Walked 5th May 2012 (the official opening of the path)
Approximate distance: Magor (around 14.5 miles) or Redwick (15 miles)
The Wales Coast Path runs from Chepstow to the river Dee. The Countryside Council for Wales appears to consider that it actually goes from north to south, as their website has map No.1 as being on a canalised section of the River Dee. I take the opposite view because a) that’s just how I am, b) I wouldn’t be doing this at all if I had to go to north Wales to start the walk and c) I’ll be walking in a clockwise direction, which makes so much more sense.
And Chepstow makes a much more sensible starting point as it has a train station which links direct to Birmingham and to the south of Wales. It also has a bus station with both local and national buses, with one excellent service going direct to London. It remains to be seen what public transport networks link to the bend in the Dee.
Further, Chepstow is a nice place, with an excellent Castle, a super little museum, 13 Hotels and pubs, several bed and breakfasts, a range of restaurants including the best Indian that I have eaten in for years (the Murghal Spice), and a bookshop that sells both mine and my wife’s books. What’s not to like? If you come by car and you are lucky, there are actually two small free car parks near the train station. If you are just coming for a short time the Castle Dell Car Park in Bridge Street is just 5 minutes’ walk from the start of the path, as is the Drill Hall car park off Lower Church Street. You only have to pay up to 5pm.
That’s as much of a guide to this excellent town as I have space for. Have a look at the Chepstow Town Crier website.
This part of the path is within Monmouthshire County Council. Please report any problems to email@example.com or phone 01633 644850
The path begins in Riverside Gardens, just by the pretty cast iron Wye Bridge, at a carved commemorative stone opposite the bandstand
Local ceramicist and thoroughly good guy, Ned Heywood, has created the most beautiful compass set into the ground. Next to you are the muddy lower reaches of the Wye. The Wye is the 5th longest river in the UK and has the 2nd largest tidal range in the world. Pause here and make sure that you get your photograph taken. There are 870 miles ahead of you!
This first section is comprehensively marked with ceramic discs set into the ground and by stickers on various posts and bollards. You’ll be seeing a lot of these. The path goes past the Boat Inn to the corner of the park and then turns up The Back, then turns left into Lower Church Street.
Cut through St Mary’s churchyard and admire the Church’s ornate West door- it is 11th century- and cross the road . If you haven’t packed a packed lunch, on the right, just after the Murghal Spice, Parson’s sandwiches and cakes are excellent. Take the underpass under the busy A48 and turn right opposite Tesco’s past the sorting office and take the first road left. The brief steep rise takes you past a section of the 13th century Port Wall. The path continues to be well signed through the Chepstow backstreets. Glimpsed through the trees to the left, the dramatic sheer rock face is a disused quarry, followed quickly by the remains of an Iron age Hill Fort called Bulwark Camp . There is little to see from the path and not much more if you bother to explore further, but the modern history of the place is interesting. It was used to house prisoners of the 2nd World War.
Passing through the rather untidy wood of Warren Slade the path drops down to near a tunnel underneath the railway line (you’ll come across this line several times today). A finger post for the walk directs you up a wooded hill. As you emerge from the woods you get the first view of the (old) Severn Bridge. A brief further walk through a housing estate brings you to a roundabout and a small parade of shops. (this is the last chance to get something for lunch).
The path turns left just before the roundabout and enters a wide tunnel (you are walking under the M48); half an hour or so after starting you have left Chepstow behind.
The path skirts the Newhouse Farm Industrial Estate and gives you a great view into the Mabey Bridge factory. It produces sections for wind turbines and long lengths are lying in various stages of construction. About half a mile further on the path takes you through the little hamlet of Mathern. The parish Church of St Tewdric dates largely from the 15th century.
The path follows the edge of a field and then crosses the St Pierre Golf Course. As you enter the golf course bear left (another public footpath also goes to the right) and duck if you hear “fore”. It means a ball is flying in your direction. A brief walk across a muddy field takes you to the railway line. Stop at the warning sign, watch and listen. A quick glance to the left reveals the little lighthouse at Red Cliff, telling you that you have finally arrived at the coast! (It’s called Red Cliff because the underlying geology here is Red Sandstone. You’ll walk by a section of exposed rock shortly.)
Well, the Severn Estuary at any rate and if for the next several days (with quite a few detours) you will be walking on the top of a levee that protects the low lying farmland from the tidal waters of the Severn. It is a great vantage point to enjoy the extensive views across the Severn to the industrial area of Avonmouth and to wonder at the engineering constructions of the two elegant bridges that cross the Severn.
About half a mile of this easy walk brings you to the Black Rock car park. It was from near here that a railway line used to cross the Severn and an explanatory board gives the history. The Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery also takes place here.
Another half a mile brings you to Sudbrook and a large unprepossessing brick building. This is the pumping station which still operates to keep the Severn Tunnel from flooding. The tunnel contains a railway line which crosses here for Bristol. It was built by the Great Western Railway (GWR) between 1873 and 1886. It is over 4 miles long, although only 2¼ miles are under the river. Passing by the now abandoned remains of the Sudbrook paper Mill you pass under the M4.
For the next few miles the roar of the motorway traffic will make itself heard. In order to avoid a firing range (look out for the red warning flags), the path now takes you inland towards Calidot, crossing the M4.
The detour runs round the back of the range and back over another bridge . If no flags are flying you could safely stay on the path on the levee tops, saving you a quarter of a mile or so. If you have taken the detour you will be glad that by the time you return to the levee the motorway noise has subsided and you can enjoy the peacefulness once more of the Gwent Levels (more about these in the next walk).
Continue on, passing several small breakwaters and pills. A pill is where one of the reens (or channels) of the levels discharges into the Severn. You also pass a Second World War Pill Box (this pill unrelated to the previous pill!). Over the coming few days you’ll pass more evidence of such wartime defences.
Just after the pill a path heads due north. At this point you have done around 13 miles.
This path leads to a road which takes you to the village of Magor.
For those that are stopping at this point the walk to Magor is about a mile and a half. The track by the sewage works becomes a road that just serves a couple of farms. At the junction with another road (where there is a postbox and a signpost pointing left to The Rose Inn), turn right. About ¾ of a mile later cross over the railway line by a rather dilapidated footbridge. The road passes an attractive terrace of houses and a church on the left. Magor has a pretty square and the very welcoming Golden Lion Inn which does accommodation. From the village there are bus connections (No 14 and no.74, Monday to Saturday) to Newport and back to Chepstow – very useful if you are doing this stretch as a day walk.
For those who are staying on the path, at the Major sewage works press on another two miles to the village of Redwick, just half a mile off the path. A footpath just by a sluice takes you to The Church of St Thomas The Apostle in the middle of the village.
The only accommodation is the Brick House Country Guest House on the other side of the village in North Row tel 01633 880230. The Rose Inn, opposite the church, does food but not accommodation. tel 01633 880501