The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 15 April 2016

ODP Day 2: to Monmouth

Fri 15 April
11 miles?
Overcast, low cloud, occasional short-lived drizzle

Our ordinary backpacking routine would have seen us up at 6 this morning and walking around 7.30, but that's not how this morning went. I first awoke at 6.25, looked at the time, listened to the rain, thought "Nah!" and went back to sleep. It was gone a quarter to eight by the time I made moves kettlewards for our breakfast brew. It was twenty to ten by the time we set out.

I don't like late starts, but today it was worthwhile. Aside from not having far to go, the delay gave the rain time to stop such that, even though there were some drizzly spells throughout the day (and it's raining lightly as I type this), waterproofs were not required. That said, I did wear my jacket all day, and Mick wore his overtrousers so between us we had it covered!

Oh the mud, though! The last mile or so of yesterday had been a mudfest and the ground conditions hadn't been helped by the overnight rain. It made the going awfully slow for much of the time.

In view of the mud and the low cloud, the decision to take the high route via St Briavels Common, rather than the riverside route was not (in hindsight) worth the effort. It was a series of byways, in various states of muddiness, bordered by fields and with no views. Even so, when we reached valley level again and had the option of taking to the Wye Valley Way, which would have shortcut our day and kept us below the cloud, we still opted to take the higher route of the ODP. It seemed wrong to be wandering off track so early in the walk.

Many areas of nice natural woodland featured today, with fine carpets of bluebells, wood anenome,  wild garlic and lesser celandine, as well as another blue flower of which I know not the name. This particular section was marred, however, by a very steep descent on wet, rotting leaves covering waterlogged clay. We inched our way down, with occasional yelps as slides were taken.

Entering Bigsweir Wood the signposts and waymarks in the car park are now so obvious that it would take a serious lack of attention accidentally to take the low, easy track, as we did in 2008. Today we took the proper route which, through this loveliest of the day's woodland, was marred only by the mud. Did I mention that the mud was a notable feature and impediment today?

By Redbrook patience with undulations and muddy descents had been exhausted so the route over Kymin was omitted in favour of the riverside walk into Monmouth, where Henry's Cafe served me a pot of tea (made with leaves) holding four generous cups. As we sat there we contemplated: to stick to plan and go for a stealth camp tonight, or to go with the easy option of the campsite. For the second consecutive day, the campsite won and I'm pleased to say that the welcome received was far friendlier than in 2008 (when we were greeted by a shout of something along the lines of "what do you want" from an upstairs window, and (if I remember correctly) later the same day Conrad was refused a pitch even though there was plenty of room by us. Today we were thoughtfully given a patch of grass just outside a lean-to shelter, housing a couple of benches and a drying rack - luxury facilities for the backpacker :-)

The toilet facilities are still rather dated, mind. A particular feature is that the token meter for the ladies' shower is outside the cubicle opposite a window, which was once whitewashed, but is now clear in patches. I probably don't need to explain the implications of that arrangement...


  1. Curious to know which campsite that was.

    1. Monnow Bridge Caravan Park. It also has the feature of the only dishwashing sink being in the ladies' toilets. Bit of a problem for me, as washing up is Mick's job, but even more of a problem for any single males using the site.

  2. Third attempt: (Though Lord knows why as it was only to say hello, really)
    I spent this section in the mist. But it was lovely underfoot and that was in March.
    You two seem to attract the rain, a bit like Mr Evans.

    1. We've had extraordinarily good weather for more of our walks than we've had bad weather (including this one; only one morning of snow showers), although, of course, the bad weather ones are the more memorable, such as the Wet Highland Washout in 2008.

  3. Extract from my journal - Day 19 - 4th May 2008

    "I descended to Brockweir and decided to follow the Wye
    Valley walk along the river instead, and then at Bigsweir
    Bridge (this where the road goes off up to Whitebrook Inn
    where I had a good meal with my brothers Rod and Nick a
    while ago). I crossed the river and walked another pleasant
    path on the riverside then a disused railway where I used my
    pocket radio. At Monmouth I was turned away by a
    miserable caravan site owner who said they were full. I later
    found that Mick and Gaynor were staying there, and they
    also confirmed the miserable nature of the site owner. I went
    about half a mile up the road where at another site the
    welcome was just the opposite and despite the bank holiday
    crowding of the site they managed to squeeze me in between two caravans."

    Sorry JJ - can't be more specific about the name of the site.

  4. Meant to congratulate you on the impressive bluebells. That's the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile.

    1. The woodland flowers were a highlight of this section. Can't beat a good display of bluebells can you?

  5. Yeah, those token showers are always an interesting set up...rare now, thankfully. Great stuff so far!

  6. Just noticed, you must have changed your name since then Gayle.

    1. I was impressed that you were so faithful to your original diary entry that you didn't correct my name as you typed it out!

  7. David Brown 990, one of the popular work horses.

    1. Quite a basic looking thing, that one, I thought.