Goldcliff to Redwicktop
- Location: Gwent Levels
- Distance: Approx 5 miles (circular walk 8.5 miles)
- Description of this walk: This is a flat, gentle walk from Goldcliff to Redwick, over numerous footbridges and drainage ditches, following in the footsteps of Romans and monks through a historical landscape of reclaimed land.
- Map: O/S Explorer map 152
Derek and guide Rick Turner - (an Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Cadw) made their way from the Goldcliff sea wall to the beautiful village of Redwick via a series of intricate drainage ditches, reens and bridges.
Stopping along the way at the Newport Wetlands Reserve they saw some of the wildlife found on the Gwent Levels.
Alongside Mireland Pill Reen Derek received a lesson in the unique system of drainage and the importance of its maintenance.
They then moved onto St Mary Magdalene church to see the plaque marking the Great Flood of 1607, where 2,000 people lost their lives in a flood which affected both sides of the Bristol Channel.
Further along they looked at Monksditch and saw how fresh water flowing from further inland is cleverly carried through the levels without causing flooding.
It was then onwards towards Redwick over a more recent drainage pipeline before finishing up in the quaint old village of Redwick.
1. The sea wall
The first sea wall was built by the Roman legionaries based at Caerleon about 1,850 years ago to enclose the Levels and prevent further inundation.
They drained the land with ditches and probably used the rich meadow land to graze their cavalry horses.
2. Newport Wetlands Reserve
The reserve was first established in 2000 to mitigate losses of wildlife habitat when the Cardiff Bay Barrage scheme was undertaken and the Cardiff mudflats were permanently flooded.
The site is owned and managed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).
A new visitors and education centre was opened in Nash at the site in 2008 by the RSPB with help from Newport City Council.
The reserve covers 437 hectares (1,080 acres) of the Caldicot Levels and was made a National Nature Reserve in 2008.
The Uskmouth end of the reserve now attracts nationally important numbers of breeding water rail and cetti's warbler and is the only known breeding site for bearded tits in Wales.
3. Goldcliff Gout
This is a relatively simple tidal flap system similar to that used by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago.
Fresh water from the ditches and reens goes through the sea wall at low tide via a flap (a kind of trapdoor or one-way valve) and out to the sea.
When the tide comes in as far as the Gout, the incoming seawater pushes against the flap and closes it.
The fresh water on the other side of the wall builds up temporarily in the reens until the tide turns and goes back out.
The weight of the fresh water then pushes the flap open again - draining out to the sea until the next high tide.
4. St Mary Magdalene Church, Goldcliff
The church itself has a small brass plaque, on the north wall near the altar, commemorating the Great Flood of 1607 when a tidal wave swept along the Bristol Channel drowning 2,000 people.
The plate, about three feet above ground level today, marks the height of the flood waters.
Leaving the church over a stile and by a narrow path at the back of the churchyard, walk almost directly across Church Road.
Cross over a wooden footbridge next to a house, through a small field and then a series of footbridges from one field to the next until you reach a gate, with farm buildings on the right.
A short distance ahead is another footbridge over the Monk's Ditch.
The public footpaths through the fields are quite indistinct, and some of the footbridges rather hidden amongst the hedgerows, so having a map and even a compass would be a great help in locating the bridges without wasting time.
5. Monk's Ditch
Monks Ditch carries water from an upland stream to the coast, preventing the fresh water from flooding the levels.
It was first documented in the thirteenth century and probably constructed by the monks at Goldcliff.
A short distance away is a stile over a hedge and onto a country road. Turn right along the road, and after a few hundred yards turn left.
In the main part of the village you'll see the houses and farmsteads are set back from the road in long strips of pasture. It reflects a medieval 'cope' land allocation pattern, similar to that used in land reclamation in Holland.
This fascinating landscape was planned out between the 11th and 13th century, possibly by the monks at Goldcliff.
Initially, a series of long narrow strips were laid out, surrounded by a 'fen-bank'. These strips were subsequently extended a number of times.
6. St. Mary's Church, Whitson
The tiny parish church with its distinctive 'thimble tower' is situated to the east of the village.
The church is known locally as St.Mary's not to be confused with the church of St.Mary Magdelene at Goldcliff.
A few hundred yards beyond the church, with farm buildings on the right, turn left onto a track (small circular sign 'Redwick Circular Walk').
A short distance along this track (Hare's Reen on the left), turn right over another wooden footbridge into a field.
Once again the public footpaths through the fields are quite indistinct, so having a map and even a compass would be a great help.
Eventually, beyond a hedgerow and possibly overgrown undergrowth, the path emerges quite suddenly alongside a large pipeline.
Despite the fact that most of the steelworks are now closed and demolished because the old drainage of the 'back-fen' was destroyed they now have to keep the pumping system going to prevent the area from flooding.
Cross the pipeline by the obvious tall steel yellow-painted footbridge, and once again follow indistinct paths from field to field until you emerge onto a narrow road.
Follow this road past Mead Farm and when you reach the village of Redwick and a branch in the road, turn right.
After about a hundred metres, turn left down a footpath which leads to the church. On the other side of the church is Redwick village green.
7. Redwick museum
Redwick is the best-preserved medieval nucleated village on the Levels, and its layout is largely unaltered with few modern buildings.
The village probably originated in the late eleventh/twelfth century, though as it remains in use today, a wide variety of periods are represented in the buildings.
There is also a mark outside the wall of this church which shows the height reached by the Great Flood of 1607 when thousands of people and animals died.
8. Circular walk back to Goldcliff
To turn this into a circular walk either follow the walking track past Church Farm in a south westerly direction out of the village towards the sea wall or head straight down Sea Street Lane.
Turn right at the seawall and follow the coastal track back towards the Newport Wetlands Centre which is approximately 3.5 miles west of your location.
You can either turn right at Porton House and head up through Whitson village or head north westerly through the fields on a track leading to Clifton Court and near to the car park which is closest.
At Clifton Court, turn right and then take the first left and follow the road towards Goldcliff. After a short distance you will arrive back at the car park and the beginning of the walk.
Remember, the public footpaths through the fields are quite indistinct, and some of the footbridges rather hidden amongst the hedgerows, so having a map and even a compass would be a great help in locating the bridges without wasting time.
BBC Disclaimer: The Weatherman Walking routes and maps are intended as a guide to the TV programme only. Routes and conditions may have changed since the programme was made. The BBC takes no responsibility for any accident or injury that may occur while following the route. Always wear appropriate clothing and footwear and check weather conditions before heading out.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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