The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty organise many different events throughout the year including courses, workshops and family events. Some of the most popular are guided walks and this year there have been 13 during the period April to December 2010. The last walk of the year took place today at Staunton, on the edge of the Forest of Dean in the hills above Monmouth. This walk, as with three others in the series was led by the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tour Guides.
The Forest has been lucky with the weather compared with other parts of the country but it was still touch and go all week whether or not the walk would take place because of snow and ice. As it turned out conditions were absolutely perfect; although it was still freezing there was bright sun throughout the walk. It was not so good along the banks of the Wye which were still shrouded in freezing fog but were well above it.
Ten of us enjoyed the walk around Staunton to see three of the stones for which it is well known.
The Buckstone is at 279 metres and gives great views west over Monmouth to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons beyond. With the clear air the view was impressive with snow-covered hills in the distance and Monmouth and the river valley shrouded in thick mist. The Buckstone was a rocking stone until 1885 when it was dislodged by “drunken revellers” but it was recovered bottom of the hill and is now firmly cemented in place.
Near Harkening Rock has a similarly impressive west-facing view from its top. The rock has a concave face and is named because gamekeepers standing in the lee of the rock would listen for poachers seeking deer. There are still a lot of deer in the area and we saw a group of about 20 near the Buckstone. From Near Harkening Rock it is a short walk to the Suckstone, the largest fallen rock in England estimated to weight about 14,000 tons.
A great morning out – 6km in glorius weather followed by a brief visit to the pub!