With the sad loss of the late Maurice Harvey in 2005, who started the coach holidays, Peter Foden of Tall Trees, The Spinney, Winthorpe, undertook the task of organising future holidays.
Friday 28th April - With Gary Elvey, our coach driver, 45 people from Winthorpe and the surrounding area set off for a 4-day break to Hereford, in Herefordshire.
Herefordshire is an agricultural county, famous for hops, fruit farming and the production of cider. A coffee stop was made at Bridgemere Garden World followed by a lunch stop at Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Our stay, in Hereford, was to be the Green Dragon Hotel with its 87 rooms. Behind the building's impressive façade, added in 1857, this historic coaching inn dates back to the 16th Century.
Saturday 29th April - With a local expert guide on board the coach we set off for a day's tour around the ‘Black and White Village Trail.' This 40-mile circular trail of the northwest part of the county passes through a rich landscape of orchards, hop yards and distant hills, taking in the most picturesque black and white timber-frame houses. The oak framework of these houses is painted black and the panels in-filled with plaster and laths, painted white.
Passing through Leominster, with its town rich in historic buildings and the 14thCentury Priory Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, which is renowned for having three naves and a ducking stool, we stopped at Eardisland. This beautiful village has many half-timbered cottages alongside the River Arrow, the oldest of which dates from the 14th Century and was originally a school. The 12th Century Church of St. Mary The Virgin with its square tower stands proudly in the village centre.
Our pub lunch stop at Pembridge was opposite Ye Olde Steppes, which date from about 1528-1564. These steps lead to the 14th Century Church of St. Mary The Virgin, which is one of the few churches in the country to have a detached Bell Tower. This dates from the same period and is reminiscent of the stave churches of Norway. The timber-framed building of the Old Market Hall, close to the church, which is merely a covered market, with oak pillars supporting a stone slate roof, has been dated to 1520. Behind the Old Market Hall is ‘The New Inn.' Ironically this inn is one of the oldest in the county dating from the early 17th Century.
Our next stop was a visit to the 13thCentury Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Eardisley. The Norman Font, carved out of local sandstone showing the scene of the Harrowing of Hell, was probably made in 1140.
We were guided to our last stop of the day by the 185 foot spire of the 14thCentury Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Weobley, which is the only spire to be supported by little flying buttresses connected to pinnacles rising from the tower. Weobley, famed for its crooked medieval buildings has many dating from the 7th Century and is one of the finest of the Black and White villages. In its museum the curator, who incidentally was our coach guide, told us that witchcraft was still practised here during the 18th Century.
We know how to pick a guide?
Sunday 30th April - Today was a 72-mile tour of the Wye valley going through Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire in Wales. This is an area of natural beauty with spectacular limestone gorge scenery and dense ravine woodland made more beautiful in the bright sunshine. Passing through The Forest of Dean and Chepstow that has the Capital racecourse of Wales and a Norman castle, we had our coffee stop at Tintern Parva in Gwent. Overlooking the town and the beautiful Wye valley was the graceful ruin of Tintern Abbey. This 13thCentury Cistercian Abbey was once a favourite spot for artists and poets including William Wordsworth.
Continuing our journey, we called at Symonds Yat, six miles from Ross-on-Wye, for a lunch stop. This was followed by a five-mile cruise on the beautiful River Wye. The route took us through the Wye Gorge, passing the 500 foot high Symonds Yat Rock, a viewing point for peregrine falcons, to a hand-pulled Rope Ferry across the river before returning.
This was a nice way to end a day?
Monday 1st May - The day started off with a visit to Hereford's Cider Museum, just a short distance from our hotel. There we explored the story of traditional cider making, how apples were harvested, milled, pressed, and how the resulting juice was fermented to produce cider. Some of the cider making exhibits on show were used on farms 300 years ago. Before leaving the museum we all sampled brands produced by the museum, Cider Brandy, Apple Aperitif and Cider Liqueur.
The afternoon was spent in Hereford Cathedral. A cathedral has stood on this site since Saxon times. The present building, which dates from 1140, comprises some of the finest examples of architectural excellence from Norman times up to the present day. The award winning Mappa Mundi and Chained Library Exhibition houses both the spectacular medieval map of the world and the Cathedral's Chained Library. Here the stories of these national treasures are told through models, original artefacts and the latest computer technology.
Tuesday 2nd May - Following a leisurely breakfast, we departed Hereford for our journey home. This was a steady journey calling again at Bridgmere Garden World for lunch before arriving in Winthorpe in time for tea.
Pat Finn. June 2006.