Wye Valley - Passage Grove and Caswell Wood, Gloucestershire


River Wye, in early autumn
Stream in Caswell Wood

Ancient woodland in the Wye Valley, opposite Tintern, crossed by paths, tracks and the old Wye Valley Railway, which includes the Tintern Tunnel
Between 1 and 4 miles, depending on the route
Two parking places along Miss Grace's Lane, Tidenham Chase; NP16 7JR
Photo Tour (56 images)
Passage Grove and Caswell Wood are two components of the extensive ancient woodland of the Wye Valley - on the east side, in Gloucestershire, a short distance north of Tidenham Chase, and forming the northernmost section of a continuous wooded band stretching 5 miles to Tutshill near Chepstow; further north is a short open section, of fields, before the trees resume.

Trees in the woods are predominantly beech, plus, on the more calcium-rich areas, yew, ash and small-leaved lime together with some conifers, these planted in the 20th century on what was previously a grassy area; now all the land is thickly wooded, and most is steeply-sloping, spanning elevations from 80 feet by the river to over 600 feet on the valley rim.

The woods are crossed by sloping paths on several levels, and in Passage Grove this includes the line of the old Wye Valley Railway, closed in 1964, much of which is now Wye Valley Greenway, a walk/bike route. The one part excluded is the 546 foot-long Tintern tunnel which took the line through a ridge of limestone on the border between the two woods; this is fenced off, though still explorable.

Other features of interest are a tufa-lined stream, flowing through the middle of Caswell Wood, the ancient earthworks of Offas's Dyke, which runs along the upper edge of the woodland, including past Lippets Grove Nature Reserve, the extremely abundant and varied fungi that appear in the autumn, and several viewpoints of Tintern Abbey, on the far side of the river. The woods can be explored on short there-and-back walks of a mile or so, or loops of up to four miles.


The Passage Grove/Caswell Wood region can be entered by walking north from a track near Tidenham Chase, or from Tintern village in the west, crossing the Wye via an old tramway bridge, but the usual access is from the east, starting from two places along Miss Grace's Lane, a dead-end road that terminates at Beeches Farm. One approach is via a path across four fields, entering the woods near the south edge of Passage Grove, near the rock outcrop named Devil's Pulpit, while the other is via a path through the farm, across one field, into the north end of Caswell Wood. These two points are linked by one mile of the Offa's Dyke Path, close to the upper edge of the trees, and by two other paths further down the valley sides, one partly along the old railway line. It is generally not possible to walk around off-trail since the slopes are too steep.

Caswell Wood

Caswell Wood, which borders Passage Grove (and Lippet's Grove) to the south, extends half a mile across northwest-facing slopes and is divided by a shallow valley, containing a spring-fed stream, flowing down via many little cascades, lined with tufa formations. From the entrance, near Beeches Farm, a path forks off the Offa's Dyke route, descending, and soon divides, one branch traversing the middle slopes all the way to Tidenham Chase, the other branch dropping down further, towards Tintern.

Rocks and yew
Rocks and yew - along the ridge above the Tintern railway tunnel

Passage Grove

Passage Grove stretches south of Caswell Wood for half a mile or more, and incorporating towards the southern end the limestone escarpment of Shorn Cliff. The northern reaches contain the conifer plantation, formerly a patch of unimproved grassland. Gaps in the trees in a few places offer fleeting views of Tintern village and abbey, on the far side of the river. Near the Devil's Pulpit, an outcrop at the north end of Shorn Cliff, is the only path that leads directly down the slopes, from rim to river in just a quarter of a mile.

Cave formations
Track through trees, Passage Grove

Tintern Tunnel

The Wye Valley Railway line runs generally a little way above the river, through the woods, but comes close to the waters opposite Tintern, just where it enters the tunnel, constructed in 1876 through a narrow limestone ridge inside of a tight U-bend along the river. A tramway once joined in front of the southern entrance, crossing the Wye and continuing a short distance up the Angidy River valley to a wireworks factory. The tramway bridge is still in use as a pedestrian crossing. North of the tunnel, the main line also crossed the river, though this bridge was dismantled in 1964-5, after closure of the line. The tunnel is sealed by a concrete wall at the north end and by a metal fence to the south, this fairly easy to climb, allowing exploration of the interior. This entrance is along the Greenway while the north end is off-trail, accessible by scrambling down from a track a little way above. The (southern) abutment of the old bridge still survives, about 150 feet in front of the tunnel entrance.

Tintern tunnel
Ferns on a wall at the north end of the Tintern tunnel