Symonds Yat Rock

For more than 200 years visitors have come to the area to view its picturesque landscape.

The internationally famous viewpoint is situated 120m above the gorge of the River Wye with views over rural Herefordshire and the mountains of mid-Wales. Nearby cliffs are the nesting place of Peregrine Falcons, you can enjoy watching the birds while they hunt and raise their young from April to August each year. The cliff top at Symonds Yat Rock provided a good vantage point for its Iron age inhabitants some 2000 years ago. They built a fort here that is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The name is said to come from Robert Symonds, a 17th century sheriff of Herefordshire and “yat” as an old word for a gate or pass.

Forest Of Dean

The Forest of Dean lies between the rivers Wye and Severn and spans the borders of Wales and England.

This stunning 110 square kilometer woodland is one of the few remaining areas of ancient forest in the UK. Despite its huge weekend popularity, there’s still a selection of fine walks away from the crowds. Biblins is at the heart of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Set deep in the secluded wooded gorge between Monmouth and Symonds Yat, the riverside fields are an ideal spot for a picnic on the grass.

History of the Local Area

The Yat Gorge was mined for iron ore and remains of a smelting works are located down stream of the Symonds Yat Rapids.

The ironworks at New Weir date from the 1590s and were operated by the White family until 1753, George White leased the site to John Partridge, an ironmonger from Ross on Wye. Partridge combined the ironworks at New Weir with his forge at Lydbrook which smelted pig iron from his furnace at Bishopswood.The works closed when the lease ran out in 1798 and the adjacent weir and lock buildings were demolished and the lock filled in 1814. In April 2009 Herefordshire Archaeology excavated New Weir Iron Works at Symonds Yat West to establish how the iron works functioned between the start of smelting in and the decline of the works in the 1800s. It was found that the works included a ‘slitting mill’, for making wire nails and a rolling mill powered by water wheels. The Old Court Hotel in Symonds Yat West, which was built in the 16th century, was the ancestral home of the Gwillim family and was home to John Graves Simcoe, who was governor and one of the founding fathers of Upper Canada.

The Ferry at Symond’s Yat

The Ferry at Symond’s Yat has always played a huge part in the life here.

In 1800 there were 25 hand ferries between Ross and Chepstow just like that outside Ye Old Ferrie Inn today. They were introduced in Roman Times to link the forts of the Doward and the Yat and have served Military, Civilian, Tourist and Horse traffic over the years. Of the 25 hand ferries only two remain, ours here and the other not more than a quarter of a mile downstream at the Saracens Head. The Huntsham ferry was replaced by a bridge at the personal expense of the Vaughan family who have farmed Huntsham continuously for the past eight centuries. The ferrie running depends solely on the weather and river height there’s no timetable! If you fancy having a go just ask!

St. Dubricius Church

The parish church is one of the oldest in the Deanery of Ross and Archenfield; Its foundations date from the 9th century and the oldest part goes back to the 13th century.

The church is in the Decorated style of architecture with walls of local sandstone rubble and ashlar and the roof of stone slates.The bowl of the font is Norman in origin, the lower edge being cut away to octagonal form to fit a 14th or 15th century stem with a square base. The church was enlarged in Victorian times. Outstanding examples of locally-produced needlecraft and tapestries decorate the church. St. Dubricius lived in Herefordshire in 6th century and founded monasteries which were centres of learning. Legend has it he had a miraculous birth. The tulip tree near the south porch is reputed to be over 300 years old and blooms every year in June and July.

The River Wye

The River Wye (Welsh: Afon Gwy) is the fifth-longest river in the UK and for parts of its length forms part of the border between England and Wales.

It is important for nature conservation and recreation The source of the Wye is in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon. It flows through or past several towns and villages including Rhayader, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford (the only city on the River Wye), Ross-on-Wye, Symonds Yat, Monmouth and Tintern, meeting the Severn estuary just below Chepstow. The total length is 215 km.

The Wye itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the most important rivers in the UK for nature conservation. Much of the lower valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Wye is largely unpolluted and used to be considered one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in the United Kingdom, outside of Scotland. However, in recent years the runs of salmon in the Wye have declined dramatically and according to the Environment Agency rod catch returns for 2009 it is not even the most productive salmon river in Wales, as more salmon were caught from the Welsh Dee. In England the Tyne, Ribble, Wear, Lune and Eden all had larger catches in 2009. In 1967 the Wye rod catch was 7,864; as recently as 1988 it was 6,401 but by 2002 it was only 357, a low from which it is recovering only very slowly despite the extensive habitat improvement work carried out by the Wye and Usk Foundation that was set up to restore the spring salmon runs. The Wye was particularly famous for its large “spring” salmon that had spent three or more years at sea before returning to spawn. They used to enter the river between January and June and sometimes reached weights of over 50 lbs, the largest recorded being 59 lbs 8oz landed after a long fight by Miss Doreen Davey from the Cowpond Pool at Ballingham on 13 March 1923. The last recorded 50 lb rod-caught salmon from the Wye was taken in 1963 by Donald Parrish and weighed 51 lbs 8oz. These large spring salmon have virtually disappeared over the past two or three decades.

The The Lower Wye Valley can claim to be a birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Iron has been made in the Wye Valley since Roman times, using the ready supply of timber, good quality ore and abundant charcoal from the Forest of Dean.

The river provided transport for the raw materials and finished product, and with the introduction of the blast furnace in the 16th century, its tributaries began to be used for water power.

The first brass made in Britain was founded at Tintern in 1566. Wire-making followed, with water mills situated on all the tributaries of the lower Wye. The area resounded to the noise and smoke of heavy industry for the next 400 years and gave rise to many pioneering industries. For instance, Whitebrook became famous for paper milling, when wallpaper became a fashionable way to decorate houses. At Redbrook, copper works were established by 1691, and a century later the village became one of the world’s major tinplate manufacturing centres.

This industry survived until the 1960s and was renowned for producing the thinnest, highest quality plate in the world. The Lydbrook valley was also a thriving centre for metal industries, such as the manufacture of telegraph cables. The valley woodlands were carefully managed to produce mature trees for shipbuilding, or by coppicing for charcoal, and to provide bark for tanning. The valley industries were also massive consumers of timber. A ship of 150 tons, for example, required 3,000 wagonloads of timber to complete — and in 1824, 13 ships were launched at Brockweir alone.

The river was the economic backbone of the region, providing an important means of transport, trade and communication. In late medieval times, salmon weirs hindered free passage on the river, but the Wye Navigation Act in 1662 enabled the river’s potential to be developed. By 1727 shallow draught boats could get upstream beyond Hereford, and a significant shipbuilding industry developed at Monmouth, Llandogo, Brockweir and Chepstow. However, by 1835 it was stated that the Wye “can scarcely be considered a commercial highway” above Monmouth, and by the 1880s Brockweir bridge was the effective upper limit of navigation.

As the 19th century progressed, the valley’s industries gradually declined, and management of the woodlands lessened when there was no longer a ready market for their products.

The Origins of British Tourism

The Wye Valley witnessed the birth of British tourism in the 18th century.

The earliest known appreciation of the area’s spectacular beauty can be dated to the beginning of the century, when John Kyrle developed the ‘Prospect’ at Ross-on-Wye, and it was later mentioned in verse by Alexander Pope.

In 1745, John Egerton, later Bishop of Durham, started taking friends on boat trips down the valley from the rectory at Ross. The area became more widely known following the publication of works by the poet Thomas Gray, and, in particular, Observations on the River Wye by the Reverend William Gilpin, published in 1782. The first illustrated tour guide to be published in Britain, it helped travellers locate and enjoy the most “Picturesque” aspects of the countryside. Regular excursions began to be established from Ross, the boat journey to Chepstow taking two days.