This started well, then tailed off – paths I found easily in 2005 simply aren’t there any more. A bit of rethinking needed – but it was a lovely day’s walking.
Cross the main road past the abbey and walk up past St Anne’s (once the outer gatehouse chapel). Turn left and walk along the back lane past the Beaufort Arms. Once past the hotel car park, the track bears right. The OS web site marks the Wye Valley Walk up the stony track ahead of you but it’s waymarked to the left, past the limekilns and up to Rudding Farm. This is a long way up to go down again. Better to stick to the track up hill ahead of you. This is the Stony Way, built for the monks to provide access to their grange farms up the hill. It has been very eroded and overgrown, though it seems to be recovering.
When you get out of the woods, the climb becomes less steep. At ST 524 988, there are stiles to left and right. Go right, walk up the field and cross another stile to a metalled road.
In wet weather the alternative is to follow the Wye Valley Walk waymark then turn right at the top and walk along the edge of the woods. Rejoin the Stony Way by a stile at the end of the woods, cross the track and take the stile up into the fields.
Cross the metalled road, walk up the hedge to your right, and bear left across the next field to the stile into Penterry churchyard.
Leave the church by the footpath going south-west across the fields. Cross the metalled road and take a stony track ahead. When the main track goes right to a cottage, keep straight on and into the forest. When the forest road divides, take the left fork, then bear left again up a waymarked hollow lane between massive stone walls. In 2005 it was possible to turn right at the top of the hill and walk on through the woods but this path seems to have vanished. Instead, go over the waymarked stile, walk to the middle of the field then turn right and walk to a gate in the far hedge, then walk along the hedge to your left. You are now on the St Tewdrig Trail (http://www.thecircleoflegends.co.uk/tewdrigtrail.htm ).
Turn left on the metalled road then right along a stony track. Bear left with the track and walk round the slope. There are wonderful views to your left.
The big farm below you is on the site of Tintern’s Rogerstone Grange, and the reservoir was once a holy well. The St Tewdrig Trail goes downhill to the grange. When the stony track goes left into the field, keep straight on.
After some sadly decaying memorial benches
the track bears right into the forest. The route through the forest is difficult to follow – we really need some waymarks here. There is a network of forest roads, forest roads which are rights of way, forest roads which aren’t rights of way, rights of way which aren’t forest roads … Take the second track to the left. When the tracks divide, take the left fork (effectively straight on). At ST 494 977 the track bends to the left and you cross a small stream. It’s worth walking up the bank ahead of you to look down over the reservoir, now a very pretty pond
with another memorial bench.
In about a mile at 486 975 you reach a crossroads where seven tracks used to meet. Unfortunately, the one we want has completely vanished. I thought I had worked my way back to it but it turned out to be another one, very overgrown, which got to the main road some way to the south. It’s possible to cut back from this to a track which emerges from the trees behind Yewtree Cottage, but it’s very difficult to find the paths on the ground. There are also problems with the footpath as it climbs the fields to join the road to Newchurch – new houses have made the path difficult to follow.
The alternative is to stick with the forest road from 486 975 and follow it as it bends north and downhill, then turn left at the T junction and walk down to the road. Cross and take the minor road ahead of you. Go straight over a crossroads, down hill and up a steep slope past a farm called Ty Bettws. It looks like an extended long house and the name ‘Bettws’ means a place of prayer or a hermitage. At the top of the slope, where the metalled road turns right, take the lane to the left. You are now on the line of the old pilgrimage route from London to St David’s. When the track divides, take the very muddy fork to the right and walk on to the metalled road.
In 2005 I walked along the road to Newchurch. There are off-road alternatives, but the road runs along a ridge with magnificent views to either side.