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The Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
(AONB; Welsh: Dyffryn Gwy) is an internationally important protected landscape straddling the border between England
England
and Wales. It is one of the most dramatic and scenic landscape areas in southern Britain. The River Wye
River Wye
(Welsh: Afon Gwy) is the fifth-longest river in the United Kingdom. The upper part of the river passes through the settlements of Rhayader, Builth Wells
Builth Wells
and Hay-on-Wye, but the area designated as an AONB
AONB
covers 326 square kilometres (126 sq mi) surrounding a 72-kilometre (45 mi) stretch lower down the river, from just south of the city of Hereford
Hereford
to Chepstow.[1] This area covers parts of the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire
Herefordshire
and Monmouthshire, and is recognised in particular for its limestone gorge scenery and dense native woodlands, as well as its wildlife, archaeological and industrial remains. It is also historically important as one of the birthplaces of the modern tourism industry. The area is predominantly rural, and many people make a living from tourism, agriculture or forestry. Ross-on-Wye
Ross-on-Wye
is the only town within the AONB
AONB
itself, but Hereford, Monmouth, Coleford and Chepstow
Chepstow
lie just outside its boundaries.

Contents

1 Geology 2 Wildlife and nature reserves 3 Archaeology 4 The medieval period 5 The development of industry 6 The origins of British tourism 7 Transport 8 Management of the area 9 See also 10 References 11 External links

Geology[edit] The varied landscapes of the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
can be explained by underlying rocks and structures, and how ice and then the river and tributary streams have acted upon them through time. Close to Hereford, the geology of the area around the village of Woolhope is largely made up of Silurian
Silurian
limestones, shales and sandstones. To the south of this, the Herefordshire
Herefordshire
lowlands are largely underlain by red mudstones and sandstones, producing a redder soil. These rocks are softer than the limestones elsewhere, so the river created more meanders, a wider floodplain, and a gentler and more rolling landscape. Around Symonds Yat, limestones and red sandstones meet. This leads to a landscape of hills and plains, as well as substantial meanders which have formed impressive river cliffs. The Lower Wye landscape was formed by the river acting on a series of layers of rock that dip towards the Forest of Dean. Here the river has incised into the margins of the Old Red Sandstone
Sandstone
plateau to form a gorge with substantial river cliffs. The steepest parts of the Wye gorge are cut through the Carboniferous Limestone. Here the combined action of the river, natural joints in the rocks and quarrying have exposed many vertical faces, particularly between Tintern
Tintern
and Chepstow. Geological interest extends underground, and there are many rock shelters and solution caves in the area. These include King Arthur's Cave and many others in the area of Symonds Yat
Symonds Yat
and Slaughter Stream Cave near Berry Hill. At St Arvans, near Chepstow, the underground watercourses have carved out long cave systems, which exit at Otter Hole at the base of Piercefield cliffs – the only cave system in England
England
or Wales
Wales
which can only be reached through a tidal sump, making it a mecca for experienced cavers. Wildlife and nature reserves[edit] Lancaut[2] and Ban-y-Gor[3] are Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust nature reserves. They both have SSSI
SSSI
status being part of the nationally important Lower Wye Gorge
Gorge
SSSI[4] and within the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
AONB. The Wye Valley
Wye Valley
is important for its rich wildlife habitats.[5] The area has three sites of international importance, designated as Special Areas of Conservation
Special Areas of Conservation
(SACs) under the European Union's Habitats Directive. These are the River Wye
River Wye
(Afon Gwy), the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean
Forest of Dean
Bat Sites (Safleoedd Ystlumod Dyffryn Gwy a Fforest y Ddena) and the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Woodlands (Coetiroedd Dyffryn Gwy).[6] It supports a population of lesser horseshoe bats, a growing population of peregrine falcons, goshawks, ravens, rare whitebeam, nightjar and lesser known fish like the shad and twaite. The main Welsh populations of the small but colourful moth Oecophora bractella
Oecophora bractella
are found here. In September 2006 it was reported that one colony of lesser horseshoe bats in the area had reached record numbers, with some 890 bats in a small stone barn (599 adults and 291 babies recorded).[7]

River Wye
River Wye
at Lancaut
Lancaut
looking towards Wintour's Leap

Archaeology[edit] The valley has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years. Caves
Caves
near Symonds Yat
Symonds Yat
and Chepstow
Chepstow
provide evidence of settlement dating from Palaeolithic
Palaeolithic
times, and finds from later stone ages such as the Neolithic
Neolithic
have also been found. These have yielded evidence of how prehistoric human populations lived as nomadic hunters and traders. Standing stones
Standing stones
at Huntsham, Staunton, and Trellech
Trellech
all have origins dating back to the Bronze Age. Later, Iron Age
Iron Age
forts along the lower Wye Valley, and in the Woolhope area, took advantage of the natural hilltops and promontories to form well-defended settlements. It is likely that many of these marked the edges of disputed tribal pre-Roman territories. Watling Street
Watling Street
ran through the Roman settlements of Ariconium
Ariconium
(just north of modern Ross-on-Wye) and Blestium
Blestium
(Monmouth), and a number of other small Roman settlements are known. The first evidence of the exploitation of iron and coal in the valley is found in the Roman period, with iron working known from sites at Monmouth, Trellech
Trellech
and elsewhere, as well as in the adjoining Forest of Dean. The medieval boroughs of Goodrich and Chepstow, at each end of the Wye Gorge, may have originally been established at this time. Closely following the River Wye, Offa's Dyke
Offa's Dyke
was built in the 8th century under King Offa
King Offa
to mark out the boundary between England
England
and Wales
Wales
and is, today, the longest archaeological monument in Britain. Offa's Dyke
Offa's Dyke
Path long distance footpath today traces the route through the Wye valley on the English bank, while the Wye Valley Walk
Wye Valley Walk
follows the Welsh bank. The medieval period[edit] When the Normans
Normans
conquered the region in the 11th century they immediately built major castles at Chepstow
Chepstow
and Monmouth
Monmouth
to defend the territory. Smaller castles were built at St Briavels, Ruardean, Goodrich and Wilton Castle. Tintern
Tintern
Abbey
Abbey
was founded in 1131 by Cistercian
Cistercian
monks, and largely rebuilt in the 13th century. It is the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales
Wales
and an outstanding example of Gothic architecture. Many of the smaller villages in the area probably date from the Middle Ages, and much of this expansion was probably associated with the early iron industry. The medieval iron industry consumed large quantities of charcoal and much of the woodland was coppiced for this purpose. Trellech
Trellech
was one of the largest communities in Wales
Wales
during this period. The development of industry[edit] Iron has been made in the Wye Valley
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
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
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
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
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
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
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[edit] Main article: Wye Tour

The Chancel and Crossing of Tintern
Tintern
Abbey, Looking towards the East Window by J. M. W. Turner, 1794

The Wye Valley
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
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
Chepstow
taking two days. Some of the most famous poets, writers and artists of the day made the pilgrimage to the great sights of Goodrich, Tintern
Tintern
and Chepstow – among them Coleridge, Thackeray and Turner. Wordsworth was also captivated by the area, writing Lines written a few miles above Tintern
Tintern
Abbey
Abbey
in 1798. Poetic influence continued to be felt in the next century, as in 1811, popular 'peasant poet', Robert Bloomfield
Robert Bloomfield
wrote 'The Banks of Wye; a Poem in Four Books' providing account of an 1807 trip made by him and a party of friends down the River Wye
River Wye
and surrounding areas.[8] The first of Britain's great landscapes to be 'discovered', the Wye Valley's particular attraction was its river scenery, and the many guidebooks, engravings and paintings ensured a continuing steady stream of visitors. Viewpoints were specially constructed, including the Kymin above Monmouth, with its round house giving panoramic views across the town. Another highlight for travellers was the cliff ascent and walks at Piercefield. However, most of the truly 'Picturesque' scenes were sketched from river level, with the shimmering water as the foreground for the forests and cliffs behind, and the castle and abbey ruins. Transport[edit]

Missing rail links in Monmouth, foreground Wye Valley Railway
Wye Valley Railway
and background Ross and Monmouth
Monmouth
Railway linked to missing Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway in Ross-on-Wye.

In 1813 the Monmouth
Monmouth
Tramroad linked Coalway
Coalway
(near Coleford), Redbrook and Monmouth. This was the world's first railed-way to make specific powers in its Act of Parliament to allow for the charging of fares to passengers. The standard gauge Wye Valley Railway
Wye Valley Railway
line between Chepstow, Monmouth and Ross opened much later, in 1876. This made the valley more accessible and popular to tourists. In the early 20th century, crowds of up to 1300 would travel on a special train journey to see Tintern Abbey
Abbey
on the night of the harvest moon. The line closed to passengers in 1959, although sections remain as bridleways and footbridges.[9] There are now main line railway stations at Hereford
Hereford
and Chepstow. The road network in the lower Wye valley remained essentially undeveloped during the rise of the Valley's industrialisation, until a series of Turnpike trusts were authorised during the 18th century. It was not until 1828 that the current Wye Valley
Wye Valley
road, the A466, was first constructed. The area became more accessible by road to much of the country with the building of the M50 between the M5 and Ross-on-Wye, and the opening of the Severn Bridge
Severn Bridge
(now part of the M48) in 1966. Management of the area[edit]

Play media

A film about natural resource management of the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Woodlands Special
Special
Area of Conservation and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
(AONB) was first designated in 1971. The designation indicates the importance of recognising and preserving the area's distinctive qualities, for the benefit of present and future generations. Administratively the area is very complex, being the only protected landscape to straddle the border between England
England
and Wales. The Counties of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire
Monmouthshire
and Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
are each in a different government region. Co-ordination of conservation across these political boundaries is undertaken by an AONB
AONB
unit and Joint Advisory Committee. A Management Plan for the AONB
AONB
enlists a range of partners in conserving and enhancing its beauty for the benefit of present and future generations. The navigation of the tidal part of the Wye (below Bigsweir) comes under the control of the Gloucester Harbour Trustees as Competent Harbour Authority. See also[edit]

Kingstone Brewery, Meadow Farm, Tintern Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Brewery Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Walk List of places in the Wye Valley

References[edit]

^ " Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Management Plan 2004-2009" (PDF). Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Retrieved 2016-03-27.  ^ Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust nature reserves information for Lancaut
Lancaut
SSSI ^ Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust nature reserves information for Ban-y-Gor SSSI ^ Natural England
England
unit information for Lower Wye Gorge ^ Kelham, A, Sanderson, J, Doe, J, Edgeley-Smith, M, et al, 1979, 1990, 2002 editions, 'Nature Reserves of the Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Trust for Nature Conservation/ Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust' ^ "Joint Nature Conservation Committee Listing of Special
Special
Areas of Conservation". DEFRA. Retrieved 23 September 2012.  ^ BBC NEWS England
England
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Bat colony reaches record numbers ^ 'The Banks of Wye; A Poem in Four Books' – Robert Bloomfield, published at London, 1811 for the Author, Vernor, Hood and Sharpe etc ^ History of the railways around Monmouth
Monmouth
and the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
branch line, Monmouthshire, Wales

External links[edit] Media related to Bigsweir Woods at Wikimedia Commons

Official site for the Wye Valley
Wye Valley
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) The Picturesque
Picturesque
Wye Tour Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust Natural England Bat Conservation Trust Tourist information on the Wye Valley Wye Valley
Wye Valley
& Vale of Usk Visitor Guide 2010 Wye Valley Railway
Wye Valley Railway
– history and photos The Wye Valley: Riverside of the Romantics (by Nigel Richardson), article from the travel section of the Daily Telegraph, pub. 23 Sep 2008

v t e

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England

East of England

Chilterns Dedham Vale Norfolk Coast Suffolk Coast and Heaths

East Midlands

Lincolnshire Wolds

North East

Northumberland Coast North Pennines

North West

Arnside and Silverdale Forest of Bowland North Pennines Solway Coast

South East

Chichester Harbour Chilterns Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs High Weald Isle of Wight Kent Downs North Wessex Downs Surrey Hills

Former: East Hampshire1 South Hampshire Coast2 Sussex Downs1

South West

Blackdown Hills Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Cornwall Cotswolds Dorset East Devon Isles of Scilly Mendip Hills North Devon Coast North Wessex Downs Quantock Hills South Devon Tamar Valley Wye Valley3

West Midlands

Cannock Chase Cotswolds Malvern Hills Shropshire Hills Wye Valley3

Yorkshire and Humber

Forest of Bowland Howardian Hills Nidderdale

1 Now part of South Downs National Park • 2 Now part of New Forest National Park • 3 Partly in Wales

v t e

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales

Anglesey Clwydian Range
Clwydian Range
and Dee Valley Gower Llŷn Wye Valley1

1

.