The Trail Description by Mike Urry
(Updated 2nd December 2009)
After admiring the circle of statues and reading about King Offa, retrace your steps along the railway line with the signal box on your right and the station and water tower on your left. In a short while stop to admire the carving on your right, one of Neil Gow’s chain saw masterpieces. How many creatures can you see?
Continue along the track and go up the steps at the end. Carefully turn right onto the road and across the bridge into England. Built in 1904, the bridge replaced the ferry into Brockweir village. Pass the public house on the right, the last remaining of over a dozen.
Turn right noticing the malt house on your left. Allegedly the oldest inhabited house in Gloucestershire it used to be a pottery, but was originally the Monks of Tintern Abbey’s brew house.
Almost immediately turn right alongside the stream.
Pass the old school on your left and Moravian Church on your right. Continue along the path and over the stile into the water meadow.
The footpath follows the riverbank for 350 metres where it turns left and goes up the field to the stile in the hedge.
Go over the stile and turn right onto the Monks’ path, so called because this is the route between their malt house and the Abbey. The trees on the left form Caswell Woods, ancient woodlands, the hillside being too steep to cut the trees. If you glance through the trees to your right you will see Tintern Station across the river.
Continue along this path, until after approximately ¾ mile (1.2km) you will come to a low stone parapet wall on your right. Although the Monks carried straight on to the Abbey via a ferry, we turn left up hill.
Ignore the first path on the left after 40 metres and continue up hill. The ascent is rather steep but it is not treacherous. After another 100 metres carefully look out for a narrow path up through a small gully to your left. Follow this path up hill along the obvious route always up hill. After 3 final stone steps you embark onto a forestry track.
Turn right and after approximately 10 metres turn left up a path beside a stone on which is engraved ‘Devil’s Pulpit’ and a red arrow, confirmation that you are not the first this way. At the top of the hill, this path eventually turns left then right to reach a T-junction. Congratulations, you have reached Offa’s Dyke, but we want the Devil’s Pulpit, so turn right as sign posted. The Pulpit is ½ mile away.
Historians are still undecided whether Offa had this built as a boundary marker, to impress the neighbours or as a fortified frontier. The stones and small rocks that litter the path are more recent contributions from the badgers that live up on the left.
After walking up a flight of stone edged steps, with a small metal gate ahead, don’t go through, instead follow the path to the right and you will see the Devil’s Pulpit on your right. Please DO NOT attempt to climb on top of the rock. It was here the Devil preached to the Monks below to persuade them not to finish the Abbey. One would think looking at the building now, he succeeded, but Henry VIII must claim some responsibility when he dissolved the Abbey and monasteries in 1536.
The hollow behind you is the remains of a quarry that supplied stones to form the base of the bank you are standing on. This is an ideal place for coffee whilst contemplating the old yew tree growing out of the column of limestone.
After having finished your coffee we must retrace our steps the way we came. Go down the steps back along the Dyke. DO NOT be tempted to take the path down to Tintern but carry straight on, as we will return to the Station by a more scenic route.
After about a mile, just after the wooden barrier, you will come to a crossroads of paths. This is “Modesgate” which was a controlled crossing point across the Dyke. If you lean across the iron gate up to your right and look across the field you can detect the remains of what is believed to be a Saxon barracks, although it has never been excavated. Return to crossroads and continue along the Dyke. This section could be a little muddy but it is short. The path follows the fence line on your right, to a stile, with a plaque on your left, provided by English Heritage. Continue on passing a style in the fence line on your right until the path veers to the left as arrowed. As you emerge from the trees stop and absorb the views. The contrast between the wooded Welsh banks and the English cultivated hillside is striking. The path turns left below the woods for a few yards then right, before running diagonally right down across the field following the line of the Dyke which has nearly been ploughed away.
In the far corner of the field is a stile, a real masterpiece of civil engineering.
Go over and turn left keeping the hedge line on your left. Ignore the alternative Offa’s Dyke path to the Hudnalls. Instead continue with the hedge on your left to pass through a gateway. Continue on through another gateway before passing a farm for rescued horses and returning to the Monks’ path. Turn right and you are back in Brockweir. Turn left and go over the bridge. At the far end turn left down the steps following the track back to Tintern Station.