River Angidy Diary
A pleasant week day in May 2016
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16 Miles Total
Source Grid Ref: SO 489028
Confluence Grid Ref: SO 530002
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River Angidy Little Big River
Stood in the old tidal dock of Abbey Mill Tintern I am first struck by the location surrounded as it is by mixed woodland at the confluence of the Angiddy River. There wasn’t one thought regarding it being a dock until I read the notice board, which informed me of this fact. I looked out to the river and down to the Angiddy confluence and.......
then back up towards the valley where the river was rushing forth from. There between the valley and river confluence I felt for the first time what a significant place this was in terms of the natural resource that powered early industry.
I had always passed through Tintern as a youngster on my way from Hereford to swim in Bristol but never before allowed myself to be receptive to its history and natural beauty on the ground. This was going to be a good hike full of a range of thoughts and feelings regarding, not only the areas story, but my own journey also as I was meeting with a friend in the making further on up the Angiddy Valley instilling a sense of camaraderie also.
After conversing with an old local boy about the area I quickly made my way over to the Abbey, which was stood majestic not 400 meters away. I didn’t have much time for my RV with Dave was in two hours’ time and I had a lot of photographing and filming to do in between now and then. Staring at the Abbey after walking alongside the road with two motor bike tourers clad in safety gear it was like recalling an old friend that had fallen silent a long time before. That friend of course was my father who was mine and my brother Pauls’ chauffer to Bristol and fellow admirer of the valley when alive and well back then in the 80’s.
The abbey it seemed had, not just the monks who prayed, worshiped and lived here imbued within it but my father in addition because it simply had not changed. Inside I smiled and took photographs of a place that signified a wonderful moment in the life of my brother and I and with that I moved on up into the valley to meet with other special new sites and moments that would no doubt be reflected upon as fondly.
Crossing the road to enter the Angiddy Valley, I was distracted nicely by a very old sign indicating directions to Raglan. Made of.......
Slowly and in the spirit of things I begin to walk up into a valley passing old workers cottages and Inns that once served this thriving industrial enclave. Water was key and was certainly the dominant force and not Iron making as you would expect. That came after and came as a result of the fast- flowing water that emerged out of an underground spring some miles inland on the Ffynon Gaer at 230 meters 754 Feet.
The Iron works and the industrial activity amid this deeply wooded valley was a revelation to me. You would not expect 20 water wheels or more on such a small river powering a significant industry. Cajoled and fashioned it was clear they were able to get this small water course to provide all the energy needed to turn the wheels and thus make the products out of the raw materials available for export down the Wye. Indeed, as I approached the ancient blast furnace dated 1671 at 1.25 KM in I debated with myself the virtues of hydro energy and if we were at all making use of the resources available to us - empathetically of course.
Whittled back and worn down over time the furnace stood like a ghost echoing the birth of modern industry. Today birds.......
have made it their home in the cracks of the concaved furnace, which stood as a reminder that all is in flux and forever changing and shifting. I thought of the men, woman and children that once made this valley home alongside the travelling laborer's that would have most definitely passed though in search of work. Hopes, dreams and the need to sustain the self-existed even back then in the 1600’s making known a constant drive we know today.
Along the way I had passed numerous pools or holding tanks that served the industry. A legacy of this industry they now served to be stocked with fish for wandering anglers who gravitated towards secluded settings mellow and enriching to their very being. There amid a club near Ravensnest wood I watched a club member land a fish. I filmed and captured the moment asking what fish it was; Rainbow Trout was the answer that came back to me in a broad Welsh twang.
Just around the bend I arrived at my RV with Dave. I had been going at a reasonable pace all day and wanted to be on time at 2PM. I was near spot on for as I turned into the forest layby Dave pulled in at the exact same time. It was a fantastic omen and a clear sign that this was a cool hike and trail destined for good vibes and veritable banter regarding all that we admire.......
in nature, history, walking and bivvying.
A brief stop and chat to water up and have some food and we were off up into the hills towards the source of the Angihdy. Staying as true as we could we followed its course through woods opposite Panta Farm, passed a damn and turned right (North) adjacent to a water filled gully that was peppered in places with Deer prints a reminder of the sentient company we kept. Further on up we arrived at our brew spot in a field beyond the wood. It was time to get all bush craft and get Dave's wood burning stove out and watch the water come to a rolling boil but not before much activity to keep the flames alive and hot enough to do the job. Conversation veered towards healing hiking wounds and the quality of sound we seek in life, which involved the dissection of mowers, mechanical strimmers in the distance and jet aircraft above.
A good brew and conversation it was time to head on towards the source. And so with a warmth inside Dave and I bid farewell as he headed off back down the valley simultaneously. With a shake of a hand as a memory I was shortly compelled to stop for a moment to take in where I was. On top of the hill now I looked around and surveyed the area. It was laden with heavily wooded escarpments typical it would seem of this part of Monmouthshire. Quietly I breathed it in and then continued having considered the elixir of life, which was in my mind the meeting of people and the roaming of the land. What a life!
Confident of my map reading I headed off North navigating a medley of fields. However, it’s always different on the ground and having misjudged a field boundary or two I found myself deliberating which direction to take surrounded by feisty Angus Cows. After my confab with the cattle I headed for The Meads an old farm at its core that also emerged to be an example of modernisation as it housed cattle in a space age round house and powered itself by way of the sun. It was an impressive set-up, which the landowner and farmer allowed me to experience by way of providing passage through his operation on account of the Angus cows blocking my path through the surrounding fields. With a photo or two taken and a bit of film I was on my way destined for yet another farm excursion at Llan Y Nant before reaching the source.
A hard-working farm Llan Y Nant near Trellech Grange, which was in the hands of Tintern Monks from 1138 onwards, proved to be an easy passage. It was a remarkably open farm to walkers as a sign to ramblers testified. It read: Ramblers - Please Do Not Allow the Farm Dogs to Follow You Because They Will Get Lost. Thank You. It put a smile on my face prompting the thought that maybe the camp site was nearby. Just the kind of vibe you need.
Approaching Ffynnon Gaer the source of the Angiddy at around 200 meters I observed the lack of livestock and freshly cut fields that day or week. With no livestock and freshly cut fields at this end of the farm and with mixed woodland this was the ideal place to camp and pitch up because I was unlikely to get disturbed by the farmer either in the evening or morning. The reason is because there was no livestock to survey or fields to tend to…. work here had been done for a while at least. However, after a short look around it was clear the ground was to damp being at the bottom of the hill rise and so on I went.
I was following the Angiddy River at source and it was by now a trickle flowing through a small cut Angiddy gully and over trackways as is often the case when a river finds its own way in deeply rural settings. I knew I was close to the source and the day’s end but still no camp site until I emerged into a thin strip of open field surrounded by a steep side to its Western boundary and trees on its Eastern side, which formed cover for the embryonic Angiddy below. Resembling a Glade this was ideal being far away from the farm as it was in addition to being pretty. I was completely stoaked by it and knew straight away that here was my rest.
In a short while I had the tarp up and food on the go, which was complimented by the lemon of woodland Sorrel. Satisfied by my meal it was time for a brew and then a recce to find the source.
Eager to locate a river I’d followed all day I headed for the top of Ffynnon Gaer observing startled rabbits as.......
I traversed what I thought was a way leading me to the source but with no joy. I’d lost the river somehow. Retracing my steps, I was heading back towards the camp when I passed a fence covered in bramble and other vegetation. I peered through and saw a large concrete box in the distance with water flowing out of it. I knew the Angiddy had some kind of water station at its source but in my eagerness to locate it earlier I had walked straight past this feature. Having moved around it anti-clockwise I was able to discern a pipe, which was the source of the gushing water. I looked at it and behind me at my tarp. I was right on top of the source. Amazing I thought – what a camp site and day!
Having found and enjoyed the source the only thing left to do for me was to relax and enjoy the sounds of the Monmouthshire dusk whilst greeting a squirrel as it darted over branches with the grace and dexterity of a ballet dancer. Tomorrow I’ll head up towards the old Hill fort that lay 50 meters just above me to the West. With these balmy thoughts and visions I put my head.......
down content with my journey knowing that in the morning I’ll be greeted once again by the most spectacular dawn chorus only this time in a completely knew and remarkable place. Just the job for a hike back into Monmouth via the Wye.
Written by Mark Jickells