Category Archives: Herefordshire

Leominster

Leominster Old Market Hall, under creative commons by sally-parishmouse. Click pic for link.

Leominster Old Market Hall, under creative commons by sally_parishmouse. Click pic for link.

There’s a segment of the west country that sits across the borders of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, that’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite parts of the country. When I look on the map I come to the conclusion that its borders would be difficult to define: certainly it incorporates the Teme valley through Ludlow and Tenbury, the Clee Hills and down to the Severn below Worcester. It would also stretch north to the Longmynd and Church Stretton, and probably as far up as Shrewsbury. If I go that far I’d have to include Bridgnorth, oh, and Ironbridge, then down the Severn valley through Bewdley with a detour to the Kinver/Clent area, taking in Stourport, then right down to Upton and back west to Great Malvern and Ledbury. The problem is, every time we find a town/hill/river/misc. scenery that fits just outside that area, we’d have to push the envelope until most of those three counties are included.

Leominster does fall squarely in this lovely part of the world, though, on the A44 between Hereford and Ludlow – Welsh mountains to one side, lush Elgar country on the other. Towns around here are pretty well-heeled, with plenty of local produce markets, antiques shops (Leominster is very well-stocked on this front) and the like. There’s an Aldi here, but the Cooperative is bigger. Nevertheless, the usual image of charity shops being the last desperate resort of tatty town centres is far from true here – no less than nine charity shops nestle alongside antiques markets and secondhand shops, making Leominster a bit of a destination for vintage-seekers.

We visited for a second time this past Saturday afternoon, in the pouring rain. St Michael’s Hospice and another unnamed animal shelter shop were as closed as they were last time we visited, but a pile of others were open. The bulk of charity shops cluster around the high street, which splits into two narrow roads. Here you’ll find large Debra and YMCA shops, both of which include some furniture (although not much). There’s also Tenovus and British Red Cross on this stretch, then it’s just a matter of nipping along one of the side streets into Corn Square where you find Oxfam and British Heart Foundation.

Down the hill is Broad Street, which is pretty much that – a wide street with a barometer shop, rows of antiques markets and the ubiquitous shabby chic reclaimed furniture stores, who will quite cheerfully ask £85 for a decoupaged G-plan bedside table that would cost you £5 to reclaim and make for yourself. The antiques centres are pretty good mind – we’ve bought beautiful rugs from here before now, and even in this Age Of Austerity I could have bought a pile of records. As it turned out, I came out with just a Dubliners album – but After The Goldrush was cheaper here, too, than it was in Keswick Oxfam.

Back up and along West Street there’s a fairly nondescript Sue Ryder, and one of the more tempting shops of the town, Utter Clutter (which, if I overheard correctly, is closing soon, so get at those half-price vinyls). I came out of there with more Bruce Springsteen vinyls at reasonable cost.

There aren’t any spectacular charity shops in Leominster, but there’s certainly a decent enough volume. It’s a lovely little town though, in a lovely setting, so I can cheerfully recommend your visit.

Find: Leominster Google Maps
Get there: Leominster station is a little outside the town centre, but not too far.
Consume with: Savery’s is a nice little caff, with some mega cakes.
Visit: Leominster’s in the heart of the Lugg valley – small and very pleasant, and near to much of olde worlde Herefordshire.
Overall rating: four melamine bowls

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Filed under 4/5, Herefordshire

Ross-on-Wye

Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, by Cross Duck. Picture used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, by Cross Duck. Picture used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

Sitting in the bar of the Royal Hotel overlooking one of the Wye’s circuitous meanders, munching on fish and chips and generally wiling away time is, it turns out, an extremely pleasant way to slow down a Saturday afternoon. Typically for an English summer’s day, the fluffy clouds of lunchtime turned into a damp afternoon in Ross; later on, a plucky country music festival on the grass below will be entirely flooded by a massive thunderstorm – I suppose par for the course when you’re this close to Wales.

Ross considers itself a home of the British tourist trade – the first guided boat tours took in the Wye from Ross, the first tourist guide was published in 1782 about the river. It’s no wonder, really: situated on the edge of both the Forest of Dean and the Herefordshire countryside, Ross is a stone’s throw from the Malverns, the Black Mountains, the Bristol Channel or the cathedral cities of the West Country. And Ross itself is a desperately quaint little market town with pride in itself and its environs. Helpfully, it’s bursting with charity shops, making even a rainy stop-over worthwhile.

The town centres on its stilted Market House at the top of Broad Street. From there you can proceed uphill along the High Street towards St Mary’s church, the Royal Hotel or the Phoenix Theatre, past an array of locally run, independent shops. Particularly interesting looking were Waterfall Antiques, and Truffles deli, stocking an impressive 90 local ciders, arranged by distance from the shop. The opposite direction is Gloucester Road and here you’ll find St Michael’s and Acorns hospice shops. The former provided me with a speculative purchase of a Henning Mankell novel, introducing me to Inspector Wallander, off of the telly. Let me go on the record now to state that it was rubbish.

It’s the steep main drag, Broad Street, that houses most of the charity shops. You’ll find British Heart Foundation, Barnardos, Oxfam, Sue Ryder Care, Cancer Research and AgeUK lining the street and if you can’t find a bargain in there, you may well be blind. Ross is a tiny town that punches well for charity shops. It’s certainly one of the most agreeable visits you’ll find location-wise and you’d be daft not to have at least a little look.

Find: Ross-on-Wye Google Maps
Get there: Ross is a little bit like hard work if you haven’t got a car: you’ll need the train to Ledbury, though there’s plenty of buses from there.
Consume with: we had lunch at the Royal Hotel – perfectly serviceable, great location, decent price.
Visit: like history? Try Goodrich castle. Like nature? Try Symond’s Yat. Like walking? Try the Forest of Dean. And so on.
Overall rating: four Fat Face shirts.

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Filed under 4/5, Herefordshire

Special Dispatch: The Big Chill

Mr. Scruff's Tea Tent at The Big Chill Festival. Photo from The Big Chill website.

Mr. Scruff's Tea Tent at The Big Chill Festival. Photo from The Big Chill website.

I am typically not a frequenter of music festivals: in fact, in my burgeoning middle-aged resentment of culture I have all but given up going to most concerts. London gigs are hard work: probably you have to schlep out to Hammersmith or something, and wade through crowds of inebriated scenesters only to have them talk over you for the whole concert. And so on. But The Big Chill was an invite it would be rude to decline and in fact, turned out to be rather lovely.

The Big Chill is not like an ordinary festival. It’s not in a grim suburban field but a beautiful deer park in deepest Herefordshire. The toilets are cleaned regularly; there are children scampering around collecting your used cups (good on whoever came up with a 10p cup deposit); food is not hot dogs and expensive burgers but boureks and mint gunpowder tea, or jerk chicken and fair trade coffee. Things to see eschew bucking broncos, dirty campers and Kings of flipping Leon, instead featuring art installations, Spencer Tunick’s naked people, Massive Attack, Mondo Cane and Gregory Isaacs. And best of all was Mr Scruff’s tea tent.

It seemed only appropriate then that amongst the furry hat stalls and the bubble wand stalls and the Action Aid chuggers was a sizeable Oxfam tent distributing festival wear to the fashion-conscious. Wellies and footwear in abundance of course, as was par for a festival in which the weather was never exactly certain. But not only this, an entire stand for leather and tweed; a wedding dress corner; a trough, literally, of wigs and hats. And, most usefully, a stand full of waterproofs in various wacky hues and shapes. My constant charity shopping companion (now officially The Wife Herself) made good use of a fantastic, granny-styled waterproof which proved extremely useful when sitting in the cold outside the Revellers tent because it was full of Plan B fans.

Much as I hate every other person generally, there was a lovely atmosphere at the Big Chill and the Oxfam tent is really just an excuse to wax enthusiastic about a fun time. I recommend.

Find: The Big Chill @ Google Maps
Consume with: Mr. Scruff’s Tea Tent was my highlight of the weekend – the excellent tea was accompanied by some awesome-smelling brownies and a view of ducks in a pond. Most charming.
Visit:
maybe the Victorian Funfair, or the art installations of the Enchanted Garden.
Overall rating: four jester hats

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Filed under 4/5, Herefordshire