Monmouth

Monmouth, Monmouthshire, by Oxfordshire Churches. Used under Creative Commons, click for link.

Monmouth, Monmouthshire, by Oxfordshire Churches. Used under Creative Commons, click for link.

For CST’s first foray into Wales, you could hardly accuse me of being adventurous. Monmouth is very much the border town, currently sitting two miles within Monmouthshire on the river Wye, the traditional South Wales border. But it’s quite suited to taking a digital look at: Monmouth is the country’s first Wikipedia town. QR codes have sprung up on any interesting building, any notable resident is having a thorough and multilingual write-up, and non-computer-literate residents are being encouraged to bring items and photographs to be scanned into the Monmouthpedia project. There’s plenty to find out about, as the project demonstrates, and even the most cursory wander around town reveals castles, town halls and a wealth of history.

As a visitor today, you’ll find plenty of things to occupy your time. As a walker you might emerge into the town from the Offa’s Dyke Path or the Wye Valley Walk; as a motorist you’ll no doubt want to swan around the nearby Forest of Dean, which remains as beautiful as it ever has been; as a lazier tourist you might want to visit the castle or the impressive town hall, the local food market or, of course, the charity shops.

Of the latter there are several, including a few particularly select offerings. Starting at the top of town (there’s free parking on the road between the river Monnow and the Priory), first stop is the charming Church Street – all cobbles and quaint shop fronts, and humming with local shoppers on a sunny morning out. PS – that didn’t last: given that this is Wales, by the afternoon we were being hailed, thundered and lightninged on at Symonds Yat. just over the border. British Red Cross is located here and we found some Emma Bridgwater mugs for cheap, and the appropriate Haynes manual. Proceeding onto Agincourt Square we’ll find the two best shops in the town close by one another, Cancer Research and Oxfam. Both were buntinged up to the eyeballs in light of the recent Queenly visit to South Wales, with a really good selection of vintage clothes and tat, some eye-wateringly retro records and, to my Constant Companion’s delight, Danish cookware.

Monmouthpedia Shire Hall Exterior, by Monmouthshire County Council, under Creative Commons. Click for link.

Monmouthpedia Shire Hall Exterior, by Monmouthshire County Council, under Creative Commons. Click for link.

Monnow Street, the main shopping drag on the hill down to the Wye valley, has a fair few more to offer alongside more than its fair share of antiques-lite shops. You know the sort: few actual antiques, more of a gift shop with some sanded down old G-plan furniture. For shabby chic, read, distressed refurbished bedside table selling for several times what it was worth new. Ignore these, and you can cheerfully browse British Heart FoundationAge UKSue Ryder and St David’s Hospice (we are in Wales after all). As long as you’re aware that the free parking is for an hour only, you can probably rush around all of these. Stop for the cheap sausage sandwich (see below) and you might struggle – I’d advise taking a good couple of hours for a mooch, Monmouth’s a really pleasant little town.

Find: Monmouth Google Maps
Get there: No rail link, post-Beeching, but there are plenty of buses from all major towns in the area.
Consume with: Eat Your Crusts, on St Mary Street, does a mighty fine and might cheap hot sausage sandwich.
Visit: Andy Hamilton is performing at the Savoy Theatre on Church Street soon.
Overall rating: four Danska dishes

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4 Comments

Filed under 4/5, Monmouthshire

4 responses to “Monmouth

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  2. So this is about Wikipedia having a presense in the real world. You can walk around Monmouth and find out about buildings and items in the museum or the library. You can switch on an augmented reality app like LAYAR and it will show you an annotated view of the town. However what makes the town a wiki-town is more about the people who live there. Members of nearly all the town’s societys have been involved, the local paper did a story every two weeks, all of the town’s front line staff were trained. The shops not only have stickers in the window, but they know what the QR codes are for. The schools know about the project and local universities have helped in its construction. The people in the pubs know that they live in a Wikipedia town. The local librarians and council workers have created new uses for Wikipedia articles.

  3. The area in and around the Black Mountains is superb for outdoor activities – walking, cycling, canoeing, pony-trekking, to name but a few. But there are also wonderful ancient things to see, such as Llanthony Priory, Abbey Dore, the Mappa Mundi and the Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral, Norman castles such as the one just up the road at Longtown, and all the lovely ‘black-and-white’ villages and towns of the Welsh marches. Hay-on-Wye, the famous ‘book town’ isn’t far. Apart from its second-hand bookshops, it is also a great place to go for ‘proper’ shops – no chain stores, but lots of interesting boutiques, antique shops and galleries. It also has a great café, Shepherd’s, for famously good local ice-cream. Foodies are spoilt for choice in this area, with plenty of places to dine out, from pubs serving good simple food to Michelin-starred restaurants offering the best kind of ‘fine dining’. Often, something between the two is the most satisfying – for example, at the nearby ‘Toi et Moi’, a beautiful little gem of a French restaurant close to Abbeydore. Here, the chef/owner, Cedric Lherbier, is the only one in the kitchen, so the food is lovingly made to order (booking is a must) from vegetables grown in the garden and nearby. For supplying ingredients to cook at home in the lovely kitchen at Ponthendre, farm shops will produce all kinds of good quality local foodstuffs: there is a farm shop in Abbeydore, and Rowlestone Court Farm supples amazing ice-cream. Farmers’ markets are plentiful in the area (Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth). The local village shop in Longtown is very good – prize-winning in fact – and if it’s supermarkets you’re after, there is a big Waitrose at Abergavenny.

  4. Pingback: Coleford | Charity Shop Tourism

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