Arrive in Ledbury and overnight.
Ledbury is a little gem of a market town with a very well-known and attended annual poetry festival and a long tradition of walking. Its poetic heritage comes from its famous sons – William Langland, born in Ledbury in the 14th century, who wrote Piers Plowman and John Masefield, born in 1878, a poet laureate and author of many well-known and loved poems. Ledbury’s proximity to the Dymock Poets extends the poetic connections and the local library, housed in the Barrett Browning Memorial Institute, includes a collection of books from this era – Elizabeth Barrett lived nearby at Hope End for several years.
The town has several notable buildings including the Feathers Hotel, built around 1560-70 and the ancient and impressive 17th century Market House, supported on sixteen Spanish chestnut pillars. Church Lane, behind the Market House, is a wonderfully preserved medieval street which leads up to what is widely regarded as Herefordshire’s finest Parish Church. It has a rare detached bell tower crowned by a 200 foot spire. Children, however, may prefer to examine the bullet holes in the church door… souvenirs of a civil war skirmish.
LEDBURY TO MARCLE RIDGE (7.5 miles) (12 km)
This first leg of the route takes you out of the town and into the fields and orchards which are so characteristic of the Herefordshire countryside. Every year there is a ‘Big Apple’ festival in October at harvest time, and throughout Herefordshire the apple harvest is celebrated in towns and villages, and of course the apple tree is the symbol of the Herefordshire Trail. The final part of the day’s walk leads up to the Marcle Ridge – a notable landmark for miles around with its huge mast, lit at night by red lights, from where you can see the Malvern Hills to the east and the Black Mountains to the west.
MARCLE RIDGE to ROSS-on-WYE (11.6 miles) (18.6 km)
Today’s walk takes you along and down from the ridge with spectacular views all the way as you descend down to the River Wye. Pass Yatton chapel, a very rustic church with a farmyard setting and a superb 12th century doorway. The route runs down to the river at Hole in the Wall and then a gentle trek into Ross.
ROSS-on-WYE to LITTLE DEWCHURCH (10 miles) (16 km)
The trail crosses the river and winds towards Sellack and a further encounter with the Wye. These days the river is crossed by suspension bridge, not ferry as in the past, with a special horse boat for animals. A highlight of this route is St Catherine’s church at Hoarwithy – ‘the most exciting Victorian church in Herefordshire’. It was built in the Italian style in the second part of the 19th century and as well as the sumptuous Italianate style, it has a Byrne-Jones window – so well worth a visit.
LITTLE DEWCHURCH to BAGWYLLYDIART (8.9 miles) (14 km)
This wonderful stretch of countryside leads towards Kilpeck with its ancient Norman church – ‘the most complete in England’. The church has been almost unaltered for 900 years and is renowned worldwide for its south doorway, the figures on the chancel arch and its unique apse – as well as its wonderful rural location.
BAGWYLLYDIART to ABBEY DORE (9 miles) (14 km)
From Kilpeck you follow an undulating trail up to Garway Hill, from where you have spectacular views of Wales and the Black Mountains. Onwards to the River Monnow and the boundary between England and Wales where Kentchurch Court was originally built as a castle in the 14th century, now home to the Scudamore family. Dore Abbey was founded in 1147 as a Cistercian Abbey and has had many incarnations – one being as a shelter for cattle. It is one of the very few Cistercian churches left in England.
ABBEY DORE to PETERCHURCH
This section leads from the Abbey, over the rivers Dore and Wye towards Peterchurch. Highlights of this stretch, aside from the magnificent scenery of mountain and river are the church of St Margaret which has ‘one of the wonders of Herefordshire’ – a carved wooden rood screen and loft which survived the destruction of the Reformation.
PETERCHURCH to WHITNEY BRIDGE (10.9 miles) (18 km)
Starting at the superbly spired church at Peterchurch… this is a walk through border country along the Golden Valley, passing through Dorstone where Arthur’s Stone sits on Marbach Hill just above the village – a neolithic collective burial chamber. The Pandy Inn dates from the 12th century, built to house the workers building the church – and reputed to have had Oliver Cromwell as a guest in former times. This is also Kilvert country – the Reverend who kept detailed diaries of his life and the lives of his parishioners in the local area – providing a fascinating insight into ordinary life at the time. Spectacular views of surrounding hills, mountains, forests and rivers can be seen from the top of Marbach Hill.
WHITNEY BRIDGE to KINGTON (12 miles) (19 km)
After crossing the River Wye at Whitney, the trail winds its way towards the Welsh border at Kington, passing Brilley and Eardisley, both with lovely churches, and the Great Oak at Eardisley, which was once in the centre of a large forest.
KINGTON to LINGEN (11.9 miles) (19 km)
A market town on the English/Welsh border, Kington has been an English town for a thousand years. The trail to Lingen passes through the village of Titley with the wonderful Stagg Inn as a resting place… and joins up with the Mortimer Trail to climb Wapley Hill, an Iron Age hill fort 1000 feet above sea level with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.
LINGEN to LEINTWARDINE (8.8 miles) (14 km)
Passing through Harley’s Mountain – named after the local Harley family of Brampton Bryan (as is Harley Street in London) who protected the whole village from a Royalist onslaught by sheltering them in the castle during the Civil War. The remains of the castle can be seen from the churchyard.
LEINTWARDINE to RICHARD’S CASTLE (15.3 miles) (25 km)
This part of the trail is highlighted by views of the Black Mountains, including Mynydd Troed and Black Mixen – recognisable from the summit mast – and ahead on the trail are Titterstone Clee Hill, Mortimer Forest and Downton Castle and church. Burlington is in the Domesday Book – held by Edric the Wild…and the local church here has a rare collection of cast iron tomb covers.
RICHARD’S CASTLE to LEOMINSTER (9.5 miles) (15 km)
A very picturesque day, passing through the historic village of Orleton with the 16th century Boot Inn (previously a cobbler’s shop) with the smallest half-timbered cottage in the country next door. The church at Eyton is worth a visit, and the River Lugg is crossed to bring you into Leominster with its impressive Priory.
LEOMINSTER to EDWYN RALPH (11.6 miles) (19 km)
Leominster dates from the 7th century and the narrow streets and timber framing date from medieval and Tudor times. The town’s wealth was based on wool, from the local Ryeland sheep. Interesting buildings are Grange Court built in 1633 and once the town hall, and the Priory Church and Old Priory Hospital, the remains of a Benedictine monastery destroyed in the Dissolution in 1539. You may catch sight of otters, now returning to the River Lugg, and also kingfishers and dippers along the willow and alder lined riverbanks.
Hergest Ridge above Kington can be seen as well as the Black Mountains ahead. Further on there are good views of the beautiful Bromyard Downs and the gentle undulations of the Malvern Hills.
EDWYN RALPH to FROMES HILL (10 miles) (16 km)
Fields, woodland and streams punctuate this pretty walk towards the market town of Bromyard. It is a typical medieval market town, very important in Saxon times but devastated by the Black Death of 1348. Highlights are Tower Hill House, built in 1630 and stayed in by Charles 1 in 1644.
Since the 15th century hop-growing has been an important part of the rural economy in this area – and Bromyard and Ledbury are the main centres in the Frome Valley. From is an old Celtic name for a river.
FROMES HILL to LEDBURY (9.2 miles) (15 km)
A beautiful stretch with views of the Malvern Hills a constant as you head back towards Ledbury through the picturesque villages of Bosbury, Coddington and Wellington Heath, and pass by Hope End House, once the home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Depart after breakfast.