Saturday, 16 April 2011

Herefordshire Villages

Herefordshire Black and White Villages

Herefordshire lies in the borderlands between England and Wales – a rural county prized for its old-world charm.

The Black and White Village Trail is one of Herefordshire’s most popular attractions and as it’s set out in a circuit of around 35 miles it’s an ideal way to visit some of the county’s most picturesque villages. As it is signposted the length of the route with brown and white tourist signs, it’s possible to join it at any point along the way.

The most popular place to begin the Trail is in the town of Leominster – named, they say, after Leofric, husband of Lady Godiva. Leaving the town, you head for Dilwyn, where a slight detour en route will lead you to Monkland Cheese Dairy. Here it’s possible to take a short tour of the dairy and watch Little Hereford cheese made by traditional methods. Visitors are also welcome to sample other local made cheeses in the Tea Room and gift shop.

Dilwyn has everything a typical English village should have, from the ancient Crown Inn and the 17th century forge, to the 13th century church and the rows of black and white cottages. The Great House is now a B&B and the gardens are open to the public.  Some of the house dates back to Tudor times and it is also reputed that Charles II danced here on the galleried landing.

Along the Trail is Weobley with its tall, elegant church spire and old memorial cross. Local legend has is that if you walk backwards seven times around each of the five tiered steps you will see the Devil! The main street has an abundance of black and white houses with an average age of 500 years. Charles I stayed here after the Battle of Naseby in 1645, and in more recent times the village has been used as a location by Hollywood filmmakers.

The tiny village of Sarnesfield has an attractive squat stone church and at Kinnersley is where you’ll find the Elizabethan house styled on a medieval castle which is known as Kinnersley Castle.  The Norman church has an unusual 13th century tower and inside are wall paintings designed by Bodley.

Just a few miles further along the road you’ll reach Eardisley. The village was once home to the famous Baskerville family, who were Lords of the Manor here for around 500 years. Eardisley’s most elderly resident is the 800-year old Great Oak with its huge hollow trunk thought to be the sole survivor of Hurstway Forest, which was mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

The road into Lyonshall takes you past Penrhos Court, a distinguished 14th century house. Next to the church is a motte – the remains of the 11th century Lyonshall Castle – and part of Offa’s Dyke (the old boundary between Mercia and Wales).

The picturesque village of Pembridge has a wealth of black and white buildings, some dating back to the 12th century. The 17th century inn is where it’s said the treaty was signed after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. In front is the Market Hall complete with the original mark-stone. St Mary’s Church has a distinctive detached bell tower and the bullet holes in the door are thought to date back to the Civil War. The gorgeous Westonbury Mill Water Gardens are about a mile and a half from the village. 

Eardisland village is chocolate-box pretty and a photographers’ dream with its manor house and half-timbered cottages. Close by is historic Burton Court which has beautifully laid out gardens.   Near the bridge is a restored grade II listed 17th century dovecot and a little further along is the Staick House, originally a Yeoman’s Hall dating back to around 1300 and reputed to be haunted. Eardisland completes the Black and White Village Trail.

Bredwardine & Brobury are set beside the River Wye with an 18th century bridge joining the two hamlets. Here you will find a 14th century mansion, a Norman church, an ancient coaching inn and Brobury House and Gardens. And close by is the 5,000 year-old burial chamber known as Arthur’s Stone.

The Church of St Giles in Acton Beauchamp has a very rare Anglo Saxon carved stone door lintel reused in the Norman tower.

Fownhope, situated in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is surrounded by meadows and wooden hills. The 15th century Green Man Inn contains a mural that depicts its history and outside the walls of the Church of St Mary you will find the well-preserved village stocks which date back to 1373 and the time of Edward III.

Historic Bredenbury in North Herefordshire is another village that sits within the beautiful countryside.

The small pretty riverside village of Hoarwithy is perhaps best known for the beautiful Italianate Romanesque Church of St Catherine with its cloisters, mosaic, and detached bell tower. Some buildings here are 16th century and the 19th century three-storey toll house, beside the iron bridge, replaced an earlier ferry crossing.

Set in an agricultural area, Llangarron boasts the only church in England dedicated to St Deinst, a 6th century Celtic saint, as well an Elizabethan timber-framed house and two Holy Wells.

To the south of the county lies LLangrove with views that take in Symonds Yat, the Malvern Hills and the Brecon hills. The attractive 17th century Royal Arms was at one time the local smithy. Housed in the pretty Christ Church is a highly-regarded Pre-Raphaelite painted screen depicting angels.

Also in the south is the village of Much Marcle. The historic house, Hellens, is a major attraction. Re-built in Jacobean times, it contains period furnishings; visit the beautiful gardens too to see a labyrinth, ancient knot garden and a dovecote. This cider-producing area has Westons Cider mill, which offers guided tours and cider tastings.

Midway between the towns of Ludlow and Leominster is the charming village of Orleton. The lovely church is dedicated to St George and houses a 12th century font and Norman carvings. Stokesay Castle is also nearby.

Whitbourne is situated on the north-east side of the county on the banks of the River Teme. It has a church and a couple of pubs and close by is the beautiful stately home, Whitbourne Hall, where the house and gardens are open to the public at certain times of the year.

Hope-under-Dinmore is set on the north side of the densely-wooded Dinmore Hill. Among the many listed buildings here is the restored 15th century castle known as Hampton Court with its spectacular gardens. There’s also a 14th century church.

Abbeydore is a Herefordshire village situated on the River Dore at the Southern end of the Golden Valley. The Cistercian Dore Abbey dates back to 1147. Abbey Dore Court Garden is spread over 8 acres and includes a river walk. 

Kilpeck is home to a Norman church with remarkable Romanesque carvings around the doorway depicting animals, figures and mythical beasts. Nearby is the ruined motte-and-bailey, part of the fortified village of King Offa’s time.

Close to the market town of Ledbury is the delightful village of Eastnor. Built in the 1800s, its main claim to fame is the impressive Eastnor Castle, with its vast park and red deer. The village church contains one of the oldest fonts in the country. 

Goodrich is situated on the River Wye and close to the Forest of Dean. Here you’ll find the 12th century Goodrich Castle which now includes a visitor centre. The area around Goodrich also offers sporting activities such as horse riding, climbing, walking and canoeing. 

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