Offa’s Dyke Path Run – Monmouth to Sedbury Cliffs
Offa’s Dyke Vital Stats
Monmouth to Sedbury Cliffs
- Distance: 22.00 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 1015m
- Highest Elevation: 243m
- Time: 4:43:47
- Av. Pace: 12:54 mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 118bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 152bpm
- Calories: 1830
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 633.81 miles
- Total Time: 119:02:50
- Total Elevation Gain: 20310m
- Total Calories: 57797 Kcal
- Distance to go: 456 miles
I had planned to do this run later in the week. I decided on Sunday evening that it would make more sense to visit my parents on Sunday evening after my cyclocross race in Swansea and then do the run on Monday morning. Not only would it save me about 3 hours of driving, but I’d have chance to visit my parents too. So, after my race in Swansea I headed off across the Bridge to South Gloucestershire in the pouring rain. I spent the night at my parents house. I then had an early start for a quick 30 minute trip back across the bridge to a car park in Chepstow. I paid my £4.40 parking fee and headed to the bus station where I boarded the bus to Monmouth. I was the only person on it for the whole trip.
Once in Monmouth it was straight into a gentle jog along the high street, past the place I’d stopped last time and then on through the town. Things were just beginning to wake up as it was now almost 8am.
Monmouth to Redbrook
The route took me through Monmouth, past the memorial statue to the aviation pioneer Charles Rolls in Agincourt Square and then out through the edge of town.
I went under the subway to cross the main road and then left Monmouth behind as I started a long climb towards Garth Woods. It was a warm, misty murky day with no breeze at all so things soon got a little sticky as I made my way through the steep, leaf strewn paths through the woods.
At the top of the woods I passed alongside a small orchard and then through what looked like a rare breeds farm where there was a flock of small dark brown sheep and some inquisitive pigs.
Ever upwards the path took me, into the clouds through another woodland. Here there was a deep gulley through which I ran. The embankments on either side were possibly signs of Offa’s Dyke once again. It was an eerie place in the silence of a still morning.
Eventually I emerged out onto the Kymin at the top.
The summit of the Kymin, about 800 feet above sea level, is known for its neo-classical monuments, the Roundhouse and the Naval Temple, built between 1794 and 1800. The site is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is owned by the National Trust.
According to Wikipedia:
The Roundhouse was built by members of the Monmouth Picnic Club or Kymin Club, a group of Monmouth’s gentlemen, led by Philip Meakins Hardwick. The members of the Kymin Club were drawn from “the principal Gentlemen of Monmouth and its vicinity”, and met each week “for the purpose of dining together, and spending the day in a social and friendly manner”.
There’s nothing wrong with that even if it was a little exclusive!
The Kymin Club also constructed the nearby Naval Temple in 1800 to commemorate the second anniversary of the British naval victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
Unfortunately, the spectacular views that were enjoyed by members of the Kymin Club from atop the Kymin were obscured by low cloud today. There was very little for me to see.
The path descended gently for a while along the edge of Harpen’s grove woodland and then through Upper Beaulieu Farm before plunging more steeply down the valley towards the Mill Pond neat Upper Redbrook. Here I ran along a road for a little while into the streets of Lower Redbrook and along the Valley floor beside the River Wye.
Redbrook to Brockweir
There was a very steep climb out of Redbrook. The recent rains meant that the ground was wet and slippery so I was reduced to walking in order to gain traction. The slower pace did at least give me chance to look back down into the steep sided Wye Valley to Redbrook far below.
At the top I entered Highbury Wood through a 10 foot tall kissing gate through a deer fence. The paths through Highbury wood were slick, slippery and strewn with rocks and roots. These were topped with a fresh covering of autumnal leaves. There were more slip and trip hazards than a Health and Safety Powerpoint presentation. The going was therefore relatively slow as I picked my way along the meandering trail that clung precipitously to the hillside with a steep drop to my right.
I left Highbury Woods behind through another tall gate and the skirted around the edge of Cadora Wood Nature Reserve. Through fields along the valley side and into Bigsweir Wood Nature Reserve where yet more trip hazards awaited. My pace across such terrain might have been slow, but the miles were ticking by and progress was being made.
I ran through the appropriately named ‘Slip Wood’ and emerged out onto a road that led towards Bigsweir Bridge.
Here I had a choice of the high, complicated route through the Hudnalls, or the slightly long, lower route that followed the sweeping meanders of the River Wye. I opted for the latter as that was the route programmed into my watch. It took me past Bigsweir house and out onto the fertile flood plains of the River Wye. The path hugged the river through huge fields where cows grazed. It was a long, flat muddy few miles alongside the River Wye.
After the long slog along the river I made it to Brockweir.
Brockweir is now a small sleepy village on the eastern banks if the River Wye, but it was for centuries home to a thriving shipbuilding, fitting-out and repair industry. Brockweir was the highest point reached by a normal tide on the Wye, and a key shipment point where the cargoes of sea-going ships were transferred onto barges to be sent upstream, and the products of Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean were sent back to Bristol and beyond. It’s hard to believe this now.
From the Wye to the Severn
From Brockweir the path climbed steeply, then very steeply and finally ridiculously steeply up to the top of the hill and into yet more woodlands. Here the gradient eased a little as the path weaved it’s way through the woods following the course of the River Wye far below. The dense woodland hid any views of the valley as I made my way ever onwards to the rocky limestone outcrop of the Devils Pulpit high above Tintern.
On the path went through endless woodland where once again trip hazards abound. There were signs of Offa’s Dyke Earthworks here, and even a sign to tell me about the presence of the dyke.
Eventually I started descending through the slippery woodland paths. The route became a little convoluted here as it weaved it’s way around large houses, out onto roads now and then and then around the edges of various fields. I then ended up on a lane way above the River Wye. I hadn’t realised I still had quite so much elevation as the limestone cliffs of the Wye Valley plunged vertically to my right down to the River meanders below. The river looked pretty impressive from here but unfortunately the views were somewhat obscured my tree growth and a large wire fence to keep people away from the cliff edges.
It then took me into the village of Woodcroft to the north of Chepstow where I was directed along a series of odd little lanes.
The path then weaved it’s way through more lanes, across fields and past a Lookout Tower before heading into Chepstow where I caught a glimpse of the bridge through the trees.
From here Offa’s Dyke Path weaved it’s way through back streets, little lanes and up and down a few hills as it made it’s way through the outskirts of Chepstow. Over a bridge above the main road and railway line and then down alongside the river for a while before weaving it’s way through the suburbs. I emerged from the town at Buttington Hump and then ran down the impressive embankment of Offa’s Dyke. It had been a while since the dyke itself was so prominent.
I crossed a little footbridge with a sign saying that I was approaching the end of the Path.
All that was left was a short climb up to the top of Sedbury Cliffs where views of the River Severn and the Severn Bridge marked the end of the trail. There was of course also a rock with a plaque on it signifying the start / end of Offa’s Dyke Path.
Amazingly there was my first glimpse of anything approaching sunlight as I made it to the end of Offa’s Dyke Long Distance Footpath. There was no fanfare of trumpets to accompany the sudden appearance of the sun and the completion of the path, but there was a group of ladies on a little ramble who gave me a congratulatory chocolate!
From here I retraced my steps a little into Chepstow and then down onto Chepstow Bridge that I had seen earlier. There were some nice views of Chepstow Castle ahead of me and looking from the bridge I could see the cliffs alongside the river that I had run along the tops of an hour or so ago.
I then made my way through the streets of Chepstow where I spotted some signs for the Wales Coast Path. These will be the signs I’ll be following for the next stage of my circumnavigation of Wales.
With the 177 miles of Offa’s Dyke path along the border of England and Wales behind me, it’s back to the Coast path for a further 460 miles or so from Chepstow, along South Wales, around the Gower, out around Pembrokeshire and then finally the last few miles up along Cardigan Bay to Llanrhystud where I first started this journey. There’s a long way to go, but I’ll keep working at it.