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St Briavels Castle Weekend - April 2015

In this anniversary year of Magna Carta, twelve of us stayed at St.Briavels Castle, once used as King John's hunting lodge.

Most of us arrived on Thursday. The men's dorm was at the top of the west tower, and the ladies dorm at the top of the east tower with a seriously steep spiral staircase. This proved to be something of a challenge as the toilets and showers are on the ground floor.

In the evening we walked to the nearest pub, only a few yards away!

On Friday we left as one party and walked downhill to Brockwier where we looked around a Moravian church. We then crossed a bridge over the River Wye (showing our passports for entry into God's Own Country - Ian's words!. We walked to the Tintern Railway Station Picnic Site for lunch, where Aline took a ride on a small train. After lunch we split into A & B parties. B walkers walked north along the river to Bigswier Bridge and uphill to the Hostel. A walkers went uphill onto the Wye Valley Path to Cleddon Shoots, where there is a scenic water 'tumble' and then downhill to Bigswier Bridge and taking the same route as B walk to the hostel.

After a well earned evening meal, a few went to the pub while others played what is becoming our favourite game, Pictionary, with Colin as our regular referee.

On Saturday we were joined by Gaynor, Linda, Heather and Karen. We drove a few miles towards Chepstow and walked as one party to the Jubilee Stone, a 1897 rough monument to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. We then walked via Offa's Dyke and onto Wintour's Leap (via a boulder field) where a highwayman was reputed to have eluded his pursuers by leaping his horse off a cliff . We then went onto the ruined St James' Church, used at one time as a hospice for lepers. We split into two parties and walked in the dramatic gorge of the River Wye where we had lunch. B party caught A party napping in the sun. We then walked along Offa's Dyke path to the Devil's Pulpit, a rock 'pulpit' high above Tintern Abbey with excellent views. The last part of the walk was via Miss Grace's Lane.

In the evening we dressed up in medieval costumes for the banquet. It was quite authentic, we ate with our fingers and were entertained by an actor/historian.

On Sunday we drove to Tintern and we were joined by a walker, Helen, who must have thought we looked like reasonable company. We started walking from Tintern, south along the Wye Valley Path to another superb viewpoint, the Eagle's nest. We then were walking near the Windcliff and up to the Gaer Hill (Gaer = Welsh for hill fort), for lunch. The B walkers took the quick way back to Tintern for tea and cakes, while A walkers took an extended route back to Tintern via the woods and valleys to the west of Tintern.

In the evening we had a very competitive game of 60 seconds, followed by another round or two of Pictionary.

On Monday, some of us who stayed, tried our hand at Archery, followed by a tour of the castle, which was interesting. Nine of us went for a short walk taking in a view over the River Severn near Hewelsfield, via the church in that village, and then along the Gloucestershire Way and finally back for tea and our (just one) dessert in the pub in St. Briavels. It was then hugs and farewells until next time.

Thank you to Ian for organising a great weekend, with a difference.