“How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
Oh sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods
How often has my spirit turned to thee!”
The famous poet William Wordsworth wrote the above words whilst above the River Wye near Tintern Abbey. Glorious words for a glorious river. Flowing from the mountains of Plynlimon in Wales it winds its way for approximately 157 miles to the Severn estuary at Chepstow, much of it forming the border between England and Wales. On my way ever to south wales or the south west of England I am drawn to make a small detour to take some part of it in.
The fifth largest of the rivers in the UK it has history, views, forest, woodland and activities all along its route. Whatever your taste, walking, canoeing, fishing, wildlife, historic towns and villages or geological landscape interests are more than catered for and much more. The final 70 odd miles of it is surrounded by an official Area of Outstanding Beauty.
Before it reaches the bigger towns it makes its way through smaller idyllic towns like Hay-on-Wye in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Known as the town of books (it has 30 bookshops selling old or antique books) there is history beyond pages with castles as far back as Norman times and the good scenery to go with it.
A little further along is the only city on the river’s banks, Hereford, a cathedral city. Associated with so much, the home of the British SAS, but also home to Bulmers Cider with the largest cider mill in the world close to Herefords centre. Yes, a sign we are in real apple and pear country here.
As the River Wye comes towards the Forest of Dean and the sandstone gives way to limestone it happens upon Ross-on-Wye. A place with good reason can lay claim to be the birthplace of the British tourism industry. A very popular and busy town with tourists it is not hard to see why. Fantastic panoramic views above and beyond the Wye can be enjoyed but in the town on its banks you will find pretty streets, independent shops and the river is full of, canoeists, boaters and rowers and fishermen hoping for salmon.
This river has all manners of geology all the way down to its mouth into the Severn and as it goes on it makes its stand as the border between England and Wales. From around Hereford to the end it is protected by status for future generations to enjoy. Its varied scenery as it winds down its valley really is quite astonishing. Not just geologically but with hills and plains, trees and fields plus wildlife and activities.
At Chepstow it ends its journey and empties into the Severn estuary. A place in itself worth exploring for its history both in buildings and shipyards as well as the surrounding landscape. It is home to the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. Built in 1067 by the Normans to stop the Welsh attacking Gloucester.
Again and again you will see that all the way along this river the importance as a barrier as well as for industry becomes all too apparent. Castles, shipping, cathedrals and old famous bridges are all featured but today it adds to the great charm and outstanding beauty this river brings. I enjoy it and have many more miles of it to explore and will do so with joy.