AWAY from the hurly-burly of jumps racing, the beautiful black and white village of Pembridge is home to a Gold Cup winning champion jockey. Its native river, the Arrow, rather than flying straight to its lover’s heart, plots an altogether more meandering passage through the low-lying parish. The reluctant waterway, indeed, has all the vagaries of The Coffee Pot – or, as it was otherwise known - the Leominster & Kington Railway. Speaking in 1907, a commercial traveller complained that he had waited six hours on the platforms at Pembridge and Titley. “How would you like to travel on this line every day of your life”? he was asked. “I think I should lose interest in things and become a disappointed and morose man.”

Our latest, leisurely walk explores a fertile land which offered no major engineering challenges when the railway was built. It was mostly at river level and the local roads intersected either by level crossing or small stone and brick bridge. On Monday 27th July, 1857, the opening ceremony saw two large engines and 1500 people crammed into 32 carriages arrive at Sunsett Station in Kington. The 13¾ mile journey took just under two hours.

Three weeks later the railway opened for regular passenger and good services with the first train from Leominster reaching Leominster at 7.30 am. The stations in between were at Kingsland, Ox House, a private station for the Bateman family of Shobdon Court, Pembridge, Marston Halt and Titley Junction. All the station buildings were substantial and at Kington, Titley Junction, Pembridge and Eardisland they included a stationmaster’s house. At Kingsland and Pembridge the house comprised a kitchen-living room, a scullery, bathroom and coal house on the ground floor, with two bedrooms and a box room above; it was also in alignment along the platform with the station building. By 1874 a journey from Leominster to Kington took 40 minutes and the Hereford Times was suggesting that the new railway would bring “harmless amusement to those classes whose lot it is to spend most of their time in confinement and toil”.

Market days would see Kington choked with sheep and black cattle, which were driven from miles around to be loaded on to trucks for Leominster and Hereford Markets. Farmers arriving at Titley Junction were particularly asked to come early with their animals and to clean any droppings off the platform before the passengers arrived. The line ran through a high concentration of Hereford cattle-rearing farms, including The Leen at our Point 3. Consequently, on market days seven to eight cattle trucks were hitched to the regular passenger service. Parcels for a well-known farmer were regularly delivered to a rendezvous point and rolled-up bundles of the morning papers were flung out of the passing train at pre-arranged places.

The only part of our walk involving a high vantage point is the commanding churchyard. St Mary’s, Pembridge, probably owes its present appearance to rebuilding by Roger Mortimer IV, head of the Mortimer family who held the adjoining manor house from 1265 until about 1425. Mortimer, the 1st Earl of March, who would become de facto king of England for three years, married Joan de Geneville here on 20th September, 1301; his daughter Blanche married Sir Peter Grandisson in the newer church in 1330. We met Blanche in her Sleeping Beauty mode at Much Marcle last month.

But what of our morose man’s mood - did it improve when he asked a railway guard “if he knew Kington”? “Yes”, said the guard, “I live there”. “What’s about the population”. The railwayman eyed the traveller with suspicion. “I couldn’t say at all - I never took no interest in it.” “I goes home and sits by the fire and only minds my own business.” “ But I only wanted to know about the size of the town”? “They asked me once how many there was in a village I lived in and I said 500. Then they told me there was only 47. I’m no judge of figures and I never like to give wrong information, so I never tells people what I don’t know, like many of them does a-putting people into wrong trains and telling them it’s the right one just to make ‘emselves look as if they knowed all about it. I never says unless I knows.” With an acknowledgement to The Day The Trains Came, Helen J. Simpson. 1997.


1. Pembridge Amenity Trust free car park with toilets. Leave. TR past King’s House to Café on Bridge Street. TR along near pavement, across the Arrow, past Bridge House, along road for 100m. Cross stile (R), arable field and footbridge. Follow long pasture to far L corner. Go half L across paddock, to corner L of Twyford.

2. Pass through k-gate and TL along lane to road junction. Old railway station at Pembridge. (You can see the tree-lined old railway line leading to this point.) TR past Station Cottage across the old line and TL as if for Staunton-on-Arrow. (As lane bends left, an old arcaded goods barn is the other side of trees. This shed at Pembridge is a particularly handsome brick building with decorative Gothic arches, each surmounted with a dressed keystone.) Reach

3. The Leen a quarter of a mile from the station. TL along wide path past watermill. Continue ahead at path junction back across the Arrow. Go 50m to track intersection. TL to face up track, BUT bear R across meadow to far R corner. Cross stile on to raised embankment of

4. Old Leominster & Kington Railway. Cross line and drop down over two stiles which are next to the Rowe Ditch. Bear slightly L across pasture towards telegraph pole and cross stile just beyond. Follow L edge up to corner, through gate to Byletts Cottage. Fork R down track and further R over Curl Brook, 170m. TL through k-gate. Go gently up pasture, R of tree, to far R corner, through k-gate to road.

5. TL for Pembridge. At New Inn, go R past market hall and Court House Cottage. TL into St Mary’s to information board by old motte and bailey. Half circle church anti-clockwise. TR down drive (with views to upper Mortimer Country). At Ye Olde Shoppe, TR back to park.