On what proved to be the hottest day of the year, we were grateful for Chandler’s air conditioned coach on our hour long trip to our first venue, the old station at Tintern, via a short detour through the car park at Tintern Abbey. Our other committed times prevented a tour here but one interesting fact that John Salvat provided for me was that the abbey was practically rebuilt in Victorian times. Dating from 1131, sadly it fell foul of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII in the 1540s. It now comes under Cadw, the historic arm of the Welsh Government
The old Tintern station is a delightful place providing a welcome coffee, tea or local ice cream for some and a walk along the Wye with its butterfly strewn meadows for others. The sculptures all derived from old tree trunks were superb. Tintern station closed to passengers way back in 1959 before even the Beeching cuts and was on the 15 mile line from Chepstow to Monmouth. Traffic to the local quarry lasted until 1981, but thankfully the station buildings didn’t suffer the demolition fate of many across the country. Trains will never again grace the platforms but two modern coaches with a shop and display area show what might have been.
Our next port of call, literally, was at Symonds Yat where we boarded the Lady Christina for a 40 minutes trip up the Wye. Beforehand John Salvat provided a brief talk on the geology of the area and our first mention of Christmas! Apparently, the glaciers of old created a Christmas pudding effect on the geology to the extent that the local minerals and coal were very close to or on the surface. All such industries and their supporting railway and canal infrastructure is long gone except for the preserved Dean Forest Railway from Lydney to Parkend. Our boat trip took us past the local church dedicated to St. Dubricius, who dates from the time of Tintern Abbey. This proved to be a shady and quiet haven to eat our lunch in the churchyard whilst Canada geese and swans with their cygnets glided gently by. Further downriver the last remaining ferries using punts were passed whilst we turned near the rapids that denoted the three counties of Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire.
We returned on a more scenic route back to Lydney via Ross-on-Wye and ended up at Taurus Crafts. On this site are a number of artisan craft shops and garden centre but the highlight for many of us was the tea, cakes and scones and some very welcome shade from the incessant heat. There was plenty for everyone to savour on this outing, and our leader Rosalind kept us all in order throughout the day!