The Icehouse & Chepstow Racecourse
To the Icehouse
A larger group has walked a couple of times this month, though these events haven’t been advertised in What’s On as we are not ready to open the group to all comers yet. Bert and Gwyn Bates are doing a sterling job of offering local walks, once a month, mid-week.
Our first walk started at the Village Hall, went through the tunnel in Vennwood Close and across fields to Wrinstone farm. We passed through the woods to the Michaelston-le-Pit track and after entering Michaelston took a path heading east, again over fields to pass some rather nice houses. The last stretch of this path has been closed over the summer while a huge wall is constructed next to one of these houses and there were 3 foreign workers, still labouring as we passed. Arriving at the road we crossed to view the Icehouse, with boards across it to stop anyone falling in. We came back by turning left down the road past the houses and through a field which must have been a glorious meadow in the summer. There were beehives standing at the back of it. A brief walk across fields to the Michaelston road and we returned to the village via Salmon’s Leap.
We retired to the garden of a couple in the group and had a picnic in glorious sunshine. It was wonderful to be together again and have a good natter with cake. Walk 6 miles.
Around Chepstow Racecourse
We parked in Chepstow Leisure Centre, with the intention of doing a circuit of the racecourse and headed out to the road where we saw what felt like hundreds of people striding out on a sponsored Macmillan walk. It seemed that their route was to and from the racecourse (no doubt longer than ours).
We set off through a housing estate and along a busy road. We passed a tiled plaque describing Llangynfarch, St Kynemark. Augustinian canons established a small medieval priory here in the 13th century. The name derives from a Welsh Prince Cynfarth whose 7th century church was near here. The Augustinians led a quasi-monastic life without the rigours of strict discipline. Their church was dedicated to St John the Baptist. Excavations in the early 60s found traces of the Priory’s 13th and 14th century buildings.
On entering woodland, we saw lime kilns and signs explaining that they were felling ash trees. Beech trees were in abundance and a lone willow stood to one side with a stretch of Himalayan balsam, whose seeds are said to be edible and a bit like capers. The tree-lined drive to Rossfield farm looked attractive and as we walked past the house, we decided there were probably at least 3 residences. The garden had a brilliant tree house complete with a bridge and rope ladder. As we travelled across a field, we spied some Muntjac deer running next to Briers Grove; for some reason they couldn’t find their way back to the wood when we interrupted their grazing.
At Oakfield stud farm they were haymaking, the fields golden brown. The gates at this stud farm are a particular style having an extra piece added to their tops. St Arvans is a pretty village and terraces with names like Squirrel Cottages and The Row. A Victorian drinking fountain, which residents raised £30 to purchase, stands in the centre of the village. A nearby tree was presented to the parish on the Golden Jubilee of the Women’s Institute movement in 1965.
Continuing we found a huge lime tree that was hollow on its northern side. We climbed a hill so that we had excellent views of Chepstow racecourse, the Severn estuary glistening in sunshine, both Severn bridges and England. A good place for lunch.
Entering woodland, we were soon on the Wye valley walk. Lover’s leap gave us our first view of the river Wye and the steep cliffs of Lancaut on the opposite side of the river. This walk along the Wye is delightful, though there are some steep drops (not great for vertigo sufferers). Travelling through woodland we passed standing stones, a cave, a grotto, Piercefield nature reserve, a viewing platform (which didn’t have a view) and the Alcove from which we could see the river Wye steeply below us, Chepstow castle and the Prince of Wales bridge. The grotto was originally lined with crystalline minerals, iron and copper slag and according to an 1816 visitor ‘We found the grotto full of gay ladies and gentlemen’. It was built into the side of an Iron age hillfort.
Arriving back at the car park there is an information board; you could use this to do a short walk along the Wye Valley Walk. The full walk is 136 miles, so we did about 3 of those! Then we headed to Chepstow Garden centre to enjoy tea in the garden.
Walk 6 miles, 500ft. Map OL14