No more shops!

Tintern Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 55 › view all entries
Tintner Abbey

On Saturday, for the first time in months, I had nothing to do.  So having got up late, mooched about the place in my jogging bottoms, and had a bit of a think, I decided that this was not as much fun as I had thought it would be.  I needed to do something.  Something where, as far as possible, I could avoid the four million screaming toddlers, grumpy people, grinches and shop assistants that I knew would be hainging about Swindon, trying desperately to buy happiness.  Of course, I realised this when I also knew I had less than 5 hours of daylight left...

This somewhat limited my touristing options.  Luckily, however, the Wye Valley in Wales (which I had previously visited briefly, with my last ex boyfriend) is right across the border and about an hour away.

This is apparently the only place they were allowed a fire in winter. Monks were HARD.
  If I got a move on, I thought, I could make it in time to see some scenery before dark.  The Wye valley is sort of the birthplace of tourism in the UK - a lot of poets and painters went there to look at scenery in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Wordsworth (who I don't much care for) and Turner (who I do).

I went to Tintern Abbey first.  Tintern Abbey was part of the inspiration behind a Spectacularly Dull Poem I had inflilcted on me in high school (see "A Note on the Text" below!) but I decided not to judge Tintern Abbey on those grounds.  And I was glad I didn't; Tintern Abbey is extremely pretty, and I had the place almost completely to myself, because the entire population of the UK was in a mall somewhere.  There were white doves cooing about the place, lots of signs telling you about the monks, and I enjoyed wandering about a lot.

Tintern and the River Wye in a brief sunny minute
 

After that, I crossed the river Wye for a walk, and then went back to the car.  On the way back south, with a vague thought that I might go to Chepstow just to see what it was like, I passed a sign that was totally irresistable.  it said "Forestry Commission: 365 steps".  Now, as poor Lauro can attest, I cannot resist climbing up steps.  Cliffs, sure, because that is hard.  I can totally ignore extreme sports.  But there is something about the promise of getting up high that I cannot pass up.

This was, of course, silly, because I had less than an hour now till dusk, and as I'm sure you know, wandering around woods in the dark is silly.

Wild Yew tree
  Aside from any supernatural threat or muderous human, there is the ever present danger of lurking damp leaves.  This threat is probably the number one reason why you should not go up the 365 steps an hour before dusk unless, of course, you are silly.

I am silly.

The woods were amazing.  The path was easy to fololow, meandering ever upwards between wild yew trees, and mosses dripping with rain.  Funnily enough, it wasn't raining, so I can only assume that this was left over rain the woods were saving up for any passing tourists.  It was dim, and cool, but not cold; everything was still green, because of the Holly and the Yew.  And silent.  As silent as I would imagine a wood in Middle Earth or Narnia to be; not at all like the kid-shrieking woods of the country parks of England.

Doorway to the church
  There weren't even many birds.  It was amazing.

The steps were intermittant, and carried me up the steep side of the hill.  I have no diea if there are really 365 steps or not.  I strode up fast; I was worried about loosing light, and was rushing a bit.  This may explain why I got the whole way to the top before my legs turned to jelly.  it's worth noting that all I had eaten all day was a small Pain au Chocolat, because I decided to go on a bit of a spur of the moment thing.  But the view was stunning.  you can't see it in the photos, but once you are at the top, you can see the Severn Bridges and the ports of Avonmouth, and apparently on a clearer day you can see the Cotswolds and the Mendips too.  it was well worth it.

Abbey Church

I went back down rather more slowly, because of the ever present threat of going over my ankles on the leaves and the dripping stones.  And the woods were still magic, even on wobbling legs and an increasingly persistant wheeze where I had totally forgotten I was asthmatic.  I got back to the car with about ten minutes of good light left.

I did drive through Chepstow on the way home, and drew the following conclusions; I would like to go back, but only on my way to teh Wye again, and only on a Sunday - it looked interesting but even at 5pm the traffic system was inpenatrable and it took me three attempts to escape the one way system.  I'm half surprised I made it out alive.

 

A Note on teh Text

Tintern Abbey is also a very, very long poem by Wordsworth.

A tree
 Wordsworth wrote long poems about likeing nature, adn was friends with Coleridge, who wrote infinately more entertaining poems about dreaming about palaces and albatrosses and curses (Coleridge also took a LOT of Opium).  In Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth witters on for ages about 1) how much he hates being middle class and 2) how jealous he is of the rustic simplicity peasants live in in the country and 3) isn't the Wye valley pretty?  I got in considerable trouble for telling my English teacher that any adult man in teh 18th century who wanted to trade his comfortable job in the city and his nice home for a freezing hut in the woods because he was feeling pensive had obviously been taking Coleridge's opium.  I got an A in my exam, though.  So I win.   

londonstudent says:
I so agree about Wordsworth; give me a house with a decent bathroom any day. Still, he did write the poem on Friday 13th!
Posted on: Feb 15, 2009
Sweetski says:
Nothing cures the rat race blues better than a fair bit of solitude :) How wonderful to be able to wander around such a beautiful and peaceful place (almost) by yourself. Lovely photos too! Makes me long for the country side and England's green and pleasant land :D
Posted on: Dec 23, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Tintner Abbey
Tintner Abbey
This is apparently the only place …
This is apparently the only place…
Tintern and the River Wye in a bri…
Tintern and the River Wye in a br…
Wild Yew tree
Wild Yew tree
Doorway to the church
Doorway to the church
Abbey Church
Abbey Church
A tree
A tree
Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
A white Dove
A white Dove
West facade
West facade
A cupboard - I bet the ones you ge…
A cupboard - I bet the ones you g…
The Abbey, again
The Abbey, again
Red plant
Red plant
More sun
More sun
A bracket Fungus in a cool tree
A bracket Fungus in a cool tree
The Abbey
The Abbey
The Abbey from the far side of the…
The Abbey from the far side of th…
Christmas Decorations
Christmas Decorations
Does what it says
Does what it says
Tree on a rock
Tree on a rock
Tintern Sights & Attractions review
365 Steps
The 365 steps are a forestry commission path in teh woods in teh Wye valley. The woods are apparently unique, and look a bit like the temperate rain … read entire review
Tintern Sights & Attractions review
Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is a historic ruined abbey in South Wales, on the banks of the river Wye. the Abbey was held by the Cistercians, an unusually hardy bun… read entire review
Tintern