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Golden Valley b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Golden Valley in Herefordshire

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Visit Golden Valley and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Golden Valley, Herefordshire, extends from Pontrilas in a West NorthWest direction to Dorstone and offers some of the most tranquil and beautiful scenery in this part of England. It is backed to the West by an undulation of hills rising to the 2,300-ft ridges of the Black Mountains and to the East by gentle hills extending from the 376-ft Forty Acre Pitch to Green Hill rising to the 824-ft summit that looks down on Moccas Court. Down this valley flows the Dore from its source in the hills above Dorstone.

Pontrilas is a convenient point to start a tour of the Golden Valley, but has little to interest the visitor other than the l7th-century stone mansion Pontrilas Court, from which it is believed the village took its present name: its original name seems to have been Elwistone. The next village along the B4347, Ewyas Harold has a great deal of charm and an interesting history. Osborn Pentecost was one of the early “Trojan Horse” Normans who infiltrated the country in the reign of Edward the Confessor and built a castle, at the same time ruthlessly terrorizing the countryside. The castle was destroyed by Earl Harold, claimant to the Confessor's throne, in 1052. Between then and 1066 another Norman, William FitzOsborn, built and fitted out some 60 ships in Normandy for the Conqueror's invasion. He was rewarded in part by the lands and castle of Ewyas. After a short period as joint regent of England in the king's absence, he returned to Normandy and was killed at Cassel. His eldest son Harold inherited his castle and it is from him the village derives its name. Only the conical mound and earthworks remain. The view is entrancing across the Dulas Brook which flows round the much-restored Early English church with its squat l3th-century tower. On the north side, recessed into the interior chancel wall, is a curious l4th-century effigy of a woman clasping a heart casket. She wears an unusual headdress which shows she had taken a vow of chastity. From here the valley becomes rich and green, with scattered orchards as the road follows the river upstream. On the east side stands Abbey Dore. Cistercians founded the church in 1147— six years before the death of St Bernard, who revolted against the architectural extravagances of Cluny and restored simplicity to all his subsequent churches. The rebuilding of Dore Abbey between 1175 and 1220 reflects the dynamics of this discipline. Later, when the house had become wealthy, a more splendid retro-choir was built which throws the simplicity of the earlier building into greater relief. The way the red sandstone of the fabric contrasts with the rich green surroundings makes the interesting proportions of this unusual church vividly apparent. However, the 17th-century tower set between choir and transept rather disturbs the rhythm of line. It must be remembered that though the monastery was destroyed at the Dissolution, it is thanks to the good offices of Lord Scudamore, who in 1633 called in the gifted John Abel, later known as the “King's Carpenter”, to restore the abbey as a parish church, that one of the finest examples of Cistercian-inspired Early English architecture in the country has been preserved. The cathedral-like grandeur of the presbytery with its l3th-century ambulatory and the three-bayed choir, lit by a clerestory pierced by lancets, never fail to impress. The choir has its original stone altar of remarkable size, rediscovered many years ago in a local dairy. The l7th-century glass floods the interior with colour. John Abel carved the oak screen and surmounted it with three armorial bearings: those of the Stuarts, Viscount Scudamore and Archbishop Laud. He also did the ceiling. Besides two mutilated and worn effigies, one in each of the choir aisles, there is an interesting collection of fragments of sculpture left behind after the Dissolution. The 13th-century tiles in the chancel with heraldic devices are interesting. Those around the font are undecorated but of the same period.

The timber-framed 14th-century Grange Farm just outside the village makes a worthwhile short walk from the abbey church. It has a porch with good plasterwork and a ceiling dated 1603.

Bacton is one of the prettiest villages in the valley and has a 13th-century church on a hill with a 16th-century battlemented tower. It possesses an ancient rood-beam and staircase which connected with the rood-loft. This must have been demolished after the Reformation. Its main treasure consists of some exquisite embroidery worked on an early altar frontal with large formalized flowers, beasts and birds, tiny insects and a boat with two passengers. It is popularly believed to have been the work of Elizabeth Parry, maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I. Her alabaster monument showing her curtseying to her queen has a lengthy inscription ending with the line “wythe maeden quene a maede dyd ende my lyffe.” It is worth leaving the B4348 that runs through the upper half of the valley to visit the little village of Vowchurch, where a bridge crosses the Dore by the 16th-century Old Vicarage. The church, rebuilt in the 14th century and with 15th-century additions, has a profusion of woodwork and carving in its roof, screen and communion rails. All this makes an interior of splendid richness which stands out well against the plaster and scraped walls of the nave and chancel. The church owns a most unusual wooden chalice carved from beechwood and dating from the first years of the 17th century Poston Lodge, an Adamesque shooting box somewhat spoiled by later Victorian additions, lies about 1 mile North in wooded country, high enough up to give lovely views of the valley. Nearby is a prehistoric bill-fort later used by the Romans. At Peterchurch the valley opens out into meadowland and cornfields. A little to the East of the not particularly attractive village is Wellbrook Manor. Stone built, with its original interior timber-framing and its solar wing preserved, it is one of the best examples of a 14th-century hall in the county. The stone chimney-piece and shaft have withstood 600 years of use. Another heritage from feudal days is Urishay Castle, 1 ½ miles South West, once a medieval fortress house later domesticated into a Jacobean manor and now a ruin. However, the chapel, which had long served as a barn and was later restored to its original use, is almost certainly a Norman building. The village church is Norman and has a notable double chancel. On the south side is a door with excellently preserved zigzag moulding. Of the three round-beaded archways spanning the church, the centre one also has fine zigzag ornamentation. Not least of its features are the good modern hand-beaten ironwork fittings for the electric lighting of the church.

From Peterchurch the more interesting route runs West of the river through the hamlets of Hinton and Fine Street. One mile before Dorstone are the remains of Snodhill Castle, high on a mound whose earthworks cover about 10 acres. It existed when the Domesday Book was compiled and was rebuilt in the reign of King Stephen. There are remains of round towers and considerable parts of the 14th-century bailey. It was of importance to the defence of the border and was at one time a fief of Warwick the Kingmaker. The l7th-century stone-built Snodhill Court lies just South of the castle; a farm-house now, it has a fine hail with an oak ceiling and a good Jacobean oak staircase. The road into Dorstone passes the ruins on the castle tump standing nearly 30 ft above the surrounding fosse. In the 13th and 14th century it belonged to the Sollers family who gave their name to a village on the outskirts of Hereford called Bridge Sollers. Hills rise all round the village, the highest being the 1,045-ft Merbach Hill. Climb to the Arthur's Stone long barrow for good views down the valley. Dorstone was the last refuge of Richard de Brito, one of the four knights who slew Thomas a Becket. The church, which has some 13th-century features left intact, was almost entirely restored in 1889. It possesses a 13th-century pewter chalice and paten, discovered in a tomb built into the wall beneath a recess on the south side. The church bells are very ancient.

Nearby cities: Hereford, Worcester

Nearby towns: Bromyard, Ledbury, Malvern

Nearby villages: Andoversford, Ashchurch, Ashleworth, Birdlip, Bishops Cleeve, Brimpsfield, Brockworth, Brookthorpe, Bushley, Chaceley, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Churchdown, Coberley, Colesborne, Coombe Hill, Cowley, Deerhurst, Dowdeswell, Down Hatherley, Eldersfield, Elkstone, Gloucester, Golden Valley, Great Witcombe, Gretton, Hardwicke, Hartpury, Hasfield, Hempstead, Hucclecote, Innsworth, Lassington, Leckhampton, Little Washbourne, Little Witcombe, Long Green, Maisemore, Matson, Prestbury, Quedgeley, Shurdington, Southam, Staverton, Swindon, Syde, Tewkesbury, Tirley, Whaddon, Winchcombe, Withington,

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