THE DOG tongs have long since gone from Clodock Church.

Exhibited in a museum in Abergavenny in 1876, one of the older locals told Ella Mary Leather in 1906 that he remembered them being used. Mercifully a pair without nails in the claws at one end, their purpose was to catch hold of any canine intruder during service and drag it out of church.

In the 18th century it was common practice for dogs to accompany their masters to church – especially farmers and shepherds. Sometimes they were well behaved, of course, but at other times they became noisy and quarrelsome (the dogs, that is) and they often had to be separated and forcibly ejected. And so ‘dog tongs’ and ‘dog whips’ came into force to keep peace and good order during services.

The person appointed to whip the dogs would also have the task of keeping children quiet.

Up at Peterchurch a parishioner was periodically elected to the use and enjoyment of a piece of land called the Dog Acre. His duty was to whip all stray dogs out of church. Elsewhere a legacy delegated a “poor man to keep the dogs out and the people awake”.

A beadle in one church would carry a long staff with a fox’s brush at one end and a knob on the other. With the knob he would bestow a sensible rap on the head of the males and with the brush he would gently tickle the faces of any of their female counterparts who fell asleep.

You would think that falling asleep in Clodock church since the 1650s has not been much of an option. The commanding three-decker pulpit and sounding board offer little prospect of respite from the sermon.

The congregation would have gained solace, however, from the doors which originally hung on the finely carved box pews to keep out the draught as well as the dogs. Laudably, altar rails also stopped dogs fouling the floor in the inner sanctum.

The parish of Clodock grew around its church which was founded in about 500 AD, and dedicated to Saint Clydawg.

The walk which loops to the well-documented scene of his murder by a rival in love, sets out from the fine setting of Longtown Parish Hall. The road up to Longtown Castle in the lea of the imposing Black Mountains bisects the former eastern bailey, now the village green.

The rotting carcass of an early 19th century murderer hanged at Hereford, which was gibbetted here, gave off such a stench that the inhabitants pleaded for it to be taken down.

The castle itself is sited at the northern end of the ridge which divides the valleys of the Olchon Brook and the trout-and Grayling-rich River Monnow.

Superseding the motte and bailey at Ponthendre (at 7 on the map), it was part of a chain of fortresses built to defend the border from Welsh raiders. It was fortified in stone by Walter de Lacy between 1216 and 1231.

The 13th century chapel is now a private house and the whole stronghold was re-fortified by Henry IV against Owain Glyndwr in 1403. Several cannonballs discovered by Victorians may suggest evidence of unrecorded action in The Civil War.

The four mile walk is moderate across lots of field divisions – pastures and not crops.

“Moderate” we define as “involving some uphill walking, but easily managed by a reasonably fit person”.

En-route there is an unspoilt pub where one of the older locals told me he had never heard of dog tongs. But he did remember an agnostic insomniac with a touch of dyslexia who used to lie awake all night wondering if there was a dog.

All the stiles on the trip to God’s Acre make it an acher for dogs.

Longtown and Clodock Castle, pastures, streams, views, river and church.

Four-mile moderate ramble with 40 obstacles.

Map: Explorer OL13 (Brecon Beacons East).

The Route. Start at SO 325 288

1. Longtown Village Hall. Park in long bay in village, road to Craswall. Walk up road beyond village hall, Outdoor Education Centre and village green seating to castle entrance with English Heritage information board.

2. Longtown Castle. Visit keep for views, return to road and retrace steps 150m, to (old) New Inn. TR below the castle’s old chapel, now private, and follow gravel track narrowing to grass beyond ‘Skirrid View’ to cross stile. Descend field below telephone line, down nine railed steps and through wooden gate. TR across Olchon Brook via low concrete bridge and follow drive to cross stile (R) into field just beyond caravan. Follow R edge to cross stile (R) under tree, R edge again rising gradually by stream to cross slab stile under tree (R), R edge again to stiled footbridge (R).

3. Footbridge. Cross stream and bear L up through gap in line of trees. Maintain line to opposite side of next field and bear L uphill along fence. Head up through gap by gate, climbing and by-passing stile (R) through next (gated) gap along fence. Climb beyond a corner to pick up fence again (castle directly behind you) past wooden gate (R) and bend R on farm track under low embankment. Just before gate look up to L and climb to stile protected by slab.

4. Slab and stile. Do not cross, instead TL in front to follow top R Edge/fence. (Great views to Malverns). Cross stile in top corner and drop slightly ahead to ruts, where clamber up (R) over clumps to pass through metal gate-not waymarked at time of writing. Go ahead across anonymous stile 40m from bottom of cross fence, and maintain same line, 100m above field boundary (L) to cross a similar stile in fence, with slab on other side. Now drop to marker post in gap of line of trees, up over stile and straight ahead, with fir trees below L, and then drop into bottom L corner through waymarked wooden gate. Descend the 26 steps.

5. Penrhewr. Bear L down lane, leave after 130 paces through gate (R) into field. Towards Clodock church, cross stile 80m from top of hedge, half L across next field and cross stile in corner with slab. TL through gate along L Edge towards two gates in corner, but bear R Beyond them along two left edges and across two footbridges. TL across stile through dingle, half R across field via stile to lane and TL towards church. Fork R on Walterstone road via Cornewall Arms to Clodock Mill. TL in front of Monnow River over old gravestone into churchyard.

6. Clodock Church. Visit, return to river end and exit churchyard (L) over old gravestone. Follow Monnow Valley Walk, obvious path via gate, stile, gate, stile, gap, slab, bearing L, slab, slab, on to road.

7. Ponthendre. With site of old motte and bailey in front, TR over Olchon Brook, immediately L over slab, L of stone cottage ahead to cross stile (R) just beyond. Keep L of football pitch, metal gate, three more gates, across road and through two more R of treatment works. Field, stile, R of old barn to pick up L edge towards metal gate.

8. 270° turn. (Careful) don’t go through gate, turn back sharp R up bank, L at corner up L edge over two stiles to Parish Hall.