LOTS of children in our neighbourhood knew what was meant by the Swinging 60s.

It seemed that just about every big tree along the banks of the Yazor Brook had a piece of rope hanging from one of its branches.

The inevitable big splashes sometimes drowned out the much more subtle and measured one from the water vole.

It was just a gentle, but unmistakable “plop” as Ratty eased his way into the brook. April to October, it was quite common to hear that consoling sound about two or three times a minute; and probably the best place to enjoy the experience was precisely where a new fast road now whizzes through the area.

The road itself dates back 2,000 years, but despite objections from some homeowners about having a “motorway” on their doorstep, the multi-million pound project to redevelop the A4103 went ahead.

Fears over the habitat of badgers, bats and the endangered white-clawed crayfish were swept aside; and though the Environment Agency highlighted the likely effect on the flora of the area and the possibility for the water vole to carry on living in the Yazor Brook, Ratty’s days were numbered.

On the coming of the Hereford, Hay-on-Wye and Brecon Railway, the Hereford Times said: “Instead of going to the coach office in Broad Street, and paying down a considerable sum even for a seat on the outside, we have only to go to the Barton railway station, pay a trifling sum at the little window, receive the ticket courteously rendered, take our seat in the convenient carriages, and on a twinkling we are shaking hands with our friends in Hay.”

It was Victorian diarist Francis Kilvert’s favourite railway: “The people had mostly the sharp clear-cut features of the Welsh and spoke English very rapidly with a Welsh accent,” he mused.

The line came to be known as the Egg and Bacon Railway because of the farm produce that it used to bring into Hereford, especially on market day.

The line originally travelled from Brecon via Talyllyn, Three Cocks, Hay, Millhalf, Eardisley, Kinnersley, Moorhampton, Credenhill to Moorfields.

Most of these stations have disappeared entirely.

Moorhampton is a caravan club; Credenhill has been demolished and replaced by a social club.

As it ran into the outskirts of Hereford the railway line bisected the cornfields of Huntington and steamed past Mother’s Pride. The bakery was opposite the spot now occupied by Whitecross School.

Our walk crosses two of the bridges where our own Railway Children gathered in the 60s to wave goodbye to the train a century after Kilvert.

The grounds of Huntington Court feature a large fishpond which resembles a canal. It was created by damming the Yazor brook. A bridge across the western end carries the public road in the first part of our walk. The house has a walled garden on the northern edge and a lawn with an impressive Wellingtonia. A flowering Indian bean tree stands near the drive and the court is a designated conservation area.

Other than the odd interruption from a builder’s radio playing sounds of the sixties, the hamlet of Huntington is surprisingly quiet for a place so close to Hereford. But the walk is one of contrasts. There are ducks, swans and I’ve seen and heard “Fr-a-a-a-nk”, the grey heron.

We fleetingly experience the drone of traffic before reaching abundant birdsong at Wyevale Wood, via the new out-of-town livestock market. The paths are mostly level and well maintained and there are still fields of golden corn.

The railway has gone.

Ratty may be back on the Dore and the Monnow, but he’s gone from Yazor Brook. It is an ill wind blowing through his 21st century willows.

The Route 1. St Mary Magdalene Church, Huntington (Hereford). Huntington Lane, GR486 419. With your back to the spacious church car park, TL along lane, (wall L) and follow it left over Yazor Brook. At next bend, TR along the footpath and re-cross brook via f/bridge.

Follow this wide tree-lined, brookside path out through gate to pavement along the “new” A4103 carriageway. Cross road, slightly left, up Tow Tree Lane. Pass Hunting Brook Cottage and Hive House.

Where the lane bends right, go ahead along the bridleway for 100m.

2. Stile. TL across stile, down step, bear slightly R across field and cross Yazor Brook again VIA f/bridge. Go slightly L across crop field out through gate to road. Cross slightly left, and follow new pavement to right of Hereford’s new outof- town Livestock Market. Just beyond last building, The Cattle Ring, bear R over zebra crossing, with wire fence L, up through fenced channel and rise gently to cross the old Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway at parapet. Keep ahead, with Wyevale Nurseries to your R and climb stile at end of tree-lined footpath. Carry on 50m to King’s Acre Road, A438. Cross immediately to Conifer House and TR along pavement. Pass Breinton Lee.

3. King’s Acre Wyevale Garden Centre bus stop. Six paces beyond, TL along hedge-lined footpath (Church Walk to Breinton). Rise very gently, keep ahead at an elbow beneath Scotch fir to a footpath junction 30m beyond the entrance, on your left, to Wyevale Wood Nature Reserve. TL along bridle path just inside right edge of Wyevale Wood (the old Bishop’s Way). Keep ahead past Upper Hill Cottage, Drover’s Pond, and where surfaced path goes right by Weeping Willow, bear very slightly left ahead past entrance to Drovers Wood. Follow wide bridle avenue ahead, with a line of young trees left and hedge right, through gap at field division to next gap and field division.

4. Footpath sign-post. TL this side of hedge down right side of field (nice views across left to Credenhill and Badnage Wood).Follow R edge back down, R of houses via drive (to King’s Court)to King’s Acre Road. Cross road and go up Huntington Lane, re-cross old railway line and pass Huntington Court Farm staying on lane to church.