Penarth & District Ramblers enjoy the glorious Wye Valley

A GROUP of nine walkers joined Terry and Marion for an 11.5 mile walk taking in the Greenway and the newly refurbished and re-opened Tidenham Tunnel in the glorious Wye Valley.

Beginning from a car park close to Wyedean School in Sedbury, Gloucestershire they made their way to Tutshill weathering a heavy downpour as they walked.

Crossing the parkland a climb through fields allowed them great views back towards Chepstow Castle and passing the remains of an ancient look-out tower, they learned that JK Rowling lived in Church Cottage in Tutshill as a child from the age of eight to eighteen and attended Wyedean School.

Joining part of the long distance Offa’s Dyke Path they followed it to reach Wintour’s Leap which stands high above a huge bend in the River Wye with views to the Lancaut peninsula below. Legend has it that the Royalist Sir John Wintour in a bid to escape from the Parliamentarians during the Civil War galloped over the steep cliffs in 1642 to land in the River Wye and make good his escape.

The tall craggy cliffs have a sheer fall and are often used by rock climbing enthusiasts and there is little doubt that if there is any truth in this story he would have been seriously injured or killed. It is known that Wintour did escape capture by the Roundheads on two separate occasions but those were at Sedbury and Lancaut, but this viewpoint still carries his name.

Crossing a busy road they entered fields making their way along Netherhope Lane to a small wood where they chose to stop for their morning break as the incessant rain had stopped. Continuing with views towards the Bristol Channel they endured a small road walk to re-join Offa’s Dyke Path through woodland which eventually led them to the viewpoint at the Devil’s Pulpit.

Legend has it that the Devil stood on the limestone pinnacle which overlooks Tintern Abbey in the valley below trying to entice the monks toiling in the fields to come and join him.

Leaving Offa’s Dyke they descended towards the valley floor in order to stop for their lunch in bright sunshine, before following the flat disused railway track following the Greenway to the entrance of the Tidenham Tunnel.

After generous funding this tunnel which is 143 years old and 1,080 metres long and which connects Sedbury with Tintern on the Gloucestershire side of the Wye, has been renovated and re-opened in April 2021 as a 5 mile off-road shared walking and cycle track.

The tunnel opened to rail traffic in November 1876 as part of the now disused Wye Valley Railway that connected Monmouth and Chepstow and despite the line closing in 1964, the tunnel remained in operation to serve both the Tintern and Dayhouse Quarries to move stone.

After receiving planning permission local contractors and many volunteers put in over 42 weeks of hard work removing the tracks, clearing rubbish, cutting down brambles and overgrowth, fitting low level lighting, installing signs and shoring up walls as well as planting trees and flowers, so the tunnel could be re-opened as a public space.

The tunnel contains a healthy population of Lesser Horseshoe bats so bat shelters and dormouse boxes were fitted and under the regulations set by Natural England Bat Licence there are strict rules. The only lighting allowed is the installed low lights so the tunnel is really dark, you are advised to walk on the left, keep dogs on a short lead and cyclists must switch off all lights and ride slowly or dismount if the tunnel is busy to avoid accidents.

The tunnel is open from April to September during the day but closed at night to protect the bats and at its deepest point is 100m below the surface. If for any reason the tunnel has to be closed then alternative routes can be found by accessing the website.

After journeying through the tunnel, rather a thrilling but eerie experience, they continued along the Greenway where volunteers had created a pond surrounded by native wildflowers, before returning to their start point for the journey home.

You can follow the group at www.penarthramblers.wordpress.com or on Facebook.

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