Tag Archives: wye valley

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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Filed under 4/5, Monmouthshire

Ross-on-Wye

Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, by Cross Duck. Picture used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, by Cross Duck. Picture used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

Sitting in the bar of the Royal Hotel overlooking one of the Wye’s circuitous meanders, munching on fish and chips and generally wiling away time is, it turns out, an extremely pleasant way to slow down a Saturday afternoon. Typically for an English summer’s day, the fluffy clouds of lunchtime turned into a damp afternoon in Ross; later on, a plucky country music festival on the grass below will be entirely flooded by a massive thunderstorm – I suppose par for the course when you’re this close to Wales.

Ross considers itself a home of the British tourist trade – the first guided boat tours took in the Wye from Ross, the first tourist guide was published in 1782 about the river. It’s no wonder, really: situated on the edge of both the Forest of Dean and the Herefordshire countryside, Ross is a stone’s throw from the Malverns, the Black Mountains, the Bristol Channel or the cathedral cities of the West Country. And Ross itself is a desperately quaint little market town with pride in itself and its environs. Helpfully, it’s bursting with charity shops, making even a rainy stop-over worthwhile.

The town centres on its stilted Market House at the top of Broad Street. From there you can proceed uphill along the High Street towards St Mary’s church, the Royal Hotel or the Phoenix Theatre, past an array of locally run, independent shops. Particularly interesting looking were Waterfall Antiques, and Truffles deli, stocking an impressive 90 local ciders, arranged by distance from the shop. The opposite direction is Gloucester Road and here you’ll find St Michael’s and Acorns hospice shops. The former provided me with a speculative purchase of a Henning Mankell novel, introducing me to Inspector Wallander, off of the telly. Let me go on the record now to state that it was rubbish.

It’s the steep main drag, Broad Street, that houses most of the charity shops. You’ll find British Heart Foundation, Barnardos, Oxfam, Sue Ryder Care, Cancer Research and AgeUK lining the street and if you can’t find a bargain in there, you may well be blind. Ross is a tiny town that punches well for charity shops. It’s certainly one of the most agreeable visits you’ll find location-wise and you’d be daft not to have at least a little look.

Find: Ross-on-Wye Google Maps
Get there: Ross is a little bit like hard work if you haven’t got a car: you’ll need the train to Ledbury, though there’s plenty of buses from there.
Consume with: we had lunch at the Royal Hotel – perfectly serviceable, great location, decent price.
Visit: like history? Try Goodrich castle. Like nature? Try Symond’s Yat. Like walking? Try the Forest of Dean. And so on.
Overall rating: four Fat Face shirts.

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Filed under 4/5, Herefordshire