Sue and I arrived at Welsh Bicknor Youth Hostel before 5 o'clock on Friday afternoon, soon after which Andrew J joined us for a 4 km circuit, past the church.
There were deer in the wood behind the hostel, which is pictured here with the last of the sun reflected in its windows.
Saturday dawned bright and cheery, especially in the kitchen on this self-catered Rentahostel weekend for 33 of us.
There was then much milling around as the party split into two groups plus a rock climbing duo.
Previous days had been foggy here, but today the clouds lifted and cleared quickly.
A group of 17 of us set off along the Wye Valley Way to the west. 15 others headed east.
Soon we crossed the River Wye over an old railway bridge. Julia, whose 80th birthday party we'd enjoyed last year, joined us for the day – pictured here with Edwina.
I survived a visit to the river bank, luckily avoiding the land mines.
The going along the old railway line was very easy until we came to the place where it disappeared into a padlocked tunnel. From now on the route undulated, leading to many long pauses during the day's attempt to keep all 17 people together. Unfortunately Julia had fallen the previous week and didn’t realise that she may have cracked a couple of ribs. This hampered her progress on the uphill sections, leaving plenty of time for us to observe the wheeling buzzards and the emerging flora, including the Glistening Ink Cap and Primroses shown below.
Luckily we didn't need to cross the river near Symonds Yat East as the ferry wasn’t operating.
The conditions were very dry, so those of us wearing gaiters soon realised that they were superfluous, as were our boots.
Whilst John and Julia took a short cut through a polecat zone up to a viewpoint, the rest of us pottered along to Symonds Yat East, where there were toilets and intricate sculptures.
A short climb to the viewpoint afforded fine views, including our earlier route past a white cottage, now glimpsed far below.
We spent some time here, admiring a pair of peregrine falcons in the trees below us. A good spot, Ken.
Here we are at the Symonds Yat viewpoint.
Luckily, there were plenty of benches on which to laze in the sunshine whilst waiting.
Some hedgerow detritus was encountered. The car was apparently alarmed.
We slowly drifted back to Welsh Bicknor in time to enjoy the evening light and pots of tea on the patio. The other 15 arrived later, having spent most of the day in a refreshment tent.
Here’s our route - 22 km, with 625 metres ascent, taking us a shade under a very leisurely 8 hours.
Dodgy ovens and other hurdles were overcome, and various chefs contributed to an excellent dinner. Congratulations go to Sue W for managing to organise all that and do most of the main course cooking. £9 a head for food for the weekend isn’t at all bad either. We didn’t skimp!
On Sunday many went home, via a selection of sub-Marilyn sorts of targets, whilst 15 of us went to Kymin, near Monmouth, for another circular walk in exceedingly summery conditions.
Sue W was appointed 'custodian of the map', and like the previous day the unplanned route was made up as we went along. Here she is, making it up.
We soon inadvertently left the Offa's Dyke path we’d started along and headed across a field past a fine looking house near where Wood Anemones were nicely in flower.
After crossing a series of dry fields, we reached the metropolis of Newland, which for a small village sports a particularly fine church.
There were also some Almshouses that had been very nicely refurbished.
"Follow me" woofed the dog, so Jess, Claire, Elaine, Liz, Richard, Jenny, John and Edwina did just that and were never seen again.
The rest of us passed beside Newland Falls, where some noisy sheep and lambs were being attended to by their conscientious masters.
We circled around to regain the Offa's Dyke path in the opposite direction, and after a while emerged from the woods to an excellent viewpoint above Redbrook for a timely lunch break.
Now we were down to seven, there was plenty of cake for everyone.
Soon we were off again, heading for the top of the hill in the centre of the picture below (Kymin).
There were large banks of Lesser Celandine this weekend - hard to capture on film in the bright light.
We admired the views and benches at Redbrook Village Green before enjoying a lovely woodland path that delivered us efficiently to Monmouth, where there's a railway junction that is sadly no longer operative.
We didn't visit Monmouth town, instead hurtling up the hill to Kymin through beech woods that reminded Sue and me of last year's visit to the Apennines.
In a few weeks time these slopes will be filled with bluebells.
Our final destination, The Round House, dates from 1796.
There were fine views beyond Monmouth into deepest Wales (aka The Black Mountains) from here. We admired these in midsummer-like sunshine that accompanied the final slurps from our flasks.
After giving some advice to a couple of novice backpackers, we moved on to the Naval Temple, a small but magnificent structure opened in 1800 and commemorating numerous British maritime successes..
After one final look back we then dispersed our separate ways for easy journeys home - the Wye Valley isn't as far from Manchester as some may think.
Here’s our route for today - 17 km with 470 metres ascent in a slightly more brisk 5.5 hours.
There’s a much more comprehensive slideshow here. Quite a few photos (99) due to the wonderful summery weather and the lovely scenery.
Thanks to Sue W for organising this weekend, and to Julia for providing dinner in Tewkesbury on our way home.