OUR walk this month is all about two churches and a village that moved.

The first church, St Mary’s, was built in about 1130 to serve the parish of Kempley, a settlement half way between Much Marcle and Dymock, 17 miles from Hereford.

The simple but exquisite Norman church is owned by English Heritage and boasts the oldest timber roof of any building in Britain.

Its greatest glory, however, comes from housing some of the most important and well preserved medieval wall paintings in England.

These remarkable paintings were probably commissioned by Hugh de Lacy as a memorial to his father Walter, a Norman baron and veteran of the Battle of Hastings.

The ones in the chancel are particularly rare, dating from the early 12th century, and are the most complete set of Romanesque frescos in northern Europe.

In the 16th century, when images in churches had to be removed following the Reformation, the paintings were covered over with whitewash.

These treasures were rediscovered in the 20th century, and have now been cleaned and conserved. They give us a vivid reminder of a time when church interiors depicted stories from the Bible, the lives of saints, terrifying visions of demons and warnings of eternal damnation.

The low-lying situation of the church, however, makes it susceptible to flooding from the seemingly innocuous Kempley Brook; as the nerve centre of the parish slowly shifted to the higher ground at Kempley Green and Fishpool two miles away, so a forlorn St Mary’s gradually became isolated from the village it was designed to serve.

Our walk cuts a swathe through oilseed rape on the Daffodil Way, the pleasant woodland of Allums Grove, pasture and lane to the information kiosk at Kempley Green.

From there the route takes us to the Church of St Edward the Confessor.

Built on relatively high ground in 1903 as a chapel of ease, the church, unconsecrated until 1934, became the Parish church in 1975 when St Mary’s was declared redundant.

The church was funded by the Earl Beauchamp, designed by Randall Wells and built by local craftsmen using locally sourced materials. The building is important in architectural history for both its design and the internal ornament. It has also been dubbed a Cathedral to the Arts and Crafts Movement by John Betjeman.

The name of Beauchamp is writ large in the annals of Kempley.

Just before the end of the walk, in front of Kempley Court , an inscription declares that “this oak tree was planted on the 20th day of February, 1893 by the vicar and parishioners of Kempley in commemoration of the coming of age of William, the seventh Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court, Worcestershire”.

William Lygon was born in 1872, styled Viscount Elmley until 1891, and educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford.

He became Governor of New South Wales, Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms under Henry Campbell-Bannerman and served as a member of Herbert Asquith’s cabinet.

Thereafter, he was leader of the Liberal party in the House of Lords between 1924 and 1931.

Evelyn Waugh was no stranger to Madresfield and Earl Beauchamp is usually assumed to be the author’s model for his character Lord Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited.

Just as the fictitious Marchmain is compelled to move to Venice because of his adultery, so in real life Beauchamp was forced into exile in 1931 by personal revelations made about him by his own brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster.

Wherever his wanderings took him, being highly versed in the history and techniques of embroidery, he took his needlework with him to help relax a tormented mind.

Therefore, perhaps, the arts and crafts of St Edward’s Church are an appropriate bequest from a fallen man, fated to be remembered by his daughter Sibell more in the image of the tolerance he taught his seven children than the demons of damnation further down the parish of Kempley.

Hereford Times:

1. St Mary’s Church, Kempley.

Roadside parking for seven vehicles opposite church entrance. Facing church, TL along road past Old Vicarage, the drive to Friars Court and Stonehouse Cottage. Just before left bend, cross stile (R). Take middle of three options in crop field, signed Daffodil Way.

2. Cross the Kempley Brook by the stiled f/bridge. Bear L in wide field and go through walkers’ gate 9/10 of the way up L side.

Follow R edge around to R corner of field to cross f/bridge. Take near L edge, by pond, to skirt R of chimney stack. Cross neck of field.

3. Allums Grove. Go through k-gate into wood. Follow path, with new plantation on right, straight ahead over cross path. After 100m, TR for 100m and bear L along signed narrower path to exit wood by k’gate. Follow R edge of meadow down for 100m, reenter wood (R) via k-gate and TLalong near edge of wood down to exit again via f/bridge into large paddock. Bear R to cross stile and follow outer edge of wood to reach road through gate.

4. Road to Kempley. Follow quiet road ¾ mile past The Moors, Brooklands Farm, Upper House, Camomile Cottage and Little Hoopers to Powell’s End Farm.

At bend, TL into pasture across stile. Follow L edge/hedge across stile and, after 100m, TL through farm gate. Now follow R edge in original direction up past Folly Farm. Carry on up restricted byway to main thoroughfare.

5. Kempley Green. Turn sharp right past memorial and information kiosk. (Fine views). Carry on down the road past the Village Hall to 6. St. Edward’s Church. (Visit).

Carry on down road and turn right at Old School as if for Dymock. At the oak tree, turn left off road through k-gate. Follow straight right edge footpath towards distant Kempley Court, with two chimneys and three eaves. When you reach the hedge line crossing from the left and a gap leading to the farm complex, go left, instead, across a scrubby field to the left of Kempley Court.

Emerge at the footpath sign on to a road at a corner. Go ahead to the Commemorative Oak and turn right for St Mary’s Church.