Day 2 – Redbrook to White Castle
Our B&B accommodation at the end of Day 1 was a former country inn now operated as a B&B called The Florence in the Lower Wye Valley. Our hosts had driven into Redbrook to meet us in a parking lot near the iron railway bridge when we crossed back over the river following a short visit at the Boat Inn in Penallt, Wales. Rooms at The Florence were well appointed, meals were very nice and the owners, Kathy and Dennis Redwood, were friendly and accommodating.
For me the highlight of the stay at the Florence was the abundance of bird life around their feeders and gardens including a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) that swooped quietly past as I was waiting (unsuccessfully) early in the morning hoping to photograph a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocropos major) that I had seen feeding its young in a nearby bush the previous evening.
Early morning light and a hint of a drizzle made photography a bit of a challenge but it was enjoyable to try my luck before heading into the main building for a English breakfast. In Canada, I often feed Black-Capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) straight from my hand.Chickadee shots here: www.flickr.com/photos/rjhayphotography/sets/7215760328125...
I found it somewhat difficult to take the time necessary to set up for good wildlife shots while hiking over hill and dale during the day. Therefore most of my bird shots on this Offa’s Dyke hike had to be taken early in the morning or later in the day and usually under somewhat trying low light conditions. Therefore, I was quite happy when this Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone) landed only a few feet away from the window as I was doing my final preparations to start out on Day 2 of this walk along the Offa’s Dyke Path.
We saw very few people on the trails and roadways that we traveled so when these folks on horseback came along and we had to move to one side of the narrow British roads, it felt a bit like an early morning rush hour :-).
It wasn’t too long into the day’s walk when we caught our initial glimpse of one of the larger towns along the path: the Welsh county town of Monmouth (Welsh: Trefynwy) where the River Monnow meets the River Wye. (Location)
Lots of traffic in Monmouth, lots of history and lots of things to see.
In earlier days, the gate at the Monnow Bridge would serve both a defensive purpose as well as a spot to collect tolls from visitors and merchants entering into the town. A variety of tolls are still collected in Monmouth but by different methods :-).
As we followed the acorn signs through Monmouth we eventually reached Watery Lane and headed out of town looking for our next sign post to show us the way.
Of course, when you start to see acorns in your dreams , you know you must be on the Offa’s Dyke Path but dream can change to nightmare when you stare at the post and can’t decide which way to go!
After leaving Monmouth, the path led us out of the valley and up to some wooded areas. At a high point on the trail we met up with a group of “Ambling Ramblers”; including this individual who was trying not to photograph his boots. He was hoping for a dedicated macro lens for his birthday :-). While he labored to get just the right angle, others from the group commented on my milk carton (my beverage of choice carried from Monmouth) as well as the weather, other trails to hike and the state of Welsh sheep in general. After a bit, they went their way and we went ours.
A good portion of the Offa’s Dyke Path crossed through countryside and pasture land much of which was occupied by livestock happily munching away on the lush, green growth. My caution factor tended to be nil for sheep but worked its way up a bit for cows, definitely got higher if the cows had calves and climbed quickly if the cows had horns but my highest caution was reserved for anything that might pass itself off as a bull LOL. Horses were a special case and we encountered only a few of those.
The ridge of the Black Mountains which I think are the range seen in the distance was our destination for the next day but our feet had to cover a lot of trail before then so off we went through the buttercups heading toward those hills and beyond.
White Castle was built to defend part of the Welsh Marshes and started as a simple motte and bailey. Knights with their men in arms, horses and grooms would patrol the countryside from this base. The early earthwork defences were strengthened around 1185 and enlarged in the 1250’s and 1260’s when Welsh power was being consolidated under Prince Llwelyn ap Gruffydd, but his defeat and the subsequent conquest of Wales by Edward I removed the threat and White Castle’s role faded. It’s name came from the white lime plaster that originally covered its walls.
This was the end point for our walk this day and the woman responsible for the ticket wicket wouldn’t let us go onto the grounds since she wanted to make sure there were no vagrants on the grounds when a special archery tournament commenced the next morning. I was able to take this quick shot through the gate. I think that I would have judged her to be an uncivil civil servant but at least she finally agreed to phone our B&B hosts so that they would know that we had arrived at our meeting place.