If Gerry and the Pacemakers came from Herefordshire’s Symonds Yat rather than Liverpool, the world would be a poorer place. Not only would we be without one of the catchier songs from the ’60s, this gorgeous twin-resort straddling the River Wye would be heaving with tourists.
On the border of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, and only a few miles from the border with Wales, the riverside resort of Symonds Yat in the Wye Valley could well be one of the most relaxing spots in England. But not if you’re a ferryman, though.
There were once 25 hand ferries across the River Wye between Chepstow and Ross-on-Wye which took people and livestock from A to B. Nowadays, only two of these remain, and both are in Symonds Yat operated by the two village pubs (depending on demand and water levels).
We naughtily parked for free at Ye Olde Ferrie Inn in the quieter Symonds Yat West, and walked along the river bank for three quarters of a mile to the ferry crossing to Symonds Yat East. This crossing is operated by the Saracens Head pub, and their barmen take it in turns to practically pull the cable ferry across the river. Back-breaking work for a barman’s wage! A one-way crossing costs £1.20 for adults, and 60p for bikes and children. Drivers can get across as there is a bridge at Huntsham but this is a five-mile trip.
Once on the east side of the river, we had an al-fresco coffee and cake at Rose Cottage Tea Garden before embarking on the steep and quite strenuous hike up through the forest to the viewpoint at Symonds Yat Rock. Fortunately, there’s another cafe up here, as we were dripping with sweat and gagging for a cold drink each.
Apparently you can see buzzards and peregrine falcons from the viewpoint just along from the cafe if you’re lucky, although we were happy to take in what has to be one of the best views of rural Britain.
As it was a bank holiday weekend, the village was busy with people enjoying the unseasonal sunshine, and the river was full of canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and even swimmers. It’s a popular destination for campers and activity holidays in summer but I’d like to go back in autumn to see how the colours of the trees and fields have changed. I think I’d leave my tent at home though, and book a room at the inviting Ye Olde Ferrie Inn which brews its own beer, has loads of seating outside along the river and offers pretty good looking pub grub.