Wolfscastle Country HotelRocky landscape.

A wonderful walk through the Anghof Valley…

Countryside writer, Julian Rollins, enjoys a walk through the wooded Anghof Valley, from the hotel to St Dogwell’s Church and back. Distance: Approx 2.8 miles. Grade: Easy.

You can see the starting point for this short walk from the Wolfscastle Country Hotel. It’s just across the road, where the village’s motte-and-bailey is hidden among a stand of trees. A motte-and-bailey was “entry level” castle building, a simple earthwork with a log wall and the Norman invaders of the early Middle Ages put up thousands of them.

At Wolf’s Castle they built right on the frontier, a contested landscape where the invaders bumped up against the native Welsh. Standing on the man-made hill you find yourself wondering who, or what, was the Wolf’s Castle “wolf”?

There are plenty of opinions. One has it that the last Welsh wolf was cornered and killed at Wolf’s Castle. But the same story is linked with other locations, like Wolf’s Leap in the Cambrian Mountains.

Personally, I prefer the theory that the Wolf was more man than beast. During the Middle Ages the tag “wolf” was sometimes given to an outlaw, so perhaps the valley was once home to a human wolf or wolves.

And the steep-sided, wooded gorge did apparently have a reputation as bandit country. It’s still well-wooded, with huge beeches, ashes and chestnuts crowding the banks of the Anghof, which flows into the Western Cleddau at Wolf’s Castle. Anyway, after passing through the castle field the path drops down into the deep and narrow Anghof Valley, turning left along a track on the western bank of the river before veering right over a bridge.

The valley is the perfect location for an autumn walk. The river roars like a lion and the leaf colour is impressive, from the burnished gold of beech and butter yellow of ash leaves to the warm umber of oak and chestnut.

In time the route reaches the Quarry Bridge. Flocks of small birds flit through upper branches, while jays shriek in the woodland peace. Further on is Sealyham, where the path takes you close to the door of the big, white, Sealyham Mansion, which is now an outdoor activity centre. If the weather is with you it’s worth pressing on along a quiet lane for five minutes or so to look at St Dogwell’s Church before turning back to the hotel.

In its earth-bank enclosure, the little church is very atmospheric. It is named for St Dogwell, also Dogfael or Dogmael, a 5th Century Welsh saint, and cousin of St. David. But it’s a place with an even longer historical reach.

At the edge of the churchyard stands a column of stone that is marked with carvings in the old Ogham (pronounced ‘oh-um’) script. Stones marked with Ogham script are to be found across the north of Pembrokeshire, evidence of the Irish migrants who settled the county in pre-Christian times.

The best option for the return journey is to retrace your steps back through the valley past Sealyham Mansion, keeping to the right, to the west of the river, rather than recrossing Quarry Bridge. The path leaves the woodland onto the A40 and then it’s just a matter of minutes back to Wolf’s Castle.

When you arrive back at the hotel, I’d say you should reward yourself with a lunch, tea or dinner. I can recommend the cawl, full of flavour and perfectly matched with crusted bread and a slab of sharp Llangloffan cheese.

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