Walking in Herefordshire
Herefordshire is an enticing proposition for walkers who love peace and tranquility. As perhaps the most rural county in England, Herefordshire offers a wealth of unspoilt countryside where you can find solitude in which to reflect on the beauty around you. Herefordshire displays a rich diversity of character and landscape. To the east its gentle rolling countryside, green fields and rounded hills, interspersed with charming 'black and white' villages, exhibit many of those features which we think of as typically and traditionally English. To the west, with its rugged hills and dramatic views, the county becomes more Welsh, not only in appearance but also in its climate and its people.
Herefordshire is one of the English Marches counties, ancient borderlands with Wales whose idyllic landscapes belie their often violent history. The dramatically sited castles hint at this turbulent past and can provide an interesting focal point around which to plan a walk.
Writing about Herefordshire Sir Nikolaus Pevsner observed "Wherever one goes, there will not be a mile that is visually unrewarding". Remarkably, with the exception of Hereford's suburbs, this is still largely true today. However, choices must be made.
For open hill walking the western side of the county is the obvious first choice, giving a taste of the Black Mountains in the foothills south of Hay on Wye. The high land all along the western borders gives splendid views across the county. Offa's Dyke National Trail lies just over the Welsh border and sections can be incorporated into walks from Hay on Wye and Kington.
Perhaps the most beautiful walking is to be found in the Golden Valley, the peaceful unspoilt River Dore valley just east of the Black Mountains and running from near Hay on Wye to Pontrilas. Paths follow the riverside meadows and lead enticingly up the wooded western hillsides where spectacular views are to be had. Combine this with the rich heritage at sites such as Abbey Dore Abbey, and Arthur's Stone and you are sure to enjoy time spent in this lovely area.
The beautiful Wye Valley must also lay claim to be one of Herefordshire's most attractive walking areas. The whole river, during it's long journey right across the county from Hay on Wye to Ross on Wye, is worthy of exploration and, of course, you can do this following the Wye Valley Walk. Within Herefordshire the most dramatic scenery of the valley is in the south near Ross on Wye, in particular the stunning view from Yat Rock at Symond Yat.
The western side of the Malvern Hills and the countryside around Ledbury provides beautiful woodland, superb views and plenty of Herefordshire's peace and tranquility.
Aymestrey - The lovely wooded countryside around Aymestrey would encourage the most lethargic armchair rambler to put on their boots. Nestled in the valley of the River Lugg where a Roman road crosses the river, the village is set deep in Mortimer country, close to Mortimer Cross and with the Mortimer Trail passing through. There are several places of interest nearby. Yatton Court, to the north of the village, is a Georgian country house with a fine Venetian window. A little to the east is Croft Castle (National Trust) a large estate of woodlands, farm and parkland with miles of woodland trails and including the impressive ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort Croft Ambrey which offers spectacular views. Just south at Mortimer Cross, site of one of the most decisive battles in the Wars of the Roses, is a fascinating ancient Water Mill (English Heritage).
OS Map: Explorer 203
A Walk from Aymestrey [SO 426658]
Hereford - The historic city of Hereford was once the Saxon Capital of West Mercia. It's origins were as a crossing of the river Wye, now spanned by a 15th. century six-arched stone bridge just upstream from the catherdral. The city is sited on the fertile Herefordshire plain surrounded by orchards and pastures grazed by the famous white faced beef cattle bearing the city's name. The 12th. century cathedral, much altered over the centuries houses the renowned 14th. century 'Mappa Mundi' world map (not quite up to OS standards), and the world's largest chained library.
Haugh Wood, about 7km southeast of Hereford (SO 598364) covers geologically interesting high ground on the eastern side of the Wye valley and offers splendid views across the Herefordshire plain below. The wood is a Forestry Commission plantation standing on Cambrian sandstone at least 500 million years old. It is exposed here because the overlaying Silurian Limestones have been eroded from the top of the uplifted sandstone. An encirling ring of wooded hills are composed of the later limestone and include Marcle Hill to the east and Cherry Hill overlooking the Wye. This whole area provides enjoyable and varied walking in undulating wooded countryside with some fine views. A circular walk around Haugh Wood can bee commenced at the eastern edge, where the Woolhope road leaves the wood.
Wellington Wood and the surrounding area is on high land just to the west of the River Lugg, about 10km north of Hereford (SO 495482). It is a pleasant area offering enjoyable walking with the added attraction of the fallow deer which roam the wood. Walk through the wood to Westhope. Options from here include returning via Derndale Hill or heading west to Queen's Wood Country Park.
Kington - The small market town of Kington is situated in hill country right on the Welsh border, and is therefore a good base from which to access Offa's Dyke Path. The place has a border town feel about it with it's economy aligned as much to Wales as Herefordshire. There are good hill walks from the town with delightful views from Hergest Ridge and Bradnor Hill (NT). Hergest Croft Gardens have wonderful trees and shrubs and spectacular azalea displays in late spring and is well worth a visit.
Leominster - This fine medieval wool town has an idylic setting on the lovely river Lugg where it is joined by the little Pinsley Brook. There are hopfields, cider apple orchards and several enchanting gardens in the surrounding countryside. In the town the Benedictine Priory Church has a grand west front with a 45 foot high perpendicular window. Broad Street has fine Georgian houses and School Lane some quaint examples of timber framed buildings. An interesting curiosity within the town is the medieval ducking stool at the Priory Church. Leominster is also renowned for it's many antique shops.
The river Lugg makes aquaintance with Leominster flowing in from the northwest, having meandered easterly from the Welsh border at Presteigne. For most of this length the river setting is delightful, but the section between Kinsham and Aymestry where the river flows through a narrow wooded valley is particularly attractive. The Mortimer Trail follows the Lugg for part of this section.
About 7km north of Leominster Bircher Common and the surrounding wooded hills make for very pleasant walking. Be sure to include the iron age hill fort at Croft Amprey (NT) on your route. Apart from it's ancient historical interest the views from here are really something special. The National Trust emphasises the rare wildlife you may be lucky enough to see on the estate, including the hawfinch and even polecats, which have ventured here from across the Welsh border. Croft Castle Estate (NT) can also be visited on a walk in this area and really is worth seeing. The castle's exterior towers and battlements, necessary protection during often violent past times, is in strange contradiction with it's elegant refined interior. The park contains a superb avenue of 350 year old Spanish chestnut trees.
The small village of Wigmore provides a good starting point for a ramble exploring the wooded hills to the west including the remains of Wigmore Castle (SO 407693) which was once the seat of the Mortimer's. This Marcher Earl dynasty ruled hereabouts with an iron hand for many centuries and have, more recently, lent their name to the Mortimer Trail.
The quiet backwater village of Lingen (SO 366672) is set on an attractive little brook, a tributary of the Lugg, which it joins about 3km downstream. You can walk north or south from the village, but the route south through woods along the stream is perhaps the nicest.
Ledbury - Ledbury is an attractive small market town snuggled against the western foot of the Malvern Hills, with the little River Leadon flowing just to the west of the town. A browse around the town is particularly interesting, with a number of attractive timber framed buildings, including the 17th. century Market House, enhancing the setting. The most famous view, and one which should not be missed, is that looking along Church Lane towards the elegant spire of St. Michael's, rising behind the picturesque facades of the vernacular timber framed buildings along the cobbled street. Not unsurprisingly, the lane is a popular location for period drama films, so you may have a feeling of deja vu as you admire the scene.
The entire western Malvern Hills provide superb walking and, of course, stunning views. The western slopes are quieter and softer than the eastern Worcestershire side which has expansive vistas across the Severn Valley. A particularly attractive route from Ledbury takes you through peacful woodland to the village of Eastnor. Just south of here you can visit the Georgian Eastnor Castle. From the village you can continue across Eastnor Park and up onto the Malvern Ridge past the impressive obelisk.
Ross on Wye - Ross on Wye is sited magnificently, high on a sandstone cliff overlooking the river, the elegant spire of St. Mary's a beacon for miles around, guiding the traveller to this lovely town. The steep streets are lined with many Georgian Houses and in the centre of the town the 17th. century arcaded market hall, built from warm red sandstone, provides a pleasing backdrop to the bustle of market days. There are fine views of the river and hills from Prospect Gardens near the 14th. century church.
Not far away are the dramatic ruins of Goodrich Castle (SO 576199) which stand high on a wooded hill overlooking the River Wye. The oldest part of the castle, the greystone keep, is 12th century and there is a round tower at each corner. The castle was destroyed by Cromwell's troops in the Civil War as it was an important Royalist stronghold. Because the river south of Goodrich flows in a large loop it is possible to walk the riverside path for about 13km through Thomas Wood and Welsh Bicknor. You will pass the high cliffs of Symonds Yat on the opposite bank and continue beneath Coppet Hill until you reach the Goodrich road only 2km from where you started.
Weobley - Weobley is one of the most charming of the black and white villages of Herefordshire. Some of the cottages really are chocolate box contenders. Southwest of the village is The Ley, a 16th. century eight gabled timbered farmhouse which is regarded as one of the most attractive in Britain. You can pass this by leaving Weobley on the footpath just north of the access drive. Continue past Fenhampton and Garnstone House, returning to Weobley through parkland. A diversion to quiet Burton Hill wood is possible.
Hay on Wye- Hayon Wye is, of course, in Powys, but hey, its close to the Herefordshire border. The town has an international reputation out of all proportion to it's size, remoteness and unprepossessing charm. This is because it has become an important world centre for trade in rare and second hand books, it's narrow streets lined with endless bookshops. The Festival of Literature in May attracts visitors from all over the world, most of whom will never experience the immense pleasure of walking in the hills and valleys around Hay on Wye.
South of Hay on Wye, to the east of the Black Mountains, the valley of the River Dore runs south to Pontrilas. Named the Golden Valley this tranquil unspoilt oasis is a joy to walk through. When combined with the superb hill walking along the slopes of the Black Mountains on the county border, including such exceptional descents as that of the Olchon Valley, this has to be one of the finest walking areas in Herefordshire.
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