The birthplace of British tourism
The River Wye meanders sleepily through the countryside of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire, marking the border, in places, between England and Wales. The Wye Valley walk - nearly 200 km of it - follows the river, through the many woods and fields, passing by archaeological sites and ruins. This celebrated valley is a wonderful place for nature. It offers a chance to see bats, badgers, otters, butterflies and much more.
In spring some of the woodlands are carpeted with scented primroses, bluebells and wild garlic; and in autumn there are the rich gold and red leaf colours. It is not until winter that the evergreen tapestry picks out the ‘ER’ initials carefully crafted in the woodland mix at Little Doward Woods, and seen only from above.
A rich history
The Wye is one of Britain’s great rivers. It witnessed the beginnings of the iron industry in Roman times using charcoal from the nearby Forest of Dean. Its tributaries provided water power for small blast furnaces in the 1500s.
It flowed gently by, a silent onlooker of the destruction of abbeys and monasteries in 1534, which left the richest monastic foundation in Wales - Tintern Abbey - as a haunting ruin. Its beauty and romanticism ignited the spark of tourism in Britain in the late 1700s and it was much visited by Victorian travellers. Today, its landscape, heritage and wildlife is recognised in its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Between Symond’s Yat and Chepstow in the south, the river changes character to run in a gorge. Each great meander is carved almost straight down into the surrounding rocks. It is an impressive sight, even for worldweary travellers of today.
The downward erosion by the river, that has imprisoned it in its gorge, came about because the river gained extra power. It stole (captured) the waters of another river and this diverted water added to the volume and power of the Wye.