Sunday, 22 November 2015

In Search of Cleddon Falls

After a very busy summer with no time to write up anything for Usk Chirps, it feels good tapping away this morning to share a beautiful walk that we did yesterday on a very cold but fabulously sunny November day.

Ruck sack packed with sandwiches and coffee we set off to explore Beacon Hill above the village of Trellech near Monmouth. A largely circular walk of probably around 6 miles+ in total, took us across open heath land, forestry tracks and paths and part of the high level Wye Valley Walk in search of Cleddon Falls. Incidentally,  this area is not only great for walking but mountain biking and horse riding, with lots of trails and bridle paths open to horses and bikes as well as walkers - see link at the end of the post with more info.

We started at Beacon View car park (location info given at the end of this post) which provided amazing views across the wonderful spire of Trellech Church and rolling Monmouthshire countryside, to The Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, glittering in the bright sunshine with a dusting of snow (the first this winter), on their caps in the bright sun. Standing in the biting north easterly wind pulling on wind proofs, hats and gloves, we could clearly see The Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and Blorenge with Table Mountain, Pen Carreg Calch and even Pen-y-Fan in the very far distance.

View from Beacon Hill  car park

The trails are way marked from the car park with red and yellow arrows and you have the option of doing walks of much shorter length than the one we chose. We followed the trail in a clockwise direction heading left up the forest track, initially on the outer edges of the red trail which takes you to the Beacon Hill View point.

Beacon Hill View Point

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            From here we followed the track through a gate and down over the heath land through a gate and across a forestry road to join the yellow marked trail through the forest.

Follow the yellow marked trail bearing right along the path at the bottom along the edge of the forest then turning left opposite a wooden and metal gate on your right (which would take you back on to the heath and will eventually be your return route). Continue down this track following the yellow arrows which will eventually take you to the right into a narrower, muddier track through the trees.

Keep going along this path which forms part of the Wye Valley Walk and you will emerge on to a wider forest trail.  As you walk along the trail look out for an opening to your left which takes you to The Duchess's Ride View Point so named after the Duchess of Beaufort who is said to have enjoyed riding in her carriage along this route.

This view point perched high above the Wye Valley, provides stunning panoramic views above, over and down the river towards the Severn Estuary and a convenient bench on which to sit and eat sandwiches, drink coffee and contemplate the beautiful view.

After a welcome refreshment rest, we headed back out on to the trail turning left. To the left the stunning views high across the Wye Valley continued through the avenue of Scots Pine and Beech trees.

In this section of the walk the trail is littered with 'pudding stone' a type of sandstone embedded with quartz pebbles which was once quarried and used extensively for building walls and manufacturing mill grind stones in the local area.

After about 1/2 a mile you reach a cross roads of tracks and it was here we left the way marked trail taking an unmarked track to the left - unmarked but as our Ordnance Survey Map showed, still part of the official, Wye Valley Walk. This is quite an amazing track passing through Cuckoo Wood with beech and oak trees (part of the Duchess's Ride). It was very probably originally a quarry stone transportation route for extracting the pudding stone. All the way it is edged with ancient looking moss covered stone walls and boulders. Could this be one of the paths William Wordsworth walked when he visited the Wye Valley in 1793? (See Wordsworth Walk link below).

At the end of the track you come to a B&B on the left hand side and we suddenly realised we had accidentally stumbled on 'Sarah's Place' (aka Falls Cottage), owned and run by our friends Steve and Sarah Widdett. Sadly Steve and Sarah were not at home (or maybe they hid when they saw us!) when we knocked, but it is clear their charming property provides a warm, friendly haven for walkers, mountain bikers and other 'outdoor loving' types. It is dog friendly and positioned in a superb location for access to everything connected with The Wye Valley, Monmouthshire and The Forest of Dean. Be sure to check it out on the link here. Sarah's Place B&B.

Sarah's Place B+B - well worth a look if you want to stay in the area

As you pass Sarah's Place look out for the quirky weather forcasting stone on the wall which will be sure to give you a smile as it did us! You become aware, as you reach the metalled lane at the end of the track, of the sound of roaring water and you realise that the original name for Sarah's Place is Falls Cottage for a good reason as across the lane,  tumbling down the very steep, wooded hillside into the valley below is a beautiful waterfall. We had found Cleddon Falls, running fast and furious after the very heavy rainfall over the last week.

After admiring the wonderful falls we retraced our steps past Sarah's Place and back along the stone strewn track to rejoin the forest trail until we came to the forest cross roads once more. This time we went straight across the track past a bench on the right, to follow the yellow arrow marked path which meanders up through the woods - follow this track until you reach a wider forest track and go straight across and look out for the metal and wooden gates on the left (you passed these earlier) and go through them up on to the heath land track. Just off the track to the right you will see a boggy pool - Dewi enjoyed a swim in there.

Continue up the track and you will come to a crossroads with a bench where we stopped for another coffee and to admire the view across the heath towards the Malvern Hills - you can just about see them outlined beyond the nearer ridge in the very far distance .

From here you have about 1/2 a mile left to walk to the car park. Continuing straight on up the track, through the gates at the top and going straight on through the wood where there was lots of fallen timber after the storm and forestry operations before descending down the trail to the Beacon Hill car park and its lovely view once more.

More Info

This is a great walk for dogs as they can run free for most of the walk. However, be mindful of wildlife and be aware there may be ponies grazing on the heath and take care at Cleddon Falls where there are very steep drops.

Start Location
From the B4293 in Trellech take the road signed ‘Llandogo, Catbrook, Tintern’ and immediately take the left turn. After ½ mile take the first left turn. Go up this narrow lane Beacon View Forestry Commission car park is ¼ mile on the right.

Beacon Hill Nature Reserve - Gwent Wildlife Trust

Beacon Hill - Wikipedia

Wordsworth Walk

Tread and Trot Trails - this area is great for walking, mountain biking  and horse riding with lots of trails and bridle paths open to horses and bikes as well as walkers.

Sarah's Place B&B

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