Llangatwg to Llanfaenor: joining the dots

Third day of fine weather. Can we manage to link the walk from Llanthony with the Wye Valley –

Yes, we can!

The Offa’s Dyke Path is still the best way south from below Cwm-iou – it gets you across the railway line and the main road, both difficult crossings (and the road could probably do with a bit more notice for drivers) and across the fields to Llangattock Lingoed. Llangattock is well worth a visit for many reasons. There’s B&B at the Old Rectory (http://www.oldrectorystayinwales.co.uk/ ), a cabin which can be rented just for one night (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/14687416 ), and the Hunter’s Moon http://www.hunters-moon-inn.co.uk/ , a village pub with food and accommodation. (The pub is open all day from 12 noon, every day, so you can get a cup of tea if you roll past late in the afternoon.)

And the church – http://www.villagealivetrust.org.uk/what-to-see/churches/st-cadocs-church . Much of its medieval rood screen, medieval stained glass (very rare in south Wales), a huge wall painting of St George, and this humdinger of a seventeenth century gravestone.


The naive vernacular figures either side of a central cross are the trademark of a local firm of stonemasons.

But eventually you have to tear yourself away. The ODP would take you all the way to Monmouth, but the Cistercian Way plans a diversion to visit  the remains of a Cistercian grange. Leave the churchyard by the south gate, following the ODP waymarks. Walk down the field and over a footbridge to turn left on the lane. At SO 36244 19009 follow the ODP waymark across the field to a footbridge at SO 36422 18751.


Leave the ODP here and turn left down a very muddy bank and across another footbridge at SO 36509 18746.


Bear slightly to the right up the next field to a stile in the far hedge at SO 36799 18904. Continue on the same line across the next field heading for the impressive Jacobean chimneys of the intriguingly-named Great Pool Hall. (This is a timber-framed gentry house of a kind you would be more likely to find in town – more details at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/300001924-great-pool-hall-grosmont#.WMqd46JBrIU.)

Cross the road at SO 37057 18999 and walk down through the yard of Great Pool Hall, between the house and the stables. Go through a little gate ahead of you


and walk along the right side of the hedge. Cross the stile at the far left corner of the field and keep on the same line bearing right towards a stile in the fence at about SO 37554 18827


(the stile is difficult to see and the fence isn’t on the map).

Look up to your left and you can see the huge mansion of Glen Trothy, built in the 1880s at the height of the Victorian passion for Scots Baronial architecture.


It was built for the Vaughan family, who were Catholics, and has a lovely little chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/300014407-glen-trothy-house-including-attached-sacred-heart-chapel-llantilio-crossenny#.WMqeo6JBrIV ). The house isn’t open to the public. (If you Google for places to stay nearby you may find the Glen Trothy Caravan Park but that’s nowhere near – it’s in Mitchel Troy, south of Monmouth.)

The bank below the stile is a bit overgrown but there were some lovely wood anemones.


Scramble down, turn left on the metalled drive, immediately right over a little bridge and immediately left up the bank.


You are now on the line of the Three Castles Way – a promoted route, and reasonably well waymarked. Cross the road at SO 37675 18743, scramble up the far bank (there are steps but they are worn) and over the stile.


Bear up to the right across the next field to a stile about ⅔ up the far fence.


Continue bearing round to the right past Cae Scybor. Cross the drive and walk to the left of the hedge ahead of you.


When the hedge bears to the right, keep straight on to cross a stile at SO SO 38102 18930. Bear slightly to the left across the next field. The map shows the RoW going along the hollow lane at the far side of the field but this can be very muddy (police have put warning signs about off-road activity) so the RoW is now waymarked along the far edge of the field to a stile and gate at SO 38295 19093.


Turn left and walk along the lane. Turn right on the metalled road and right again at the fork following the sign for Cat’s Ash. In about ⅔ km you reach Llanfair Cilgoed, site of Dore’s grange. The name suggests it might have been an early Christian hermitage. You can cross the stile at SO 38976 19088 and walk diagonally across the field to look at the earthworks of what may have been fishponds and vineyards.


The land of the grange was sold off when Dore was closed in 1536 but the grange chapel became a chapel of ease, a small church for weekly services but without the power to do the big stuff like baptisms, marriages and funerals. In 1560 the curate was a John Dydbroke who had been a monk at Dore. He would not have been paid much as a curate but he had also managed to get hold of a lease of the grange so he could have lived quite comfortably on that. The present church is a little Victorian box, built when the old one had long been in ruins and people had to trek nearly 6 km to the church in Llandeilo Gresynni.

Llanfair church is worth seeing. There is some good modern stained glass and a very informative exhibition about the history of the grange and the Cistercian order (though I did spot one mistake – thirteen Cistercian houses in late medieval Wales? What about the other two??)

A bit more background at  http://www.villagealivetrust.org.uk/what-to-see/churches/st-mary. The church is always open and has a kettle, tea and coffee for walkers.


Continue down the lane and just past the churchyard there is a gate in the hedge which gets you back into the grange field. The foundations of the old church are in a small railed enclosure ahead of you.


Pick up the footpath again, walk below Llanfair Grange farmhouse and bear left to the far left corner of the field.


The stream is culverted here but it is still very muddy. Immediately over the stream, turn left and cross a stile.


Bear right across the next field and head for the far right corner (the woods marked on the OS map are no longer there).


Cross a stile and turn left on the main road by the 1861 restaurant (http://www.18-61.co.uk/ – tbh it looks a bit posh for walkers but might be good for an evening-out  treat).

Past the restaurant, take the next turning to the left. At SO 39947 19229 (opposite The Laurels) take the waymarked footpath through the gate to your left. Walk to your right and gradually downhill to a gate at SO 40187 18976.


Continue parallel with the stream to another gate (with a rather battered stile) at SO 40368 18652.


Turn left on a roughly metalled road. After the bridge, this becomes a muddy lane going steeply up hill.


At the top it becomes very overgrown and so muddy as to be impassable (more off-roading, but this is technically a byway for vehicles so it’s legal) but it’s easy to get into the field to the right and walk along the hedge.

Turn right on a metalled road and follow it to Llanllwyd. Go through the farmyard at Great Llanllwyd and straight on along a lane (this one a restricted byway – horses but not motorised traffic). After the dogleg in the lane go straight on through the gate ahead and to your right, and walk down hill to the right of the hedge.


When you pass under the pylons, go through the gate to your left and continue on the same line but to the left of the hedge. There is a slight hollow trail along the hedge. At the bottom right corner of the field, go through a gate and down a lane to the ford and footbridge at Little Mill.


Here you pick up the route I explored last summer (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/pushing-up-the-borders/ ) and walk on to Grace Dieu and Monmouth and down the Wye valley to Tintern.

So we have the route clear and walkable from Capel-y-ffin to Tintern and on to Llantarnam. Now all I have to do is get it translated …

Who would true valour see?

On Saturday a small but happy band of pilgrims set off from Llantarnam – with me were my daughter and her long-suffering boyfriend, one of my MA students, three women from the Ancient Cwmbran Society and of course Cara the pilgrim dog. We had a good send-off from Sister Ann Larkins of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy including a blessing with holy water from a medieval stoup found in the abbey ruins.

Over the years our route has diverged from the medieval trackway. The old maps suggest this went across the fields, down the lane behind the church, and along the main Llantarnam Road towards Cwmbran. You can’t now walk across the fields (there’s a dual carriageway across the route) and the road  makes pretty boring walking. So we go down the Abbey drive, along Ty Coch Lane, and head for the canal towpath. Less authentic but a better walk.

We reclaim the old road in Old Cwmbran and plod over St Dial’s Hill. The women from the Ancient Cwmbran society remembered playing there as children and might even have seen the ruins of St Dial’s farmhouse before it was demolished to build the police college. It could have been on the site of the medieval shrine chapel, but unless we could get in to look at the ruins we could never know.


Here we are on top of the hill. Down the other side and past Greenmeadow Community Farm, a classic hollow way with outgrown beech hedges takes us across the modern roads and up to Thornhill. The Ancient Cwmbran Society gave us tea and we debated whether to try the top route up Mynydd Maen (virtually a stream in places  but the original route the monks would have taken to their granges at the Rhyswg and Cil-lonydd) or to cut through Greenmeadow Woods. The top route has the better views, and we all had good boots, so up we went.


The waymark actually says ‘Pilgrims’ Way’. The blackberries were at their best, we had lunch above the ruins, and Dave Standing found some grange boundaries. There is still so much archaeology to explore up there.

I have always felt that the medieval pilgrims wouldn’t have gone over the top of Twmbarlwm – why go all that way up just to come down again?? The track through the woods towards Pant-yr-yrfa is now pretty clear but the farmyard is well blocked so we had to go up the ridge in the end.But there were some magnificent bank and ditch features under the trees – this is all part of the Dorallt grange and has evidence of early mining.

Then we diverted again from the original route, which would have gone down the road through Ty-Sign and across the Stony Bridge in Pontymister. But that makes for a long road walk through the houses – so we headed across Twmbarlwm to Pegwn-y-bwlch, down the Darran road, along the canal and down to the Blackvein bridge.

Dave Standing’s photos of the day are at https://picasaweb.google.com/108133310404705177233/LlantarnamAbbeyToPenrhysPilgrimage2013DayOne

Sunday started well but by the time we crossed the ridge above Pen-heol-bedwas the rain was setting in. Cara did some very pathetic shivering over lunch, though we think this may have been a ploy to get extra cake. The afternoon was just the two of us, my daughter Rachel and myself – even Cara had gone home in the minibus. We had a wonderful welcome from the ladies at Groeswen, but once we stopped we couldn’t get going again.

So we propose doing the final section – Groeswen to Eglwysilan and on  to Pontypridd – on Wednesday, when the weather looks a little more promising. Saturday is also looking good so far. We set off from the green by the White Bridge, on the Ynysybwl road out of Pontypridd, at 10 am on Saturday and aim to be in Penrhys in time for tea. There will be transport back to the start.