WHILE many stayed at home to watch Scotland v Wales in the Six Nations, Su leading for Penarth and District Ramblers was joined by a group of seven walkers including John from Leominster at Skenfrith in the beautiful Monnow Valley.

The ruined Skenfrith Castle situated beside the River Monnow which journeys its way southwards to join the River Wye at Monmouth formed a backdrop, as they prepared for their eight mile walk on what turned out to be a nice day with sunshine.

A castle existed on this site as far back as 1160 but after being rebuilt in 1187 and again in 1219 a heavy flood destroyed the castle and the new castle was built on top of the old one in the 13th century.

Being one of the Trilateral castles along with Grosmont and White that were built to protect the Monnow Valley which is on the border of England and Wales there were many skirmishes and by 1538 the castle was abandoned and in ruins.

Leaving Skenfrith past the Bell Inn a steep climb at Coedanghred Hill led them across fields to Tump Farm and crossing a minor road they gradually descended to the valley bottom walking beside the River Monnow, which for much of its length follows the Welsh/English border.

Exiting from Clappers Wood a rather wet bank formed seating for their morning break before they headed uphill through more woodland and the poplar plantation to Blackmoor Farm.

Reaching the road at Tregate Bridge Llanrothal, this lovely old stone bridge that was rebuilt in 1888 with its inbuilt circular flood arch, formed an ancient crossing over the River Monnow. Returning into fields there were views to Tregate Castle situated on the Hereford side of the river where during the 12th century a motte and bailey castle with a large circular mound and fish ponds stood which had commanding views up the Monnow Valley.

Making their way to the small hamlet of Maypole they turned north following the road past the remains of an old stone cross to St Maughan’s Green before veering westwards to the Church of St Maughan for their lunch break.

This Grade II listed building is set in an isolated position amongst rolling farmland above the Monnow and could date back to the 13th century although it was partly reconstructed in the late 15th or early 16th century.

Its distinctive feature is its low square tower topped by a two-stage timber framed dovecote belfry, which during its renovation in the Victorian era was made taller after the old belfry was replaced.

The road led them on past Coxstone and along an old track in order to reach the road at Lower Grove where they re-entered fields to the west of woodland making their way to Crossway where they encountered problems as the public footpath had been illegally re-routed by the landowner, which has been reported to the Local Authority.

Diverting off the road back into fields a descent led them for a short distance onto part of the Three Castles Walk to Norton where the impressive Norton Court was owned by the Abbey of Parc Grace Dieu, which was founded by the Cistercians near Monmouth in 1226.

Then by road they descended past St Bridget’s Church founded in 1207 by Hubert de Burgh and back to Skenfrith for the journey home.

On March 23, meet 8.30am at Cogan Leisure Centre for an historic 12-mile moderate walk from Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire: call Rachel on 01446 410545.

On March 24, meet 9am at Cogan for a mountain walk taking in Cribarth, the Llech Gorge and Craig y Nos; call Robin on 02920 514051.

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 contact the leader for advice.

For up to date information log onto penarthramblers.wordpress.com or follow on Facebook.

Programmes and membership advice can be obtained from Pam on 02920 255102.