The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty organise many different events throughout the year. Between April and December 2010, there have been 13 very popular guided walks.
The walk on December 5 took place at Staunton, on the edge of the Forest of Dean in the hills above Monmouth. It was one of the walks led by the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tour Guides.
Compared with other parts of the country, the Forest has been lucky with the weather. Nevertheless, it was still touch and go all week as to whether the walk would take place. As it turned out conditions were absolutely perfect; although it was still freezing there was bright sun throughout the walk.
Ten of us enjoyed the walk around Staunton to see three of the stones for which it is so well known.
The Buckstone is at 279 metres and gives great views west over Monmouth to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons beyond. We had impressive views, with snow-covered hills in the distance and Monmouth and the river valley shrouded in thick mist. The Buckstone was a rocking stone until 1885 when it was dislodged by “drunken revellers”. It was recovered bottom of the hill and is now firmly cemented in place.
Nearby Near Harkening Rock has a similarly impressive west-facing view from its top. The rock has a concave face and is named because gamekeepers standing in the lee of the rock would listen for poachers seeking deer. There are still a lot of deer in the area and we saw a group of about 20 near the Buckstone. From Near Harkening Rock it is a short walk to the Suckstone, the largest fallen rock in England estimated to weight about 14,000 tons.
A great morning out – 6km in glorious weather followed by a brief visit to the pub!