Walking in Herefordshire
Herefordshire is an enticing proposition for walkers who love peace and tranquillity. 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 its 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 tranquillity.
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).
A Walk from Aymestrey [SO 426658] OS Map: Explorer™ 203
This walk explores the woodland of the Croft Estate and visits a glacial gorge just west of Aymestry where the River Lugg runs in a small but spectacular gorge. This is a glacial overflow channel that exploited a fault in the rock associated with the ancient glacial Wigmore Lake. From the old quarry car park walk north-east up a track to Yatton and follow the lane through the village. Cross the A4110 road and follow paths down through woodland with a ravine on your left and eventually reaching a minor road. The glacial overflow channel is directly ahead. Turn left along this wooded riverside lane, now joining the Mortimer Trail route and follow it to the main road bridge. The Riverside Inn is just over the bridge. Continue following the Mortimer Trail, climbing past Yatton Court and passing through National Trust woodland, eventually leading to a lane at Hill Farm. Turn left here into School Wood and the Croft Estate. Where deciduous trees give way to conifers (GR SO433654) take a path on the left for Yatton and then back to the car park. About 5 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Riverside Inn, Aymestrey Tel: 01568 708440 (Good Pub Guide)
This half-timbered inn stands at an attractive point by a low two-arched bridge spanning the River Lugg. The rambling beamed bar has several cosy areas and the décor is drawn from a pleasant mix of periods and styles. Warm log fires in winter while in summer big overflowing flowerpots frame the entrances. There is a wide and interesting choice of good quality bar food from snacks to hearty meals. Outside tables make the most of the fine views including those set on a steep tree sheltered garden. Accommodation is available.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook '50 Walks in Herefordshire and Worcestershire' by Nick Reynolds
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 cathedral. 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 encircling 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.
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 its 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.
This fine medieval wool town has an idyllic setting on the lovely river Lugg where it is joined by the little Pinsley Brook. There are hop fields, 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 its many antique shops.
The river Lugg makes acquaintance 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 Ambrey (NT) on your route. Apart from its 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 its 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 has, 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 and along the stream is perhaps the nicest.
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 déjà 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 peaceful 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 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 grey stone 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 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.
An easy 5 mile walk around Weobley, one of the most attractive and best kept villages in the UK, is over open farm and parkland on well used paths and tracks. There are hotels, restaurants, pubs and coffee shops in the village and a pub half-way round. Start grid reference SO 402517. This walk is fully described in the guidebook ‘Local Walks Around Hereford’ by Mike Thompson.
Hay on 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 its size, remoteness and unprepossessing charm. This is because it has become an important world centre for trade in rare and second hand books, its 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.
Bromyard, the smallest of Herefordshire's market towns, is set on a plateau above the river Frome. There are many orchards and hop fields in the surrounding undulating countryside; indeed eastern Herefordshire is the largest hop production area in England. During the autumn harvesting season the sweet rich smell of hops pervades the air, adding a new experience to your rambling. The town has a Norman church of interest and a number of fine black and white houses including the outstanding Tower Hill House. Lovely walking areas around Bromyard include Bromyard downs and the Brockhampton Estate (NT) just east of the town.
The National Trust Brockhampton Estate includes extensive woodland including ancient oaks and beeches. The National Trust say "walks through both the park and woodland combine to form a rich habitat for wildlife such as dormouse, buzzard and raven". The estate also includes Lower Brockhampton House, a very picturesque late 14th.C moated manor house. There is a really charming timber framed gatehouse and also a ruined chapel. At the moment extensive repairs to the gatehouse are being undertaken, so it is shrouded in scaffolding.
A little further east from Brockhampton is the the more dramatic beauty of Bringsty Common. A really superb day walk can be planned from Bromyard across Bromyard Downs with its lovely views and on to Bringsty Common. Then head north across wooded hills and valleys to Tedstone Delamere. Return via Upper Norton, Sandy Cross and Buckenhill Manor. The whole area north east of Bromyard between the River Teme and the B4203 road as far as the county border is a marvellous walking area with many footpaths through wooded hills, the Sapey Brook valley and sleepy villages.
The Frome valley south of Bromyard to Bishops Frome is also very attractive and worth exploring with good footpath access close to the river in a number of places.
The river Frome meanders south from Bromyard through a pastoral landscape, quietly secluded within its valley slopes. There is a small lane which follows the eastern side of the valley to Bishops Frome and a network of footpaths linking farms along the western and eastern hills. As a suggestion, leave Bromyard taking the path to Little Froome Farm. Continue via Avenbury Court and Brookhouse Farm to Upper Venn Farm. Cross the river to meet the valley lane and turn left. Return taking the path on the right which passes beneath Scar Farm, continuing through Burley. From here descend to the valley lane and back to Bromyard. A diversion to the ruined 12th. Century church of St. Mary is worthwhile.
A Walk on Bromyard Downs [SO 670558]
Bromyard Downs are about 2 miles east of the town. Much of the Downs has not been cultivated for centuries and is rich in flowers and grasses as a result. Start at the parking and picnic area at the edge of the common near to the Royal Oak inn. From the car park head east to pick up a path heading south to Warren Farm. Beyond the farm, where the farm track turns sharp left, take a field path turning right. This will lead you back north passing through Warren Wood.
Best Pub for this walk
Royal Oak, Bromyard Downs Tel: 01885 482585 (Good Pub Guide)
Excellent bar food. There is an outdoor terrace and garden where you can eat in good weather.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pocket Pub Walks in Herefordshire' by Roy Woodcock
OS Map: Explorer 202
Below are further walk suggestions from some of the Herefordshire walking guide books available from our bookshop.
Walk Suggestions from the book ‘Local Walks around Hereford’ by Mike Thompson
A 3 mile walk over common land with magnificent panoramic viewpoints from which can be seen seven counties. The walk involves some uphill stretches but they are not severe. There are no stiles and only one gate. Start grid reference SO 448250
Kilpeck and Saddlebow
A 6 mile walk over farmland tracks and paths, through wooded dingles and along ancient hedgerows with constantly changing views of typical Herefordshire mixed farming countryside. The walk involves some gradual ascents and descents as the ground rises from 300 feet at the start to nearly 700 feet at Saddlebow, but this ensures some superb views over Hereford City and the Wye Valley. Refreshment is available at the Red Lion pub near the start. Start grid reference SO 446305
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