Travelling East from Cardiff towards the border with England you soon come to the town of Chepstow or Cas.gwent in Welsh. The name Chepstow derives from the old English word ceap or chepe, which means market place and the word "stow" which normally denotes a place of special significance. The first record of the name is in 1307, but there is archaeological evidence of continued human occupation of the area from the Mesolithic period around 5000 BC.
The last time I went home, I visited Chepstow Castle with some of my family. I don’t know if it is because I grew up in a country that has many castles and am accustomed to them being part of everyday life, or if it is because my ancestors would have lived in castles – my surname, Fletcher, relates to the profession my ancestors followed, they were arrow makers, and therefore lived in castles – but I feel at home exploring the towers with their spiral staircases, the turrets, battlements and dungeons. As soon as I cross the drawbridge over the moat I enter a different world.
I get the same feeling when I am in the countryside, or when I am engrossed in a task I really enjoy such as painting, photography, cooking, or any creative project. I get lost in a separate world and feel immense inner peace. It’s like a form of meditation, my senses become much more alert and I enter what seems like a parallel world. To the people around me I am lost, but for me it’s the opposite.
Chepstow Castle is a Norman castle, and was built soon after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. It is built on cliffs overlooking a bend in the river Wye. The castle is famous for two things. It is the oldest remaining post Roman fortification in Britain, and it has the oldest castle doors in Europe. The castle is partly ruined, but it is well worth a visit. We spent over an hour walking around the ruins, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Having explored the castle we then went to a nearby alehouse, which had a small beer garden, and had a pub lunch washed down with real beer.
It looks like they really knew how to enjoy themselves, and had lots of fun working, and being obedient and chaste. The one part of their life that does really appeal to me is the silence.
The village of Tintern is quaint, and not far from the Abbey there is a bridge where you can cross the river and follow a path along the bank if you feel like getting some exercise, often a good idea after a pub lunch.
I especially remember playing in the river at Symonds Yat, which is just across the border on the English side. The word Yat is in fact an old English word meaning gate.
After our visit to Tintern Abbey we drove through the Forest of Dean, and stopped at a charming café, which was a converted old train carriage. There we had afternoon tea. Very British!
Follow this link for information about the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean
If you would like to receive email notifications of updates to this site click here, fill in the relevant details and press submit.