Day 4 – Phoar

The temperature soared, so that it even felt hot when we were just starting out.  Here’s the group for the day, posing at Pudleston;   

Me, Ruth and Dave all ready for the off

Dave heroically signed on for another day of attempting to improve my woeful navigational skills, and we welcomed Ruth, who proved to be an invaluable asset of which more later.

So, once Dave had prevented me leading us all off in the wrong direction at the very start of the day, we were up and running heading off once more into the truly magnificent Herefordshire countryside.  Ruth proved to be truly eagle eyed at spotting stiles way off on the other side of huge fields, which was a massive help, so, working as a team we made good steady progress.  Even the field margins were co-operating with us until we found one which was slightly congested.  We powered on through and decided that then was the time to take our break, in the shade, by the side of a country lane.  The peace and quiet was wonderful, all you could hear was the sound of insects and birds – and Dave’s mobile phone as he did a bit of tent pole repair business…..

Up and off and at em once more we headed across more fields – oil seed rape and maize were the crops of the day with a bit of wheat thrown in.  We also spotted some amazing patches of orange hawkweed which Dave expertly identified.

Orange hawkweed aka Fox and cubs

On through a lovely cooling patch of woodland, then through a field of maize, across a stream, up another couple of fields and suddenly we were alongside the A44 on the outskirts of Leominster.  Luckily the path soon took us along the banks of the River Lugg which again was much cooler, along an impressively strimmed path.  A couple of horses popped over to say hello to Ruth.  Through some Woodland Trust land, under the road, past some truly beautiful underpass art;

Magnificent mosaics just outside Leominster

Then it was just over the river and over the railway and suddenly there we were – the White Lion at Leominster, an oasis on a baking hot day.  Never has a pint of lemonade and lime tasted so good, nor a seat in the shade of a beer garden been so welcome.

Reluctantly we tore ourselves away to complete our journey in the heat of the day.  The long walk out of Leominster was hot and sticky so we turned off down a lane in anticipation of a cooling time in the countryside on the Black and White Villages trail.  Sadly the first track we were supposed to go down was so overgrown as to be impassable so we did a Dave detour and were soon back on track. 

Whether it was the heat, the company or the fact that he had a train to catch back to Shrewsbury, but Dave was suddenly a man possessed, striding ahead, route finding for us all – Ruth and I by this stage were nothing but grateful.  Particularly as he walked calmly through a field of stampeding heifers as if nothing was happening!  This was our view of him as we approached Monkland Church – you can see the spire behind his head; 

Dave leads the way!

Once over the exceedingly bendy boardwalk at that stile, we finally made it out of the farmyard to find our faithful Skoda driver waiting our arrival.  He’d brought along some sweet peas I’d picked from the garden that morning, and I left them on the grave of my Gran and Grandad, as he was an expert sweet pea grower;

Gran and Grandad

Grandad was a great gardener, Gran was a great walker – in fact her walking pace was the equivalent of running for most people.  We miss them very much and I think they would have equally bemused and amused by the Amble!

And so the end of day 4 photos – one of me resting on the magnificent lych gate, sweaty and unkempt in my ridiculous (but effective) hat;

Made it to Monkland!

and finally, the team, at last able to sit down in the cool of the All Saints Monkland porch at the end of a hot but happy day.

Happy to be at All Saints, Monkland!

Huge thanks to Dave and Ruth for being such good company throughout the day and to Dave in particular, partly for enduring 2 whole days, but mainly for all the help, support and education – I owe you several pints of Butty Bach!









Day of Three Churches

Wednesday dawned fair, in fact in weather terms it was the best day yet.  In fact it was a pretty fabulous day all round, thanks to the scenery, the weather and my wonderful companion for the day, my mate Dave.  Here we are back in Bromyard, looking fresh and raring to go……

Me and Dave at the start of day 3

As we headed out of Bromyard via the industrial estate, it quickly became clear that this was the day when Dave was going to take my map reading education in hand and try to develop in me all the skills I so obviously lacked as I attempted to take us off in totally the wrong direction.  Throughout the day, he enlightened me in the way of field boundaries, the need to always be looking ahead and anticipating problems, the need to look around you and verify where you were heading with reference to more than one factor ie don’t rely on just the waymarks – and loads of other top tips and wrinkles.  It was a lesson in navigation, which I greatly enjoyed, but which I’m also sure will stand me in very good stead in the days to come. Thanks Dave!

Walking the Herefordshire Trail was a dream compared to the nightmare that was the Three Choirs Way – here is photographic evidence of just how nightmarish it was…..

Yes, that really is the path…….

Today, by contrast, was field edges only one of which was very overgrown and nowhere near as much as the above.  We headed first for Edwyn Ralph, one of my favourite Hereford village names.  Took our first break in the churchyard there, as churchyards have benches, and I took a gander inside and was immediately reminded of Berrow by these good people….

Effigies at Edwyn Ralph

Maybe relations of our own headless lady??

We continued after the break on across fields, squeezing between sileage bails, coping with path re-routing and even surviving the interest of a herd of cows, including a fine specimen of a Hereford bull.  As ever, Dave had a tip for this, just keep going and it worked!

Arrived at the Velvet Stone with new houses going up and had our break squatting on their newly laid kerbside.  Then it was keep straight onto the end of the road, enjoying the fab farmland, the quiet, the space and the amazing views.  Eventually we came to a stretch of road walking, during which we passed by Hatfield St Leonard, the second of the days 3 churches.  I now discover its one of the 3 oldest churches in Herefordshire, dating from well beyond the Norman Conquest, but I confess we didn’t go in, being by this time more anxious to make it to our third church of the day, St Peter’s, Pudleston and rendezvous with our lift.  We made it there with 5 minutes to spare, bringing to an end a very enjoyable and educational days walk.

End of day 3 and we’re still smiling!














Day Two – Phew!

Day two start – Julian and me

Well, that was pretty epic!  Little did we know as we stood back in that layby what lay ahead – and that Julian’s choice of shorts was to prove particularly unwise……It was a tale of perseverance in the face of unbelievable obstacles, of not giving in to temptation and of keeping on keeping on until we finally did make it to Bromyard (spoiler!).

It all started very well – beautiful morning again, we were on time setting off, on time when we perched a top a stone slab protecting the grave of George, a local farmer, who had opted to be buried in the middle of the woods opposite a venerable old oak.  We even managed to make it through the dodgy route finding part of the day, and came upon a lovely cheery farmer as he cleared a path through his wonderful crop of potatoes for walkers to follow.

And then, gentle reader, we arrived at the Three Choirs Way, to quote Julian, the most poorly maintained footpath he has ever had the displeasure to travel along. Finding a Three Choirs Waymark was an event, finding our way along paths blocked by nettles, brambles and very long grass with waymarks hidden deep in hedges was a challenge.  But we kept on going, even when the phone battery failed and I couldn’t get the charger to work (even though I actually had but I didn’t know it) we kept on going with Julian valiantly navigating via the trusty paper map – you can rely on paper!!!  I think the zenith of the experience came when we literally had to fight our way through undergrowth taller than I am, over a stile, into a cornfield which had no margin for walkers at all – so I channelled Teresa May and we marched, rather than ran, up the field.

The hours ticked by and we were way behind schedule, but then blessedly, blissfully we left the terrible Three Choirs Way behind us and came to the rather lovely – and waymarked, and mowed – Herefordshire Trail – hoorah!  This was more like it, hop fields and orchards and all manner of loveliness. 

Julian amongst the hops

Then, arriving on a narrow lane, within sight of Bromyard, what did we espy but a familiar looking Skoda – Mike, being the hero that he is and I think a little concerned that we’d now been walking for about 7 hours, had come to give us the option of finishing the day early because of all the problems we’d faced.

However, neither Julian nor I wanted to quit with the end in sight.  So we trogged on – why miss the good walking when we’d made it through the atrocious walking!  Mind you I might have regretted that a bit as I huffed and puffed my way up the last hill into Bromyard…But we made it.  It took us the best part of 8 hours, but we kept going, and in the end as the photo below shows, we made it to Bromyard – day two done!

The end of a long day!