In celebration of Clare's 100th edition of Ramblings, this series is devoted to exploring the iconic walks of the United Kingdom.
Offa's Dyke National Trail
13 April 2007
This week Clare is in the Wye Valley walking a section of the Offa’s Dyke National trail between Sedbury Cliffs and Brockweir.
Offa’s Dyke is an extraordinary piece of earthwork, a bank and ditch, which winds its way for 177 miles along the border between England and Wales. It was built 1200 years ago on the orders of Offa, the King of Mercia, one of the most powerful and successful of the Anglo Saxon Kings. As to why it was built, there’s still much debate. It could have been a defence or possibly to mark the border between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys.
For Clare’s walking companion, Jim Saunders, it’s this uncertainty which was the key to his fascination with this ancient structure. He took two attempts to get the job he always wanted as path officer of Offa’s Dyke and held the post for eighteen years. He now works as a freelance photographer.
Jim and Clare walk the section of the Offa's Dyke National Trail through the Lower Wye Valley. Although now a rural idyll and designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in the 18th and 19th centuries it would have been a hive of activity with the area boasting numerous iron, copper and brass works, shipbuilding, charcoal burning and a very successful timber industry.
Yet despite this, it also became a popular destination for painters and poets like Turner and Wordsworth who came to the Wye Valley as part of the picturesque movement. Picturesque meant literally a scene which would make a good picture. The first tour guide was published in 1872 by William Gilpin. By the middle of the next century, over twenty guide books had been published, firmly establishing the Lower Wye as the birthplace of modern British tourism.
Map: OL14 Wye Valley & Forest of Dean: West Sheet Start: Buttington Tump Start Grid Ref: ST 548931 End: Brockweir Distance: 7-8 miles Terrain: footpath all the way Suitable for: most walkers
Start at Buttington Tump
Walk to the official start/end of the path at Sedbury Cliffs overlooking the Severn Estuary. As you look back shape and significance of the Dyke can be clearly seen. The steep side of the bank and the ditch are on the west or Welsh side suggesting that it was defending the English side, then known as the kingdom of Mercia.
The trail is clearly marked and leads into Sedbury taking you through a housing estate.
Continue on and soon there are excellent views of Chepstow Castle and the bridge crossing the Wye.
Follow the path up to Wintour’s leap with view over to Piercefield Park created by Valentine Morris as part of the Picturesque movement.
The route leads through Boatwood Plantation, reflecting the ship building heritage of the area.
Eventually a gap in the trees at the Devil’s Pulpit provides stunning views of Tintern Abbey.
Continue along the path which drops down into the village of Brockweir.