I’ve always been aware that there were Roman remains at Caerleon but somehow never managed to get there, so when I heard about a day out in South Wales with Bristol Bloggers which combined Caerleon with a canal walk, I jumped at the chance, and if the weather forecast wasn’t the best, all ten of us, kitted out in boots and waterproofs, laughed in the face of storm Jorge – who miraculously took the hint and left us almost unscathed! Hurrah for the intrepid bloggers, some of whom had come quite a distance to see this intriguing corner of Wales.
We began with one of the monthly walks run by Newport City Council from the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre which is easy to find from Junction 27 of the M4 and popular with local walkers who kept us company and made us very welcome in their midst. The walks take place on the last Saturday of each month and are managed by countryside wardens who are highly knowledgeable. We also had a member of the canal trust to fill us in on the history. The canal was used to transport goods to the coast from the late eighteenth century to the 1930s. It’s no longer navigable but is taking on a new role as outdoor space for leisure and green forms of transport.
I love industrial history including those liminal spaces where it bumps up against modern life so didn’t mind too much when we passed through the outskirts of Newport, brightened up by some quirky urban graffiti. From here we headed along the regional cycle way which borders the Usk with wider views and some unexpected celtic peoples along the way. Yes. the sun was still shining! According to my step app we had walked 10K by the time we got to Caerleon but the pace wasn’t too taxing even for an occasional walker like me.
By now we were ready for lunch but also delighted that we could absorb history of a different kind at The Priory Hotel, once a Cistercian monastery which still has tunnels linking it to the pub across the road and rumours of a ghost! However our first stop was the restaurant counter to choose our hearty two-course lunch. If you’re in the area The Priory is an excellent base with a varied menu and Spanish vibe which somehow fits pretty well with the historical atmosphere.
The rest of the afternoon was ours to explore the Roman sites in what must be one of Wales undiscovered archaeological gems: a legion fortress with its own baths and amphitheatre, the latter still impressive despite being under water.
The baths and museum had excellent displays and plenty of educational resources, ideal for school trips or just a day out with the kids – also a welcome respite from the weather which had caught up with us at last!
As you can see twe had a day that spanned several centuries all within a few miles. Of course you wouldn’t need to do all of it at once. I can imagine a leisurely lunch at The Priory and a look around Roman Caerleon would make a very pleasant Sunday afternoon, with or without a ramble around the Fourteen Locks Centre which is only fifteen minutes away by car.
Now that there are no tolls on the Severn bridges, South Wales really does feel nearer, so why not make the most of it?
Huge thanks to Over the Bridge to Wales for organising a great taster of what South Wales and Monmouthshire has to offer. I’m hoping to explore further later this year and I’m also keeping an eye on the Facebook events page to see what comes up,
Printing in Chepstow, anyone?