For many people it is a dream to row, row, row their boat gently down the River Wye at Symonds Yat or slightly faster through the man-made grade 2 rapids as I first did as a schoolboy.
Many of our guests merrily, merrily include the location for a visit while staying with us and not surprising as it is a great place for messing around on the river in canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, boats or across on one of the two hand pulled ferries. The two pubs – Saracens Head and Ye Old Ferrie Inn – are both good and there’s a puzzle hedge to get lost in and a Butterfly Zoo.
But a word of caution from our last guests who visited – it can get very busy, so if you like to avoid the crowds choose your times with care and not everything is open out of season.
Today I want to draw your attention to a walk I’ve just completed with friends to the north of Symonds Yat. Its only half an hour away by car.
Goodrich Castle is a great castle with a lovely visitors’ centre and café, but we’ve got plenty in Wales as interesting so if that’s your thing stay local and visit Chepstow, Caldicot, White Castle, Skenfrith, Grosmont, Usk, Caerphilly, Cardiff, or Castle Coch to mention but a few.
But as the starting point for a walk up a fantastic ridge and along the river it’s an ideal place to start and finish. It cost £3 to park.
Six of us left just after 9am and we were soon climbing out of the pretty village of Goodrich up onto Coppett Hill. I love this ridge. It is a sharp but very accessible ascent and very quickly you are at the trig point with spectacular views over the Herefordshire countryside.
Strangely after the trig you climb a little higher! But soon you reach the top of the ridge where the land flattens before descending very gently with views to the right and then into lovely woodland. A huge fallow deer crossed our path at one point while one of our party identified various mushrooms you can eat and those you should definitely avoid. Tim was a fun guy (fungi) to have along as the joke goes.
After the long and gentle descent we arrived at the River Wye opposite Coldwell Rocks at Symonds Yat East where Peregrine Falcons famously nest. We didn’t see any on the day, but later a heron gave us a magnificent fly pass and there were plenty of pheasant, wild duck, and majestic swans around to keep us occupied. We even spied an Egret on a sandbank.
Turning left along the riverbank towards Ross-on-Wye there is plenty to see on top of the spectacular landscape and wildlife.
First surprise was a riverside memorial to 11 scientists and air crew that died near the riverbank in 1942 while testing airborne radar to identify land targets and U-boats in WW11 which was so vital to the war effort.
One of the men who died was Alan Dower Blumlein, who has been described as one of the greatest electronics engineers ever to have lived. His wife Doreen while visiting the site after the accident said, “If you have to die, this is a beautiful place.” It is indeed.
Further upstream we came upon St Margaret’s Church at Welsh Bicknor. The church was rebuilt in 1858 apart from the tower which is original but enhanced with striking marble shafts in the pier.
The old Rectory nearby is now a youth hostel and there’s a campsite with Baden Powell-style tents. One of our party remembered staying there on a canoeing trip.
There was more history waiting for us round the bend of the river as factory rooves came into view on the Forest of Dean side.
Its hard to imagine that this area was mentioned in the same breath as Sheffield for producing tin plate in Victorian times. The factory expanded and went on to play an important role in both World Wars producing cable and lead alloy tubes used in undersea petroleum lines which fuelled the allied liberation forces on the continent in 1944/45.
The railway bridge across to the factory is now a footpath only and it would be interesting to pop across to investigate as some of the old buildings look fascinating on the internet but we didn’t have time during our visit. Its strategic importance is indicated by the pillbox defences guarding the bridge.
Finally, we reached the ancient crossing of Kerne Bridge from where it is a short trek up the road to the village and back to the castle car park.
The whole walk took us 3 hours and 40 minutes at a very leisurely pace with lots of stops to view the wildlife and history. We covered just under 9 miles. The walk does not have a lot of ascent, with only one climb up Coppett Hill. The rest is easy, all downhill or along the river and very simple to navigate.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our morning out. There are local pubs to try in the Hostelrie or the Cross Keys, but we travelled 15 minutes to The Yew Tree Inn near Ross on Wye on the Hereford Road to try some local cider and ale. It’s a down-to-earth sort of pub which welcomed wet dogs and served up magnificent toasties with melted cheese and bacon which went down a treat. On other days they do pizzas which sound lovely.
Sweeping views of Herefordshire from the top of Coppett Hill above Goodrich
An unexpected memorial on the banks of the River Wye
“If you have to die, this is a beautiful place”
Another unexpected find on the river bank in all it’s Victorian splendour
The old railway bridge over to the factory on the other bank which played an important role in two world wars and once rivalled Sheffield as a centre for tin plate.