ON A stunning sunlit morning a group of 15 walkers joined Joy from Penarth and District Ramblers at the ruined Skenfrith Castle in Monmouthshire, which along with White and Grosmont castles protected the Monnow Valley and its 20 foot deep moat provided the water to power the mill situated just opposite the village pub, The Bell a 17th century coaching inn.
Crossing the River Monnow by means of a road bridge into Herefordshire and heading up a quiet lane past Ellis’s Wood where the banks were adorned with stitchwort, sweet violet, celandine and wood anemone, a stile led them into lush green meadows for a climb past inquisitive but gentle cattle.
Heading by road to Garway Court Farm then back into fields, a steep descent through a field of ewes and their sturdy growing lambs brought them across a footbridge to St Michael’s Church at Garway, a religious site since 600AD for morning coffee in the warmth of the churchyard close to the holy well, a spring that once fed two fish ponds created by the Knights Templar to provide food.
The simplicity of the early 12th century churches interior with its plain stone altar, 800-year-old carved Norman Arch and one single small stained glass window depicting St Michael is breathtaking.
After chatting to a lady bringing her dogs to the church in readiness for the annual Palm Sunday walk a climb by road led through Garway to The Lodge Farm.
Fresh new born lambs enjoying the warmth of the sun graced the fields overlooking the delightful misty Monnow Valley below and continuing through a gateway above the farmhouse, the leader performed a quick rescue to reunite a bleating lamb with its anxious mother on the opposite side of the fence.
Continuing through undulating fields and climbing steeply beside blossoming blackthorn to Little Garway for a short break to take on liquid as the temperature rose, a further climb during which a red kite was soaring above led them past the Black Pool which never dries up and is used by the ponies, sheep and other wildlife frequenting Garway Hill.
Arriving at the summit marked by a trig point positioned next to a derelict Second World War Radio Tracking Station erected in 1942, a thick mist was blocking views to the east whilst Sugar Loaf Mountain, Skirrid, Hatterrall Hill and the Black Mountains were just visible under a heat haze to the west, with the glorious Herefordshire countryside stretched out below to the north.
After gazing down on Kentchurch Court the ancestral home of the Scudamore family since the 14th century surrounded by its 5,000 acre estate, a descent on the south-west side of Garway Common led to a sheltered lunch in sunshine out of the cool breeze blowing on the hilltop.
Refreshed and heading down through the hamlet of White Rocks a farm track led downhill through more spring lambs guarded by geese at Old Garden Farm and across a brook.
Following the field boundary above a dry ploughed meadow, a little further on a hare was spied racing down through the valley and up through the fields on the opposite side.
Crossing a lane and dropping down to the wonderfully situated Great Demesne Farm in the valley bottom, more lush meadows led them on past the bluebell and wood anemone carpeted Cockshoot Wood, whilst in the fields ahead some sprightly young bullocks enjoyed racing around whilst the group passed through.
Then retracing their steps back along the lane and past a river level monitoring station back into Monmouthshire, at the very busy Skenfrith village some of the group visited the Community Shop enjoying tea and cakes to round off the day prior to the journey home.
On April 22, meet 9am at Cogan Leisure Centre for a 10-mile moderate walk from Pontneddfechan taking in waterfall country and a cave; contact Clive on 029 2065 4156.
Wear suitable clothing, preferably boots and carry waterproofs, food and drinks. Some degree of fitness is required and if you are in any doubt, then please contact the walk leader for advice.
To follow the group please log onto penarthramblers.wordpress.com or Facebook. Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 029 2025 5102.