By Joy Strangward

ROBIN from Penarth and District Ramblers and his spaniel Biggles played host for a delightful walk in the Wye Valley recently, which is featured in the summer edition of Ramblers Walk magazine and which involved a pub lunch. Rather disappointingly only a group of three walkers joined him beginning from Penallt Village Hall and Tennis Club in pretty Monmouthshire.

Setting off by road they picked up a footpath through woodland to enter the grounds of The Argoed with its landscaped gardens set on the western side of the River Wye. This Grade II listed property relates to the late 16th and early 17th century when it was built for Christopher Probert and apparently Charles I visited during the Civil War. In 1865 Richard Potter, who had just resigned as Chair of the Great Western Railway bought the rather run down house to be his summer home and set about restoring and enlarging it. His daughter Beatrice Webb was a well-known social reformer and founder of the Fabian Society which led to the development of Socialism in Britain.

Passing an old tractor and some redwood trees they reached the house which has more recently been owned by Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, before entering Pwllplythin Wood where Biggles could enjoy his freedom. The long slow descent with intermittent views of the river brought them downhill to join part of the long distance Wye Valley Walk, where Biggles investigated a carving of a huge fish before they reached the valley bottom.

Following the banks of the River Wye for about a mile eventually brought them to the renowned Boat Inn which is situated close to the river on its Welsh side. The weather was sunny and really hot and as the pub garden was fairly busy it was a challenge to find a place in the shade, but soon they were rewarded with delicious food and cooling drinks.

Built in 1650 of local stone, the inn which is dog friendly, attracts people that park on the Gloucestershire side of the river who then walk across the Victorian built railway viaduct bridge which opened in 1876 across the River Wye into Monmouthshire, for a visit to Wales. The railway ran from Monmouth to Chepstow and the station was fairly close to the pub which also had a busy boat trade in bygone days, hence the name!

Before they got too comfortable, it was time to move on and being in a valley whatever goes down also has to climb back up, and with full tummies this was rather daunting. Passing a friendly local they set off along a bridleway and onto the road which luckily afforded them some shade as they began their steep climb up Birches Road to reach Penallt Old Church, which is situated some 600 feet above the Wye with gorgeous views towards the Forest of Dean.

The church door has the date 1539 carved into it whilst its tower dates to the late 13th century, with the tower roof being constructed in the 17th century to accommodate the four church bells, the oldest dating to 1662. The pretty church overlooks a pilgrims route down the River Wye to Bristol and onward to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Contained in the church is an ancient piece of furniture, a huge dug-out muniment chest, carved from a solid oak tree trunk dating to the 12th century where valuables were stored. Whilst in the churchyard is the base and shaft of a 15th century cross allegedly destroyed by Puritans in the 17th century and outside, stood the village stocks and whipping post and still in situ a mounting block for worshippers who arrived to worship on horseback.

From this point the climb was a bit easier as they passed through woodland towards Sycamores Farm and through a grassy field to enter Penallt village at the Bush Inn for the short walk back to their start point after a glorious 7 mile hike.

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