Hergest Ridge/Offa’s Dyke Path.

Hergest Ridge/Offa’s Dyke Path.

We have been to Hergest Croft Gardens, near Kington, a number of times but we had never been further up the lane to Hergest Ridge at the top. It was now time to change that.

We took our normal route to Hergest Croft Gardens but instead of turning into their car park we went straight past to the end of the lane where we parked and continued on foot through the gate along Offa’s Dyke Path.

Hergest Ridge straddles the English and Welsh border and is part of the Offa’s Dyke walk as well as a standalone highlight in any exploration of Herefordshire.

If you decide to start at the main carpark in Kington a modest climb of 1300 feet up from the quaint town will bring you to this point, where we started, and we continue through the gate on the Offa’s Dyke Route.

Heading for the top the views emerge all around and, as you walk, run, or cycle along the beautiful moorland, you may chance on wild ponies grazing , we didn’t see any, but we saw some wonderful views.

There were numerous people walking up here and you can probably see that Offa’s Dyke Path is well worn and, therefore, easy to see and follow.

There were plenty of wild flowers about and we saw this Tormentil and Gorse on the way up.

From the ridge you can look across to the Black Mountains and even as far as the Malvern Hills, with uninterrupted English and Welsh countryside landscapes all around.

Look out for the Victorian racecourse that sits atop Hergest and imagine the thrills and spills as the horses galloped around the track. As we approached the summit we could see the Monkey Puzzle Trees ahead. This area is part of the Hergest Estate and the trees were planted by one of the owners having seen similar trees growing on mountain tops in Chile in the early 1990’s.

You should also see the Whetstone near the summit, a natural stone, which in medieval times was used as a place to distribute food to people suffering from leprosy. Legend has it that the stone rolled down to Hindwell Brook each time it heard a cock crow. but it doesn’t attempt to explain how it managed to get back up the hill again.

Amanda giving an idea of the stone’s size.
The Whetstone and the Monkey Puzzle Trees.

On the way down we noticed this tree in blossom. Although the blossom is pink we think that it’s a Blackthorn.

This was an easy and very pleasant walk on a warm sunny day.

Fifty Shades of May

Fifty Shades of May

After the short grey days of winter it’s a relief to see colour appearing once again. The Rhododendrons in our garden are now displaying their flowers.

However if we drive half an hour south to Kington in Herefordshire then Hergest Croft Gardens put our little show to shame with a veritable explosion of colour.

There are plenty of Bluebells in Park Wood adding to the colour.

There are also some splendid views to be had from the higher ground in Park Wood.

What’s knot to like?

Even when the petals start to drop there is still plenty of colour.

So ends a refreshing walk around just part of their 70 acres of garden.

High & Low – First Trip of 2021

High & Low – First Trip of 2021

This trip took place on 30th March 2021 and this Blog Post is obviously late and there will probably a few more posts that will also be late.

Welsh travelling rules have recently been relaxed so it was time for a day out. We weren’t going far, just 16 miles to the high ground near Newtown and although the road is a typical narrow, winding Welsh backroad it didn’t take us long. We parked in the little free car park at the start of the Kerry Ridgeway which runs for about 15 miles to Bishops Castle although we weren’t going anywhere near the distance.

This is where we stopped and shows the Knighton-Newtown road with the little car park to the right and the start of the Kerry Ridgeway path along the side of the road. The Kerry Ridgeway is one of the oldest paths in Wales probably from the time of the Bronze Age.

We started up the path and soon reached the bend where the path turns away from the road and continues uphill.

As we had started from high ground we had good views almost instantly although it was very hazy.

We walked further along the path looking for the Cross Dyke and soon found it. We couldn’t really miss it could we?

The Cross Dyke, just beyond that wooden post, crosses our path and the next picture shows the twin banks heading downhill towards Newtown and the following picture shows them running down to cross our path and join the top picture of the two below.

The Cross Dyke marks an ancient boundary long since forgotten but, rather like Offa’s Dyke, they took a lot of trouble and effort to build it.

Nearby are the Two Tumps which are Bronze Age burial mounds. There is one on the left, just poking above the far horizon, and one to the right of that, and a little further back, with the far horizon just showing over the top.

We headed further up the path as far as this viewing point which has information, hill names etc., to identify what you can see around you.

It was now time to leave the Kerry Ridgeway, as we had more to do, so we headed back down the path admiring the views on the way.

Along the path I spotted a small area of tiny flowers and there is also a daisy to give a scale. Difficult to identify precisely because there are so many different varieties but it probably is a member of the Whitlow-grass group.

We soon arrived back at the car having been serenaded by Skylarks along the way. We drove towards Knighton for no more than a half-mile and parked in a large layby next to a landscape feature know as ‘The Ring’.

The Ring is a geographical feature caused by the River Teme eroding the bank and causing the higher ground to collapse and then the collapsed soil to be washed away. This picture was taken from road level on a previous occasion and the river is partly in flood producing this waterfall.

On this trip it was relatively dry with little water flowing.

This is the Ring itself. It’s called ‘The Ring’ because it is shaped like a large semi-circular amphitheatre.

We decided that we needed to climb down to look more closely at the waterfall which was at the bottom. It is not safe to climb down just anywhere because the sides are generally far too steep. So we had to visually plot a route down and then set off. The route we followed proved to be quite easy and it didn’t take us long to reach the river.

There was just a trickle of water over the waterfall, which is a pity, so we shall, perhaps, have to try again sometime when it is a bit wetter.

This is the River Teme, the same River Teme that flows through Knighton, heading off from the waterfall down the valley towards Knighton and we now hope to do the same. All we have to do is get back up to the road. We did that without incident, although slower than coming down.

The end of our short, but interesting, trip.

Kington Kaleidoscope.

Kington Kaleidoscope.

We went to Hergest Croft Gardens again recently to see how the autumn colours were progressing and to say that we were blown away, if I might use the vernacular, would be an understatement. The colours were astonishing!

Having looked around the main gardens we walked across ‘The Park’ to ‘Park Wood’, both of which are parts of the Hergest Croft Estate, and we went as far as the Pond. I’ll leave you to be the judge of these scenes.

And now we see Amanda in a blue jacket and red trousers with matching tree.

Having walked on the path around the pond, and its upper valley, we were walking back towards the Pond when we saw this.

We haven’t seen anything like it before. It was a series of trunks arranged in a circle around a central trunk and the trunk material looked to be the consistency of cucumber; nothing like wood. The growth at the top of each trunk was something like feathery leaves. The trunks have obviously been deliberately cut back as part of some sort of maintenance. I’m hoping that someone from Hergest Croft will see this and tell us what it is.

( Hergest Croft later told us that it is a Gunnera i.e. Giant Rhubarb.)

Personally I think that it is a Triffid.

We then left Park Wood and walked back across The Park, which looked lovely in the sunshine, towards the main garden.

Having got back to the main garden we saw, on the ground, a lot of large leaves from a nearby vine of some sort and I have deliberately included my boot to give an idea of scale.

Well that was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting visit. They haven’t seen the last of us yet!

Surprise, surprise!

Surprise, surprise!

Not far from us is a little village called Shobdon and it is known locally for its ‘International Airport’. By ‘International Airport’ I don’t mean anything like London Heathrow. Oh no. It is a small local airport from which one can charter a light aircraft to fly one to Europe. There is not a lot of traffic and very little noise.

People, including us, generally dismiss it with ‘Oh the international airport’ and nothing more. However, just recently, we discovered ‘Shobdon Arches’ and had a surprise – well two surprises actually.

Shobdon church was rebuilt around 1750, replacing the original 14th century church, and it looks a nice little church although fairly ordinary; that is until one goes inside.

The interior is a surprise and anything but ordinary.

It has been described as “a complete masterpiece of English Rococo” and “the finest 18th century church in Herefordshire”. The style is known as ‘Gothic Revival’ and is clearly influenced by Wallace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, London. The amazingly intact interior and matching furniture are the sole example of this Walpolean Gothick style of Georgian church architecture and furnishing.

Having been thoroughly amazed and enchanted by this church’s interior we left to look for the ‘Shobdon Arches’ and started along this rather nice avenue of trees.

Nearing the top of the hill we could see the arches at the top.

Arriving at the top of the hill we find our second surprise; these amazing arches. When the original 14th century church was demolished the chancel arches we removed to this location as a ‘folly’.


In the last picture it can be seen that these carvings have weathered disasterously which isn’t surprising as they were originally from the interior.

These carvings are the work of the Herefordshire School of Romanesque sculpture which was a group of master masons working in Herefordshire and Worcestershire during the 12th century. They were heavily influenced by carving seen in churches and monasteries in south western France. Their distinctive ‘Romanesque’ sandstone and limestone carvings are to be found in several parish churches in the area, notably Kilpeck, but also Eardisley, Leominster and Castle Frome.

Well worth the short trip.

Autumn’s Palette

Autumn’s Palette

Once upon a time there was a little seed which fell onto the soft earth. It felt quite at home there and decided to settle down. Over the years it was sustained by sun and rain and slowly grew.

Some years later we stumbled upon it.

Towards the end of September we visited Hergest Croft Gardens again which is where we found the Purple Beech and what a magnificent tree it is. We have one of those growing in front of the house and we keep it trimmed to prevent it from growing to that size and blocking all the light from the front of the house. I wish we had the space to let it grow.

This fruit is growing on a tree and I’ll give you one guess as to what the tree’s name is. You’re right – it’s a Strawberry Tree.

There were plenty of other trees bearing colourful fruit.

There are also a number of trees in Hergest Croft Gardens which have rather interesting bark.

There were also some impressive, large, fungi.

There are still flowers at this time of year as this Azalea shows. Quite a large colourful specimen.

Flowers are not the only source of colour as the leaves on the trees are starting to turn.

On this trip we saw, growing along both sides of this path, even more Naked Ladies than on our last visit.

This was a rather striking bush where the leaves were much more noticeable than its tiny white flowers.

There is so much to see here that we plan to make a number of return visits and, being in Kington, it is only a 30 minute drive from us.

Do you want to see any more of Hergest Croft Gardens?

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Today we go home. Originally today was forecast to be dry but cloudy instead we have another bright sunny day.

On the way back we intend to visit two churches. Both are exceptional and each one is quite different from the other.

The first church is in a tiny hamlet called Michaelchurch. The church is small and rather primitive. so what’s exceptional about this church? Well we need to go inside for that.

I’m sure that you will have heard the expression “The writing’s on the wall” well that expression applies to this church – literally!

The church is a listed building and was founded in 1056 with alterations being made in the 13th and 17th centuries. However the real interest are the 13th century wall paintings together with some writing from the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is some of the later writing which includes the ten commandments.

The earlier 13th century painting is red and white and must have originally covered the whole interior including the interior of the window alcoves.

That church was astonishing. We have never seen so many 13th century wall paintings in any one building before. Certainly worth a visit and only 5 miles north west of Ross-on-Wye.

We are now going to venture another two and a half miles slightly east of north to the village of Hoarwithy, itself only three and a half miles from Ross-on-Wye.

The grade 1 listed church here couldn’t be more of a contrast with Michaelchurch. This is a Victorian Church built around 1878 in the Italian Romanesque style which was described by Pevsner as “the most impressive Victorian church in the county”.

The church has an imposing campanile of four storeys, with an open arcaded ground floor both of which are visible in the photograph. The church is of sandstone and a north porch, on the left, is linked to the arcades of the campanile by a loggia.

The carvings along the arcade are impressive but, because they are carved from soft sandstone, some of them are weathering badly.

This next carving shows the greek characters Alpha and Omega and you can see that the part of the carving near the camera is more weathered than the part furthest from the camera.

This Logia is particularly nice partly because of its construction, including the tiled floor, and partly because of the view beyond.

Unfortunately the church was closed because of Covid-19 so we couldn’t go inside this time. Hopefully we will be able to re-visit another time.

Well that was a nice 3-day trip and it was very welcome. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Ross-on-Wye was a lovely little town and we’d hope to go back one day and the Forest of Dean is big and there are lots of places we haven’t yet seen so we’ll want to return for another multi-day visit. Until then ….