First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
There were exciting times in medieval Ewyas Harold, back when the Welsh Borders were aflame with insurrection against their Norman/English overlords. The church tower, squat and small-windowed, looks more of a fortress than an ecclesiastical construction, and the tree-smothered mound on the outskirts of the village once held a castle built by the Earl of Hereford as a stronghold against the Welsh.
Today all is peace and quiet hereabouts. Goats graze the castle meadow. On the pasture slopes as we walked west, a muscular bull in a gleaming grey pelt stood lord of twenty slow-munching brown cows. At Platch the farmer came to his gate to point out the path. ‘See those white buildings in the trees across the valley? That’s where I was born – so I haven’t moved far!’
The sharp profile of Ysgyryd Fawr stood up on the southern skyline as we skirted Wigga farm. Down in the valley below, Rowlestone church lay modestly beside the lane. You’d never guess from the plain northern aspect of St Peter’s what artistic treasure lies within.
The master masons of the Herefordshire School of Sculpture created a 12th-century masterpiece in this humble spot. Over the south doorway Christ sits in glory inside an oval mandorla. Angels swing joyously on its frame like children in a playground. A Green Man with Medusa curls of foliage stares manically alongside. Inside, carved birds flank the chancel arch where St Peter and an angelic friend are depicted right way up, then upside down. The details have stayed remarkably sharp over the 900 years of these sculptures’ existence.
From the flowery churchyard (early purple orchids, cowslips, violets, milkmaids) we descended to the Cwm Brook, with a flock of frantically bleating sheep at our heels. A beautiful stretch of meadows beside the brook, a green lane leading to the banks of the River Monnow among delicate white flowers of meadow saxifrage – a rarity in this part of the world – and we were cresting the last hill outside Ewyas Harold.
There are lively times still in this small village. A hundred locals in party mood had descended on the Temple Bar Inn, and their animated talk and laughter drew us irresistibly in.
Start: Temple Bar Inn, Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, HR2 0EU (OS ref SO 387286)
Getting there: Bus 440 (Abbey Dore – Pontrilas)
Road – Ewyas Harold is signed off A465 (Abergavenny-Hereford) at Pontrilas.
Walk (7 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL13): From Temple Bar Inn, right (‘Longtown’) past Dog Inn. In 200m bear left up steps (386287). Cross field to left of castle mound; then track past sheds, through gate (yellow arrow/YA) and on west through 4 fields with hedge on right. In 5th field, Prior’s Wood is on right; at end of Prior’s Wood in 6th field (376290), aim a little left, away from wood, across field. Keep left of metal gate (373290); follow hedge on right for 50m to go through gate (YA). On through 3 fields with hedge on right to Platch Farm (‘Plash’ on OS Explorer); left up drive (farmer prefers walkers to use this, rather than footpath) to road (369286).
Right along road. In 600m, at Ball’s Cross, left (364285, ‘Rowlestone’); in 100m, left over stile (fingerpost/FP). Through scrub, then aim for top right corner of field. Right over stile; left along hedge; left through gate at field end; right along hedge to pass between sheds at Wigga Farm (366282). Cross field and stile; on to gate into road (368279). Left; in ¼ mile, opposite gate on left, turn right through gates (370277) down left side of hedge. In 50m, left (YA) along field to stile (372274, YA) into orchard. Through gate; follow hedge down to road, right to Rowlestone church (374271).
On left bend by church, cross road. Left through gate (YA); down field slope, bearing left to cross Cwm Brook by footbridge (372268). Left along right bank of brook for 600m to cross road (377264). Cross stile (FP); on with hedge on left. Over stile (YA) and footbridge; at next field end, right over stile (380262). Immediately left over stile; on with hedge on left; through gate to farm track. With house down on right (381261), turn left up concrete track to road and turn right (384262) past Rowlstone Park Farm.
In 400m, on second sharp right bend, keep ahead (386262) on stony lane between hedges. In 300m, just before River Monnow, left through gate (389263, FP). Bear left along river. In 500m bear left up slope to house on ridge (391267). Through gate; right along lane to road (391270); right downhill to Pontrilas. Left along A465; in 150m cross junction with B4347 (‘Ewyas Harold’); in another 40m, left (395276, FP) to cross Dulas Brook. Left along river bank (‘Herefordshire Trail’/HT). At end of 2nd field, half right (390286, HT) to cross stile; follow hedge to stile, then drive to road; left into Ewyas Harold.
Conditions: Many stiles!
Lunch/Accommodation: Temple Bar Inn, Ewyas Harold (01981-240423; thetemplebarinn.co.uk) – very friendly, helpful and comfortable
Info: Hereford TIC (01432-268430)