Saturday, 15 October 2011

Away-Day 2011 - a Tour of Herefordshire

For the last two years Dave Bodley (of Grand Manner) and I have had some great trips or Away-Days researching various historic building and museums. Previous days out have included a visit to Hessen Park in Germany and a day out at Weald and Downland Museum in Sussex.  This year our plan was a grand tour of the Welsh Marches stretching from Chepstow up to Chester. As the plans grew and grew and the Summer was coming to an end we decided that we had 'bitten of more than we could chew' and as realism struck home we  revised our Away-Days to have a day out driving around Worcester and Hereford and trying to see the main historical buildings that are in our back garden.

I planned the day and as late as the night before I was worried that we had not included enough to fill even one day.  I should never have worried. As it was we covered about 60% of the planned route!

Starting at Droitwich Spa, Worcester the first stop was Lower Smite to see this beautifully restored farm building. It sits on the side of a small hill which allows access to a below-ground store. I believe that the reconstruction work was carried out by Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove, but the building once finished has been allowed to stand on its original plot.

Next it was on to Warndon to see this 17th Century church.  St Nicholas' Church, Warndon has a restored wooden bell tower attached to an older stone built church.  Our first bit of good fortune was that the 'key holder' was doing his rounds and when we told him what we were planning on our away-day we were allowed access to both the church and the tower.  The tower interior showed signs of how the original had been built and was a great benefit to us as model makers.

Back into the car and through Worcester (We are planning another Away-Day for Worcester - seeing the traditional black and white buildings and a visit to The Commandery, so no stopping this time). Onto St Johns where we spent time examining both the reproduced Wooden-Framed house next to the Co Op superstore and then Alfred Taylors House where Dave was allowed to see and photograph the beautiful painted wall murals.

Heading South we drove to and then through Upton-on-Severn and out towards Ledbury.  On the hill climb up and over The Hereford Beacon we stopped and visited The Little Malvern Priory.  We had not planned this visit but it was one of the highlights of the day and very well worth a visit.  A small priory situated on the steep slopes of The Malverns with stunning views and an equally stunning interior.  A major plus is that situated to the West is a large Manor House with a Tudor black and white tower.

We drove in to Ledbury at about noon and with plans to have a pub lunch were looking forward to a quick walk around and a glass of local cider.  The weather was glorious and after parking at the back of The Feathers we emerged into bright sunshine and a crowded market square where a Continental Market was taking place. Two hours later (and still no cider) we were still exploring the fantastic array of buildings and regional architecture.  I think the highlight for me was the visit to The Butchers Row Museum where once again we spent time speaking to the curator about our plans and different historical buildings in the area.

The licensee of The Talbot, seeing us taking photos, asked us what we were doing.  When we told him, he asked if we would like to see the oak-panelled dinning room and showed us where 'buck-shotte' holes still marked the framing.

After a quick stop in Hereford City Centre where we walked around the Old House (a very prominent and ornately decorated building in the centre square) we had a quick snack (sandwiches which we had brought with us) a visit to The Hereford Model Centre and then made our way up to Leominster.

Our first major detour from the plan was a visit to Canon Pyon where I took this photo of a restored Dovecote.  the overwhelming memory of the day will be the strong and sweet scent of apples - it seemed that everywhere we went the scent of freshly picked apples and fermenting cider tantalised both out taste-buds and our nose.

Later we came across a second dovecote and as we were photographing it - along came the farmer (with over a hundred sheep in tow) to question us.  A couple of minutes later and we were pointed in the direction of further historical buildings.

Further North we visited Weobley - a town just crammed packed with traditional wooden-framed houses. If you have never been, make plans now - it is a fantastic day out.  This house was undergoing some extreme repairs and re-structuring.  the builder was saying that it would be completely rebuilt and used for holiday rented accommodation.

As well as the new carpentry, the archway (behind the white van) was being re-cobbled.

Weobley has dozens of wooden-framed buildings and if you have ever seen Grand Designs you will know of the town as one of the programmes follows a young couple and their modern house build while trying to blend-in with the local style.

From Weobley it was up to Pembridge and as the sun began to set we saw more timber-framed houses while following the black and white trail.

Our plan to move on to Leominster and then down to Bewdley never materialised as the day was now over. Similarly visits to Stokesay Castle (thanks Chris) and Brockhampton will have to wait for another Away-Day!

It is clear to Dave and I that our ill-conceived plans to do the whole the Welsh Marches in a day were totally unrealistic, equally even this short journey of less than 100miles succeeded in pointing out the folly of trying to cover so much in one day.  I came back with hundreds of images which OK may never be modelled. But the inspiration is quite marvellous and proves that in Worcester and Hereford you are never far from some beautiful history.  We are very lucky.

Maybe next time we will have time for a pub meal and that pint of cider.



Christopher said...

These really are a joy. I live in Bromsgrove, not far away, and one of the benefits is the huge number of well preserved half timbered buildings you come across on pretty much any cycle ride in any direction.

Chrsitopher said...

ps It's Stokesay castle- with an "a".

Tony said...

Thanks to Christopher for the update - I have changed the spelling.