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27th September The Three Counties Tour
Today Brent & Mary of Dunedin, NZ, left their Hereford guest house for a tour of the three border counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Our first stop was the idyllic market town of Ledbury where 6' 4" Brent struggled with some of the sixteenth century doorways! We followed a town tour, Ledbury heritage centre in Butcher's Row being a highlight, along with the magnificent St Katherine's church.
Next it was off to "Glos" and the historic town of Tewkesbury, nestling beside the River Avon. The site of one of the decisive battles of the War of the Roses, Tewkesbury bristles with old buildings and a modern vibrancy. The Bell Hotel gave us a good lunch and the abbey was fascinating. Edward, Prince of Wales, the Lancastrian heir to King Henry IV, was killed at the battle and is buried here, surrounded by the triumphalist regalia of the "Three Sons of York".
Worcestershire next and the Malvern Hills in particular. These "mini-mountains" look spectacular in outline and sport far-reaching yet contrasting views. To the west lay the misty hills of Herefordshire and beyond the brooding Welsh mountains. To the east, however, lies the flat lands of the Severn Vale and the cathedral city of Worcester, final resting place of King John. Having literally taken the waters as they sprung from the hillside, we visited the abbey church perched on the steep slopes of Great Malvern.
Returning to Hereford via the former home and church of Mary's grandfather, we had had a thoroughly stimulating day of conversation, history and humour. Click here for Brent's take on the two days he spent with Rob!
24th September - Borderlands "The Vale of Ewyas"
Today Brent & Mary from Dunedin, New Zealand revisited old haunts with a tour that explored where Jeff last visited, on his bike in 1973!
We left The Charades Guest House, Hereford and headed for the remarkable Kilpeck chapel and castle. This site encapsulated the troubled border regions where Briton, Saxon and Norman tussled for dominance as Welsh kingdom, Ergyng, Saxon kingdom, Mercia and eventually the all-conquering Normans strove to dominate this land "below the March Wall".
After a visit to the impressive Dore Abbey, we headed up the beautiful Vale of Ewyas, exploring St Martin's Church, Cwmyoy before reaching the serene site of Llanthony Priory. On up the valley via St Mary's chapel at Capel y FFin brought us to the stunning Gospel Pass, where we delighted in views across the Wye valley to the misty heights of Mid Wales.
21st September - Kington Walking Festival
As part of this year's festival, Rob joined Nigel the chair of the festival to lead a walk based on the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust's Birches Farm at Kingswood, near Kington. The walk explored three nature reserves and yielded a fantastic amount of fruit and fungi foraged from the abundant hedgerows.
12th September Castles and Forts Tour
Milton and Jan from Cazenovia, NY, joined Rob for the 'Castles and Forts' tour. Based at The Piggery, outside Hereford, Milt, a retired professor and Jan, a retired teacher, were keen to learn more of the history of the Welsh Marches. We progressed through history starting at the Silurian tribe Iron Age hillfort at Aconbury Hill. The Saxon, later Norman motte & bailey at Kilpeck proved a fascinating stop with the enigmatic church as enticing as ever. Dore Abbey, some of which survives today as a parish church was an unplanned bonus. Then we crossed the border with the Three Castles of Grosmont, Skenfrith and the White Castle giving an intriguing insight into the Norman conquest of these lands, much fought over between Briton and Saxon (aka Welsh and English). Finally one of the last true castles to be built in Wales, Raglan, proved to be a fitting finale to the day. Milt and Mary enjoyed it so much, they asked Rob for another day's tour!
13th September Ewyas and the Black & White villages
From Hereford again we headed out to the Vale of Ewyas, where the upalnds of the Black Mountains meet the Herefordshire lowlands. Today we visited St Martin's church in Cwmyoy, parts of which are leaning more than the tower at Pisa! LLanthony Priory reminded us again why William de Lacy and the Augustinian monks were attracted to this place. Aesthetically there can be few better locations for quiet meditation and prayer. Capel y Ffin, where St Mary's chapel was once in the orb of the Rev Francis Kilvert, was our next sojourn. Over Gospel Pass, where men were once persuaded "to take up the cross" and we dropped down to the Wye valley and the bustling town of Hay-on-Wye.
Clyro, with its connection to the Victorian diarist, Rev Francis Kilvert, proved a diverting stop before we launched out on the Black & White Trail (mini-version). Eardisley for lunch (the wonderful NewStrand Cafe), Kington, Pembridge, Eardisland, Dilwyn and Weobley were all visited before the day was out. A full day's tour - exhausting but exhilirating!
10th September - a Monmouthshire tour.
Debby & Jeff, from Phoenix, Arizona were staying at Pen y Bryn House, Llangorse when they realised that they would prefer a guide for the day to show them around the area. They called Rob and we had a great day visiting sites such as the remote church at Llangasty Talyllyn, the bustling locks at Llangynidr and Raglan Castle before lunch. The Lion Inn, Trellech proved, once again, to be a fine example of a country pub. Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle more than filled the afternoon as we explored this historically rich area of Wales.
3rd September - Owain Glyndwr Tour
Tony & Tina from Port Talbot undertook an historical tour of the life of Owain Glyndwr. Starting at Presteigne, we visited his birthplace of Sycharth, near Oswestry, his home near Corwen in the Dee Valley, Dolgellau and Machynlleth, the site of his first parliament. On our returm to the Radnorshire town, we visited the site of the Battle of Bryn Glas, Pilleth, where Glyndwr defeated the men of Edmund Mortimer.
The Glyndwr tour was one of a number of specialist historial tours that we offer at Exploring Mid Wales.