Wye Valley River Festival is Nearly here!

- Posted Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Sharon Seymour

Celebrate nature, culture, landscape and life along the River Wye in the stunning Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This year’s inaugural festival in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is spearheaded by the Wye Valley AONB Partnership with artistic direction from Desperate Men Outdoor Arts Company and community groups and organistaions along the river.

Two weeks of riverside revelry start in Hereford on May 3, with a river carnival with a theatrical twist. A narrative thread linking events together will see the river itself put ‘on trial’ on May 9 and 10 in the 16th Century courtroom of the Shire Hall in Monmouth, in a new theatrical production created and performed by artists and the community in collaboration with Desperate Men and supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England. It sees ‘Ratty’, the water-vole, other Wye Valley creatures, conservationists, experts, river folk and members of the public brought to appear before the Grand Assizes for an audit of the river, its communities and its future. The festival reaches its finale in Chepstow on May 18, with a flotilla, massed choir, brass bands, fire and flame and illuminations.

Artists and communities along the Wye River are presenting a series of events, which include, on May 4, a celebration on the riverside at Ross-on-Wye with a dash theatrical nonsense - including the Hedgehog Festival. From May 5 to 9 at Lydbrook and Symonds Yat there will be a traditional fete and guided walks and, as festivities flow on through the area, on May 11 Llandogo stages a fantastic Fire and Flame spectacular with bonfires, torches, processions, illuminated canoes, flaming sculptures and skulduggery. On May 17 the former bustling riverside village port of Brockweir turns back the clock 200 years to the heyday of river trade and Tintern Abbey hosts a day of music, readings and reminiscence by local people and performers.

This new initiative of the Wye Valley AONB aims to be fun and informative and also to stimulate serious debate about topical and environmental issues affecting the river and valley landscape. Desperate Men, a versatile and inventive outdoor arts companies from the UK, specialise in mischievous, warm-hearted work which invites audiences to ask serious questions about the world. In 2012 the company co-produced the Battle for the Winds, a region wide celebration across the South West celebrating the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events and culminating in a finale in Weymouth watched by an audience of 8,000 people.

The 2014 Festival has gained funding from the AONB Sustainable Development Fund, a Welsh Government initiative in the Wye Valley AONB; Arts Council of Wales, supported by the Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund; Arts Council England; adventa, Monmouthshire’s Rural Development Plan for Wales which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development; and in-kind support from The Shire Hall, Monmouth and National Theatre Wales along with contributions from numerous volunteers and various communities along the Wye Valley.

 For futher details of the event programme go onto the website pages


- Sharon Seymour

Scenic Sundays are an Irresistible Offa

- Posted Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Sharon Seymour

Make Sundays special and get out and about in the footsteps of Offa this spring and summer with a new Sunday/Bank Holiday bus service between Hereford and Monmouth, which ties in with the existing Sunday service from Monmouth to Chepstow.

Backed by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, the 34 Sunday and Bank Holiday bus service supplements the weekday 34 service and ties in with the existing daily 69 service from Monmouth to Chepstow. For the first time in 10 years it now gives locals and visitors the chance to enjoy and explore the length of the Lower Wye Valley and the swathe of beautiful country either side of Offa’s Dyke every day of the week. “It fills a gap in the Sunday and Bank Holiday network in the area,” said Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Officer. “This will be the first time in ten years that the bus has run from Hereford direct through to Monmouth via the Wye Valley. We’re calling it The Wye Valley Wanderer and we are backing it in response to requests from both residents and walking groups.

“This is a flagship project for us. We want to encourage more people to visit the Wye Valley by bus; the journey is always part of the day out and buses allow you to sit back and enjoy the view. The bus is being supported financially by the AONB Partnership in conjunction with the Walking with Offa project, which promotes walking and sustainable transport along either side of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, allowing people the ‘Irresistible Offa’ of exploring outstanding landscapes and fascinating local places.”

The Wye Valley Wanderer 34 bus will be operated by First Bus from May 4 to  September 28, leaving from Hereford Railway Station at 1010 and returning from Monmouth at 1715. This allows connections by train from Shrewsbury and Worcester as well as from Leominster and Ledbury. There will be an additional three journeys between Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth leaving Ross-on-Wye at 1300, 1420 and 1620 offering connections from Gloucester and Hereford. Stagecoach Explorer and South Wales Network Rider tickets will be valid on the service.

The route goes via Ross-on-Wye, Kerne Bridge, Goodrich and Whitchurch (for Symond's Yat). “Travellers can enjoy the stunning scenery from their over-hedge vantage point; hop off when they want to visit pretty Wye Valley towns and villages; have a Sunday stroll in idyllic countryside; a pub lunch washed down by a guilt-free tipple (no driving!) or a breathtaking long distance walk taking in beautiful woodlands carpeted with wild flowers or the wonderful viewpoints of the Wye Valley,” said Andrew.

The bus service, linking with the 69 service from Monmouth to Chepstow, also enables walkers to plan an outing along the section of the Wye Valley Walk between Hereford and Chepstow or to step it out along the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail which follows the River Wye from Sedbury Cliff just outside Chepstow before crossing the Wye at Monmouth and heading off through the Vale of Usk.

To view a copy of the timetable please click here.     

Shuttlebus: The 34 service is being supported in conjunction with the Walking with Offa project which promotes walking and sustainable transport along either side of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail. Cartoon: Alan Duncan 


- Sharon Seymour

MinsdSCAPE secures Big Lottery funding

- Posted Monday 11 November 2013 by Nikki

Mindscape, an exciting and unique Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) project, has been lucky in obtaining Big Lottery Reaching Communities funding for a four year project to help people cope with the challenges of dementia.

The AONB Unit has been working towards this innovative approach, in getting hard to reach groups out and about in the Wye Valley, for the past three years with their Inside Out programme. The funding will enable this new programme to focus on people living with dementia and help them reconnect back with the landscape in the Forest of Dean. The project will also be recruiting a part time funded Mindscape Project Co-ordinator who will work to pull together the regular activities and events, promote the scheme and raise awareness of the challenges of dementia.

Mindscape will be essentially a regular club where people can get together, enjoy company, chat, tea and cake and can take part in a range of activities and events. These will be based around the landscape its environment, history, heritage, arts and crafts. From jam making to canoeing from poetry to singing. Most of the regular fortnightly activities during the spring and summer will be based at Bracelands Adventure Centre, Christchurch near Coleford where there is an already established forest studio space but it will move around the Dean area particularly during winter months.

Nikki Moore the Wye Valley AONB Information Officer was really excited about the new project. ‘ We have been working incredibly hard in consulting with the various groups in the Forest of Dean and we are so pleased that this programme will now have a four year period and funds to carry out really meaningful events and activities. This can make a real difference to those living with dementia and those who care for them either as family members or from the professional care services.’

Solid partnership working has been an essential element of the success in gaining the Big Lottery funding of £129,000 towards their £160,000 project. The Forestry Commission, Art Space, The Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Adventure, Cinderford Art Space and the Forest of Dean District Council Community Engagement Officers have all been involved in helping to formulate the project and will be on hand to work with the project and as part of the Dementia Alliance will be working towards making the Forest of Dean a dementia friendly area.

Most of the events and activities are either free or will cost a small amount. Transport can be arranged if required. So if you feel you, your family carer or the person you care for and work with would benefit from regular meetings, events and activities please contact the Wye Valley AONB. Also go onto this website http://www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk/index.php/mindSCAPE/  to download the Interactive leaflet which you can fill in and register your interest and decide on the types of activities you would like to see offered. Or contact Nikki Moore, Wye Valley AONB Information Officer on 01600 710846 or email information@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk for the leaflet and further information about Mindscape.

- Nikki

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