The Beachley Peninsula
Beachley Peninsula is the spit of land that marks the end of the river Wye’s journey as it flows into the River Severn.
It’s a small piece of land with a lot of stories to tell.
Today you find us at Beachley Peninsula.
This tiny spit of land, buffeted on two
sides by the sister rivers-
the expansive River Severn,
and the more streamlined River Wye,
may often be overlooked.
But it is a place with a surprising number of stories to tell.
It has the highest tidal range in the UK, and sits under the Severn Bridge
that crosses from Wales, leapfrogging over the River Wye, Beachley peninsula, and the River Severn,
before landing firmly in England.
The peninsula is cut off to the north by Offa’s Dyke.
This anglo-saxon earthwork roughly follows the border between Mercia,
or modern England, and Wales.
Both the Welsh and the English have used Beachley as a crossing point since Roman times.
And although it has doubtless been used since before the first recorded crossing in the 12th century
a proper ferry wasn’t put in place until 1825
when the Duke of Beaufort sponsored its creation.
He began with sailboats which, after two years, were joined by a steamboat.
But the crossing was considered a dangerous one
even with these improvements.
On no less than two occasions vessels were lost with all hands.
However, with the advent of the motorcar, the ferry did have a brief comeback.
As the railways were not equipped to carry motor vehicles,
a man named Enoch Williams, of
the Old Passage Severn Ferry Company LTD,
set up and operated a ferry service.
The ferry could only take 17 cars which had to be loaded with a turntable
and could only operate when the tides were right.
It ran for 35 years up until the 8th of
the day before the Severn Bridge opened.
Today the old ferry slipway is used by the Severn area rescue association,
which is a marine and land-based search & rescue organisation, staffed entirely by volunteers.
But the story of the ferry doesn’t end there.
In a twist of fate the last remaining ferryboat, The Severn Princess,
which had been launched in 1959,
was found wrecked, abandoned, and full of fertiliser, in Ireland in 1999 by Dr. Richard Jones-
the grandson of Enoch Williams.
A small group of Chepstow residents formed the Severn Princess Restoration Group
with an urgent remit to save the Princess and return her to the town.
She returned to Beachley in 2003 following a five day tow.
Cut off from the very southern end of
the peninsula by the tides sits Chapel Rock.
Its name comes from the now stranded ruin of a chapel that once commanded such devotion
that people used to wade through the treacherous currents to get out to it.
Chapel rock is not a particularly imaginative name because, let’s face it, it’s a chapel on a rock
It is said that sometime in the fourth century
a lady of some repute from the land of Gwynedd, named Tecla,
hid herself away as a hermit in the chapel
before she met her untimely demise at the hands of raiders.
Some sources say she was a Princess, others that she was a lady,
as with all legends it depends on
who tells the story as to the chain of events.
The chapel was later replaced and
dedicated to the delightfully named St Trog
and was used right up until the16th century,
even though its congregation often had to wade out to the chapel.
But by the 18th century the chapel was in ruins, and today there’s not much left to see at all.
Access is of course limited by the tide and you do have to be extremely careful if you venture out
to make sure that you’re not cut off from the mainland.
The recommendation is that you admire it
The Beachley Peninsula has an interesting military history too.
It has a huge tactical advantage being the spit of land that effectively divides England from Wales.
So it is perhaps not surprising that in 1644
Beachley was one of the many sights to see conflicts during the civil war.
In the First World War it was chosen to be the site of the second national shipyard.
The first being at chepstow and the third at Portbury.
The villagers, who were evicted from their homes under the defence of the realm act, were given eleven days notice to move out.
Prisoners of, war who worked from the vacated houses, were used to build the shipyard itself.
But by the end of the war two million pounds had been spent and the yard was never finished.
Neither was the one and only vessel that the yard had started to produce, war Odyssey.
Some of the villagers did move back, but after the war the government still owned the National Shipyard
and so they built an army training base.
Today it is the home of the first Battalion the rifles.