We went further up the Wye valley for our Sunday walk to Monmouth a small market town that lies at the confluence of the rivers Monnow and Wye. The settlement was first mentioned on a Roman map as Blestium , a place on the road from Caerleon to Gloucester. It is close to Offa’s Dyke the earth wall that Offa built to separate England and Wales in the 8th century. Its position meant that it needed to be heavily defended.
In the Domesday book it was described as a settlement with inferior farmland. However it became more prominent under the Normans. Geoffrey of Monmouth a celebrated medieval historian probably lived in Monmouth Priory and Henry V was born at Monmouth Castle.
Our instructions were to meet at the Kymin hill two miles outside Monmouth. The Kymin estate originally belonged to the Dukes of Beaufort but is now owned by the National Trust. The small 18th century round house is free to enter for National Trust members. It was built as a folly to allow Georgian gentlemen to picnic in wet weather. There is also a small naval temple built in 1800 to commemorate the naval victories against Napoleon. Horatio Nelson visited it.
On a clear day you can see over the Brecon beacons, the Malvern hills, the Wye valley and the forest of Dean. Our original plan had been to park in the National Trust car park and walk down into Monmouth. However when we saw the steep hill with its sharp bends to approach we were glad to hear that plans had changed and that we would drive back to Monmouth.
In the town
We parked in the car park opposite Waitrose and our walk started at the photogenic medieval bridge over the river Monnow. This is the only bridge in Britain to still have a fortified gatehouse on it. It would originally have had a portcullis.
A highlight of the walk was the beautiful Savoy theatre which has been lovingly preserved so thank you to the staff who let us look inside. It is the oldest working theatre in Wales and is also used as a cinema.
We had hoped to look inside St. Mary priory church but it was closed for the inauguration of the new Mayor.
Monmouth is associated with the chartists a political movement which asked for the vote to be extended to all men. We saw the courthouse where prominent chartists were tried and also the old gaol where some of the leaders were imprisoned before being transported to Tasmania. They were the last men in the U.K. to be sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered but fortunately they were reprieved at the last minute.
The walk ended with a look round the Monmouth regimental museum and a chance to see the remains of Monmouth castle on the same site.
We also had a drink in the Robin hood, where farmers would have passed the time after taking their animals to market.