Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Visiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 23, 2018
Exactly 220 years (and 10 days) after Romantic poet William Wordsworth composed his famous poem commonly referred to as ‘Tintern Abbey’, I too visited the banks of the Wye and set about writing this blog a few miles beyond the abbey ruins.
Without a destination in mind, I was simply following the coastal road in Groggy the campervan. If there isn’t a particular site or town I want to see, I tend to drive the general bearing on which I’m headed and follow any signs that pique my interest.
I obeyed a sign which indicated I head South East for a mile and a half to reach Lydney Harbour. Reluctantly, I continued to the end having already passed half a mile of derelict buildings, broken glass, heras fencing and fly-tipped rubbish, thinking ‘this doesn’t look promising’. Sadly, I was right.
Despite beautiful views over the Severn estuary parallel to the marina, the views of Lydney Harbour are what will stick in my mind.
The little marina, with its overgrown flora and silt-ridden banks, can only be described as where boats go to die. The reason for Hades’ Harbour, according to an old boy living aboard one of the slightly healthier looking vessels, is cheap mooring fees. People keep their boats here and forget about them.
Continuing on the road from which I had detoured, I crossed the bridge into Chepstow and barely noticed the dramatic rocks and river because of the dominating castle up ahead. Ever a slave to live music, I left Groggy on the sun-drenched lawn in front of the castle and trekked uphill until I found the source of the sound: a celebration of art with live music and vegan curry. Jackpot!
Fast-forward to late evening and I found myself in a pub, also featuring live music, drinking and dancing with friends of the arts trail.
The band finished all too soon so we decided to head back to one gentleman’s house and stage our own drunken concert in his back garden which overlooked the castle ruins. Apologies to the neighbours… we were convinced the time was right for Kate Bush ‘Wuthering Heights’.
The fun and ‘unexpectedness’ of the latter half of the day (and well into the night) were such a happy contrast to the heavy-heartedness I experienced at the boat graveyard that morning. I didn’t think my time in the area could get any better than a spontaneous sing-along with wine and like-minded strangers. That is, until I visited the banks of the Wye.
There is a disused quarry beside the River Wye which provides a haven for climbers and ramblers, and offers a majestic view which is more reminiscent of South Africa than of Wales. I was shown the way by a local who pointed out the peregrines as we sat on the rocks and absorbed the dramatic scenery, chatting about travel and work, life and love. Without him, I would never have found this site; I wouldn’t have even known it existed.
I can definitely see the advantages of planning ahead, having an idea of a route and sticking vaguely to an itinerary. Of course, at times, applying a little logic is beneficial. However, doing the polar opposite can lead to some extraordinary, unforgettable experiences which are enhanced by the joy of spontaneity. It’s OK to have no idea where you’re headed; strap in and enjoy the ride.
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
– William Wordsworth