Bredwardine ‘the place on the slope of a hill’ – stands where a fine, six arched, 18th-century bridge crosses the Wye. The Norman church, extended and curved slightly to the north -in the 14th century, has the original font, hewn from a single block of stone, and two medieval effigies of knights. This was the parish of the mid-Victorian diarist Francis Kilvert. On the other side of the hill, behind the village, lies Arthur’s Stone, the famous Neolithic long barrow.
Booklovers come to this small market town set high above one of Britain’s most enchanting rivers, the Wye, to visit the largest secondhand bookshop in the world. The town, at the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. At one time Hay-on-Wye was a centre of the flannel industry, and the oldest part of the town with its narrow, winding streets and little shops is particularly attractive. The 19th-century church of St Mary includes sections dating from the 13th century; the ruins of the Norman castle can also be seen. Outside the town there are beautiful walks and passes through the Black Mountains, including the 1778ft Gospel Pass which leads to the ruins of Llanthony Prior.
Situated on the banks of the River Wye, Hereford was the Saxon capital of West Mercia, and a bishopric since AD 672. The cathedral is mainly Norman and decorated in style, notable for its red sandstone tower. However, much of the early building was lost when the West Tower collapsed in the 18th century. Of special interest are the fine brasses, the carved stalls and King Stephen’s 800 year-old chair. The chained library contains over 1600 books and the cathedral also houses a unique late 13th-century Mappa Mundi, which depicts the world, flat and centred in Jerusalem. Vestiges of the old town can be seen in the town walls and earthworks from the former castle a stronghold against the Welsh. The museum contains a Bronze Age tomb and finds from Iron Age forts and from Magnis, a Roman town at Kenchester 5 miles north west.
Modern Hereford’s importance comes from its administrative role in the surrounding farmland, famed for its cider and red and white Hereford cattle. To the west is the beautiful Golden Valley, and to the south spectacular stretches of the Wye Valley. The Saxon market centre of High Town and the Butter Market is now a shopping precinct and the town preserves many attractive 17thand 18th-century buildings, including the Green Draper house. David Garrick the actor and playwright was born here at the Raven Inn, and Nell Gwynne, the orange-seller who became Charles II’s favourite mistress, was born in the town; a plaque in Gwynne Street commemorates her. Every third year Hereford is host to theThree Choirs Festival, an event shared with the neighbouring cities of Worcester and Glouscester.
Leominster stands at the junction of the Rivers Pinsley and Lugg, in countryside chequered with ciderapple orchards and hop-fields. Today the famous Herefordshire cattle are exported all over the world from here, but the town’s traditional involvement is with sheep, for 13th-century monks bred the sturdy Ryelands Whose wool the fine-textured ‘Lernster Ore’ was in great demand until the 18th century. Ryelands were exported to Australia, New Zealand and South America. The grey stone, three-naved priory (founded, according to tradition, by Earl Leofric, husband of Lady Godiva, in the 11th century) has some fine windows and contains an old ducking stool once used for the punishment of nagging wives. Grange Court, a 17th century brick and timber house, originally served as the Town Hall and stood at the central crossroads, but it was moved to its present site in 1855.
Leominster’s architecture spans many centuries there are medieval buildings in the High Street, Tudor in Draper’s Row, Jacobean in Pinsley Road and Georgian in Broad Street and Etnam Street. The Leominster and District Folk Museum has displays of smocks, corn dollies and many agricultural implements.
Ross on Wye
Situated on a bend of the River Wye, with views of the Welsh hills, this clifftop market town has become a tourist centre for the Wye Valley. Dominating the market place is the gabled Market Hall which dates from the 17th century, and there are many Georgian and earlier houses lining the steep streets. John Kyrle (1637-1724) did much for the town, including giving a walled public garden, the Prospect, and a water supply. He also repaired the spire of St Mary’s Church, where he is buried. He is praised by Alexander Pope in his Moral Essays as the ‘Man of Ross’.
Wigmore lies at the heart of the Mortimer Forest, an area which the Forestry Commission has been re planting since the 1920’s. The hall has a two-storey gabled porch, and the church incorporates some fine Norman herringbone masonry and the Royal Arms of Queen Elizabeth I ; between the two buildings runs the village street, with its delightful groups of half-timbered cottages. Nearby stand the mound of a moated 14th century castle, the seat of the powerful Mortimer family, and the remains of a 12th-century Augustinian abbey.