Twenty of us Ramblers (plus one dog) assembled in the Symonds Yat Rock car park on Wednesday 24th January, 2007 at 10 o'clock precisely
and processed to the Rock and down the set of steps to the base and then along the track down to the River Wye itself.
The weather was fine and Buzzards could be seen and heard circling overhead. A lovely day for a lovely walk.
A cycle path is being built alongside the river and will eventually reach
down to the town of Chepstow - making this stretch of the River Wye even more accessible to young and active people.
It also makes a very convenient and easy walking path which is what we took for some distance until we were almost
at the Biblins Bridge and turned off for the climb up to, eventually, the Buckstone over at Staunton.
Along the river bank, which was in fierce spate, the views of the ragged cliffs are quite spectactular.
Beside the path were lots of Harts Tongue Fern - later on, in Spring, the woods will be filled with wild
flowers but for now we had to 'make do' with the ferns.
Beside the track there was a small sign put up by the Forestry Commission in front of a tall ash tree.
This particular tree is quite special. It is called "The Gosling Ash" and it is 108 feet high (33 metres). It is the tallest recorded broadleaf tree in the Forest of Dean.
The tree was named after Arthur Gosling, a local boy from Newland, who went on to become the Director General of the Forestry Commission and was later Knighted for services to Forestry - when
he became Sir Arthur Gosling.
By now I was a little behind the group and so had to scurry along to catch up as they were fast going out of sight around the distant bend.
As you can see, the weather was still pleasant, crisp perhaps but a mild and very welcome wintry sunshine.
I caught up with my companions just in time as they were in the process of doing a 'smart right turn' and disappearing up a wooded path deep into the woods on my right. I hurried after them along the track and onto the 'High Meadow Trail'.
The track looked steep - it was steep. It seemed to go on for ever but, eventually, we halted and rested where we could for
a most welcome cup of coffee, tea or whatever else our vacuum flasks contained.
At this point we were on the dividing point of a T-junction - we were going left up an even more precipitous track and so, before we started on that I went off for a small
exploration of the right-hand part of the track 'to see what I could see' - When I got to the bend of the track I found a really steep track down to the River Wye and realised
that we had come up 'the easy way' - I'm glad we hadn't come up the 'hard' way.
We continued along the track - ever upwards, it seemed - until, eventually, we reached the top and, after a short while clumping along the ridge top, we started to go down
until we reached the Near Hearkening Rock (There is, of course, a Far Hearkening Rock further along - but we left that for another day). We climbed down a steep track and traversed under the rock, which quite impressively
loomed above us as we passed, and continued downwards passing the Long Stone.
I am told that the Long Stone is the heaviest single piece of isolated rock (not attached or leaning on a bedrock) in the UK - It certainly is a large lump.
By now we were starting a gentle climb up towards Staunton, the church tower of which could occasionally be seen peeking through the trees.
Saint John The Baptist Well.
St. John the Baptist Well with
Brinsey Well was a principal water source for
the village of Staunton until 1931 when a mains standpipe
was installed. It is referred to in a property transfer in
1368 a.d. in which the associated chapel of Saint John the baptist is mentioned.
At the Buckstone we stopped for a more than well earned lunch-break and watched some clouds advancing in towards us from
Wales. The views from the top of the hill, shared with an underground Severn Trent reservoir used for storing pumped-up-the-hill water for maintaining water pressure in the village, were magnificent.
Grinsey's Well (known in medieval times as Blincies Well)
One of several ancient wells in Staunton whose possible origins go back to the
original Saxon farmstead. From medieval times it was a major village water source
until 1931 when, as previously mentioned, mains water arrived.
By now we were truly back into Staunton and had passed the Church and the old Saxon Farmstead opposite it.
Near it was the old Pound for holding livestock that had strayed. As you can see it is a very secure pen in which the wandering animal was held until
the owner had paid their fine and had them released.
Also at the cross road by the church was the remnant of the old cross - just the pedestal and shaft remaining of what must have been an impressive village cross.
A last look at Staunton church, impressively standing atop the hill, and then the long and somewhat meandering route back to Symonds Yat Rock car park,
avoiding various small collections of houses and walking on backlanes that had been used by bicycles, horses and motorcycles - making the going rather squishy to say the least !
Next time I do this walk I think I will go back via the Stones and make it a 'there and back' rather than a 'circular tour'.