Picturesque Piercefield

Follow in the footsteps of the Wye Tourists and discover the picturesque viewpoints of Piercefield Park. These walks take you across the Piercefield Estate, retracing the paths laid out in the 1750s by Valentine Morris, the owner of Piercefield.

Technical sheet
No. 3511327
A Chepstow walk posted on 03/07/20 by Aurelie-21. Update : 03/07/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 5h10[?]
Distance Distance : 8.58mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 1378ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 1362ft
Highest point Highest point : 728ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 92ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Chepstow
Starting point Starting point : N 51.64339° / W 2.675896°
Download : -

Description

(D/A) Follow the Wye Valley Walk to Chepstow Leisure Centre, where the route leaves the back of the car park and runs beside the school. Then walk through a gap in the wall.

(1) Turn right and continue down the path and steps. Continue along the Wye Valley Walk through shady woods, following in the footsteps of countless visitors to Piercefield. Continue on the Wye Valley Walk, keeping right at the fork, eventually passing the remains of an Iron Age Hillfort on the left, before reaching The Grotto.

It was the height of fashion to have a grotto. This one was lined with quartz crystals, iron cinders and copper. You may spot a few surviving pieces. Laurel hedges and two lime trees framed the view, Although there is only a hint of it today, 200 years ago this was a spectacular view of grand distances, taking in much of Gloucestershire beyond the Severn.

(2) Continue on the Wye Valley Walk past an upright stone, before walking along a ridge, with a steep drop to the Wye on your right. Look left for the remains of an elevated viewing platform above you. With views to both the Severn and Wye, it became known as The Double View.

‘Such varied beauty uniting in the same scene is probably unique in this kingdom’, wrote Charles Heath of the Double View in 1793. Today the view to the Wye is largely obscured by trees.

(3) When the path splits keep right. Continue until reaching a standing stone in the track.

These stones are all that remain of an amphitheatre called the Druid’s Temple.

(4) There are steep drops to the right along the next section. Pass the entrance to a small cave on the left. Soon after when the track forks take, the right hand fork downhill.

(5) Walk through the cave and keep right along the Wye Valley Walk. Continue for some distance until crossing
a small stream. Keep on the Wye Valley Walk through oak and beech woods and up a number of steps until you arrive at the main road.

The Giant’s Cave is one of the most dramatic features on the walk, with a viewing platform built into the rockface by the entrance to the cave. The cave is not natural, but was hewn out of the rock.Opposite the cave are bow railings with a seat, which if we may compare the works of nature with those of art, may be called a front box, of one of the completest theatres in the universe.(Stebbing Shaw, 1788). Imagine arriving from the other direction, emerging from the cave to this view. Engineered to surprise, it was all part of the Piercefield experience. A visitor in 1781 advised to, ‘Carry some gunpowder and leave it with Mr Morris’s gardener in order to fire some small cannon on the Rock as you pass by. The reverberating echo of which you will find has a wonderful effect.’ At one time a stone giant stood above the cave entrance. He held a huge boulder over his head, as if about to hurl it on the walkers below. The giant and his boulder suffered from frost damage and slowly crumbled away.

(6) Cross the main road with care and pass the metal barrier to a level area in front of the quarried cliff. Take the path to your left (not to the right which leads up the very steep 365 steps). Take the first turning right up to the Upper Wyndcliff car park.

In the 18th century Wye tourists alighted from their boats in Martridge Meadow and walked up to the Wyndcliff. William Gilpin wrote that, '....the tide being at ebb, we landed with some difficulty on an oozy beach. One of our bargemen, who knew the place, served as a guide; and under his conduct we climbed the steep by an easy regular zig-zag.’
In the 1820s the new turnpike road made it easier for visitors to arrive by carriage from Chepstow, rather than by boat from Ross. With the introduction of regular steam packet services from Bristol to Chepstow the number of visitors increased dramatically. Before long a romantic thatched cottage opened to provide refreshments for the travellers: ’a fanciful little habitation, called the Moss Cottage…….built by the Duke of Beaufort, for the accommodation of parties visiting Wyndcliff, to the summit of which eminence, several paths lead through the rocks and underwood’.

(7) Take the footpath on the left of the car park uphill. Continue uphill to the second bench. After 100m take the next path on the right which leads down some steps to the Eagle’s Nest.

(8) Retrace your route up the steps. Turn left and walk as far as the bench on the left. Take the track on the left which leads down the 365 steps. Take care as you descend. Continue down to the road and the car park (6), from where you can catch the bus back to Chepstow. (The stop is ‘Moss Cottage’). To return on foot, take the Wye Valley Walk on the far right of the car park and retrace your tracks to the Giant’s Cave (5). After the cave, turn right uphill. Continue with the racecourse on the left to the Lover's Leap viewpoint on the right.

The Eagle’s Nest was a double decker viewing platform perched on the edge of the cliff. This site was restored in 2010 and access to the lower deck removed as it had become unsafe. Much of the stonework has been reused in the restoration of the upper deck. Can you spot the Victorian graffiti? ‘This cliff is the last grand scene of the Piercefield drama. It is not only magnificent, but so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture.’

(9) To return by bus from St Arvans (No 69) take the footpath to the left of Temple Doors through the kissing gate onto the racecourse fields.(Do not go through Temple Doors onto the main road.) Follow this downhill skirting the trees and stone wall on your right. Go through a kissing gate on the right, and keep straight on, coming out onto the main road. Cross the road and walk to the left on the roadside footpath to the bus stop at the Piercefield Inn. Alternatively, to return on foot from Temple Doors retrace your route back towards Chepstow, with the racecourse on your right.
Back at the junction with the main path turn right (Giant's Cave is to your left). Continue along the main path past the stones of the Druid’s Temple (4) until reaching a marker post at a junction on the right. Take this path, go over a stile and turn right following the fence, emerging into the Capability Brown parkland setting of Piercefield Park.

Before the turnpike road was opened most visitors would have arrived from the Wyndcliff through these gates. There was an octagonal structure and viewpoint called the Temple here, demolished around 1800. Coxe described this section of the route in 1801; ‘From the Lover’s Leap the walk is carried through a thick mantle of forests, with occasional openings, which seem not the result of art or design, but the effect of chance or nature, and seats placed where the spectator may repose and view at leisure the scenery above, beneath, and around.’

(10) Walk in front of the house, which has been in ruins since the 1920’s, and then head diagonally left passing the old stables to the right.

This house dates from after Valentine’s death. George Smith commissioned one of the leading architects of the day, Sir John Soane, to redesign Piercefield. A later owner of Piercefield, Mark Wood, added a curving portico (now lost) and the flanking pavilions, designed by Joseph Bonomi.

(11) Turn left and keep the racecourse to your right. Go through a kissing gate and stay on the track. Keep the wall to your left then fork left, passing through a stone arch to the road.

These were the stables for Piercefield House. During the Second World War the racecourse was requisitioned. Lancaster bombers were assembled here and parked under the trees, before being flown to Bristol. Despite stretching from St Arvans to the Lion's Lodge the grass runway was too short; aircraft were stripped to the essentials with only enough fuel to get across the Severn to Filton! What remained of Piercefield House was used for training prior to the D Day landings. Look closely and you might just spot some bullet holes in this proud ruin.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 95ft - Chepstow Castle
1 : mi 0.46 - alt. 253ft - Path and steps
2 : mi 1.75 - alt. 282ft - Grotto
3 : mi 2.01 - alt. 302ft - The Double View
4 : mi 2.28 - alt. 338ft - The Druid’s Temple
5 : mi 2.51 - alt. 299ft - The Giant’s Cave
6 : mi 3.22 - alt. 436ft - Lower Wyndcliff car park
7 : mi 3.4 - alt. 515ft - Upper Wyndcliff car park
8 : mi 3.9 - alt. 725ft - The Eagle’s Nest
9 : mi 5.52 - alt. 413ft - Temple Doors
10 : mi 7.05 - alt. 315ft - Piercefield House and old stables
11 : mi 7.14 - alt. 328ft - Racecourse
D/A : mi 8.58 - alt. 92ft - Chepstow Castle

Useful Information

There are some steep drops along sections of this walk.

Alternate start :
Chepstow Leisure Centre, Lower Wyndcliff car park (6) or Upper Wyndcliff car park (7)
Why not take the No. 69 bus to the Piercefield Inn, St Arvans or go on to Lower Wyndcliff / Moss Cottage (request stop) and walk back to Chepstow through the Piercefield Estate ?

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments

Average

Global average : 4.33/5
Number of opinions : 1
Description quality : 4/5
Routemap quality : 5/5
Walk interest : 4/5


Walker
on Mon 03 Aug 2020 09:55:45 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 03/08/20
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Good

Unfortunately did walk when there was a running race on this route at the same time. Spoilt the walk but will have to do it again.

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