Winter is a time for hibernation, for feeling cosy by the fire and for indulging in the excesses of Christmas. It is also a time when the landscape changes offering some of the best walking opportunities of the year. So, wrap up warm, put on those layers and head out to see what Monmouthshire has to offer!
The area surrounding Abergavenny provides the perfect introduction to winter walking. Extra care is required when rambling or hiking at this time of year. Be aware of the weather, the terrain and the shorter days to avoid getting caught out and finding yourself in a dangerous situation. Always plan a route within your capabilities and experience level to ensure you are appropriately prepared.
For a short walk, why not try Castle Meadows next to the beautiful River Usk? From here, you can follow the path to the ruins of the castle.
Abergavenny Castle has a brutal history. It was the location of the infamous 12th century Christmas Day massacre. Legend tells of a spectacular Christmas feast to celebrate the re-establishment of peace after a turbulent period of fighting along the border between Wales and England.
In 1175, William de Braose, a Norman Lord, was in possession of the castle. He invited Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, a prominent ruler in the area, and the other chieftains of Powys to a banquet. In the spirit of reconciliation, the Welshmen left their weapons outside the main hall. The celebration became the scene of deceitful treachery. They had been tricked! As the chieftains were enjoying themselves, the doors were locked and they were slain.
In 1182, trouble flared again along the border. The castle was attacked by vengeful Welshmen who captured the occupants and it is believed they burned the castle. It has been rebuilt and extended several times throughout its long history.
Admission to the castle and the museum within the grounds is free.
Continuing the historical theme, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is situated just outside Abergavenny. It is ideal for a low level, flat winter walk. Constructed over two hundred years ago, the canal was fundamental to the heavy industry of the 18th and 19th centuries. The raw materials of limestone, coal and iron ore were brought to the canal from the surrounding areas for transportation.
The section above the village of Llanfoist is now part of the UNESCO Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, recognised globally for its historical importance.
The canal is also the gateway to a challenging walk to the trig point on the Blorenge. As with all mountains, use your judgement for safety and extra care should be taken if attempting this in winter.
The Blorenge is one of the three peaks that dominate the skyline above the town of Abergavenny, along with the Sugar Loaf and the Skirrid. The summit is 561 metres (1,841 feet) high so the weather can be changeable and very different from that at the canal level. It is also possible to reach the summit by following a gentle pathway from the Foxhunter Car Park near Blaenavon.
This mountain played a significant role in the area’s industrial past and still bears the scars inflicted by the iron and coal industries. These days it is tranquil but it would have been a different place two hundred years ago with all the sights, sounds and dangers associated with a world leader in industry.
So, winter doesn’t need to be a time to avoid the great outdoors. Put on your walking boots and see what you can discover!
A version of this article first appeared in ‘Living Wales’ magazine, Winter Edition 2018.
More walking articles can be found in the outdoors category of my blog.
I also write blogs for businesses. If you are interested in any of the blog packages I provide, please visit the Writing Services page.