Clytha Park and River Usk.

Clytha Park and River Usk.

The notice board at the National Trust car park in Clytha Park offers two walks 2.5 or 5.5 miles. Combining them created a walk of 7.75 miles with a 500ft climb.

We set off on a late autumn morning; the weather was grey but dry. A path led us into farmland where two vehicles were ploughing the land, one turning it over the second producing tilth. Footpath signs were good and at one point giant arrows were painted on two trees where the path went between them. We crossed a couple of fields of mangel-wurzels and passed a white house with a veranda. The path followed an avenue of beech trees and an area of parkland with cows grazing.

Southeast of the car park is Clytha castle with its circular corners and squat towers.

We continued past a wood towards Clytha Hill with distant views of Sugar Loaf. The trees glowed with their glorious leaf colours.

At Coed y Bwnydd secreted atop the hill is possibly the best preserved Iron Age hill fort in Monmouthshire with human activity stretching back 2000 years. The fort’s defensive banks and ditches are clearly visible. They helped to protect the inhabitants from attack by other tribes and animals such as wolves and bears. Roundhouses have been excavated here. The main sounds today are birdsong but 2000 years ago you might have heard axes chopping, people chattering (there was some of that today as we passed through), sheep and hens and the clunk of metal being worked. Wild boar or deer might have been roasting on wood and charcoal fires, their aromas filling the air.

We continued to the village of Bettws Newydd, finding a fascinating wall with large chunks of stone of different sizes in amongst horizontal flat stones. The church porch had a coffin stretcher on its rafters. A piece of wood had a poem written on it (by N.N. in 2009):

‘The Bettws Yew

The star which shone on Bethlehem shone on this noble tree

It stood here still in Norman times when knights claimed their victory

As King Charles lost his head this tree made growth anew

Thanks be to God that we still have our Bettwys Yew.’

We headed west towards the river Usk, passing through farmland where we saw calves, trees heavy with mistletoe (common in Monmouthshire) and an old tree which had grown around a piece of metal fencing entirely engulfing it. After passing Trostrey Lodge we came to the riverside and followed it back to the car park. Map OL13.