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Beside the River Wye and up Coppet Hill

This peaceful walk in a popular corner of Herefordshire includes an energetic climb, rewarded with fine views.

Distance 6.8 miles (10.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 855t (260m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Quiet lanes, riverside meadows, woodland paths, 2 stiles

Landscape Much-photographed river valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL14 Wye Valley & Forest of Dean

Start/finish SO 575196

Dog friendliness Good, but dogs forbidden in castle grounds

Parking Goodrich Castle car park open daily 9:30am to 7pm

Public toilets At start

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1 Walk back to the castle access road junction and turn immediately left. In 125yds (114m) cross a bridge over the B4229.

2 Go up a further 400yds (366m). Ignore another road branching off to the right, and go on just a few paces - there are three low wooden posts to your left.

3 Opposite, between the two roads, a sign 'Coppet Hill Nature Reserve' indicates your return route. Go another long ½ mile (800m) up this dead end, to reach a cattle grid. Here, at the brow, the woods end, giving way to parkland. Go straight ahead for another 275yds (251m) to a solitary horse chestnut tree at a right turn.

4 Keep ahead for another 400yds (366m), bending left and dipping down, the road once again tree-lined. The road curves right a fraction, while a gravel track goes up a ramp and fractionally left.

5 Curve right. Ignore the pillared driveway - 'Courtfield' and 'The Mill Hill Fathers' - but go down the youth hostel's driveway. At its entrance gate take a footpath that runs initially parallel to it. Descend wooden steps and a sometimes muddy path to a T-junction beside the River Wye.

6 Turn right, following the Wye Valley Walk (turn left to visit the church first). Within ¼ mile (400m) you'll reach an old, iron girder railway bridge, which now carries the Wye Valley Walk across the river, but stay this side, passing underneath the bridge. In about 125yds (114m) look for six wooden steps down to the left at a fork.

7 Take the steps, to remain close to the river. (The right fork is where Walk 34 rejoins for the final time.) Continue for about 1¼ miles (2km). Enter Coldwell Wood to walk beside the river for a further ¼ mile (400m). On leaving, keep by the river in preference to a path that follows the woodland's edge. In about 350yds (320m) you'll reach a stile beside a fallen willow.

8 Turn right, signposted 'Coppet Hill'. Soon begin the arduous woodland ascent. Eventually you'll have a fine view. The path levels, later rising to The Folly, then goes down (not up!) to a triangulation point. Follow the clear green sward ahead, becoming a narrow rut then a stepped path, down to the road, close to Point 3. Retrace your steps to the castle car park.

The well-preserved remains of Goodrich Castle seen today are of building work carried out in the 12th and 13th centuries, replacing those from the early 12th century. Some gory traps and ruses kept would-be intruders away. The most often quoted is a tunnel beneath the gate tower that could be blocked by a portcullis; doomed attackers would then be scalded with hot water from above or, better still, burned to death with molten lead (presumably recyclable).

The castle eventually succumbed to Parliamentarians in 1646 during the Civil War, led by Colonel John Birch, who had successfully attacked the city of Hereford the previous December. The story goes that the colonel's niece, Alice, and Charles Clifford, her lover, fled from the battle, only to meet their deaths trying to cross the River Wye. So watch out for their ghosts on a phantom horse. Goodrich Castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm, except between November and March, when the opening days are Wednesday to Sunday, and the hours are 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm.

The oddly named Welsh Bicknor was once a detached parish of Monmouthshire. Welsh Bicknor Youth Hostel is just one of approximately 225 in England and Wales. The Youth Hostels Association (YHA) began with 73 buildings, many donated, in 1931. The organisation arose to meet the increasing demand from ramblers, cyclists and, in particular, youth organisations for simple, inexpensive accommodation. The YHA has, in relative terms, remained true to this concept, but it has also moved with the times - some would say too slowly, others would say too quickly - improving the quality of its accommodation in line with the relentlessly rising expectations of the recreational public. It seems cherished by the minority that uses it, yet overlooked (inexplicably?) by the majority that doesn't.

The YHA was rocked by the closure of the countryside during the 2001 foot and mouth episode. Not only did it lose an estimated £5m in revenue, but individual hostels, run with considerable autonomy, were ineligible for financial assistance as 'small businesses' because of their association with the central organisation - to maintain its cash flow the YHA had to put ten youth hostels up for sale.

The area around Symonds Yat has, in recent years, attracted film buffs who wanted to see the locations used for Richard Attenborough's film, Shadowlands, the stars of which were Debra Winger, Anthony Hopkins and Symonds Yat. The film was based on the life of C S Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Coppet Hill Nature Reserve is managed by a trust. It earned Local Nature Reserve status in 2000 after 14 years of conservation management.

What to look for

Just 100yds (91m) from Point 4 are some partly covered kilns, marked by a clump of trees growing on top. As you climb Coppet Hill, notice much formerly coppiced woodland, where the trees were 'let go' when the demand for coppice wood petered out.

While you're there

For a river cruise, try Kingfisher Cruises at Symonds Yat East, where you'll also find the Saracen's Head (a former cider mill) and the hand ferry. Jacqueline 'O' River Cruises are at Symonds Yat West, where you'll also find the Amazing Hedge Puzzle maze.

Where to eat and drink

A kiosk in the castle car park serves hot drinks, soup, jacket potatoes and cakes. Jolly's of Goodrich is the village store and post office. The Hostelrie Hotel serves coffee, tea and lunchtime bar food.

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