Friday, May 18, 2012

A week away

This week I've been on holiday. Nowhere exotic, just back to my parents to pick up all the stuff I couldn't fit into my tiny car (VW beetle, old style; very proud of it!) when I first moved to Canterbury nearly 2 months ago now. This post will be me banging on about how fab Herefordshire is and I will let you know all about the big launch when I'm back in the office, but needless to say it didn't quite go to plan.

I'm from Herefordshire, Bishops Frome to be exact. For those who don't reside in the UK, or are a bit rubbish at Geography, Herefordshire is on the border with Wales and is one of the Marcher Towns. There is some great farming land here and people have been here since prehistory. Historically, Hereford was an important location for invading and subduing the Welsh right from the Romans. We have some fantastic castles and ecclesiastical buildings in the area but more on that to follow. Once the Welsh had been subdued, finishing sometime around the 15th/16th century, the castles began to decay as they were no longer needed and the wealthy families had started moving into more fashionable residences. Most of them were finished off in the Civil War (1642-1651) when the Royalists and Cavillers blew them apart with cannons. We were a Royalist area, as was neighbouring Worcester where famously Charles II supposedly hid up an Oak tree to escape the Parliamentary forces, and Hereford Castle was so badly damaged from Parliamentary cannons that nothing of it survives. After that we were pretty much left alone. Hereford is a bit out of the way, and we have always been famous for having the worst roads in the country, so besides wealthy Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian tourists visiting the Malvern Hills or Tintern Abbey, my ancestors just got on with thier lives until the arrival of the railway when we were finally re-connected with the rest of the world.

Our being disconnected was not a bad thing. We have some of the loveliest untouched villages in the country and the quintessential black and white buildings that Hollywood likes to pretend Britain is littered with, are 10 a penny. My paternal Grandad's family have one which he was raised in (photo below) and my Mum grew up in one. Herefordshire always has had a lot of cider orchards (the Cyder Bible was written here as a monk in the early medieval period at Hereford Cathedral replaced all references to wine with cider) and we are also famous for our Hereford Cattle. So that's Herefordshire in a nutshell. Rural, full of cider, cows and black and white buildings; just the way we like it! I'll include some pictures below so you can see how lovely it is here and give a quick run down of the best places to visit in and around Herefordshire.

The White House, Halmonds Frome. This is the house my Grandad lived in as a child. His sister and her family live there now. She's adamant the house has been passed through the female line since it was built in the 1560s. Privately owned; not open to the public.

Interior of the church at Great Witley Court. The house burnt down in 1937 and is just a shell but this fantastic interior and the equally impressive fountain is well worth a visit. House owned by English Heritage. Church free!
Fountain firing at great Witley Court. The statue is of Persus and Andromeda.
Hereford Cathedral. I spent a few months here excavating the Cathedral Close during the re-vamp. The Mappa Mundi is housed here and is a must see for anyone visiting Hereford. The tower is covered in little fist-sized balls which are apparently unique to this cathedral.

Goodrich Castle. A bit bashed by the Civil War but you can get on the battlements and up to the top of the keep. Owned by English Heritage.
Tintern Abbey. Medieval Cistercian abbey on the edge of the Forest of Dean. Painted by Turner. Owned by Cadw.
Ludlow castle during the Spring Food Festival. One of the best preserved castles I've been to.
Very important in the Marches history and well worth a visit especially during the Food Festivals! Independently owned.

Some more places to visit (not exhaustive) are:
  •  Arthur's Stone, Bredwardine. Neolithic chamber tomb right on the edge of Wales. It's a bit of a trial to find but well worth it for the view alone. Owned by English Heritage.
  • Eastnor Castle, Eastnor. Victorian stately home, if you are into that sort of thing. Independantly owned.
  • Castle Frome Church, Castle Frome. Saxon church with a wonderful carved font.
  • Ledbury, Malvern, Ross-on-Wye, and Weobley. Just a few pretty towns worth a visit.
  • Malvern Hills. If you are feeling energetic go for a climb, the views are spectacular. British Camp is a popular peak as it has a prominent Iron Age hillfort on the top which was used right up to the Norman period. There are other Iron Age settlements on the other peaks but this one is the most popular. Free (except the car park).

So there's a whistle stop tour of Herefordshire, and some of it's surrounding counties. Business as normal next week. be continued....

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