This first walk on the South Wales section of the Wales Coast Path covers the route alongside the Severn Estuary to the River Wye in Monmouthshire. The start point is at Redwick Village, on the boundary of Newport and Monmouthshire.
The quiet rural village is a good place to start with roadside parking near the Church, which is opposite the local pub The Rose Inn. There are way marked paths across fields to give easy access to the coast path on the seawall. The walk then continues eastwards along the banks of the Severn Estuary, and across countryside before heading into Chepstow. Finishing at the town offers choices for food & drink and public transport back towards Redwick.
Redwick to Prince of Wales Bridge
Our walk starts at Redwick church, heading across fields at the back of the churchyard and joining the Wales Coast Path which runs along the top of the seawall.
There’s some historical interest at Redwick. At St. Thomas Church, an engraved stone on the exterior wall marks the height of the Great Flood of January 1607. Records from the time tell of a tidal wave, up to 25ft high, which swept up the Severn Estuary and submerged the low lying land.
Whole villages were swept away, 3000 lives believed lost with the devastation particularly severe along the coast of South East Wales. This devastating event is still a matter of academic interest, whether a tsunami was the cause.
Today the seawall protects the areas of low lying farmland and marshes known as ‘The Gwent Levels’ from the tidal waters of the Severn Estuary. The tidal range of the estuary is quite incredible and is the 2nd highest tidal range in the world.
Looking across this landscape at land first reclaimed during the Roman times, the scenery of swathes of green fields and hedgerows, criss- crossed by extensive lines of drainage ditches, known as ‘Reens’, covers a vast area.
With the sun shining brightly, a light breeze and calm waters on the estuary, it was a peaceful and pleasant walk for the first few miles. From the raised, level surface of the seawall there are splendid panoramic views across the expanse of the Severn Estuary.
As the seawall path leads towards Rogiet, the impressive structure of the Second Severn Crossing, now officially retitled as ‘The Prince of Wales Bridge’ is in sight up ahead.
It was very quiet along this section of the walk, just a group of fishermen seen at the edge of the grassy banks along the first few miles
The flow of the walk was broken near Rogiet as there’s a convoluted detour inland. It’s a necessary diversion to go around a military firing range but unfortunately this entails an uninspiring walk of some minor roads near Caldicot and twice crossing highway bridges over the M4 motorway.
After a couple of miles it’s good to get back to the banks of the Severn and the bridge looms ever larger as the path heads towards, then underneath, the huge structure.
Standing on the coast path almost underneath the carriageway provides a great perspective on the engineering feat of the bridge, with a superb view of the graceful curve across the Severn Estuary to Avonmouth.
Sudbrook to Mathern
The path continues on through Sudbrook, the village developed to house workers during the construction of the Severn railway tunnel in the 19th Century. It was a major engineering feat of the day and the red brick Pumping Station is still the most prominent building in the village, as millions of gallons of water are drained each day from the tunnel.
Sudbrook has a much longer history with an Iron Age hill fort and nearby the stone ruins of a 12th century chapel are all that now remains of an earlier medieval settlement near the banks of the Severn Estuary.
Walking on to nearby Black Rock at Portskewett, a pleasant picnic area with bench seating and viewpoints is a perfect place for a rest stop. It’s a popular walking site for locals and the area was busy with lots of families and dog walkers enjoying the fine day outdoors.
A ‘People of the landscape’ by the Living Levels project has installed a number of sculptures along a heritage trail nearby. Read more about this project here . For walkers interested in a short walk near the estuary, then Black Rock is an ideal place on the coast path with good access and car parking. There’s a fine view of the original Severn Bridge, opened in 1966 with the M4 motorway which transformed travel between Wales and England.
Walking on we reach St. Pierre Pill, a secluded inlet with an anchorage for sailing boats. The path then heads inland over a level crossing on a rail line, then alongside St. Pierre golf course and across fields towards the historic village of Mathern.
Mathern to Chepstow
Mathern is steeped in the legends of a 7th century local Celtic King, Tewdric who died there after being wounded in a battle at Tintern. A church was dedicated to him at his burial place and he was declared a Saint and martyr, St. Tewdric.
An impressive carved sculpture of Tewdric stands outside the Church in Mathern. Learning more about the interesting history, local legends and folklore linked to places such as Mathern, is a really enjoyable part of the experience of walking the Wales Coast Path.
From Mathern the path initially crosses farm fields, but then heads through some bland urban areas on the way into Chepstow. There’s the brief highlight of an occasional view of the River Wye and the towers of the original Severn Bridge.
After passing Bulwark, there’s a section of preserved Chepstow Port Wall, part of the 13th century medieval town defences. I had some personal interest here, as my late grandfather had grown up in Chepstow and in the distant past his family had lived at Portwall Cottage, long since gone.
From here it’s a steady downhill walk through the streets leading into Chepstow town. The path leads along to a lovely riverside setting overlooking the elegant ironbridge on the River Wye.
A landscaped area on the Riverside has a couple of stone pillars to mark the start / finish point of the Wales Coast Path. A stone circle set in the ground commemorates the official opening of the path in 2012 and is a lovely piece of colourful mosaic artwork representing the coastline of Wales.
So a first section of the South Wales Coast is under our belts although a ‘not-so-short’, being quite a long walk over 16 miles in 7 hours.
Start ~ Redwick Village / Finish ~ Old Wye Bridge, Chepstow
Distance ~ 16.4 miles
Time ~ 7 hours
Facilities ~ no shops or facilities available directly on the path for a large part of this route, until reaching Chepstow; so good advice is to pack snacks and drinks for the duration.
Rest Stops ~ Black Rock Picnic site ( seating / picnic tables, but no facilities);
At the start ~ The Rose Inn, Redwick has a good menu, a highly rated and popular traditional village pub;
Along the route ~ The Millers Arms, Mathern, is not far away off the route, usual pub facilities with a good menu and selection of real ales;
End of the route at Chepstow ~ lots of choice of pubs and restaurants, accommodation and services are available in the town. Chepstow is officially a Walkers Are Welcome town, click on the link for further details.
A long and enjoyable day walk with scenery, interesting history and engineering marvels along the way. Walking was easy going along the Severn Estuary, on a low and flat landscape.
Some road walking on the inland detour at Caldicot & the urban approach outside Chepstow were not so enjoyable.
For walkers looking to avoid the road sections around the M4, an alternative for this stage would be 2 shorter walks, to focus on the main highlights along the Severn Estuary.