Tuesday 13 August – Wye Valley YHA

lovely firm bed. Then again a leisurely breakfast with Judy, packed ready to leave, then coffee on the swing seat in her garden again. It is as warm as ever. After we had said our goodbyes (and she insisted on making me a smoked salmon sandwich for lunch and adding a peach and banana to the bag) I headed back down to the city to visit the Art Museum that was closed yesterday. I spent three hours studying the wonderful selection of paintings covering most periods, nationalities and styles. My favourite as always is the French Impressionist period but I was also treated to a feast of Turner.

The ground floor was devoted to natural history and was set up with stuffed creatures placed in their natural habitat… mainly for school groups.
I felt pretty tired by the time I returned to my car and sat for a while eating my lunch snack. Thank you Judy, it just hit the spot!
Now I had to decide whether to head up the coast or go direct to Monmouth. I had received a call from Julie on my mobile in the museum saying that she had a meeting in the evening and I know that I had left arrangements a bit vague so I said I was happy to stay in a YHA tonight. I just needed to make a decision as to whether I would drive up the coast or spend more time in Wye Valley. I checked the weather forecast on my IPhone which wasn’t good. So Wye it is! After dropping off some gifts to some friends who were away, I set the sat nav to YHA Forest of Dean.
After leaving the motorway and returning to England I found myself following the River Wye winding through wooded hilly countryside. “You have arrived at your destination” the sat nav told me at a clearing in the middle of nowhere! Hmm… I was getting a little concerned as it was nearing 5pm in high season in a very popular part of England. Would I get a bed tonight? (I could always sleep in the car!). I came across a driveway up to what appeared to be a nursing home but no one about, in fact I hadn’t seen a soul for miles! Suddenly an old boy appeared and asked me if I was lost. I explained and he said I was on the wrong side of the river. ( I read on YHA blurb later that this is what sat navs do and you have to put in the village name of Goodrich. Anyway after several miles of winding undulating sometimes steep (with sheer drops) and very rough (I thought I would get a puncture) track, I finally got to my destination. But was there room at the inn? No problem a friendly voice answered through a hatch in the hallway of a large converted house in the most beautiful setting. I booked some dinner for 7 then claimed my bed in the dorm before taking a stroll. Wow this place was heaven and well worth the tortuous access. Just below the house, set in the hillside was the prettiest little church. I did wonder who would ever go to it on such an inaccessible place. I wandered on down to the fast flowing river which was.used by hostellers for canoeing. There were one or two campers here with upturned canoes beside their tents. A pathway had been cut through the undergrowth beside the river, which I followed for 20 minutes or so. It was such a beautiful warm sunny evening and soooo peaceful here with just the sound if the water passing over rocks and the odd twitter of a blackbird. I returned for 7 to be brought a delicious beef stew with broccoli and new potatoes in the garden high up overlooking the valley with the river below. I decided to sketch the church after dinner as this might be the last of the sunshine for a day or two. Returning to the dorm for my sketch pad I met up with one of the only two girls sharing my room, they were on a cycling holiday from north Wales to Stow on the Wold where they were picking up a car to drive home again. We chatted for a bit about hostels and beautiful UK (when you get the good weather!). Then I took myself off to a place in the evening sun where I settled on a low wall in the evening sunlight to draw the church. There was a family with two small children happily kicking a ball to each other nearby and one or two others sitting up on the terrace having their dinner in the last of the evening light.
I went to bed reasonably early after a long day and read my book by torchlight before finally dropping off to sleep.

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