As first days go, that wasn’t too bad to be honest. As is traditional, they had saved a decent climb until right at the end (when your legs have had enough) but other than that it was OK.
Vegan whinge warning, I will be charitable and describe the breakfast as ‘underwhelming’. 2 hash browns, 2 vegan sausages, a thimble of baked beans and a fried tomato. £8 added to the bill. I asked about toast but they said they didn’t have any vegan bread. I’d requested a vegan breakfast three weeks earlier and there was a massive Tesco 100 yards away…
Roll out was just before 9 am and it was a perfect walking day. No rain, no wind, not too hot. I spoke to an elderly lady on the Common just above Chepstow who was coming the other way. She advised me to be careful for the next couple of miles as it was quite tricky. I have to say, I felt she had under estimated my way-finding and navigational skills.
It was only a minor diversion and didn’t cost me much time or energy to get back on track but it did make me laugh.
What seems to have happened is that I walked down a field edge, where I noticed a man training his dog. As I approached the gate I hadn’t taken notice of the waymarker arrow and after a quick glance at the map it looked like a left turn was required. I therefore turned left and quickly arrived at a familiar looking gate….
It would appear I had walked down a field on one side of a hedge and then gone through a gate and walked back up the field on the other side of the hedge. Fortunately, the man with the dog didn’t seem to notice so I think I got away with it.
About an hour of woodland walking followed which brought me to one of the highlights of the first day – the Devil’s Pulpit overlooking Tintern Abbey.
Legend has it that the devil stood on the spot and tried to talk the monks into leaving the service of God. Henry VIII took a more direct approach and shut the place down.
Jays and a Green Woodpecker added some welcome avian interest after leaving the woods. I couldn’t believe how quiet they had been.
A decision had to be made shortly afterwards as there was a River Wye option or a ‘more fields’ option. Thinking I might spot a Kingfisher or two I went for the river option.
It was pleasant enough and offered up a nice spot to stop for lunch. No interesting bird life to report though. I was, however, taken aback by how much Himalayan Balsam had taken hold – it was everywhere. People probably (and understandably) think it looks pretty!
After reaching Bigsweir the paths rejoined and there was some more pleasant woodland walking and then a sharp climb uphill. While leaning on a gate to regain my breath, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and there was a beautiful Treecreeper about 4 foot away. Thank God for profiterole vision!
Which reminds me, they’re looking to replace the fella who makes the giant éclairs at the local bakery. They’re big chouxs to fill though.
The track then dropped down to Redbrook and shortly afterwards began the cruel, final climb. At the top, Kymin, was an impressive naval memorial.
It was then just a case of dropping down into Monmouth. After checking in and having a shower I ventured out to find a pub Dave, one of my golf (and local quiz scene) buddies had recommended. Unfortunately, they hadn’t re-opened post lockdown so I went in a pub over the road…. the pub in Star Wars (and the Rock and Fountain in Shrewsbury) were brought to mind!
About the same distance to Pandy tomorrow but with less climbing. The Skirrid Inn, Wales’s oldest pub, has my reservation for dinner!