Whitestone, Whitebrook and the Wye

Explore our fabulous Monmouthshire countryside. Enjoy riverside views beside the Wye and discover hidden heritage along the way.

Technical sheet
No. 3536934
A Trellech United walk posted on 07/07/20 by Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Update : 07/07/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 7h50[?]
Distance Distance : 14.44mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 1355ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 1345ft
Highest point Highest point : 925ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 62ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Trellech United
Starting point Starting point : N 51.722689° / W 2.691974°
Download : -

Description

(D/A) From the lower car park at Whitestone take the main forestry track up hill, keeping left at the second car parking area and adventure playground. Keep on this track and pass the highway barrier, climbing gently uphill.

The views from here across the Wye Valley have been enjoyed for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest visitors to the area, the Wye Tourists of the 18th and 19th centuries, painted these vistas, whilst the view from this area is said to have inspired William Wordsworth to write: ‘Oh Sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee!’

Straight after the third bench turn right and follow the path down an old walled track, crossing over another path and the stream above Cleddon Falls, before reaching the metalled road at Cleddon.

There is a bench on the right where you can sit and enjoy the sound of the ‘Shoots’ if it has rained recently! This shady woodland, home to many rare moisture loving plants, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

(1) Go straight across the road (signposted Pen-y-fan and Wye Valley Walk) along a track between Orchard Cottage on the left and Falls Cottage on the right, and into Cuckoo Wood.

Look out for pudding stone here. A type of sandstone, full of quartz pebbles, this stone has been used for centuries to build the distinctive stone walls which line these ancient tracks and field boundaries.

Continue straight on up a steady hill (ignoring path to right) until the track forks around a small triangle of land.

(2) (There is a picnic bench to the left.) Take the right fork and immediately go straight across (second on your right) along a level track which is soon bounded on the right by an avenue of Scots pine and beech trees. Keep straight on until you reach a gate.

This is Duchess Ride. Historical links with the Duke of Beaufort, who owned large tracts of land locally, are reflected in many names. This avenue of Scots pines is said to have been a favourite carriage ride of the Duchess of Beaufort. There is a path on the right which leads to a bench and viewpoint, giving one of the best views in the Wye Valley.

(3) Go through the gate and a second gate onto a metalled lane. Keep on this lane and take the first turn on your left.

(4) At the ‘T’ junction, turn left again. Keep straight on as the road peters out into a forest track through Cuckoo Wood and stay on this track, ignoring side tracks off until reaching a junction with another wide track. Go straight across heading towards a gate.

(5) At the gate turn right along a grassy path. Continue around the outside of the fence line until the track forks.

Wild Welsh Mountain ponies now graze this heathland restoration area, which is fenced off on your left. In late summer, once the whimberries are over purple heather and yellow gorse cover this area. (Should you need water there are two ponds within the heathland area.)

Take the right hand fork into the dark wood and keep on this track, ignoring any side paths until you reach the metalled road over Beacon Hill.

On a clear day one of the best views around is from the top of Beacon Hill (just a short detour along the road to your left), from where you can see Hay Bluff, the Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and even Pen-y-Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales.

(6) Turn right downhill. At the ‘T’ junction, turn left for a short distance until you reach a bridleway sign on the right into Trellech Common. Take this path through the gate and keep straight on past a pond on the left, ignoring any tracks on either side until you reach the main forest track. Turn left and stay on this track until you reach the car park at Trellech Common.

(7) Turn right just before the forestry barrier into the car park, down a beech-lined path. Go straight across when you meet the forestry track and head on downhill through the trees. Keep straight on, ignoring a path crossing the track. Keep left/going straight on downhill when a wide forestry track joins from the right. When the main forestry track bears sharp left, keep right going straight on downhill and over a little stream until reaching the metalled road. Go straight across and head down the old road, through two sets of bollards, turning right at the bottom onto the Whitebrook road.

This is the Whitebrook Valley, a tranquil place with a surprising history. This was once a thriving industrial valley; first wire, and later paper was produced here. From 1607, for over a hundred years, the rushing waters of the Whitebrook powered waterwheels which drove the machinery of several wire drawing mills.
As you follow the Whitebrook down to the Wye you’ll pass grand houses built by the mill owners, the ruins of several paper mills, and large ponds which stored the water needed to power the mills. Many of the cottages were built to house some of the six hundred or so men and women who worked here in the nineteenth century. Tradition has it that the women and girls who worked in the mills sang as they cut the rags into small pieces with scissors.

(8) Continue down the valley for half a mile until you see a sign for Whitebrook off to the left. Take this path over the Whitebrook and carry on downhill. Pass to the left of some cottages, with the brook and village hall on your right. Keep on past these cottages, until the path bears right over the brook and onto the road. Don’t go right, but take the track to the left uphill, signposted Tregagle.

Back in the 1930s the next old cottage was a youth hostel; you could only stay there if you arrived on foot or bicycle and between Easter and October at least 1200 people did! During WWII the youth hostel was requisitioned for evacuees.

(9) A steep track joins on the left, but stay on this path through the lovely beech and oak trees of Hale Wood. Where the path forks take the right hand route downhill to meet the gravelled track running along the river bank.

Can you imagine riding along in a carriage as the steam train chugged along this most scenic of railway lines? The path now follows the route of the Wye Valley Railway which ran between Monmouth and Chepstow, from 1876 until its closure in 1959. For some, the arrival of the railway meant the end of a way of life. The trowmen and mariners who had used the River Wye as a watery highway through the Valley couldn’t compete.

(10) At this point, you can make a detour to your left along the old railway line (passing a lovely sculpted salmon bench) or bridlepath beside the river as far as the Boat Inn at Redbrook and enjoy a drink beside the river before retracing your steps.

Outcrops of a hard millstone grit on the hillside above the river (known locally as puddingstone), turned these woods into a maze of quarries, where millstones were hewn out of the rock. Stones were rolled down the hill to be loaded into trows and transported along the river to customers as far away as France.
When the Wye Valley Railway was built in 1876 a tunnel was constructed to allow access from the quarry to the loading point on the river bank. Many local men were stone masons and quarrymen, combining this with working trows on the river, or jobs in the tin works and brewery at Redbrook.

(11) Return along the river bank back to map point. Turn left and after a short distance turn right, where two lanes join the road, just before the phone box. Take the right hand lane which runs uphill alongside the old pub, The Bell. Keep left where the road forks, with the old Baptist chapel on your left and continue up this very steep section of lane. Just before the house keep left, taking the steep track to the left of the house. (Riders and cyclists may have to dismount! Please be considerate of other users and allow others to pass.)

This is just one of many green lanes in this area, traditional routes which connected residents of The Narth and Pen-y-fan with the river, with jobs in the wire and paper mills, with the church and chapel in Whitebrook, and later with the railway station at Whitebrook Holt.

(12) At the top of this track turn left. Before long the track becomes a tarmac road, bearing to the right and uphill past a cottage on the right. There’s one more steep section along the lane before you reach the open grassed area at Pen-y-fan, known locally as ‘The Green’.

After the climb there’s a very welcome bench on the right, from where you can take in the view towards Bigsweir Bridge. Behind the bench and to the right you can walk between the two houses on the right of the Green. This takes you to the maypole which traditionally, on May Day, was danced around.

Retrace your steps to ‘The Green’ and head for a mounting block in the middle of the grassed area.

This was well-used in the past, providing an easy place to remount after the steep climb up from Whitebrook.

Keep to the left of the mounting block and just before the roads join take the lane on your left (also marked Wye Valley Walk).

Apple and pear orchards used to hug the hillsides all around here and the small barn on the right used to house a cider press.

(13) Continue along this track until the path forks. Take the right hand fork, ignore the track on the left and keep right up an enclosed track until you reach a metalled road. Turn left and continue along this road until reaching the gate where the road becomes a path leading to Duchess Ride. From here you can re-trace your steps along the forestry track and paths back to Cleddon and Whitestone car park (D/A)

To link with Tintern's Hidden History trail take the path through Creigiau Wood (on the opposite side of the road from the car park), to join the route at Whitelye.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 581ft - Whitestone Forestry Commission Car Park
1 : mi 0.95 - alt. 689ft - Llandogo
2 : mi 1.32 - alt. 814ft
3 : mi 1.92 - alt. 719ft - Gate
4 : mi 2.47 - alt. 758ft - T-junction
5 : mi 2.93 - alt. 866ft - Gate
6 : mi 3.46 - alt. 906ft
7 : mi 4.43 - alt. 922ft - Forestry barrier
8 : mi 5.21 - alt. 594ft
9 : mi 6.65 - alt. 177ft - Whitebrook
10 : mi 6.87 - alt. 233ft - Tump Farm
11 : mi 8.89 - alt. 69ft - Luggas Wood
12 : mi 11.42 - alt. 318ft - Top of the track
13 : mi 11.81 - alt. 522ft
D/A : mi 14.44 - alt. 581ft - Whitestone Forestry Commission Car Park

Useful Information

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

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