- The Wye Valley: Area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). A fabulous drive. Steep wooded valley and gorge running for miles between Chepstow and Monmouth. You can continue up to Simmonds Yat if you want for further spectacular views. In fact, it’s a lovely river all the way up to Hay on Wye. (10 mins)
- Forest of Dean: Something of a best-kept secret. Lovely wooded areas, small villages, churches, and open spaces. Home of Free Miners, one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution, and its own cultural eco-system. Look out for red deer, wild boar, badgers and ravens.
- Usk Valley: Another relatively unknown treasure, this time of pasture, and rolling farmland. Best seen at first from the road running between Devauden and Trellech (12 mins away), which shows a fabulous view of the Vale towards Usk and Abergavenny, with the Tolkien-esque mountains of the Brecon Beacons on the horizon. Look out for buzzards, ravens and the occasional hot air balloon, heading back to Bristol on a summer’s evening.
- Wentwood (the Gwent-wood): This takes its name from Venta, the Roman city. A surprisingly large stretch of woodland which extends from The Forest of Dean (westwards) on the Welsh side of the Wye Valley). Look for beech woods, aforestation, hidden evidence of ancient settlements (stone circles) and a truly remarkable view from the top of Grey Hill, (park by the reservoir above Llanfair Discoed. From there it is about one mile’s walk uphill (can be tough but really worth it)).
- Brecon Beacons (AONB): One of Britain’s largest areas of wild landscape, including river valleys, mountains and hidden forests. Look out for waterfalls, soaring buzzards, and beautiful views of/from the Sugar Loaf (mountain), the Skirrid (whale-back mountain), the Blorenge (overlooking Abergavenny) and Pen-y-Fan (45 minutes drive via A48 and A449 through Abergavenny, Gateway to the Beacons).
- The Gwent Levels: 57 square kilometres and is a mixture of coastal floodplains, drainage channels known locally as ‘reens’, saltmarshes and mudflats. It’s this mix of wetlands which allows so many species of insects, animals and birds to find homes here. There is a visitor centre at the RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve with toilets, café and shop (30 mins) and Magor Marsh is the last relatively natural area of fenland on the Gwent Levels (20 mins drive).