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Published: July 30th 2011
Rollin' On The River
View of the River from Symonds Rock.
29th June 9.15pm Neyland
Am finally back on the coast path after a quite lengthy, but very pleasant detour inland. It has been good to get away from the coast for a bit and to spend and extended period of time sleeping indoors on a bed. In fact, I have become quite accustomed to crisp cotton sheets, thick mattresses and fluffy duvets over the past week or so, so might find the trusty ground mat and sleeping bag a bit of a shock after so long in pampered luxury.
Now while it was great to spend a few nights in an actual bed, it was not quite as fun as I was hoping for. This is down to the actions, or rather in inaction as it were, of a certain English lass. Now I should take some time here to fully explain the details of the situation I found myself in. I had met Fiona on a crazy weekend in London when she had gotten off the night bus with us and came back to the place I was staying. She ended up staying the whole weekend and we all had a great time, the two
The Royal Lodge in Symonds Yat.
of us sort of hooking up (but not really) and sleeping in the same bed. By kind of hooking up, I mean we were very cuddly and generally affectionate, but no kissing or anything of that sort took place. This was down to Fiona’s policy on not kissing boys due to some existential/religious crisis she was apparently going though. All of which is fair enough and I was happy to leave it at that, but the plot thickens here friends in a manner I shall now elaborate on.
Out of the blue several weeks after the mental London weekend I received a text from the aforementioned lady saying that she wanted to do something ‘crazy and spontaneous’ and enquiring as to where I was and what my plans were. “Excellent,” I thought to myself, “she obviously fancies you, why else would she contact you and want to see you?” Also, in my mind ‘crazy and spontaneous’ meant that she had decided to forget her straight laced ways for a least a weekend and cut loose. All of this was sounding pretty good from where I was standing, so I suggested she come out to Wales and we could hide
The view from the entrance to King Arthur's Cave.
out in a BnB. She agreed, but when Pembrokeshire turned out to be too far we arranged to meet at a place in Herefordshire she had been a few times before and loved.
She sorted out the accommodation and managed to score us a two night stay in a four star hotel including breakfast for only £45 each. Now I might be a little out of line here, but if a girl travels several hours to share a room in a nice hotel at a romantic spot in the picturesque countryside with me, I’m generally going to assume that she’s quite keen and that the bed is going to be used for a whole lot more than just sleeping in. At least that’s what the majority of my life experience up to this point has led me to believe. It would seem, however, that our Fiona had different ideas entirely, and this doesn’t just apply to sleeping with boys in hotel rooms.
Once I had come to terms with what might just be the biggest leading on in the history of human sexuality and accepted the fact that, once again, I wasn’t going to get laid, I decided
Me on one of the charmingly quaint hand operated ferries.
to enjoy her company for what it was and have a good time hanging out and taking in the beautiful country atmosphere. After all, she was a cool person and we got along really well. Or so I thought.
I did know that she was a bit religious and quite into Judaism, but it wasn’t until we got into a serious conversation that I realised how dogmatic and ridiculous a lot of her beliefs were. These include a refusal to believe in evolution or the existence of dinosaurs, ascribing to a strictly creationist view that the earth was created in six days and that Noah actually built an ark that held not only two of every animal in the world, but also giants as well apparently (although she was a little vague as to why they weren’t still around today) By the end of the weekend I could add angels (they’re always with us, and are larger than us too) and ghosts to the list. Now I like to think I’m a pretty tolerant, understanding guy. For the most part I can respect and even understand a wide range of opinions and beliefs, but such large departures from rationality,
Another great shot from the lookout.
especially when expressed in the quite childish manner that she did, infuriate me in a big way.
Coupled with her ludicrous beliefs was the fact that she wasn’t as fun or interesting as she had a first seemed. She was even, at the risk of sounding a little harsh, quite boring. For a start she didn’t enjoy a drink like yours truly, which was always going to set us at odds. Now of course I know that not everyone needs to drink to have a good time, but I’m generally suspicious of teetotallers (what are they holding back for?! I mean really!), and find that it can only be pulled off by individuals who possess a certain level of charisma and character necessary to elevate their abstinence from boring personality deficit to interesting personal choice. She was definitely not one of these people. She also had that cocky, self-assured air of all-knowingness that is unique to those in their early twenties, and come Sunday I was genuinely sick of the girl and looking forward to getting away.
Now I know I’ve ranted for a while now, and it does feel great to get it out of my system,
Ross Rocks Baby!
Pete, Jo and the girls soaking up the sun at Ross Rocks.
but that’s not to say that I had a bad time at all. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The town we stayed in for the first couple of nights, Symonds Yat, was a picture-postcard little hamlet straddling a beautiful river in the Herefordshire countryside. Adding to the quaint rural charm of the place were the two hand-operated ferries used to cross to river, something that I had never experienced before and was suitable impressed by.
Now although it would have been improved by more bedroom related action, the hotel we were staying in was fantastic, definitely one of the nicest I’ve stayed in for a long, long time. Turns out it used to be a royal hunting lodge, and I have to say I did feel rather regal surveying the river views from our room. Breakfast was also a rather posh affair, with a continental selection being followed by a cooked breakfast of your choosing. The milk poached smoked haddock I had on the first morning was rather splendid (to use a vernacular appropriate for the setting), but the posh fry up I ordered on the second left a little to be desired and only served to
More Tea Vicar?
Me and one of the girls riding the teacups. Glastonbury eat your heart out!
strengthen my belief that a full English should never be a fancy affair (I mean, no one really needs confit mushrooms in the morning now do they?). Then again, one shouldn’t complain too loudly as we were getting it all for free on top of a greatly reduced room rate, so I’ll cease my criticism post haste.
Matching the quality of our accommodation was the lovely Herefordshire countryside that surrounded it. The river Wye meandered lazily though the centre of the village framed by grassy banks and weeping willows that tilted sorrowfully into the passing water. A short, brisk walk uphill behind the lodge took you up to the top of Symonds Rock where, from the lookout, the green patchwork of fields spread out over the rolling hills and where, according to what I was told, it is possible to see seven different counties. It is also something of a bird watching hotspot, and by making use of the equipment provided by the RSPB staff that constantly man the lookout it was possible to observe a nesting family of Peregrine Falcons, which given everyone’s level of enthusiasm seem to be the rock stars of the ornithological world. Once we’d
It's All Too Beautiful
The picturesque countryside around Ross-On-Wye.
had a cup of tea and recovered from all the bird related excitement we went on a very pleasant walk down through forest, across the river and through more wooded area, stopping along the way to take in King Arthurs Cave, which was much less mystical that its name suggests but was nonetheless an amusing enough way to spend a half hour or so huddled in the cool damp of one of its further recesses.
That night we dined at the hotel restaurant. We had initially intended to eat at the pub down the road but were refused as we had the gall to walk in at five past when they stopped serving at nine. The smarmy little prick working there informed me that we could have some cheese and bread off the desert list if we really wanted and that was all. Luckily, Fiona ushered me out of there before I could tell said pub employee where he could shove his Stilton and baguette. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a somewhat happy accident as we ended up having a very nice, if not somewhat more expensive meal at the Royal Lodge. I had a delicious seafood stew-esque
The Path Goes On
Back on the trail again.
dish and I even talked my rather reluctant companion in the going crazy and splashing out on a nice bottle of Aussie Riesling to go with the meal. She managed a glass and a half or so and seemed to enjoy it, although I did notice that she left a not inconsiderable amount undrunk on the bedside table, so I then could add the wastage of good wine to our growing list of incompatibilities.
Next day, after another quick jaunt up the hill and another cup of the exceptional, £1-a-cup tea available at the kiosk there, we were picked up by Fiona’s mother and sister who had travelled down from London for the family day out we were all to attend in Ross-on-Wye. Now at first glance, attending the family outing of a girl I barely knew and who wouldn’t sleep with me might have seem like a daunting, potentially arduous task. Luckily, it turned out to be the exact opposite. Her Aunt and Uncle, Jo and Pete, turned out to be proper mancs (and rabid city fans to boot) that had given up northern city life to raise their two adorable daughters in the countryside. They also, unlike
The Way Of The Acorn
One of the many acorn sign posts that mark the entire coastal path.
their niece, thankfully enjoyed a drink and a laugh, so needless to say we got on like a house on fire.
As it so happened, the Saturday we were in town happened to coincide with the “Ross Rocks” festival. Who needs Glastonbury (which was happening at the same time) when you have a local cover band belting out the hits on what was reported to be the hottest weekend of the British summer? Whilst significantly less debauched than the last festival I attended, it was still a very enjoyable afternoon spent soaking up the sun and quaffing the extra-strength vintage cider we had smuggled in with us (see, I told you they were my kind of people). That night we crashed at Pete and Jo’s place.
Next day I boarded a train for the journey back to Cardiff, during which a very annoying, simpleminded gentleman sitting across from me had lost his ticket and then spend the next half an hour arguing with/whining at the poor conductor before caving in and reluctantly buying another (which he was given for half price by the way, not that he was in any way appreciative of this). After labelling in the
Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
A lovely little coastal scene for your enjoyment.
railway company fascists, he then turned his attention to trying to start a conversation with me despite my fervent efforts to cut it off and return to my reading. Just as I’d leave a gap and turn my eyes back to my Kindle, he’d jump back in with whatever inane drivel his feeble mind could muster to keep me engaged. On reflection it was quite sad, as he was obviously just a lonely guy looking for some company, but given that I was quite tired and had spent the weekend in a state of advanced sexual frustration I wasn’t at my most charitable or understanding. Anyway, I maintained a façade of polite civility until, mercifully, he got off a few stops later.
After a few relaxing but uneventful days in Cardiff I got the train back to the coast. Getting to Milford Haven at round 3pm, I had intended to get the bus back to Dale and do the bit of the walk that I had missed out. However, there wasn’t a bus till after 5pm, so I decided to just get on with the walk from where I was. I know this means I haven’t ‘technically’ done the whole lot, but with the back tracking and other walking I’ve already done over the past couple of weeks I’ve definitely accounted for the mileage, and besides, I’ve been out here much longer than expected and by this stage am too hairy (my beard is way out of hand and getting worryingly ginger the longer it gets) and too tired of walking all day and sleeping on the ground to really care that much about technicalities.
So today has been an easy few hours walk and now have set up camp and headed to the pub, as per my usual routine. I should mention that I got stung £12 for one night in the local campsite instead of the normal £5 to £7, but then again it is the only one in town, and when you have the market cornered like that you can charge exhausted walkers what you like and no one’s going to put up too much of a fight. Bastards.
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