Saturday, 13 August 2011

Our holiday in Herefordshire

We decided to go away for a few days, into the countryside, to "get away from it all"... We rented a self-catering cottage in the village of Pembridge, not far from the town of Leominster in Herefordshire. This is at the extreme Western side of England, close to the border with Wales. For those of you who don't know the UK, this is a really rural part of our country, where food-production is still a major element of the local economy. Actually, the biggest industry in this part of the country seems to be the making of the apple-based alcoholic beverage Cider! There are apple orchards everywhere, and at this time of year they are laden with fruit.

This is our holiday cottage: it's a part of a complex of building initially built in the 15th Century, called "West End Farm" - though there is apparently no evidence of it ever having been a farm!

West End Farm, Pembridge

"Ours" is the bit immediately to the left of the archway. Despite the old-fashioned appearance, the property is actually very comfortable (though it is also right next to a busy 'A' road). We had planned to have a very "Foodie" holiday, making best use of the local produce, but we have been a bit limited by the cooking facilities in the property, which are very basic. Nonetheless, we have enjoyed things like the famous Herefordshire beef, and the local sausages made with pork from outdoor-reared Gloucester Old Spot pigs, and cheese from a tiny artisan cheese-factory which we visited in Monkland (about 5 miles away).

Cheeses maturing in the Monkland cheese-factory

Pembridge is a very picturesque village in the heart of the "Black and White" area. Lots of the houses look like this:

"Black and White" house in Pembridge

I have to say that the sky was not that blue much of the time during our week away. The weather was very "changeable", and not like August should be!

During our stay in Pembridge we made lots of short outings to visit local attractions and places of interest, for instance the charming village of Eardisland, where the village shop is located in an old dove-cote:

Village shop at Eardisland

Being members of the National Trust (non-UK readers: this is a charity organisation that preserves heritage buildings and areas of natural beauty) we took the opportunity to visit one of their properties that was nearby - Berrington Hall. This imposing but rather stark edifice was built in the 18th Century using the local red sandstone rock, which has darkened as it has aged.

Berrington Hall, main entrance

This country mansion was originally built for a wealthy banker, Robert Harley (after whom Harley Street in London is named). Since Harley had no male heirs the property subsequently passed, through marriage, to the Rodney family (as in Admiral Lord Rodney, victor of the battle of The Saints in 1782). I was most interested in the gardens of this property rather than the house itself, and I will do a post about them some time soon.

Kitchen garden at Berrington Hall

On another day we visited the Water Gardens, just a couple of miles from Pembridge. As the name suggests, this delightfully informal garden is one in which water features very prominently - perhaps modelling itself to a small extent on Monet's garden at Giverny?

Water Gardens, Lyonshall, near Pembridge

The "Monet" bridge
I was most impressed with the huge number of insects and butterflies in this garden. I saw more butterflies in this one garden in an hour than I have seen elsewhere all year! I'll inevitably be posting some photos of them soon...

Continuing our horticultural tour of Herefordshire, we also visited Hergest Croft, near Kington. This is not a stately home but nevertheless a very substantial house built in a wonderfully secluded spot, evidently ideal for gardening. Highspots for me were the greenhouse (at left in picture below) housing some fabulous Fuchsias, Pelargoniums, etc, and the amazingly huge walled kitchen garden. Again, a more detailed report will follow at some stage.

Hergest Croft

Fuchsia at Hergest Croft

Another venue I have long wanted to visit was Stokesay Castle. Actually it is more of a fortified manor house than a castle. The earliest part of it dates back to the 13th Century. Currently in the care of English Heritage, the property is in an amazingly good state of repair, considering its age. They made houses to last in those days, you know!

Stokesay Castle
 This is a carved wooden frieze over the fireplace in the solar (aka private dining room):

Wood carving at Stokesay Castle

This post has already developed into a longer one than I had planned, and it has strayed from my usual topics, so I'm going to stop now, but I plan to write more about (and show more photos of) some of the things we saw (and ate) and lovely gardens we visited, on a later occasion.

Back home today! :-)


  1. Beautiful post. I envy you getting to vacation in such a lovely, historical place. Looking forward to more photos. Egretta

  2. And a lovely post it is too! Off topic or not, this is a wonderful diversion. I chuckled when you said they made houses to last in those days. Apparently they made them with archers slits as well!

    Thank you for sharing your holiday!

  3. What a lovely place to visit. I like the water garden. We don't have that much water here.

  4. We're in the National Trust too but our visits are limited when we go on holiday as many don't allow dogs into the garden areas. It's really frustrating as some even provide facilities for dogs and others just ban them completely. I did email the NT and say they should have reduced membership for dog owners as we were discriminated against but they weren't interested.

  5. I'm on the edge of my seat, I can't wait to read more. While there are many beautiful aces here in Japan the English countryside and architecture win hands down. Glad you had a great break

  6. Oh wow Mark, I loved the post and the photo's were brilliant. I feel like I've had a quick trip home. We're just about to come out of winter here in Melbourne, so it was a lovely treat to see the UK in all its glory. Thanks ;D

  7. Ooh, looks lovely. I am just planning a holiday over Easter to this part of the world and was checking out if Berrington Hall is worth visiting. Did you like it? I'm a bit of a house-visitor extraordinare but I was wondering if this part of England is a little lacking... Do you have some links to where you stayed (in return I'll tell you I'm over at Robin

    1. Hi; This is the place we stayed: Nice cottage, but next to a busy road used by lots of big trucks! Berrington Hall gardens were nice, but I not remember much about the house. In a blogpost I wrote that it was ineresting and had a good guided tour, so I must have liked it at the time!


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