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River Wye and Forest of Dean

Riverside wandering, walking to Symonds Yat, and a hostel in the woods

The River Wye winds its way from Mid-Wales to join the sea in the Severn Estuary near Chepstow. The lower reaches, where the river is wide and sluggish, are famous as a beautiful area to go walking. Not only is the river a major feature, with its associated wildlife, but the surrounding hills are cloaked in woodland, much of it heavily protected and conserved for their pristine nature.

We stayed in Wye Valley YHA for the weekend. This large building looking down to the river is at the end of a zig-zagging track, taking you down through the woods into the different world that lies beneath. Once the group were all settled in and had begun to get to know each other, we ambled outside to the terrace, where we admired the full moon lighting up the river and the woods while the lights from the few houses twinkled on the hills.

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Saturday featured three different guided walks, all aiming to reach the famous viewpoint on Symonds Yat by different means. The short walk headed straight there, strolling along and enjoying the scenery. The day was quite overcast but there was no rain, and the mist added a mystery to the day.

The medium walk wandered to the east to pass Goodrich Castle before following the southern bank of the river to Symonds Yat. After an exciting descent along woodland paths, most even managed to include a pub visit to watch the rugby.

Our long walk headed out on an 18 mile hike, taking in a large stretch of the forest and keeping up a fierce pace for the day – a great one for stretching the legs!

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The lounge was once more a scene of tea, wine, snacks and card games as we settled down for the evening and re-lived the day’s walks. There had been a fair share of mud, which is reasonable for February, but we also saw an ancient priory, cormorants hunting along the river, picked some mistletoe, and followed an abandoned railway line.

On Sunday we split into two walks. The longer walk stayed out all day, taking a packed lunch and drinking in the views of Tintern Abbey before walking a stretch of Offa’s Dyke path.

The shorter walk started and finished in the old market town of Ross-on-Wye. We walked up the nearby hill through Chase Wood, where we passed an Iron Age hillfort, and then headed back to Ross through country lanes and then along the River, saying one last goodbye to the Wye before lunch and the end of our adventure.

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