163pm Severn Bridge to Chepstow

I’ve just walked along the M48, over the first Severn Bridge, and crossed into Wales. To continue my coastal walk, I should really turn left. But, instead,  I turn to my right and walk through a tunnel under the motorway

b01 M48 grafitti underpass, Chepstow, Ruth Livingstone

Wales has an official coastal trail – the Wales Coast Path. It opened in 2012 and is a tremendous achievement, creating a continuous 870 mile coastal walk. The official path starts a couple of miles up the river, in Chepstow. And it would be a shame to miss out on the beginning of the path, wouldn’t it? If I did, I would never be able to claim I’d walked the whole of the Wales Coast Path.

So that’s why I’m heading the wrong way, into Chepstow.

Walking through underpass tunnels always makes me feel slightly uneasy. But this one is cheerful with graffiti. Graffiti that seems a class above the usual. Here is a Welsh dragon.

b02 graffiti, coast path, Chepstow, Ruth Livingstone

And a series of Chepstow scenes.

b03 more graffiti, coast path, Chepstow, Ruth Livingstone

The underpass is part of a cycling route. I like the painting of a cyclist. Reminds me of my husband. But this one has far more hair and a bigger nose.

b04 cyclist, graffiti tunnel, Ruth walking towards Chepstow

They’ve not forgotten walkers.

b05 hiker, graffiti tunnel, Ruth walking towards Chepstow

At the end of the underpass I leave the Wales Coast Path and walk up through residential streets. I’m heading for the Old Wye Bridge, which marks the beginning of the Wales Coast Path.

But first, I need lunch.

make-do lunch, Ruth at pub in Chepstow The Two Brewers pub doesn’t seem particularly crowded. But it’s a Sunday, and everybody is here to eat. The barman tells me there will be a 30 minute wait for food. Is that OK? Well, actually – “no”- it’s not OK. I have walking to do.

So I fall back on my make-do lunch, usually reserved for when I’ve missed food-serving time at a pub: a bag of crisps and a packet of peanuts, washed down with a cold cider and a glass of tap water.

My walk into the centre of Chepstow continues along a gently climbing road, lined with a mix of houses, shops and small businesses.

I pass a public park and get my first proper view. The houses across the valley belong, I think, to Chepstow. [My OS map doesn’t cover this area and, later, I realise I was wrong.  I’m looking at Sedbury and will soon be following Offa’s Dyke across that far slope.]

b07 across park towards Sedbury from Chepstow, Ruth hiking in Wales

Now I’m in a posher part of town, still climbing uphill and keeping to quieter residential streets. I’m surrounded by large houses and it’s only through gaps that I can glimpse the occasional view. Without my map, I’m a little disoriented, but I think that’s the River Severn in the distance.

b08 over Chepstow to River Severn, Ruth walking

I emerge onto the appropriately named Steep Street, leading down to the old Town Gate.

b09 Chepstow, Ruth walking down Steep Street

From here I head left towards the castle, and find a path that winds through a park (called The Dell, I think) and drops down to the river. Views of Chepstow Castle are obscured by tall trees, and the fact I am walking down a narrow valley. But it’s a lovely walk.

At the bottom of the valley I pass a marker stone. At first I think it’s to commemorate the beginning of the Wales Coast Path. But then I realise it’s marking the end of the Wye Valley Walk. How lucky we are to have so many long distance trails crisscrossing the UK.

b10 Chepstow Castle, Ruth walking round the coast, Wales

I walk past the entrance to the castle, through a car park, and down to the river.

Here is wonderful bridge – the Old Wye Bridge – a beautiful 5 arched bridge, built during the Regency Period. Very elegant. It still carries traffic, with lights controlling the one way flow.

b11 Old Wye Bridge, Ruth in Chepstow

I linger a while taking photographs up and down the river. The light is gloomy now, but there is a better view of Chepstow Castle from this aspect.

b12 Chepstow Castle, Ruth on the Old Wye Bridge

Looking down the river I see another bridge. This one is a functional block on girders, without much charm. It’s certainly been a day of bridges!

b13 up the River Wye, Ruth on the Old Wye Bridge, Chepstow

[Later I discover I’m looking at two bridges, one behind the other. The first is a road bridge, carrying the A48. The second replaced a previous Brunel-designed bridge and carries the railway.]

I’m putting off walking the Wales Coast Path until tomorrow. Perhaps because I’ve been looking forward to it for so long, I want to delay the pleasure of starting it! My plan for today is to join the end of the Offa’s Dyke path and follow it to its natural conclusion on the bank of the Severn, then walk down to Beachley.

So, I cross the wonderful Old Wye Bridge and leave Wales. Now I’m in England again.

Up a steep track and I begin walking along the official Offa’s Dyke Path. It passes around the back of houses. I’m hemmed in, much of the route, by tall fences, hedges, ivy covered walls.

Offa's Dyke Way, Ruth walking towards SedburyOffa's Dyke Way 2, Ruth Livingstone more of Offa's Dyke Way, Ruth walking

Perhaps coming this way was a mistake? I was expecting to walk along an ancient defensive earthwork, not skulk through narrow alleys at the bottom of people’s garden fences.

But when I leave Sedbury behind, I find myself in open countryside, and everything changes. Here is Offa’s Dyke. The proper Offa’s Dyke. A raised mound running in a straight line across the fields.

b17 Offa's Dyke through fields, Ruth walking

My detour was worth it.

the last stretch, Ruth walking to the end of Offa's Dyke

I walk through a field of cows and cross a gate over a muddy stream.

 End of Offa's Dyke, marker stone, Ruth at Sedbury Cliffs

A sign on the bridge tells me I am nearly at the end of the path.

Up a hill, and here is a marker stone.

Yes, this is the official end of the Offa’s Dike Path.

But, where is the river bank? In fact, the path appears to have come to a dead-end. In front of me there is a railed fence and tall weeds. I climb up and stand on the stone itself, balancing nervously. Now I can see over the vegetation. The path has ended at the top of a cliff. The River Severn is just below.

Jumping down, I set up a self-portrait – a photograph in which I look a little disappointed by the anti-climax of no-view that marks the end of Offa’s Dyke!

b20 Ruth with no view, Sedbury Cliffs

[Later I report the overgrown vegetation to Rob Dingle, the Trail Officer, via the Offa’s Dyke website. A really good facility. He told me he was aware of the problem, and it may have been cleared by now.]

At this point, I realise I’ve lost my watch. It must have fallen off my wrist, perhaps when I was pulling my rucksack on. I retrace my steps along the dyke, going back a few hundred yards, but can’t find my watch. It only cost a few pounds, but I am cross with myself for losing it.

I give up looking for my watch, turn to my right and walk down a footpath toward the marshy shoreline of the River Severn. My plan is to get to Beachley, where my husband is coming to pick me up.

The sun comes out, low and slanting, and I get some great views of the Severn Bridge. It looks better from this side, with the pylons behind it, instead of in front.

b21 Second Severn Crossing, from marshland Beachley, Ruth Livingstone

But the path soon deteriorates. My boots begin to sink lower with each step, and I start feeling the suck and pull of water under the boggy grass. I begin to walk faster. Spring from one tuft of grass to another, moving quickly to prevent myself from sinking.

When I come to a thick bed of reeds, blocking my way, I realise the path has really disappeared. And I’m in a bog.

I stomp back the way I’ve come,  relieved to get to dryer land without getting water in over the top of my boots. I’m disappointed I can’t get through. But I cheer up when I find a footpath heading inland.

The sun is still shining and the countryside is lovely, warm with autumn colours, as I make my way back to the road.

b22 Ruth walking back through fields, to Beachley Road

I never get as far as Beachley. My husband picks me up from the side of the road,  just south of Sedbury.

Tomorrow I will be back in Chepstow, ready to begin the Wales Coast Path properly. I may have been off-the-map and lost my watch, but today has been a great day and the detour was worth it.

Walked today = 12 miles
Total miles around the coast = 1,607


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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9 Responses to 163pm Severn Bridge to Chepstow

  1. grajay2012 says:

    Shame about the watch 😦 We did a days trip to the Pembrokeshire Coast in June (madness) and when we got back to our car after 11 miles Geri discovered she had lost her car key. Not any old key mind you, but one of those snazzy £100 jobbies….sigh……

    • Losing car keys is your worst nightmare, isn’t it? I presume you had another set – or else you would still be walking back from Pembrokeshire 🙂 So many things to worry about, I have to stop myself checking obsessively – map, phone, Garmin, money, water, mac, tissues, etc. But at least I rarely have to carry car keys.

  2. Rita Bower says:

    Well done Ruth! The walking through Somerset seems to have been mixed & difficult at times, with disappearing footpaths & unfriendly cows! Congratulations on reaching Wales- enjoy the walking!

    • Hi Rita, yes, Somerset was a challenge. I think the next bit of the Wales Coast Path will be a bit of a slog through some of the industrial areas of Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, before I get to the beautiful areas. But at least there will be a proper path.

  3. Marie Keates says:

    What a fantastic walk. The graffiti was truly beautiful. The last part reminds me of some of my walks following footpaths that don’t lead anywhere and ending up worried about water coming over the top of my boots. Shame you lost your watch too.

    • My hubby points out that dead-end paths are often better worn – and therefore more obvious – than they should be. Because every walker has to turn round and come back the same way, so the path is double-walked 🙂 And he bought me a new watch with an enormous face, making it hard to lose.

  4. Pingback: 253 Colwyn Bay to Prestatyn | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  5. Karen White says:

    Pretty towns and streets and that wonderful old bridge, What a super day…well except for losing your watch, and Offa’s Dyke path being a dead end.

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