Herefordshire is another beautiful county in easy reach of where we live. Although it is largely dominated by agricultural land, the river Wye flows through the county, running through the Wye Valley which has some of the best riverside places that you can visit in the whole of the UK. Canonised Romantic poet William Wordsworth wrote of the Wye Valley in his verses, finding this area of England both relaxing and enthralling, a place that not only calmed him but also ensnared his senses to levels that the busyness and noise of the cities could not. These woods and river banks ‘spoke’ to him it seems. He found solace here even when he was miles away;
If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798
We started this walk at one of our favourite places to visit if we have a free day; Symonds Yat (East). Although barely five minutes drive from a busy A road, Symonds Yat, split in two by the river, is a quiet unspoiled retreat nestled on the banks of the Wye. If you like your outdoor pursuits then this place is worth spending time in, with canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing and caving readily available to those who are so inclinded. Accommodation is scarce and also expensive here so it worth booking ahead. Everything turns out to be worth every penny once you arrive here and see the sheer beauty of the place.
We have stayed at Forest View Guest House and the Royal Lodge, the latter being the more affordable of the two but the former providing one of the most serene and striking river views you are ever likely to see in the west of England.
The Saracens Head riverside pub (our favourite pub of all time) is a great spot, with outstanding food served all day. The establishment also operate one of only two hand-ferries across the Wye, the other being operated by The Olde Ferrie Inn in Symonds Yat (West); due a royal charter that James I put in place when he was on the throne, these are the only two establishments permitted to operate a hand-ferry acorss the river and this has never been repealed. Passage will costs you 60p across the river but ,be warned, there is no cashpoint in Symonds Yat East or West, so take cash!
The trail takes you north out of Symonds Yat (East) through grassy areas along the river bank and through a copse. From here you can see a good distance down the river as well as the forest and desirable properties on the other side of the valley.
The path will then emerge into fields with impressive views in every direction and a pond that (I felt) is worth a picture.
The walk then briefly joins the road that you would have driven down to get to Symonds Yat (East), passing farms and then crossing a narrow road bridge across the river, the main vehicle access route to where you started.
You then cross a road and pick up a public footpath across a field and up a small incline toward the village of Goodrich. Once you get to the top of the hill the views are worth taking in.
Once at the archaic village of Goodrich, there are two pubs to be found. We particularly enjoyed The Hostelerie and found it very hard to leave its beer garden and continue the walk. Goodrich also has an ancient castle which I am sure the historians among you will want to explore. Coming out the front of The Hostelerie and turning left back the way you came, you will reach a crooked crossroads. One of the options in front of you will be a slight incline up and over a bridge. Before crossing the bridge, take the steps down and to the left which will bring you out on the pavement on the main road with Kerne Bridge clearly visible ahead (on the B4229, the same road that you took off of the A40 to get to Symonds Yat (East)).
An alternative way of doing this walk is to not cross Kerne Bridge at all and stay on other side of the river and follow the riverside path almost until the conculsion of the walk. We did not do this however as we were advised that the only way back over to the other side further down, an old railway bridge, had fallen into disrepair and had been closed to the public. We were glad we took the path on the otherside of the river in the end at it made for a more interesting walk (plus, there is no pub on that side). Once across the bridge, it is worth visiting the Inn on the Wye for a drink before crossing the road and heading down a path to the riverside.
The track will take you past a canoeing centre before picking up a track through fields next to the river with the road (B4234) in clear view to the left. You can access the bank of the river at water level from a few points here and observe Thomas Wood on the other side of the water. The sounds of the river are particularly loud here as the current is noticeably much faster along this stretch.
Continue along the path with the river on your right until you are forced to exit the field and pick up the road, along most of which there is no pavement so watch out for traffic.
We took a rather unintentional detour at this point (which we were glad of in the end). If steep hills are not your thing then continue to follow the road around the river’s bend until your reach the pretty riverside town of Lower Lydbrook. If you fancy an uphill adventure with some amazing views then take a track on the left side of the road which goes uphill slightly before turning right through a farm and past some bee hives (!) before bringing you out in a field and presenting you with a steep grassy climb dead ahead up to a style that is in plain view. The climb does not stop here (although it will look like it does before you reach the stile). Continue uphill past heards of sheep grazing on the hillside and through gates past Glasp Farm until you eventually reach a narrow road going uphill still. Although the concrete provides welcome relief from the soft terrain you have just navigated, you must continue uphill until the farm-access road connects to the main road on the outskirts of the hilltop village of Ruardean, 210 metres above river level.
We were so tired at this point we immediately followed the road away from Ruardean and downhill toward Joys Green, our original destination when leaving the road. If you venture into the village however, there is a pub to be visited (The Malt Shovel Inn) before your decent.
Walk downhill and south away from Ruardean toward Joys Green. Take the first right you come to down Vention Lane, which is so steep in places gravity almost forces you to break into a jog. Before the road begins to level out you will see a public footpath on the left side of the road; this takes you over, above and down through the back garden of your next stop, the Royal Spring Inn. Dug into the wooded side of the Wye Valley hills and overlooking the trees and river below, this location was easily the most memorable rest stop on this walk.
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