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Herefordshire and the borderlands are ideal walking country. With more than 1,800 miles of footpaths, walking in Herefordshire has routes to cater for all abilities, from the shorter, more leisurely walks to trails that cover much greater distances; two of the longer routes being the Wye Valley Walk and the Mortimer Trail.
The border regions of England and Wales are known as the Marches and are renowned for their rich countryside – much of which is still totally unspoilt. These sections of England and Wales make it the perfect environment for walkers who wish to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse themselves in a peaceful landscape.
Here there is a magnificent blend of ancient tracks, forests and undulating hills, rivers and valleys and quiet country lanes, along with pretty villages that are steeped in history, and castles from times gone by. And while walking in Hereford and the surrounding lands is always a pleasure, the type of setting you experience will depend to a large degree on which course you take – heading westwards will take you towards the striking beauty of the Black Mountains, while eastwards leads you up to the Malvern Hills.
But take the northbound road and follow the Mortimer Trail for some of the most spectacular scenery and river valleys, while coming upon Iron Age hill forts and other historical locations.
The distinguished Mortimer Trail is a 30-mile way-marked trail that begins in the historic town of Ludlow in Shropshire and ends up in Kington – a Herefordshire town on the Welsh border close to Offa’s Dyke. The Mortimer Trail was opened officially in 1996 and, as one of the most popular Hereford walks, has since proved a noted route with both seasoned walkers and those who have less experience.
The Mortimer Trail is named after the infamous Mortimer family who were a clan of Marcher Lords. This family ruled the Welsh borderlands for around 400 years, beginning in Norman times. One of the most feared and powerful families, their seat was Wigmore and Ludlow Castle though they governed lands from Normandy and across England as well as into Wales. These holders of some of the most influential of the Norman Earldoms influenced the history and geography of the Welsh Marches.
The Trail, which crosses the River Lugg and the River Arrow, was established in the mid 1990s and has some spectacular scenery; taking in views of the Black Mountains, Radnor Hills and the Malvern Hills. The trek has a few steep climbs but is generally moderate and dotted about with wooded areas and a plethora of wildlife.
Beginning in Ludlow – an attractive Shropshire town with many well-preserved black-and-white half-timbered buildings and a large 11th century castle, which was the border stronghold of the powerful Marcher Lords – the route will take you along the unblemished hills and valleys of the Marches to the ancient Saxon town of Kington on Offa’s Dyke. Villages en route offer refreshment in the form of local shops and pubs and include Shobdon, Yarpole, and Wigmore. The castle at Wigmore is in the hands of English Hereitage.
If you’re staying for a while in the area, there are five loop walks that lead off the main trail down from the high ridges. These half-day and day walks take in several other villages before rejoining the way-marked trail at various points along the way, giving you an ideal opportunity to explore these attraction places.
The loop walks:
Lingen – This gentle 5.5-mile route through ancient woodlands and pastures has one steep climb and takes in Limebrook, Upper Lye and Lyepole Bridge.
Shobdon – another 5.5-mile walk but a little tougher. The walk visits Byton with parks and pools along the way.
Titley – an easy 3-mile circular walk with just one steepish climb, goes via Green Lane Farm and has some fine views.
Wigmore – at 10 miles, is the longest of the loop walks and a more demanding route. From Wigmore via Aymestry and Yatton Marsh, you will come upon the Iron Age hill fort at Croft Ambrey.
Yarpole – a 5-mile circular walk that goes via Bircher Common and Croft Castle with coppiced woodland, commons and a chance to reroute to Croft Castle.
Much of the Mortimer Trail route is at high level away from towns and villages – the settlements generally being in the river valleys below. Some of the climbs, like those at High Vinnals, Shobdon Hill Wood and Byton are arduous in places though the hills don’t generally exceed 1,000 feet. Woodlands cover many of the areas of high ground.
For experienced walkers, the Trail could be done in 2 days with an overnight stay, but many prefer to do the walk over several days. Accommodation along the route is available at most of the villages.
Ludlow to Orleton Common – this walk, at 8 miles, takes you through Mortimer Forest and across green open spaces to a peaceful rural hamlet. There are some climbs up to Mortimer Forest and High Vinnals with the route being mostly on forest tracks through to Hanway Common. The bridleway to The Goggin then takes you to Orleton Common along quiet lanes.
Orleton Common to Aymestry. This 5-mile walk offers a fabulous vista from Croft Ambrey and, again, a diversion to Croft Castle. From there, you can go down to the Lugg Valley below. From the Orleton Common, the route goes up to Bircher Common then onto comparatively level ground through Croft Wood and Croft Ambrey. The path then follows the river valley through Aymestrey to Shobdon Hill, where it climbs steadily to 1070 feet.
Aymestry to Titley, an 11-mile trek presents walkers with some lovely scenery through the Lugg Valley, before going up to Wapley Hill and finally across farmland to the village of Titley. From the village of Byton and a short section of road walking, there’s a steep climb of 1059 feet up to Wapley Hill fort, which leads to a more gentle pace through pastures to Titley.
Titley to Kington – the final 6 miles of the Mortimer Trail takes you via a lane up to the wooded area of Brampton Scar, and finally on to Rushock Hill Common. A climb to Green Lane Farm levels off towards the wooded Little Brampton Scar to Knill Garraway Wood. A relatively short ascent takes you on to Rushock Hill Common before the downward passage through farmland to the border town of Kington.
For walkers who appreciate outstanding countryside, pleasing views and a clearly waymarked route, the 30 miles of the Mortimer Trail is difficult to beat.
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