The England and Wales border wanders around a lot but the Harp Inn at Glasbury is firmly in Wales. Andy and Sally, from Gloucestershire, have only been in place for about 18 months but have made their mark in the locality, evidenced by a lively cheese tasting evening that is a regular event on Sunday nights. As far as I could understand it each person (last night there were 13) supplies a cheese which is tasted by everyone who gives marks out of ten. The marks are totalled and an overall winner is announced. There was no prize but considerable enjoyment for the participants. Unfortunately, being Sunday, only pizza was available for me and the 12″ rustic that I ate was fine, going well with a couple of pints of Butty Bach bitter from the Wye Vallet brewery in Herefordshire.
This morning the weather was a bit dull as I ate my good full breakfast, top marks especially for the sausage. There were only three staying and the other couple did not appear until I was finished and packed. I set off at about 0915 and had about four miles on the flat to Talgarth, passing through the hamlet of Three Cocks on the way. Andy had warned me that the A497 road beyond Talgarth had been closed for some months because of a land slide but my route took me on a very narrow country lane avoiding the roadworks on the A479 and I had a brisk climb for a couple of miles that took me up to 1100 feet before I rejoined the A479.
The joy of the road closure was that I now had the road to myself for the 8 mile descent to join the A40 just west of Crickhowell and most of the climbing was out of the way. I stopped and took a picture showing the low cloud on the hill tops that I would have been following with my original plan.
As I had abandoned my plan of following the border as closely as possible I gave myself a new challenge which was to visit the castles on my route and the first was at Abergavenny. English antiquary William Camden states that the castle “has been oftner stain’d with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle in Wales.” and was the scene of a massacre of Welsh noblemen in 1175. Little remains of the castle which is managed by a charitable Trust but a hunting lodge built on the site of the motte by a latterday Earl of Abergavenny has been turned into a museum which sits rather indecorously next to the ruins.
I was able to avoid the busy A40 by taking a B road that runs almost parallell with it for the next 7 miles and although it had the usual ups and downs it was easy cycling. However I had to join the A40 in order to see my next castle, Raglan which can only be approached from that road. Unfortunately Cadw don’t open the castle to visitors on a Monday so I could only take a picture over a large hedge
It’s a rather fine looking edifice from the outside, built mainly in the 15th century, and was the seat of the Dukes of Somerset and Beaufort but was put out of military use or slighted after the English Civil War. It was abandoned as a dwelling and bits of it were nicked to repair or rebuild other structures, turning it into a romantic ruin that has been a tourist attraction since the 18th century.
Raglan lies about 8 miles from Monmouth, my next stop. The original Monmouth castle is even more dilapidated than Abergavenny and sits next to the solid looking red sandstone 17th century Great Castle House, built by one of the Somersets, that now houses a museum and is the HQ of the Royal Monmouthshire Militia.
The original castle is most famous for being the birthplace of the future Henry V of Agincourt fame and his name and accomplishments are seen in place names throughout the town.
Henry was not a Welshman: his father Henry Bolingbroke was the English son of John of Gaunt who became Henry IV and his mother Mary was a daughter of an Earl of Hereford. The only true Welsh born King of England was Henry Tudor, Henry VII who snatched the throne from Richard III at Bosworth Field 100 years later.
I did a tour of Monmouth, passing the school and on my way out following the Wye Valley spotted Lidl opposite the school playing fields so called in for a late lunch. Three miles down the heavily wooded valley the river is crossed by the Penallt viaduct, an old railway bridge of the Wye Valley Railway at Redbrook.The tracks are long gone but there is a pedestrian walkway which I traversed with the bike and joined the track of the railway which is now a hard cinder path for about three miles before becoming a tarmac road which avoids about 6 miles of the A466.
Another bit of luck for me was that there are significant roadworks to the A466 which means it is closed to vehicles and I was able to sail down it without any traffic, passing the road surfacing works as they ceased for the day, completely unhindered, to Tintern, a further 6 miles on.
Tintern is best known for the ruined abbey built mainly in the 13th century and dissolved by Henry VIII. Those pesky Somersets laid claim to the building, stripped the lead off the roof and it fell into the ruin one sees today.
After Tintern I hit an unexpectedly hard bit of climbing for about three miles that was exhausting. One of the problems was that it was steeper than it looked which was demoralising and it took all my will not to GOAP having already done about 55 miles in the saddle. By now the saddle sore was very uncomfortable, whether going up or down hill and I stopped and took a couple of Ibuprofen to dull the pain.
The final castle of the day was Chepstow where I had spent the first night of my journey two weeks ago. Unfortunately for me the Castle sits right down the bottom of the valley so there was a significant climb back up after I took the picture.
The Castle is the oldest in Britain, founded by William I in 1067 but with many additions over the centuries. Once again, the Somersets in the shape of the Duke of Beaufort had much to do with its state from the 17th century when it was stripped of most of its interior and parts used as a farmyard and glass factory. It became a picturesque ruin that attracted steamship trips from Bristol in the 19th century and is now managed by Cadw.
On the steep climb out of the town I passed the Two Rivers Hotel where I spent my first night in Wales, so I suppose that was really the end of my circumnavigation. However I still have to get home so I carried on back across the Severn Bridge, this time on the upstream side, and made my way to Cribbs Causeway where I am staying the night at the Travelodge before my final ride home tomorrow. To finish the day on a low the last half mile or so up to the hotel was steep enough to make me GOAP but on the way I passed this rather ironic sign
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the trip. It has been the hardest I have done yet, mainly because of the saddle sore but also because it involved a lot of climbing.