 to climb Pwllmeyric hill, not very long, but a ball breaker. I turned left at High Beech roundabout and headed for Chepstow racecourse, from St Arvans, it’s downhill to Tintern Abbey, the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales. I stopped and had a latté at the coffee shop, coupled with fantastic views National cycle route 42 of the Abbey and a backdrop of dense deep green trees. I visualized the day when the full Wye Valley Railway trail opens, which will be part of the National cycle route 42. Sustrans already own the track bed, but the project has met with tremendous local opposition against turning the track bed into a cycle path/ walkway.

Crossing the River Wye from Tintern tunnel Looking at the Google satellite images, the line pass’s the National dive centre at Tidenham, I’m sure for a small charge they wouldn’t mind people parking there to start the ride. From here you would go through Tidenham tunnel then into the Wye Valley, the track runs along the River Wye, and then through the Tintern tunnel, a new bridge would have to be built to cross the Wye at Lynweir Grove into Tintern Station.

Unfortunately the cycle trail doesn’t exist yet, so I had to join the old railway bed at Tintern station. After a walk around the old station, I continued on, the track bed is un-surfaced and is quite muddy. The route follows the River Wye and in fairness is hard going with heavy panniers on. At Bigsweir it opens up and the path is firmer, but I had to go through a few gates and I’m not quite sure if I had the right to be there.

Redbrook viaduct After a few miles I reached the Redbrook viaduct, still standing but very decrepit, but before we get ahead of ourselves I had half a cider in the Boat Inn, a very old pub with real ales. From here I crossed the river on a relatively new footbridge and took to the main road to Monmouth. Near Monmouth, two railway bridges converged to enter Monmouth Troy station. Monmouth Troy Hill station is no longer there, the building was re-erected as Winchcombe Station on the Gloucestershire to Warwickshire Railway. I crossed the river into Monmouth for a coffee, after which I re-crossed the Wye bridge again and turned left into Hadnock road which leads onto the Ross on Wye railway trail. This is a dirt trail and is fine when I rode it in the summer, it has fantastic panoramic views and gorgeous thick canopies of trees, a lovely crystal clean river, and emerald green meadows filled with grazing cattle and sheep. The path follows the river Wye, there is another path on the other side of the river which ends at Biblins campsite, here there is a suspension footbridge that crosses the river, so you can ride on either side of the river up until here. It doesn’t take long before I reached Symonds Yat East, where I were due to camp. The price was cheap at £7 (without a car). There’s a few of B&B’s here and one pub and one hotel. The Royal Lodge Hotel owns the campsite and has a good discount if you camp and eat at the Lodge, something I took advantage of; the food and beer was to die for, absolutely superb.

A little worse with drink and with a full belly, I staggered back to the tent. I have to say, I had one of the worse night’s sleep I’d had for a long time. The site is next to the river and though ducks and swans are nice to see in the day and may be chuck bread at, in the night all they seemed to do was fight, it was deafening. Just when I nodded off, there seemed to be a hooting competition, bear in mind I was in a valley, and sound carried. I counted three owls in different directions, “hoo hoo too-Hoo, hoo hoo too-Hoo oooing” who could scream the longest and loudest. Then there was a blood curdling howl, sounding like a human baby undergoing some kind of physical torture as 'Basil Brush' the fox made his self known. I awoke in the morning bleary eyed, and glad it was over.

Day 2- Symonds Yat- The Forest of Dean- Chepstow (31 miles)

After the night from hell, I left the campsite and immediately had a puncher (which was no mean feat to repair when kitted up), heading for Goodrich Castle. The English heritage site has a nice cafe and visitor centre, I purchased a ticket (a bit pricey at £6.40) and had a mooch around the castle. Then I had breakfast at the visitor centre and moved on, crossed Kerne bridge over the river Wye and right onto the busy B4234, after a mile I turned left onto Cats hill which went up in to the clouds (not really but it felt like it) into the pretty Ruardean village, the views were commanding.

Aunt Martha's Victorian Tea Rooms On to the next village Nailbridge where I had a cup of tea at ‘Aunt Martha's Victorian Tea Rooms’, a period shop with outstanding selection of cakes. From here it’s downhill to Cinderford then onto the family cycle trail through the Royal Forest of Dean. It’s back onto the roads at Parkend heading towards Bream. This was another back breaking hill all the way into Bream. Then true to British summertime, the heavens opened up as I headed for St Briavels Castle. When I got there, it looked like the Frankenstein’s Castle in the rain (I had to photoshop the image as the real image was crap). I was hoping to catch a coffee, but the hostel was shut, so it was on to Chepstow. The rain stopped and the sun came out again, I stopped at Wintours Leap, a favourite place for climbers with magnificent views of the river Wye. On the road back to Chepstow, I believe I crossed over the top of Tidenham tunnel, downhill through a series of sharp bends. I stopped on Tuttshill to admire Chepstow castle then continued over Chepstow bridge.

To be honest, I’d had enough by this time and headed straight for the station to catch the train home. It was a good weekend, but today hadn’t been the best, the combination of booze, no sleep, and soaked through to the skin, took the edge off it, but I would do it again and as I say with most of the rides; when the Sustrans cycle route is open, I’ll jump at the chance to do it again.

  • Gallery

    gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • Roman Caerwent

    Roman Caerwent Caerwent is reputed to be one of the most outstanding Roman sites in Britain. Although today a large amount of earlier excavations have been back-filled, there is still much to interest the visitor. Walking along the main street from west to east, the first site is that of some excavated shops in Pound Lane.

  • 'Say Yes’ campaign

    Say yes In 2010 Tidenham Parish Council rejected the Sustrans planning application to create a new cycle path on the former Wye valley railway. The opponents fear an onslaught of tourists, claiming the lanes are not big enough, there is not enough parking, and driving there in itself is ecologically flawed. I counted twenty seven separate places to stay the night, including hotels, B&B’s, guesthouses, holiday cottages, and Inns (not including Chepstow or Monmouth at either end). There are six pubs, five coffee shops, craft shops, galleries, and visitor centres, all in the heart of the Wye Valley. Walkers, climbers, cavers, divers, quad bikers, horse riders, are welcomed, but in Tidenham Parrish’s own words, ‘there are no recognised cycle paths in the parish.’ There was even a society set up to return the railway track back to a heritage railway, I’m absolutely for this, but a cycle trail would only enhance that project, not diminish it.
    My point is; the infra structure already supports an estimated two million tourists visiting the Wye Valley every year, how many cyclists do they think are going to come?
    The South Wales Argus reported, “the charity behind the proposed scheme........... has said the ‘door is open’ for the project, more than three years after it was put on hold” (South Wales Argus 2014). Yet, despite all the bills, papers, reports, and consultations, it appears not much is happening. It’s a shame really.

  • Angry birds

    Angry birds Birds have different needs for territory and individual space, but when they feel that space invaded or disrupted, they can become very angry. They may be territorial about a particular area, and they will express anger to protect it. Bloody things.

  • Ruardean bears

    A very camp French bear A notable event in Ruardean’s history occurred in 1889. Four Frenchmen and their two bears were making their way to the village, having performed in Cinderford. They were attacked by an angry mob, enraged by claims that the bears had killed a child and injured a woman. The bears were killed and the Frenchmen badly beaten. It soon became clear that the bears had not attacked anyone. Police proceedings followed and a week later 13 colliers and labourers appeared before magistrates at Littledean.

  • Old wood

    A very camp French bear Chepstow boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. All wood and all of 800 years old. Until 1962 these doors hung in the main gateway, but are now in safe keeping in the on-site exhibition. Let’s just say it would be nigh on impossible to find a replacement.

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