Twin River Valleys Pilgrimage – 40 miles, 4 days. The essence of this pilgrimage is two rivers being born very near each other and then eventually meeting about 20 miles away. Whilst it touches many of the human-created megalithic navigational points and tracks which inspired Alfred Watkins to define the term ley lines, these are all predated by rivers – perhaps the oldest paths of all.
The Golden Valley place name itself seems to be derived from the River Dore. A stone carving in Peterchurch depicts a fish with a golden chain round its neck. Story has it that monks from Dore Abbey went fishing in need of food and gold. They caught a fish with a golden chain round its neck so caught both in one. This may be in fact a beautifully mythological working out of the two different interpretations of the word Dore, one from the Welsh ‘dwr’ meaning water, and the other Norman ‘D’Ore’ meaning ‘of gold’. The Golden Valley, which this route intends to venerate, is thus both of water and gold. ‘Monnow’ comes from the Welsh Mynwy, meaning ‘fast-flowing’. A confluence of the two is ‘fast-flowing water and gold’. That bodes well for Herefordshire!
This four-day route starts in the highlands of Herefordshire at Craswall Priory, a 13th-century Grandmontine priory, the very spot where the multiple sources of the River Monnow all confluence. A mile from Craswall, at Cusop Hill, the River Dore is born. Two parallel rivers are born from the same motherly nook of Herefordshire. The pilgrim walks until they meet again near Pontrilas, before they flow on to the Wye. The pilgrim will walk over the majestic vantage of Cefn Hill, and then over the Little Mountain, down and then up Merbach Hill, where the other source of the Dore springs up. Then then will descend from Arthur’s Stone into the lowland floor of the Golden Valley. From there the pilgrim follows the River Dore, and along the way will visit churches in Dorstone, Peterchurch, Turnastone and Bacton, and motte and bailey castles at Dorstone and Snodhill, and a holy well at Peterchurch. Then it’s Dore Abbey, a very significant 12th-century Cistercian monastery, before the pilgrimage’s mid-point: the river confluence. From there the pilgrim turns to walk back to the sources along the pathway of the Monnow for the second half. Meeting along the way: the mysterious and hard-to-reach Llancillo church; Walterstone church, its ancient cross and mound; Clodock Church, dedicated to, and built on the tomb of, a 6th-century king of Ewias named Clydawg or Clydog, martyred around the year 500AD; then Longtown Castle, the site of so much mystery, speculation and attention; Llanveynoe Church, overlooking the Olchron Valley with its large Saxon crosses and human figure carved into its walls. Finally, following the Monnow up the valley you meet Craswall church, and return to Craswall Priory, the highest and remotest monastery in England. From source to confluence, to source again. The circle of life.