Descending Hergest Ridge towards the town of Gladestry, Wales, just over the hill.

 

Ascending Hergest Ridge, near Kington, England.


Kington & Hergest Ridge,

Herefordshire

12th - 14th November 2010

[1]

Old School Bunkhouse, Kington, England.

  Situated in the west country of England in Herefordshire lies the village of Kington. The town is in the shadow of Hergest Ridge, which traverses the border between England and Wales. Located in the town is the Old School Bunkhouse. My last visit to this wonderfully cosy Youth Hostel was way back in 2004, though I suspect that the hiking club may have been back there since.

Notwithstanding the stunning beauty of the region, I acquired an added interest in Hergest Ridge when I discovered that it was here that Mike Oldfield once lived and flew radio-controlled aircraft, at the time when he recorded his second album of the same name.

Prior to leaving on this weekend hike in 2010, I had made an initial enquiry to John Adams for a lift. John normally has the sometimes thankless task of acquiring all provisions for the weekend. specifically for breakfast Saturday and Sunday, and so I think that much of his effort goes unnoticed or is taken for granted.

Martin is chiefly responsible for planning ahead and ensuring that we have bookings secured a year in advance. That leaves Steve as Mr Moneybags, so to speak. In fact our breakfast Sunday took a novel twist when we had an AGM and the financial state of the club was made clear to one and all, a sign that it was more than just alive and kicking.

It was a healthy turnout on this occasion, 24 persons in total! Some new faces came along too in the form of Nicole Canuet and her husband John Humphries. Nicole is also employed by the company whose name the hiking club bears, thus, along with Gordon Farquhar and myself, increasing the company membership, radically reduced in recent times with the departure of Maeve Weber, to three. There was also the welcome return of Heather White and Ruth Baker, who had been invited to the club by Vanda, photographer extraordinaire, who sadly missed the trip.

John had planned to travel down to Kington earlier in the week, as he always does, along with Bernard Gardner and Tim Porter, thus taking advantage of the time to get in a number of walks, all three being retired and therefore with much time on their hands probably being a perception rather than reality. The call was for a 06h00 departure from Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday of that week. Since my trip to Patagonia in March, my available had dwindled to the extent that I preferred a lift with Gordon, who was leaving on the Friday morning, at a somewhat more reasonable hour, I might add. And so it was that we headed down the highway around 09h30. Kington in Herefordshire is an historic market town on the English/Welsh border, and though on the western side of Offa's Dyke, it has been an English town for a thousand years. The destination was the Old School Bunkhouse, located in Victoria Road, a gorgeous rambling double-storey red brick building with the loos so large you could probably just fit a camping bed in it. As usual, I was allocated my own room (for reasons, see instruction which states "earplugs are recommended"). The room allocation was as follows:

 

Peter Groves

Flintsham 1 X 2

Anne Young

Herrock x 5

tbc

Flintsham 1 X 2

Phil Newton

Herrock x 5

John Adams

Tramway x 4

Nadine Matthias

Herrock x 5

Tim Porter

Tramway x 4

Stuart

Herrock x 5

Bernard Gardner

Tramway x 4

Chris Platten

Rushcock x 4

Gordon Farquhar

Tramway x 4

Angelica Platten

Rushcock x 4

John Robertson

Hanter x 4

Matthew Platten

Rushcock x 4

Steve Rogers

Hanter x 4

tbc

 

Peter Mathews

Hanter x 4

Nicole Canuet

Bradnor 1 x 3

Martin Lighten

Hanter x 4

John Humphries

Bradnor 1 x 3

Heather White

Hergest x 4

 

 

Ruth Baker

Hergest x 4

Maeve Weber

Titley x 5

Sandra Bird

Hergest x 4

Andy Weber

Titley x 5

Julie Hastings

Hergest x 4

tbc

 

 

Gordon and I made good time, with no bad traffic to speak of and arrived at the hostel in the rain, around 14h00. Peter Mathews and his Labrador Abby had got there just before us and given that we only due to check in around three, we all agreed on a walk about the town centre to pass the time. Peter was on a reconnoitre in search of suitable small properties on behalf of someone. At a local greengrocer up the High Street, I bought some delicious sweet dates and even went back for more. We ended up extending the walk to the perimeter of the town along Bridge Street over the River Arrow and back along a section of the A44 before re-entering via Victoria Street.  Our search for a quality restaurant or pub for dinner yielded results that may be best be described as adequate and we settled on the Oxford Arms just up the road. Beautiful though the surrounding country side certainly is, I would suspect that business in the area has been hard hit by the recession. After settling in and waiting for others to arrive, we first popped in at Ye Olde Tavern, a delightful little pub towards the A44 side of town that might easily be mistaken for a residence, to wet the backs of our throats. Having that afternoon tucked into my remaining sandwiches I'd packed for the road, I was content with just a soup for dinner.

 

View down towards the High Street, Kington, from Victoria Street, the Oxford Arms on the right-hand side.

 

St Mary's Church, Kington, on the hillside overlooking the town; The hiking group setting off up Church Street, Kington.

 

The Oxford Arms is an old coaching inn dating, in parts, back to the 17th century.  It was formerly known as The Salutation but was renamed The Oxford Arms at the end of the 19th century in honor of the Earl of Oxford who owned the Inn and a lot of the surrounding land. The Oxford Arms is mentioned in Pugh’s Hereford Journal in the 1770’s where the Commissioners appointed by the Act of Parliament for repairing several roads leading into the town of Kington met at The Oxford Arms on Monday 3rd December 1790 at 12.00noon.  This was presumably a meeting of The Turnpike Trust. The Oxford Arms was a coaching inn, which meant that horses were kept ready for timetabled runs as opposed to posting inns where horses were at the ready all of the time.  As early as 1786 a coach left the Oxford Arms each Friday at 5.00pm bound via Hereford for London, it arrived at midday on the Sunday. By 1826 mail coaches began running from Kington to Leominster and in 1835 to Aberystwyth and the London mail coach could by then complete its journey in 17 hours.   Also in the summer months a stagecoach from Worcester arrived at the Oxford Arms three times a week on Mon, Wed & Friday returning on the following day. By the 1840’s, the railways were being constructed and in 1841 a stagecoach called Little Wonder went from the Oxford Arms to Hereford to catch another one called Mazeppa in order to catch the train at Cirencester.  In 1845, a stagecoach called The Rover, left the Oxford Arms each morning at 6.00am and arrived at Birmingham in time for the trains leaving for all parts of England.  It returned the same day. 

 

Along Ridgebourne Road, where the road eventually peters out into a track that leads up onto Hergest Ridge.

 

Views from Hergest Ridge across the "border" into Wales.

 

  

Pony trailer descending the rutted path along Hergest Ridge.

 

View back towards Kington along Hergest Ridge Path.

 

The path on Hergest Ridge crosses the "border" into Wales - the sign point sthe way to Offas Dyke; View back towards Kington.

 

Ponies on Hergest Ridge.

 

Pond in the Welsh sector of Hergest Ridge.

 

 

 

Views from Hergest Ridge.

 

The Oxford Arms has had its share of bad press over the years. One of its landlords was transported for forgery. Another landlord’s wife committed suicide in the Arrow, drowning her baby at the same time. An event secribed as an "awful calamity by an explosion" took place on 5th August, 1862. A certain Mr. Henry Meredith, ironmonger for many years kept a quantity of powder for blasting rocks in a shed attached to a barn in a field adjoining the Oxford Arms, northward of Duke Street.  The barn consisted of 4 or 5 bays and was built partly with wood and in part with stone, the roof was tiled, Workmen had been repairing the building for some days and there was hot lime on the ground close up to the building. At a quarter to four o’clock in the morning of the 5th day of August the powder by some means became ignited and a most awful explosion took place.  The Writer R Parry was in bed at the time and saw a vast column of fire rise up towards the heavens and a dark cloud of smoke spread over the Town.  The windows in nearly all the houses were broken instantaneously and also in many houses in other streets.  The frames were broken in pieces in many instances and doors taken off their hinges.  The Oxford Arms suffered greatly on both sides and not one house in the street escaped.  All were damaged more or less and among the number the writer’s house suffered to a great extent.

The building in which the powder was placed was erected about the year 1835 at a cost of 400 and several sheds were added afterwards.  The whole building was cast down level to the ground and portions of the timber were hurled to a distance of upwards of a quarter of a mile.  The roofs over some buildings were thrown off, especially the roof over the Oxford Arms barn.  The windows of some houses in the Square at Common Close were broken and ‘The Fancy Hall’ erected at Sunset by John M Milner suffered to some extent by having the windows broken.  The windows in several houses in High Street were broken and one or two in Church Street. The shock was felt at the Broken Bank on Bradnor Hill, at the Wych and at Old Kington.  The report, like that of a cannon, was heard several miles away from the Town.  There can be no accurate estimate of the damage but according to calculations made so far it cannot be less than 1700 or 1800.  Many houses were shaken as if an earthquake hade occurred and people ran about the streets not knowing what to do.   On the day previous to the 5th August several barrels of powder were sold from the building, otherwise the whole of the inhabitants of Duke Street and probably the whole Town would have been buried in ruins.

 

XDescending the Hergest Ridge path towards the town of Gladestry, Wales, just out view.

 

Views from the descent into Gladestry, Wales, in the direction of Huntingdon

 

The descent into the town of Gladestry in the Welsh Marches along the B4594 leaving the town.

 

The town of Gladestry, the Old School House, situated along the Offas Dyke path to Hay-on-Wye.

 

  

View back towards Hergest Ridge, Galdestry and the B4594 from the Offas Dyke Path.

 

 

Along Offas Dyke Path ascending the hillside away from the farm at Wain Wen, Gladestry.

 

 

Lunch just above Wood farm and Wain Wen below Cefn-hir, along the Offas Dyke Path, Wales. Top L-R: Phil, Maeve, Andy. John (Adams), Ruth, Heather and John (Robertson).  Lower (L-R): Sandra and Peter (Mathews), Nicole and John (Humphries), Steve.


 

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