And so another day out on the train in January 2019 and for C I had chosen Chepstow. What a hidden gem it turned out to be. If I had been here before in my days as a delivery driver then I had forgotten about it. It’s easy to get there from Cardiff Central station, no change of train needed. And what’s more it’s a picturesque ride along the Severn estuary too. In no time at all I was arriving at Chepstow station, one of those stations where it seems time has stood still. There’s an old covered footbridge, a small brick ticket office and even a little café. I almost didn’t want to leave the station.
I forced myself to head off towards the town. Be warned this isn’t the most charming entry into a town you’ll get. Yes, over the years the M4 and other main roads have taken some traffic away from Chepstow but there is still a fair amount of traffic wanting to drive around it and you have to get over or under those roads before you get to the heart of Chepstow.
I was here not only to explore the town, absorb the atmosphere, learn about the history of the place but also to do an extended geocache, on a route that would start and end in the town centre but also take me down to the river and castle. The pedestrian route from the town to the river I found also a bit confusing but then again I was looking for clues on my trail so wasn’t following the most direct route but it did show me some of the hidden away places in the narrow windy backstreets that can still maintain a small independent shop or two.
Having meandered through the narrow roads and lanes I was suddenly at the quayside and I think this was my favourite part of the town. It was not holiday season and it was relatively early and I seemed to have the place to myself. It’s almost as if I had discovered the river, the charming pubs, the bandstand, the beautiful Bigsweir iron bridge over the River Wye. This is the quay which back in Victorian times would have been busy with people making the trip back and from to Bristol. Back further in time it was the place where some of the Newport Chartists were deported to Tasmania, probably never to see the green green grass of home ever again.
I had been on the other side of the River Wye last year when walking the first section of the Offa’s Dyke path – and not walked another section since. One day I’ll get back to it. That walk had taken me high up on the cliffs where I overlooked the river and the town and barely got an idea what was here below. Today, as I turned the corner and started to head back up the hill towards the town I found the museum housed in an old Georgian townhouse, the Norman castle commissioned by William the Conqueror, nice green open spaces, all of which I left mainly unexplored as there was so much else to see.
Around a few more corners and across a car park I was in the bustling town centre. The quayside may have been quiet but the town centre was alive. People purposely going about their business and the Georgian and Victorian architecture of the buildings and shops looking good.
As I headed back down towards the river, having not gathered all the clues to solve puzzle I was working on, there was the town hall, the naked sculpture of the boatman, representing Chepstow’s past. I didn’t want to stare but I was trying to find the clues I needed.
One more circuit of the town and I managed to find most but not all the information I was after. It can be surprising what you spot second time around, looking behind you when you didn’t the first time around. I battled the main road again and even had time back at the station for a cup of tea before my train back to Cardiff arrived.
Date of visit: 25 January 2019
See progress to date: A-Z of Railway Stations