Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the joy of leading a hike on the newly relaunched Herefordshire Trail.
It was 7 am on a gorgeous Friday morning as I met up with my fellow walkers in front of the Old House in Ross, destination Hoarwithy.
The Trail itself was Herefordshire’s first circular walking route when it was opened in 2004. It was deliberately designed to open up parts of the county rarely seen, and to be a destination for tourists as well as local people.
But unfortunately over the years the Trail had fallen into a state of neglect, until its relaunch this year as a collaboration between Herefordshire Council, Herefordshire Ramblers and Visit Herefordshire, under the superb leadership of Helen Bowden at Orphans.
As we headed along the gorgeous Ross Rope Walk, past Wilton and on to Bridstow, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. With our brilliant guides Ruth Waycott and Nick Critchley from Wye Valley AONB we kept up a lively pace, and a lively level of banter, some of which, I regret to say, may have dwelled on current politics.
But it was impossible not to be struck by the beauty of Herefordshire, as vistas over the River Wye gave way to meadows, pasture and fields of wonderfully neat rows of potatoes.
After Peterstow we headed for Sellack, and while the others took a break at Sellack Church I ran ahead to the little beach by the suspension bridge, leaped into my swimming trunks and went for a dip in the Wye.
The river was low and brown, testimony to the burden it is carrying of phosphate pollution. But even so it was a joy to swim in, though I hope the sight of their local MP didn’t alarm the morning dog-walkers!
Finally, we reached our destination, the stunning Romanesque church of St Catherine in Hoarwithy, with its arcade of warm Italian sandstone.
We had done just 7 miles in three hours or ao, out of the full circuit of 154 miles of the Herefordshire Trail: a fabulous walk, a fabulous chance to talk to friends, a fabulous way to stretch one’s legs and enjoy this glorious countryside.
Not for the first time, I found myself thinking how extraordinarily lucky we are to live here, and I have such natural splendours or our doorstep. And I found myself thanking all those who had had the energy and focus to bring the Trail back to life again, for the benefit of all.
Published in the Hereford Times and Ross Gazette