Thursday – Aberdulais – This village lies in the Vale of Neath, Cwm Nedd. The River Dulais rises up on Mynydd y Drum and joins the River Neath after flowing over Aberdulais Falls. The falls are the site of a succession of industries, first copper smelting using Cornish ore, then an ironworks, cornmill and finally a tinplate works. It is now owned by the National Trust. The ruins of the tinplate works are still here. From the road one passes the old school house, which are tea-rooms being refurbished after flooding. The visitor centre is modern. The works stand on a small area between the river and waterfalls and the high cliffs of the gorge carved by the river cutting through Brithdir Member, Sandstone. This sedimentary Bedrock formed approximately 308 to 310 million years ago in the Carboniferous Period. The tall chimney of the annealing furnaces is still here along with some walls of those furnaces. The reheating furnaces and tinning works are largely gone. The rolling stands were beside a large overshot waterwheel which is sometimes operated to produce electricity. The waterfalls, although not high, are spectacular as the river plunges over a weir then down through rocks and under the remains of a tramway bridge.
Workings at the site started in 1584 when a German engineer named Ulrich Frosse designed a new method of smelting copper to turn into coinage. Elizabeth I needed money to fight the Spanish and approved Fosse’s plans but wanted the process to remain secret. Thus he set up here in a secluded Welsh valley that had wood and water. In 1831 local businessman William Llewellyn established the Aberdulais Tinplate Company, one of the first tinplate works where iron ingots were rolled into flat plates and where the rollers were power-driven, in this case by a waterwheel. Previously, the red-hot iron ingots were beaten out by hand with hammers until a sheet of plate was formed which was before coating them in Cornish tin. The industry foundered when the US imposed heavy tariffs on Welsh tinplate in 1891.
Neath Abbey – Disappointingly the abbey grounds are locked despite information that they should be open with restricted access. The abbey was founded as a daughter house of Savigny in 1129 AD when Richard de Grenville, one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, donated 8,000 acres of his estate. It was absorbed into the Cistercian order in 1147. The abbey was ravaged by the Welsh uprisings of the 13th century. During the Dissolution the last abbot, Lleision ap Thomas, managed to buy time through payment of a large fine in 1536, but the abbey was dissolved in 1539. The abbey was turned then into a large estate, initially granted to Richard Williams, but by 1600 it was owned by Sir John Herbert, and had a substantial Tudor mansion occupying a part of the cloisters. The mansion itself was only habitable for 100 years or so, before being abandoned as by 1730 some of the buildings were being used for copper smelting, and the rest were abandoned. In the late 18th century, an iron foundry had been established nearby by a company owned by the Price, Fox and Tregelles families. The ruined walls of both the Abbey and later mansion were gradually engulfed in quantities of industrial waste. The ownership of the site passed to the Rice family, Barons Dynevor, and it was in the 1920s, under Walter FitzUryan Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor that a local group of amateur archaeologists removed by hand 7000 tons of slag and other industrial waste to uncover the abbey ruins. The archaeology of the abbey was eventually excavated between 1924 and 1935.
Swansea, Abertawe – We are staying near the main station. Down Stryd Fawr, High Street. This end is rather depressing with tired or empty buildings although one large block is undergoing renovation and others are making an effort. The King’s Arms pubs is early to mid 19th century in a Georgian style. The Palace Theatre, now a bookies, was built in 1888 by Bucknall and Jennings, architects of Swansea. It opened as Swansea Pavilion and later The Empire Music Hall and was converted to cinema 1908 (People’s Bioscope Palace). It has a fine elevation of parapets, frieze and Doric pilasters. The United Reform church is set back between two high blocks. Originally the Baptist Chapel of 1698, rebuilt 1840 (partly shown on Tithe Map 2nd October 1843).
Down to the castle which now stands in a busy area of town. It is difficult to envisage that the castle stood on a cliff top overlooking the River Tawe below. The Norman castle was first mentioned in 1116 as being attacked by the Welsh. It was established Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick, as the seat of administration of the Marcher lordship of Gower, which his friend Henry I had bestowed on him in about 1106. This timber castle had a motte and bailey of which nothing remains above ground. The west side of its deep ditch has been excavated to the north of the present remains. It was rebuilt in stone on the same site, probably after being razed by the Welsh in 1217. Again, nothing remains above ground of this, the “Old Castle”, but excavations have revealed the west side of the curtain wall and a mural tower. To the south-west was a large roughly rectangular outer bailey walled in stone erected late in the 13th century. The “New Castle”, of which the present day remains were part, dates from the late 13th to early 14th century, and lay in its south-east corner, on the site of an earlier graveyard. However, by this time Edward I’s pacification of Wales had deprived it of any military importance but it continued as an administrative centre. King John had granted the Lordship of Gower to William de Braose in 1203. However, de Braose fell out with John and fled abroad and the castle was confiscated by the king. On William’s behalf Rhys Gryg, son of The Lord Rhys, attacked Swansea Castle in 1212. John’s death in 1216 and the subsequently policies of reconciliation pursued by Henry III and his regent, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, led to de Braose returning his loyalty to the Crown. However, this change of allegiance prompted yet another attack on Swansea in 1217 by Rhys Gryg. The de Braose family recovered control of the Lordship of Gower in 1220 and they rebuilt much of the fortress in stone. In the late 13th century the castle had become a comfortable residence but it retained functional defences and in 1287 successfully repelled an attack by Rhys ap Maredudd although the town itself, and nearby Oystermouth Castle, were sacked. Rhys was later captured and held at Swansea prior to his execution. By now the de Braose’s preferred to live at Oystermouth Castle, and stripped of their usefulness, the various gates and towers of the bailey were sold off in the early 14th century. Owain Glyndŵr’s forces overran the Gower peninsula between 1403 and 1405 but Swansea Castle seemingly was not attacked. The rebellion was suppressed by 1410 but Swansea Castle continued to be maintained by the then owners, the Herbert family, but by the Civil War, the castle was in a poor state. Its final role was as a drill hall for local militia and a debtors prison until the mid 19th century. The present day remains consist of the north and south blocks. They were probably built by William de Braose III and were connected by a short stretch of much-altered curtain wall. The curtain wall originally continued up Castle Bailey Street on the west, and west from the north block to enclose a roughly rectangular area, with an entrance on the west side. The well-preserved south block was almost certainly the work of Henry de Gower, bishop of St Davids (1328-47), and recalls similar features in his palaces at Lamphey and St Davids itself. Swansea may thus have served as an episcopal palace for some time. However, some authorities now believe it is the work of the de Mowbray, lord of Gower, using the bishop’s masons, employed at that time elsewhere in Swansea.
Into Wind Street. It is likely that Swansea was established as a trading post by the Vikings. The name Sweynsey is similar to other Norse place-names around Wales. Wind Street dates from early times. At the southern end of Wind Street was a stream, the Cadle, and beyond that an area of dunes and marshland running down to the bay. Just beyond the end of Wind Street was the ferry crossing to the east bank of the river, and to Neath beyond. Its curve would have followed the original course of the Tawe which was straightened by the Victorians. It is now a street of Georgian buildings, many formerly banks, now almost all bars and restaurants. There is a traffic island at the top of the street which looks to be on the site of a building, Island House and later a statue of the 1st Lord Swansea. No Sign bar was a wine merchants recorded in 1743 and was the prototype for the Wine Vaults in Dylan Thomas’ short story The Followers. The Labour Club was formerly the offices of the Midland railway. A fight once broke out between an American boxer and an Australian sergeant during World War Two over alcohol. An American man called Rocco “Rocky” Marciano fought with the Aussie at the Adelphi, 18-19 Wind Street, after he allegedly made fun of Rocky for not drinking alcohol. Rocky becoming heavyweight champion for four years in the 1950s. At the foot of the street is the busy A4067, Oystermouth Road. The railway ran past here becoming the GWR South Dock Branch. Beyond is the former Offices of Associated British Ports Formerly Swansea Harbour Trust, now a hotel. Dated 1902, opened 1903. Designed by Edwin Seward, architect of Cardiff. It is in the English Baroque with some Art Nouveau details. Back into the city centre up Princess Street past St Mary’s church. The area is now a modern shopping centre with a few older buildings.
Friday – Mumbles – We head west around the Swansea Bay to Oystermouth. The name of this village is a corruption of the Welsh name Ystum Llwynarth or Ystumllwynarth. There has been a human presence here for millennia, a Bronze Age trackway has been found on the foreshore. Roman tesserae have been found in the church graveyard. The village probably grew when the castle was built on the hill above. The builder was presumably William de Londres (died 1231), as his son Maurice de Londres is recorded as lord of Oystermouth in 1151 when he granted the advowson of the church to Ewenny Priory. Oystermouth was held by the de Braoses up to Alina, the last of the line, and then by her son John Mowbray and his descendants, apart from a hiatus in the second half of the 14th century when the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick were lords of Glamorgan. The oyster trade was a mainstay from mediaeval times but it started to decline from the 1870s and a virulent virus wiped it out completely in 1920. Quarrying of limestone was also an important industry. The village became popular as a tourist destination in the Victorian era. The Swansea and Mumbles Railway was built under an Act of Parliament of 1804 to move limestone from the quarries of Mumbles to Swansea and to the markets beyond. It carried the world’s first fare-paying railway passengers under an agreement effective from 25th March 1807. It later moved from horse power to steam locomotion, and was finally converted to electric power, using the largest tram cars ever built for service in Britain, before closing in January 1960, in favour of motor buses.
We walk down the Mumbles Road, a mixture of modern and older properties. A plain chapel with a plaque stating, “Mount Sion 1850” is marked on the old OS map as the “Christadelphian Synagogue” and is still a Christadelphian meeting hall. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel is a grand affair dated 1877. It was built in a mixture of Romanesque and French Gothic styles by A Totten. Steps rise through a cast iron arch to the church of All Saints.
The first record of a church here is in 1141. As mentioned above, it is thought to be on the site of Roman remains, probably a villa. In 1800 it was recorded as having a chancel, nave, western tower and porch. The windows were perpendicular. An eastern gallery was added around 1820 and a western one some 15 years later. Later a northern aisle and new porch were added. In 1873 R K Penson added an organ chamber and vestry. In 1915 the north aisle was demolished and L W Barnard of Cheltenham erected a new church where the original nave became the south aisle and chancel became the Lady Chapel. There is a service in the Lady Chapel. The best part of the rest of the church is the glass. In the south aisle aisle are windows with allegorical scenes by Curtis, Ward & Hughes of London, dated 1903, and by Joseph Bell, dated 1880. In the north aisle are 3 similar traditional-style windows from about 1915, including the Bible story of the loaves and fishes to commemorate the loss of the Mumbles lifeboat in 1903, and Christ walking on water, with a lifeboat below, commemorating the loss of the lifeboat in 1883. Post-war glass is mostly by Tim Smith: In the north aisle is a large representation of the lifeboat and crew dated 1977, and a Remembrance Window of 1989. In the south aisle is commemorative glass entitled “Adoration of Our Senses” dated 1986. A window dedicated to the Mumbles Railway dated 1982 is in the west wall of the north aisle.
A large cinema building, the Tivoli, in the Art Deco style is now shops. Past tennis courts and a bowling green with a pretty little summerhouse. We turn down to the seafront. There are plenty of people walking in the pleasant sunshine. There a beautiful views across the very calm sea from here round through Swansea to Port Talbot. A great many boats are stored in compounds along beside the promenade. At Knab Rock are cliffs of Carboniferous limestone. A little further on are the old and modern lifeboat stations. At the end of the road are the terminus station of the railway, now a restaurant and Mumbles Pier, currently undergoing repair. Mumbles Head consists of two islands separated by the Outer Sound, the Middle Head separated from the mainland by the Inner Sound. On the Head is a lighthouse. The listing states that a light was established here by Act of Parliament in 1791, but the first lighthouse, designed by the harbour surveyor, collapsed before completion, and in 1793, William Jernegan, architect, of Swansea, was appointed to design a replacement for the Harbour Trustees. Originally using two coal-fired lights, the lighthouse was converted to a single oil-lit lantern in 1798. In 1834 the lighthouse was taken over by Trinity House, and at some time the lantern was replaced, possibly in 1860, by a dioptric light in a 10-sided lantern. In 1905, a new occulting light was fitted and a new optic was installed in 1972. New railings (based on an earlier design) were also fitted. In 1995 the lighthouse was converted to solar power operation, with solar module arrays being mounted in frames on the adjacent battery roof. Around the lighthouse are gun emplacements erected in the WWII to house 4.7 inch guns.
There are only a few gulls present at sea. A single Turnstone flies along the shore and starts searching the rocks. A dead Cod lies on a beach and is being pecked at by a Carrion Crow who is very nervous of the advancing sea.
Swansea – We return to the city and head across the Oystermouth Road towards the dock area. Past the Dock office. On the other side of Somerset Place is a terrace of late Georgian houses. Down the road is the former Guildhall. The first Guildhall was built 1825-29 by Thomas Bowen, a local builder, to designs by Gloucester architect John Collingwood, It was enlarged and entirely remodelled 1848-52 by William Richards of Swansea to plans by London architect There were later extensions, and alterations and the interior was remodelled (partly by C J Phipps of London, 1870). It ceased use as Guildhall in 1934 and later was an annexe to Dynevor Comprehensive School. It is now the Dylan Thomas Centre. The style is Roman Classicism using Corinthian order, the capitals being modelled on Temple of Jupiter Stator in Rome. We turn into East Burrows Road and then along the Half Tide Basin, now a marina to St Nicholas church. It was a seamen’s church, designed in the Late Romanesque by B Bucknall, architect of Swansea, opening in 1868. It is now an arts centre. Opposite is the Pump House, dated “SHT 1900”, restored and altered 1985 and now a pub. Gloucester Place contains a fine terrace of early to mid 19th century house, restored in the late 20th century. Past the Swansea Tramway museum which sadly is closed today, to the large Maritime and Industrial Museum housed in a former industrial building from the turn of the 20th century and recently converted. It houses a fascinating collection of artefacts detailing the industrial history of the city. Along Burrows Place to the Swansea Museum housed in the former Royal Institution of South Wales, built by William Rayner to the Greek revival designs of Liverpool architect F Long in 1839-41. Later additions include art gallery of 1901. Into Cambrian Place. The Exchange Chambers are dated 1913-14. Designed by Charles T Ruthen, architect of Swansea in Edwardian Classicism, they were built by Henry Billings and Sons, contractor. The Hotel de Paris formerly stood here. Down Cambrian Place are the early 20th century Pembroke Buildings also in Edwardian Classicism, the Georgian Assembly Rooms, designed by William Jernegan and a terrace of three storey Georgian houses restored in the 1980s. We then finish in The Queen’s Hotel, a fine pub which used to occupy the other end of the block, moving here in 1892.
Saturday – Swansea – The top storey of the High Street car park overlooks industrial buildings. In the mid 19th century the GWR North Dock Branch ran below and the buildings are on the Coal Wharf. We leave Swansea and head home. We pass through Penderyn where there is a distillery. Out onto moorland. A grey ghost flies across the moor, a male Hen Harrier, the first I have seen for many years. A Red Kite flies over shortly after. There are good numbers of wild ponies across the moors.
Sunday – Leominster – There is rain in the air. The sky is a uniform pale grey. Onto the footbridge over the railway. A hedgehog is curled up on the bridge. At first I assume it is dead then I can see it breathing so it is clearly alive. This is not a safe place for it, so the little thing needs moving. This is far from easy, those prickles hurt! I use my handkerchief to protect my hands as far as possible and take it down to the other side. I decide to put it at the base of a tree, covering it with leaves and hopefully it will be able to dig itself in tonight and make a safe winter’s hibernation nest for itself. The river is at about the same level as recent weeks. The rain grows heavier. There are a lot fewer vehicles in Brightwells’ compound. A squeaking Pied Wagtail flies over. The market is larger than one would expect given the weather. The auction hall is full so some are outside braving steady rain now. Through Bridge Street car park where a Blackbird is at the top of a tree devoid of leaves calling its alarm continuously, twitching its tail as it does so, although it is not clear what is upsetting it.
Friday – Leominster-Wellington – Storms and downpours are threatened but at the moment there is just a louring grey sky and an increasing wind. The Silver Birches along the railway, south of the station are a glorious golden vista. Across the A49 and along the old road. Goldfinches, Dunnocks and Blackbirds flit around heavily laden Hawthorns. Over Eaton Bridge. The River Lugg is moving slowly, small mats of leaves floating downstream. Onto the Stoke Prior road and past Eaton Farm and Eaton Hall. Blue Tits are at the top of a tree, swivelling their bodies this way and that. Jackdaws are everywhere, their population in England has increased from a low of around 700,000 in the 1970s to over 1.4 million now. Rooks and Carrion Crows pass over higher in the sky. The leaves of a Field Maple are a pure lemon yellow.
Into Stoke Prior. Sadly the pub has gone, now a residence. Up the hill past the great embankment built for the railway. The work that went into digging the soil and rock to build up the embankment must have been immense, although this is a minor railway feature in the scheme of things. Now it is all wasted. A new housing development is on the hill out of the village. One house is complete, in a mock Elizabethan style, and quite a decent one. But the houses will be at a premium price! Redwings pass over and another sits at the top of a tree, watching. Up to Hill Top farm. An apple tree on the edge of the farmyard is almost certainly a Howgate Wonder, the same as we have in the garden. Onto the Roman road to Gloucester. A flock of some seventy Fieldfares flies over. Heath House is a large farmhouse although the holding was relatively small, only 71 acres in the mid 19th century. On down the road where Witsetts was another farm house. The land here is formed by glacial deposits, called the Risbury Formations, from the Welsh icecap during the Middle Pleistocene, some 100,000 years ago. Now a flock of some twenty Redwings flies over. Another apple tree may be a Howgate Wonder, I am not sure, but the fruit is delicious whatever the variety! The trees in an orchard are laden with orange-red apples, a very late crop. White geese are grazing under the trees. Risbury Bridge crosses a brook. Nearby is Hollywell Croft. This suggests this stream is called Holly Brook, which is shown on the map as joining Humber Brook a short distance north of here. Beyond is a large mill pond on which are several Moorhens. Risbury Mill lays further back. It is an 18th century corn mill on an older site. A mill is recorded in Domesday; the manor was in the possession of Edwin though owned by Queen Edith, after the Conquest it was held by the King and in the possession of William d’Ecouis. The road climbs. Risbury Court, a mid 18th century farmhouse, lays below in the valley.
Upper House is a Georgian enlargement of an earlier house. The former roof line is on the end wall and the original, 17th century building still forms part of the other end. The earlier building was in stone the later in handmade brick. Another orchard still has plenty of apples on the trees and Starlings and Fieldfares are taking advantage. A bright orange “sheathing” is being laid under the edge of the road, it will carry a broadband fibre. At Butford Farm, a washing line carries a row of “cheese cloths”, the cloth that separates the layers of apple pulp in a cider press. The area is alive with Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Chaffinches and winter thrushes. Brick House Farm is now a riding school. Bowley Town consists of Bowley Court and a couple of cottages, one dated to the 17th century. A large mock Tudor house stands at the top of the drive to Broadfield vineyard. Dorlas Copse ends at Bowley, which is Bowley House and a few cottages. The road is descending into the Lugg valley. Bowley Cottage has a badly eroded plaque which seems to be dated 1876. Lower House is a much enlarged farmhouse. The next group of houses is the Isle of Rhea. The lane meets the A417 Gloucester road at Saffron Cross. An early 19th century toll cottage stands in one side the junction. Opposite is a petrol station and a large house, The Ketch House. Dating from the 17th century with 19th century alterations, it was formerly a cider house, kennels and stables. It has a Victorian postbox in the wall. Down a lane and towards the western part of Bodenham village. A hefty ram lies against a gate, chewing contentedly. Before the bridge over the Lugg, a lane runs south to join the Bodenham-Marden lane. A flock of over 100 Wood Pigeons flies over. Old orchards are by the road but it is unclear whether the apples are being harvested or not. In one there are sheep who will soon devour the crop.
The lane climbs a steep hill through Ashgrove Wood. Nuthatches whoop. It starts to rain. The lane drops again into Little Berrington. A lone Fieldfare seems to have lost its flock. It flies, seemingly laboriously, across open fields before alighting on the top of a small tree where it looks around. A Common Buzzard flies slowly over the top of Burling Coppice. Kingsfield Villa is a large house, built late in the 17th or early 18th century, and has been partly re-faced in brick. Through Burling Gate and into Marden. Brick House was built in the 16th or 17th century, but was largely rebuilt a century later. S&A’s Brook Farm, an extensive area of polytunnels, has a monumental entrance with a tall curving brick wall and huge black iron gates. The resemblance to a concentration camp is unfortunate. The lane enters Marden. Most of the housing is modern. A lane heads west and the narrow Leystone Bridge crosses the River Lugg. It is of stone and of four spans. Its predecessor was probably the bridge referred to by Leland under the name of Wisterton Bridge. Across the railway and past the extensive Wellington gravel pits. I reach the A49 just in time to see the bus I was aiming for drive past. I take the back lane past a large garden centre. The lane crosses a ford, but there is a footpath across the corner of a field, across a footbridge to the back of the church. Through the village to The Boot pub to have a pint before the next bus, which is late, a common occurrence despite the so-called traffic flow improvements in Hereford. Route
Sunday – Leominster – A wet morning. The rain may be clearing away although it still looks dark and stormy to the west. The River Lugg’s water level is higher than of late and it is flowing rapidly, a muddy, dark grey. There are several police cars from Kent in Brightwells’ compound, it seems strange that the police force in the large conurbation of the south east of England send their cars all the way to a small town on the Marches for sale rather than locally there. There are also a good number of vehicles from Cumbria police constabulary and again surely Manchester would seem to be a larger market but apparently not. The boot market is understandably quite small with most stallholders sheltering in one of the auction halls. A couple of hardy souls are outside braving the wet weather.
Home – The ground under the Howgate Wonder is littered with windfall apples. Many are bruised or have bird damage. I collect another trug-full and put them outside the front door so people can help themselves. I leave many on a vegetable bed for the birds. A good number of red chillies are picked and turned into chilli sauce. There are yet more on the plants, it has been a remarkable crop this year. The tomatoes are finished now and all the plants have been cleared away. There is much more to do but it is simply too wet at the moment.
Monday ̵ Mortimer Forest – The sky is grey. Small darker clouds move swiftly across the paler, higher ones. In the east the sun is bright enough to make the golden Larches shine. Blue Tits squeak and a Carrion Crow barks harshly. Everywhere is wet. A large lump, of fungus is on a stump. It is probably a damaged Bitter Bracket, Tyromyces (or Postia) stiptica. A Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, all its white spots washed away, is in the leaf mould. A Wren ticks angrily. On up the hill and over the ancient enclosure. Any birds present are completely silent. Numerous young Foxglove leaves grow by the track. A group of Herald of Winter, Hygrophorus hypothejus, fungi grow under the conifers. Onto Climbing Jack Common. The Bracken has not been cut as it has been in past years. Mist rises like smoke out of the Mary Knowle Valley. A few birds fly through the leafless Hawthorns but they are just silhouettes and fly off within moments. A Dunnock is singing close by. An Oak has a dozen branches growing out of much coppiced stump. Into the “new” plantation, it is dense and over fifteen feet now. The air is scented with resin. Up to High Vinnalls. There is rain in the air up here. Clouds drift over the tops of the surrounding hills, Titterstone Clee’s summit is hidden. The Teme valley however is glowing in sunshine. The sun is also lighting up Hazel Coppice. Suddenly the sun shines briefly here and mist rises off the bracken.
Down the westward track. The wind is blowing strongly now. The Bracken had been cut and removed here. One of the Tricholema mushrooms grows all alone in the cut Bracken. On down through the Deer Park. Three Ravens fly the tree tops, rising and diving on the wind. A Robin sings and a Chaffinch cheeps in the woods. The open hillside, felled some years back, is now being populated by Silver Birches and planted Rowans. Down the hill the hillside has sadly been replanted with rows of conifers. The other slope, that above the three ponds, has also been cleared and fenced off with deer proof fences. The water level in the ponds is very low, in fact one seems to have disappeared. Nearing Black Pool, the sky is clearing although the wind still blows. Nuthatches whoop in the trees. Many conifers seem to have heavy crops of cones.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lakes – Everywhere is wet. The sun trying to break through the cloud. White rumps flash down the track, several Bullfinches and a Jay. There are also good numbers of Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits. Through the Alder copse. One of the larger trees has snapped off. The ongoing work on the far banks of the lake seems to have resulted in far fewer wildfowl this autumn. Canada Geese are here in large numbers as usual, mostly on new mud banks the western end. A small flock of Mallard swim about. There is another large flock of Canada Geese between the eastern island and spit. A few Coot are scattered around the water. Dinmore woods are losing their colour now, turning winter grey. A couple of Cormorants are in the trees. The ground back through the copse where the ground is lemon and grey with fallen Alder leaves. A large number of cider apples have rotted and more are being eaten by sheep. It really is a waste!
Thursday – Chipping Sodbury – We stop for lunch in this south Cotswolds town in South Gloucestershire. It founded in the 12th century by William Crassus (or le Gros). The town’s name is recorded in Old English as Soppanbyrig, meaning “Soppa’s fort”. “Chipping” comes from Old English, cēping meaning that a market was held there. In the Domesday Book two manors, called Sodbury are recorded, one centred on Little Sodbury and the other at Old Sodbury. Old Sodbury as belonged to an Anglo-Saxon nobleman called Britric. A tale records that Britric refused to marry Princess Matilda of Flanders. She went on to marry William the Conqueror. After the conquest, Britric lost all of his lands, perhaps out of spite. By the 12th century the manor was in the hands of the Crassus family and in the early part of the century William Crassus was granted the right to hold a market on his land. He preferred not to establish the market near his manor house in Old Sodbury but found a site for it towards the western end of his lands. Thus Chipping Sodbury was born. He placed his new town on raised ground near the River Frome at an important crossing on the Bristol to Cirencester road and the ancient salt route from Droitwich (also the Pilgrims Way between Kingswood and Keynsham Abbeys). Chipping Sodbury Market would have been dominated by agricultural produce. In the 13th and 14th centuries wool from the Cotswolds was being traded and there is also evidence that weaving became an important industry in the town generally. The tanning of leather was also being carried out. Leland noted “a pretty little market town” in the 15th century. In the early 18th century, Daniel Defoe writes of Chipping Sodbury as having one of the largest cheese markets in England.
The main High Street is very wide. It would once have held market stalls and the market was a regular feature here until 1954. There are numerous buildings, many from the mid 17th century and fine Georgian houses, now shops. The Town Hall was remodelled in 1858. The George Hotel was recorded in 1449 as The Great Hospice, providing overnight accommodation to pilgrims.
The church of St John the Baptist was established as a chapel of ease in 1284 on a somewhat restricted site next to the river. Although it remained a chapel until the 19th century it was enlarged considerably over the next three centuries, mainly in the Perpendicular style. It was extensively restored in 1869 by G E Street. The tower is 15th century with four bells of 1753 with another recast in 1950. Two more bells were added for the Millennium. The pulpit is built into a pillar between the nave and north aisle. The organ is by W G Vowles of Bristol, dating from 1869. The font is 13th century. Unfortunately, the numerous memorials on the walls were removed in the restoration of 1869 and placed in the bell tower where they cannot be viewed. The pews, reredos and choir are all 19th century as is the glass.
Friday – Wells, Somerset – The night of the visit of the Somerset Carnival. The carnival visits a number of local towns. Whilst there are many smaller floats and groups working their way through the centre of the town, what everyone has come to see are the enormous floats, often three trailers long, ablaze with lights, bellowing out thundering music with performers, sensibly tied on, gyrating and dancing or as in some cases, motionless in tableaux. The great floats just about make it around the corner and as they pass, the street lights are triggered into thinking it is daytime and switch off. The great floats are up to 100 feet long, sixteen feet high and eleven feet wide with thousands of light bulbs. They take months to prepare and can cost thousands of pounds. They are prepared in much secrecy. Although I had seen pictures, I was unprepared for the sheer size, dazzling light and volume of these beasts and frankly, unless you see them, it is hard to believe!
We are at the foot of the square. Behind us, in front of the cathedral grounds entrance is a funfair; spinning and whirling machines, booming out music but not managing to drown out the screams of teenage girls. The air is full of the smell of fried chips, burgers, onions and candy floss.
Sunday – Leominster – I peer out of the window shortly after midnight and eventually get a glimpse of two shooting stars. It is the peak night of the Leonids shower of meteorites, dust left by the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The first record of the shower was in 902CE. The usual rate of the shower is between 10 and 15 per hour but as the comet’s orbit is one of 33 years, it can produce far more in those peak years. It is thought that the meteor storm of 1833 produced 100,000 shooting stars per hour. But not tonight. After the two I see, I have a crick in my neck and retreat to bed.
It is a cool morning but not freezing. Seven Starlings sit on a television aerial chattering happily. Two Jackdaws sit on another silently watching. There is a mist in the river valley. More Jackdaws gather on the roof of the White Lion pub chattering amongst themselves and peering down the chimney pots. The River Lugg ripples over the rocks under Butts Bridge, flowing rapidly and almost clear. Easters Meadow is saturated with just a touch of frost; sodden leaves lay on the path. A Cormorant with a pale breast flies rapidly downstream. Unsurprisingly, the dry morning means the market is larger than has been in recent weeks and the Christmas goods are appearing now. The white balls of snow berries festoon the bushes along side of the Lugg by Ridgemoor Bridge. Across Paradise Bridge. Above a Song Thrush is in full voice and its cousins, a pair of Mistle Thrushes fly overhead. The bells of the Minster ring the quarter hour.
Home – The three plastic compost bins are full to overflowing and need emptying into one of the wooden bins. I turn the near usable compost from one of the wooden bins into the other. But the one I have emptied has pretty much rotted away on the side so I need to saw up some planks and screw them onto the uprights. Then the three bins are transferred, a messy and heavy job.
Monday – Croft – The temperature has dropped and it is now quite cool. The sky is overcast and a breeze rustles the dried leaves. Nuthatches and Blue, Great and Coal Tits dash around the trees at the top of the Fish Pool Valley. A Wren bursts into song in the undergrowth. The pools are dark and still, scattered with copper leaves. The copper theme continues up through the Beech wood where Grey Squirrels scamper along the branches. Up past the grotesque and bulbous trunk of the great old Oak with its three living trunks and three dead shattered ones. Beech mast underfoot is like marbles causing my feet to slip. A rustling comes from the hillside as the squirrels dash across the dry leaves.
Off up the track between Bircher Common and Lyngham Vallet. A good number of conifers have been felled at the end of the common. I take the path through the foot of the common, through a sea of brown Bracken. Small birds tick and squeak. A Nuthatch works its way along a branch, probing every hole and pulling off small pieces of loose bark. Blackbirds fly to and fro, muttering. A pair of Fallow Deer break cover and dash up the hill. Blue and Coal Tits seek food in the feathery twigs at the top of Silver Birches. A Common Buzzard departs westwards and a Jay flies over in the opposite direction. Another Common Buzzard flies down the valley through the trees, its excellent spacial awareness means it passes between the branches without touching them. The path climbs to Whiteway Head. Along the forestry track – the Mortimer Trail along the top of Leinthall Common will be a quagmire. Fresh molehills have been pushed up by the little velvet-coated man.
More felling has been undertaken here. A tree ring count reveals they are between 35 and 45 years old. A Great Spotted Woodpecker chips. The area at the top of the path up from the Fish Pool Valley had been entirely cleared of conifers. Across Croft Ambry where the cattle are making a real mess of the paths. Back into Croft Wood. A small flock of Redwings flies off. Into the Spanish Chestnut field. A layer of cloud is right along the western horizon. The row of chestnuts stand twisted and bare, devoid of leaves. On down towards the castle. A Robin watches my passing. A Pied Wagtail flies up from a puddle on the track, squeaking continuously. There is sunshine now despite the dark clouds surrounding the area, but it does not last.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – It is grey, misty and damp. Although the temperature is a couple of degrees above freezing, the damp and east wind make it feel cold. Round to the hide passing a few watching Robins. The diggers and earth movers have all gone and it is now quiet. A couple of Mallard and half a dozen Tufted Duck are to the west of the hide and a pair of Mute Swans are to the east with scattered Coot. On the far side are three drake Goldeneye. There seem to be just two Cormorants in the trees. Eight more Mallard emerge from under the lea of the remaining bushes on the southern side. Two Mute Swan cygnets are on a new scrape on the far side. A couple of Canada Geese swim into view. Peace is disturbed as a small skein of Canada Geese fly in. A few moments later a far larger skein arrive. Although the arrival is noisy they quickly fall silent. Now there is just the occasional quack from a Mallard and the alarm call of a Blackbird across the water. A Carrion Crow lands on the scrape with what looks like an apple which it eats. It then turns over a few stones, checking underneath. Then some cawing before flying up into the island trees.
Blewits are growing alongside the hedge in the meadow but I have no bag, so I leave them. An electricity pylon has a sign stating, “Project Osprey”. This is an initiative following the electrocution of an Osprey in Wales on a pole transformer. The transformers are now being shielded where there is the likelihood of an Osprey, such as here by a lake. There are still apples in both orchards but sheep are eating the cider ones.
Thursday – Ludlow – Out of the station and down to St Leonard’s graveyard, which was used between 1854 and 1900. Much of it is overgrown. A large flat stones states it is the “Entrance to The Reverend John Phillip’s Vault”. Beyond is an ornate headstone. Some tombs are deep in the undergrowth, others are broken and fallen. Clear are two of the Hill family. William Edward Hill was born in Ludlow on 6th February 1897, oldest son of Edward Hill, a railway porter and his wife, Ellen Mary. He enlisted in the Shropshire Light Infantry in December 1913. He landed in France on 3rd February 1915 just before his 18th birthday almost immediately receiving a gunshot wound to the right knee. On recovering, he returned to the trenches. On 21st March the 2nd battalion were in trenches at St Eloi during the first battle of Ypres. William was wounded and moved to Bailleul 2nd Casualty Clearing Station but died two days later on 23rd March 1915. He is buried in Bailleul Cemetery. A younger brother, Henry Thomas Hill was born in Ludlow on 26th September 1899. He enlisted in the Royal Navy on 30th August 1916 as a boy rating, signing on for 12 years. After serving on the training ship HMS Impregnable at Devonport he joined the crew of the battleship HMS Malaya on 25th September 1917. This ship patrolled the North Sea until hostilities ceased. After the war married Frances Turner in Hereford in 1920. He died of tubercular meningitis on 29th January 1921. Henry has a British War Grave headstone but William shares his with Elizabeth (his grandmother?) who died at the age of 60 in 1895 and Annie Elizabeth, his sister who died at the age of 15 in 1917, because his grave is in France.
Down Linney to a footpath. Over River Corve by a footbridge beside which is a weir. Hedge cutting is being undertaken across the field. There is a heavy frost. Another small footbridge is in the field, crossing a now dried up stream that issued from a marsh on the other side of Coronation Avenue. The Boiling Well has little water in it. It is very misty on this side of town. Past the mid 19th century Burway Toll cottage. Over Corve Bridge and under the railway. Up New Road to Gravel Hill, then down into the town. I visit the Local Produce Market and spend rather a lot of money before spending a short time in St Lawrence’s church. There are people selling Christmas cards and others having tea. It is not particularly peaceful.
Monday – Croft – The air feels colder than it is, if that makes sense. Nuthatches and Blue Tits call and dash through the trees by the car park. Most trees have lost their leaves although some are hanging on and a few are still green. Down the ride to the Fish Pool Valley and then down to the lower pools, which I have not visited for a long time. Another ride runs up the hill past an ice house. On down the valley. One of the pools has a bird hide overlooking it but there is not much to be seen. The path to the bottom pool is closed to allow the new dam to reseed. Across the second dam in the valley to the bird hide. A pair of Wrens search the base of Oak. A Raven cronks in the distance. A path climbs the side of the hill. The garden wall of Croft Lodge lays a short distance away. The house is 18th century and was a ruin. Architects designed a frame and outer shell that preserved the ruin inside – cobwebs, bird’s nests and all. The design was the winner of a RIBA design award. A ride runs off, that which leads through to the great Beech wood. The track snakes along the hillside past small groves of conifers and numerous Ash trees. The track drops down towards the pools but another rises through the woods. This divides again. I continue up to the top ride.
It is clear that most of the trees post-date the laying out of the Picturesque landscape and the original tree planting was quite sparse. Now there is a dense wood of mainly Ash before the older Beech wood. Across an area of pits, all covered in moss and leaves. Chain saws buzz up the valley, then there is a loud crack and crash as a tree comes down. Heavy machinery starts, probably stripping the trunk. This path is now high up on Highwood Bank. It emerges onto Bircher Common. Below are numerous freshly stripped logs lying in the undergrowth. Up the edge of the common. Sheep are grazing. A flock of Meadow Pipits flies across the common and disappear into the grass. A pair of Fallow Deer gallop across the common and into the Gorse at the top of the valley. They may well be the same two I saw here last visit. Up to Whiteway Head. A Common Buzzard is keening from a tree like a lost dog.
Onto the Mortimer Trail, momentarily fooled by the gate which has been rehung in the opposite direction. I have avoided this path as it can be a quagmire but there has been little rain recently. So it is in fair condition until a group of horse riders pass and chew it up! Up onto Croft Ambrey hill-fort. The surrounding views are very misty. The hills are virtually hidden, just a few dark hints. Down the western side the hill-fort. A Bullfinch flies past meeping gently. A Great Spotted Woodpecker chips. A noisy mixed flock of, oddly, Dunnocks and Goldcrests passes. Jays squawk. On down across the hill-fort past the pillow mounds, old artificial warrens, and over the outer ramparts. A small flock of Long-tailed Tits moves through, then a flock of Crossbills flies into the top of a stand of conifers, levering the nuts out of the cones. On down to Croft Castle, now closed except for weekends until the spring.
Friday – Home – Shortly after midnight a waning moon was lighting up the landscape. An hour or so before dawn, it was still high in the sky but dimmed by cloud.
Monmouth – I park in a large modern housing estate in Osbaston, to the north east of Monmouth. Down the steep hill into the valley of the River Monnow. The sky is clear, Storm Diana passed. Past a couple of schools, then the river runs alongside the road. The water level is high the river flows fast, the colour of beef soup. Monnow Mill stands next to the water, its timber-frame reinforced with steel stretchers. There has been a mill here for centuries but this building is early 19th century, converted into a domestic property in the 1980s. A tubular steel framed bridge crosses the river leading to Vauxhall Fields. The bridge was built in 1931 by the Royal Monmouthshire Military Engineers, an Inglis Bridge, an early equivalent of the Bailey Bridge, designed by Sir Charles Inglis. This bridge is one of only two Inglis Bridges remaining in the UK. On Vauxhall Fields there are a few remains of the military camp that stood here. Across the far side the fields of the modern barracks. Nearby is the early 19th century Vauxhall farmhouse. Another track leads back towards the river that has looped through 90°. The fields, being grazed by sheep were flower beds, bowling greens and a tea garden in the 18th century. They were laid out in 1770 by Mr Tibbs who owned the Beaufort Arms. He charged two shillings for tea, coffee and music. The garden had closed by 1800. Horse races were held here until 1933. Onto the bridge. A tall wall guides the river. The wall has arched entrances. Modern Offices stand on top of the wall.
From the bridge a path climbs to Castle Hill then down to Agincourt Square. From the square Priory Street passes a sweeping Georgian parade built by GV Maddox soon after 1837 as part of a Priory Street improvement plan. Opposite is the Nelson Museum. The building was the New Market Hall, built in 1840 by GV Maddox. It was rebuilt as a single storey building in 1968-9 after being destroyed by fire in 1963. The road promenades above the river. Below are the arched entrance seen from the bridge. Monmouth hospital stands on the hill above the curve in the river. Opposite is Monmouth Priory and the Priory Church of St Mary.
Monmouth Priory was founded by Withenoc, Gwethenoc as a Benedictine foundation around 1080. Importantly, he was a Breton appointed by the Normans which led to the compilation of an important manuscript, “The Lives of the Welsh Saints” by the monks, now housed in The British Library. The priory was dedicated in 1101 and granted to the Abbey of St Florent at Saumur. The present building was originally of late 15th date and built as part of the Prior’s Lodging. The priory was dissolved in 1536, and the buildings became a house. It was a private school in 1768, a charity school from 1805 and became Monmouth National School in 1814; Priory Street Boy’s School from 1896 to 1973. It became a Youth Hostel in 1978 and is now a community centre. It was very largely rebuilt with a new roof-line in 1856 by Prichard and Seddon, the Llandaff Diocesan architects.
The church of St Mary is on the site of the priory. The nave of the priory church became the parish church of the town while the choir and the other conventual buildings decayed. The Romanesque church survives in parts of the nave and also the tower which dates from 14th century. The old church had become very ruinous in the 18th century and was rebuilt in 1736-7 by Francis Smith of Warwick in classical style, though retaining the tower and spire. The tower was repaired and the spire rebuilt by Nathaniel Wilkinson in 1743, but the top 50 feet was rebuilt again in 1864 by Henry Hughes of Bristol. The galleries were added in 1824 by G V Maddox. In 1882 the church was again rebuilt, at a cost of £6172 within the existing north and south walls by G E Street in a severe Early English Gothic Style with the tower and spire kept once more. The contractor was Wall and Hook of Brimscombe and the carving was done by H Frith of Gloucester. Glass for eight windows is by Charles Eamer Kempe and one of 1938 by Canon B F L Clarke, once curate at St Mary’s and later an important historian of church architecture. The 14th century bells were re-cast in 1706 by Abraham Rudhall, and rehung again in 1982 by the Whitechapel Foundry. An old font and stoup are in the entrance hall. The rood was originally plain wood and has only recently been coloured. Part of the rood screen has been moved to the rear of the church to form a narthex. The screen features the ironwork and woodwork of Letheren and Martin (the latter of whom made the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons and the pulpit of St Paul’s Cathedral). The reredos has a large altar painting, dating from 1888. entitled “The Adoration of the Magi” by James Watney Wilson, RA. A board commemorated the fallen of the Royal Militia Regiment of the County of Monmouthshire in the Boer war. There are several fine carved wall monuments from the Georgian period.
Facing the entrance to the precinct of St Mary’s is the Baptist church, seeming to be challenging the established church opposite. The Baptist church is flanked on one side by the Free Institute for Working Men, founded and endowed by Mrs Matilda Hines of Ancre Hill in 1868 and designed by Benjamin Lawrence of Newport. On the other side is a Georgian town house formerly the manse for the Baptist church, then Royal George House, formerly Ivy House Hotel, thought to been built as a house around 1735. It was altered and refurbished in about 1800 by the commander of the Monmouthshire Militia and now flats and offices. Opposite is Oak House built in 1846 and very probably designed by G V Maddox. Whitecross House stands the junction of Whitecross Road. It was built around 1710 and was for some time the Portcullis Inn. A short distance down the road is The Rolls Hall, built for the people of Monmouth by John Allen Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock and father of Charles Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce, in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It cost £8000 and was converted from a public hall to library in 1992. Opposite are the Judges’ Lodgings. The building was an early 16th century town house which became the “Labour in Vain” Inn around 1756. In the late 18th century it was known as Somerset House (owned by Duke of Beaufort) and then the Judges’ Lodgings in the 1830s. It was then the Militia Officers’ Mess in the 1870s.
Into St James Square which is triangular, where a large Indian Bean tree whose branches are being supported by iron staves, stands by the War Memorial, erected in 1921, designed by Reginald Harding and carved by W Clarke of Llandaff. A row of houses are early 17th century, refaced in the 19th century. At the end of the square is a large house built in the mid 18th century which became the Dispensary in 1857, and the Monmouth Hospital in 1868 closing in 1903. Along St James’s Street, lined by 18th century houses. Set back is the Methodist Chapel of 1837, designed by GV Maddox. On the corner of Wyebridge Street is the Queen’s Head Inn, built 1630 (according to a plaque), and restored and largely rebuilt in 1922 by Harry A Dancey. On the other corner is the extensive Grammar School, founded in 1614 and rebuilt in 1865 by the Haberdashers Company of London. Hidden up St Mary’s Street is the Roman Catholic church of St Mary. It was one of the first Roman Catholic churches to be built in Britain after such buildings were first legally permitted following the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, and the oldest church in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff. It was established by Michael Watkins, landlord of The Robin Hood Inn. It was really hidden behind a row of cottages until 1871 when they were demolished at the church was enlarged by Benjamin Bucknell. Back down the street. The chapel of the Grammar School stands opposite.
Down Wyebridge Street. At the foot of the road, a subway passes under the busy A40 to emerge on the banks of the River Wye by Wye Bridge. This is Monmouth Quay. The Port of Monmouth was a busy site despite being 16 miles from the mouth of the Wye. It starts to rain. The palest of rainbows appears in the northern sky. Off along the path beside the river going upstream. The path crosses a couple of streams joining the river then comes to St Peter’s church, Dixton.
The Book of Llandaff refers to a church, or monastery, on this site in about 735, when it was already described as an “old church”, henllan. Later charters refer to its fishing rights on the River Wye. At that time, it was dedicated to the Welsh saint Tydiwg. It is believed the old church was destroyed by Gruffydd ap Llywellyn when he came up the Wye to raid Hereford in 1054. The building has some herring-bone work which suggests it was rebuilt around 1080. The nave seems to be 12th century. It is rather long which suggests it may have been used as a choir for the Benedictine monks of Monmouth Priory. The chancel being refurbished and closed off. There is the royal coat of arms of Queen Anne painted on board and dated 1711. The church was in a very poor state in the 16th century when a local hermit called David carried out repairs. The church was restored in 1862 by John Prichard. Some of the glass is by Seddon. A modern oak balcony has been constructed at the west end so that things can be stored above the level of the floods. There are four bells of around 1420, 1674, 1678 and 1876. Externally, much of the building is rendered and painted white.
On to the next stream footbridge. Up on the hillside across the A40, Newton Court sites under the eaves of Hayes Coppice. The house waas built for George Griffin around 1800 and may well be a design by Anthony Keck (died 1797), architect of Gloucestershire. It is three storey, with semi-circular bows either side of the door. Here I turn back. Back at the churchyard of St Peter’s, there are steps down to the river. A ferry docked here bringing parishioners to the church, including the vicar as the vicarage was in the other side is the river. The church and churchyard have often flooded, in 1947 the water in the church above head height and in 1969, the records state, “Christmas Day. No celebration. Water in church”. Across the river the hills, Redding’s Inclosure and Headless hill rise. The woods are bare and dark. Back along the path. A good sized flock of Goldfinches flies through the Alder trees. Back to the Wye Bridge and across it. The bridge replaced a mediaeval one in 1615. It was widened on both sides in 1878-80 to the plans of architect Edwin Seward of Cardiff. On the far side are arches over now dry flood channels. An old stile descends to a thicket of Brambles. Off the bridge. Below are extensive pitches and playing fields of the Grammar school. Nice for the rich boys, whereas the ordinary folk go to schools whose fields have all been sold off.
The Mayhill Hotel stands at the foot of the hill the same name. But I turn off before then onto the Chepstow road. A terrace is villas dated 1902 stand alongside modern houses. Up onto the old track of the GWR, Pontypool, Monmouth and Ross Section. The track curves round and into a bridge across the Wye. The bridge, the Duke of Beaufort Bridge, was built by Finch and Co of Chepstow and designed by their foreman, Mr Bailiff. Downstream are the buttresses is another bridge, with the western side being a long, decaying viaduct which carried the Wye Valley Railway between Monmouth and Chepstow. It opened in 1861, became part of the GWR in 1905 and closed in 1959. The bridge was designed by Christopher Firbank and built by Kennards of Crumlin. Steps lead down to a fence beside which is an enormous rock. On the other side, upstream, is the confluence of the Monnow and Wye. The path gets to the place where the two lines joined. A roofless wayside brick hut stands there. It had a small fireplace and a single window. It is not that old. The path cuts through a waste ground where there were railway sidings, then enters a late 20th century housing development. Into Beech Road, then onto the B4293, Monmouth to Chepstow via Trelleck road. The road reaches the River Monnow. Along Cinderhill Street, past a small terrace of 1912. Older terraces of cottages lay either side. A cross stands on an island at the junction of Cinderhill Road and Monnow Bridge. It is a medieval cross, probable 15th century which was rebuilt in 1888 incorporating the socket stone and possibly the base of the shaft. The cross was designed by F A Powell and carved by H Wall of Newport. Beside the junction is the church of St Thomas the Martyr in Overmonnow.
It is thought this was the mother church of Monmouth, possibly dating from the 10th century. It was taken over by the Priory church of St Mary around 1163 and attached to the Abbey of Saumur. It was now a chapel of rest. The chancel and nave are separated by a fine Norman chancel arch. On St Catherine’s Day, 25th November, 1233, a skirmish, part of the baronial uprising against Henry III, resulted in the bridge being burned and part of the church with it. The building fell out of use in the 18th century, Coxe called it “disused” in 1801, and was in decay for many years. It became the parish church of Overmonnow in 1832, and this prompted the restoration and refitting of the interior by T H Wyatt who was the Llandaff Diocesan Architect and Matthew Beason, Surveyor to the Duke of Beaufort who supplied the oak. Prichard and Seddon, F Mew and F A Powell all restored various parts of the building in the second half of the 19th century. There is a beautiful Oak gallery, possibly from Raglan Castle, removed during the Civil War. A squint next to the chancel arch was enlarged in 1886 when the nave was restored and the west door and “Norman Arch” added. The east window was installed in 1957 by Celtic Studios. Over the Monnow Bridge and back into the town. Route