A ramble through the Golden Valley

Garth Lawson takes us on his monthly exploration of the Herefordshire countryside

Garth Lawson takes us on his monthly exploration of the Herefordshire countryside

First published in News by

THE early part of this month’s walk along the Dulas Brook is a likely place to find the Grey Wagtail. Slimmer than other members of the family, with a long tail and confusing yellow plumage, it is less extrovert than the other local drinker: the Dipper swims, wades and walks on water.

In twice gaining the wide open spaces of Ewyas Harold Common, the mocking laughter of the Green Woodpecker is likely to accompany our later Trail Of The Lonesome Pine at (7).

Before Dore Abbey at (6) we cross the river which gives the Golden Valley its apt but inaccurate name: not really from the French ‘d’or’, but the Welsh ‘dwr’ for water. The Dore rises near the Wye above Dorstone and flows 12 miles to join the Monnow at Pontrilas.

The Abbey was founded in April 1147 as a Cistercian monastery.

By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, Dore Abbey was in decline and the property passed into the ownership of John Scudamore of Holme Lacy.

In the following 100 years, the monastic buildings and the nave either fell down or were demolished so that cattle were being kept in the ruins by 1633. In that year another Scudamore, the first Viscount and great-great grandson of the earlier John, decided to make amends for the years of indifference and neglect. He resolved to restore the Abbey, and the man he turned to was John Abel, master carpenter of Sarnesfield.

Abel really announced himself as a designer and builder in the 1620s with the erection of the town hall at Brecon and Lady Hawkins School in Kington.

In Abbey Dore, he put a new roof on the church, a new floor in the tower and created a new frame for the bell. Most notably, he carved from oak its remarkable renaissance screen.

Abel’s masterpiece was probably the prodigiously decorated market hall in Leominster. This enduring bequest was carved with imaginative and sometimes grotesque detail and displays his mastery of the art of timber-frame building.

Twelve years after the restoration of Dore Abbey, which was now a parochial church, the English Civil War was raging. The royalist city of Hereford was under siege from the parliamentarian Scottish Army of the Earl of Leven. The Governor of Hereford was none other than Viscount Scudamore’s younger brother, Barnabas.

After the destruction of his powder mill, Scudamore was hampered in his defence of the city by an inability to grind corn or make gunpowder. The man he turned to was ‘the only man in all the country to make mills’.

It was John Abel, master carpenter of Sarnesfield.

Thus enabled, the siege was doggedly resisted and King Charles himself rode into Hereford in September 1645. He conferred the honour of ‘King’s Carpenter’ on the man from the north of the county.

Living to the age of 97, Abel made his own tombstone for Sarnesfield Church and carved on it the tools of his trade and a valedictory inscription. The final good by “Mr Chips”.

Ewyas Harold, Dulas and Abbey Dore.

Village, brook, river, common, field paths, views and deer.

Five-mile moderate ramble with early muddy stretch.

Map: Explorer OL 13.

Public transport: Bus no. 440 (Mon to Sat).

The Route. (Avoiding ford across Dulas Brook).

1. Ewyas Harold’s “chippy”. From roadside parking opposite Temple Bar Inn, TR at Dog Inn along Dulas Brook, through churchyard and gate L into sports field. Follow fingerpost to gate R of changing hut. TL along drive and path L of bungalow across stile and another 30m half L. Follow L edge of field through gap then R edge to gateway R corner. Keep ahead along muddy stretch by brook beyond footbridge onto farm track to railway wagon 100m before farm buildings.

2. Railway wagon. TL along farm drive (Walk Mill) up over Dulas Brook to gate onto road. TR along road for about 700 paces. Pass Home Farm on the way towards Dulas Church. 50 metres before church, fork R along the drive to Dulas Court and follow the waymarkers through the grounds. Bear R through the outbuildings to the brook.

3. Dulas Court bridge. Cross Dulas brook again and TR in front of house through small orchard over stile by gate. Go half L along wall up bank to cross stile into wood. Bear R up through trees, fork R, then fork L at 3rd waymarker upwards, then down four steps over stream, up five steps over stile into field. Bear slightly R uphill to gain hedge and views. (R to L – Hay Bluff, Sugar Loaf, Edmund’s Tump, Garway Hill and Orcop Hill). TR along hedge, cross stile, through buildings of Cot Farm. Follow L edge and hedge, through gate or over stile, and bear R down field to stile onto common, with Garway Hill mast directly ahead on skyline.

4. Ewyas Harold Common. Go ahead over broad grassy avenue to pick up gravel track, fork R onto grass, then TR down gravel in front of ‘Hill Place’. At big ‘island’ of paths, TL before stone house through galvanized farm gate. Follow top L edge of field, above Dore Abbey, to ladder stile in L corner. Descend deer enclosure, picking up R hedge, to ladder stile to farm drive, and fork L off drive through gate by stone barn across paddock to gate on to lane.

5. Abbey Dore. TR down lane past bus stop to follow road sign for Wormbridge and Kingstone. Cross Dore bridge and pass Abbey Dore Court garden. Just beyond Old Post Office, TR onto ‘Herefordshire Trail’. Go ahead through kissing gate, bend R then L in front of river. TR over footbridge across field to Dore Abbey.

6. Dore Abbey. Visit Abel’s screen? Follow path L of church, through lychgate carefully across road to climb stile opposite. Climb field half L to stile hidden in top corner. Half L up next field through gap to cross stile L near top along path back on to common. TL over path leading to ‘New House’ and keep L along broad avenue. After 80m, TL to front of cottage with conservatory. Bend R along broadsward until the cottage behind you disappears after 300m.

7. Find Lonesome Pine. TR through gorse to locate pine with seat in memory of Nancy Hall, at high point. Pause. With back to seat drop down through gorse, past silver birch and cross path to chimneys of ‘The Prospect’. TL along gravel track to seat in memory of John Gwynn. Just beyond, fork R down path, over cattle grid, past ‘Old Rectory’ and TR in front of primary school to emerge by ‘chippy’.

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