. Herefordshire is a gentle county of low green hills, hedgerows and hop yards, orchards and woodlands, its rich soil was formed from old sandstone and not only produces the glorious fruit of the county but also provides splendid pasture for the great herds of cattle for which Hereford is famous.
. From the Black Mountains , in the west, where sheep and cattle graze on the slopes, and the ridges begin their steady ascent into Wales , the county extends across central lowlands to the steep Malvern Hills , lying along the Severn Plain in the east. To the south are the Gloucestershire Cotswolds; to the north, the borderlands of Shropshire .
. Flowing through the county is the glorious River Wye, wandering in wide loops on its course from Plynlimon to Chepstow, and at its most dramatic at Symonds Yat, where it passes through a deep gorge protected by soaring, forested cliffs. Here, at the northern point of the Forest of Dean. Yat Rock sits 400 feet above the water and provides a safe home for the noble peregrine falcon.
Origin of name: Comes from the Old English for army ford, that is one wide enough for an army to cross.
Name first recorded: c. 1038 as Herefordscir. County
Motto: Pufcnro Terro Dei Donum ("This Fair Land is the Gift of God").
WINCHESTER : History, heritage and high street shopping come together in near-perfect harmony.
BROMYARD The county's smallest market town with a number of half-timbered houses. Charles 1 sheltered at Tower Hill House in 1644.
GOODRICH Fashionable village nestling in the Wye Valley with ruined castle that dates way back, one time home of the Earls of Shrewsbury and Earls and Dukes of Kent . Dismantled in the Civil War, the view from its keep across to the Malvern Hills and Welsh Mountains is a sheer deleight.
KINGTON Unpretentious old border market town with a 17th-century school built of stone. The nearby gardens of Hergest Croft are well worth a detour.
LEDBURY A classic border market town, with its timber- framed Tudor and Stuart buildings crowding the streets - especially impressive in the cobbled Church Lane , which leads into the High Street and its black-and-white Market House on oak stilts. Another detached belltower can be found in this attractive town - a 200-foot construction belonging to the parish church, St Michael and All Angels.
LEOMINSTER Pronounced Lemster. Once-thriving wool and leather town with some fine timber-framed buildings and a 17th-century Town Hall. ROSS-ON-WYE Was made a free borough by Henry ill and is a main centre for cattle and cider, it has two distinctive main streets both about 1/2 mile long that cross each other in the middle.
WEOBLEY Was an important medieval borough and is still a sizeable village today.. Eye-catching old houses line the main streets and the church has an elegant spire capping the church's very tall tower.
. Kingstone . Leintwardine . Lugwardine . Whitchurch
Wye, Frome, Lugg, Teme.
Black Mountains at 2,306 feet.
. April: Ross-on-Wye celebrates the good old- fashioned pint in style with its Real Ale Festival.
. Early May: Spring fever hits Hereford with the arrival of the May Fair, a riot of crafts, song and dance from the High Town to the Wye Bridge .
. June: Herefordshire shares the Three Counties Show, which is held in Great Malvern in Worcestershire, with the counties of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
. July: the market town of Bromyard , at the foot of the Bromyard Downs, hosts the annual Much Marcle Steam Gala of machinery from the past.
. Mid-Late August: Hereford takes its turn every three years to host the Three Choirs Festival, held since 1715 and performed by the choirs of Gloucester , Worcester and Hereford cathedrals. The city will next host the event in 1997.
. September: Bromyard's streets are filled with music for the annual autumn Folk Festival.
. October: it's harvest time and the gathering-in of hops is celebrated at Ledbury's annual Hop Fair, and in a host of other events in Big Apple Country.
. Comedy actress Beryl Reid was born in Hereford in 1936 and went on to fame in films such as The Killing of Sister George in 1968 and No Sex Please, We're British in 1973.
. Symonds Yat provided a magnificent backdrop for scenes in the film Shadowlands, the true story of CS Lewis and his relationship with Joy Gresham, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger
The County of Herefordshire is administered by a single- tier Herefordshire County Council. Rochford is Herefordshire detached in Worcestershire in a two- tier structure with Worcestershire County and Malvern Hills District Councils. Fwthog is Herefordshire detached in Monmouthshire under that County's unitary council. Litton is Herefordshire in Radnorshire administered by Powys unitary council. Farlow is Herefordshire detached in Shropshire under a two-tier system of Shropshire County Council and Bridgnorth District Council.
YOU MIGHT THINK New York is the 'Big Apple' but this county really deserves the appellation. This is real gob-smacking cider country. Mouth-watering perry is also brewed here from locally grown pears. So in this county for most seasons of the year the hillsides and hedges are vibrant with blossoms of all kinds. The cool, clear Wye river cuts through the county and offers up its famous salmon (perhaps to go with the cider!). If you are very lucky, you may catch a local using a coracle on some stretches of the Wye. A tub-like boat made of wicker work, it is very similar to that used by ancient Britons.
The great cathedral of Hereford is one of few clues to this friendly city's exalted past. Already a bishops see by AD676, the flourishing community became capital of the mighty Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia , producing its own currency and standing fast against the hostile Welsh. A section of the walls built to fortify the town against their attacks still survives near the 15th-century Wye Bridge. Even the cathedral, a 12th-century masterpiece of soaring, delicate stonework that towers over the banks of the river, has a security-conscious past: its ancient Chained Library uses iron shackles attached to the 1,500 books to remind readers that there's no borrowing allowed. Once part of the cathedral itself, the collection is now being moved to a heritage centre next door, along with the famous Mappa Mundi, a 13th- century view of the world by cleric Richard of Haldingham. He was a cartographer with a vivid imagination, and what he lacked in first-hand experience was made up for with biblical inspiration: the Garden of Eden takes centre stage, and beasts and demons inhabit the countries around the world's edge. There's an amazing little church at Kilpeck, eight miles southwest of Hereford . The Church of St Mary and St David was built in 1135 for Oliver de Marlemond, who had returned to the country from a pilgrimage to Spain with his head full of the exotic designs he'd seen en route. He was so impressed, in fact, that he brought along a company of French builders to show the English how it should be done. The result was this frenzy of carvings and decorations, most of which have nothing to do with the scriptures at all: there are Viking gargoyles and dragons and dogs and rabbits and virtually anything except the standard religious motifs.
Church-hunters will find plenty of other curiosities in this county, including the thatched Arts and Crafts building at Brockhampton; the huge, squat 14th-century belltowers of Pembridge and Yarpole, standing apart from the main churches and made of sturdy oak; and the half-timber tower of Vowchurch in the Golden Valley on the River Dore, some four miles upriver from the tranquil Cistercian Dore Abbey, a rare survivor of the Dissolution. Golden Valley is as lovely as its name suggests, but this gold is a mistranslation rather than a description. When theNormans heard the Welsh talk about the dwr (water) of the area they took it for d'or, golden; the name stuck and made the transition into Anglo-Saxon. The sight of Ross-on-Wye's graceful church spire, rising above the tumble of houses on a high sandstone cliff above the river, is one of the real delights of rural England . The little town captures many hearts, but no one has ever repaid it as fully as John Kyrle, the 17th-century benefactor. He saw to it that the shaky church spire was made sound and laid out the clifftop Prospect Gardens , with their stunning views across the river and hills; and he introduced a public water supply His good works were the subject of his contemporary, Alexander Pope's Moral Essays on the Uses of Riches, and earned him Pope's title of The Man of Ross'.
Among all the great medieval architecture of this county, one building stands out as a bit of a fraud. Eastnor Castle , near Ledbury, is a picture-book towered and turreted fortress straight from the Middle Ages - except that it was actually put there in 1812 as an extravagant family home, complete with deer park and lake and all the interior decoration suited to rich tastes: Italianate furniture and fine art, tapestries and, of course, knights' armour..
Hillforts sprang up in Herefordshire after the arrival of the Iron Age in about 900BC. About 30,000 people settled in the county in communities of several hundred: the biggest was at 120-acre Credenhill, near Hereford . When the Romans arrived they replaced the hillforts with their own military bases, villas (including Britain 's biggest, at Bishopstone) and a walled town of their own at Kenchester.
Herefordshire's next big part in history was during the 7th and 8th centuries, when the Mercian king Offa built his dyke to mark his boundary and endowed Hereford Cathedral. By King Canute's time, in the llth century, the county had its name and Hereford had powerful earls - who would include Harold Godwineson, the short-lived King of England who lost his eye and his life in the Battle of Hastings .
After the Norman Conquest the lands straddling the Welsh border became battlegrounds for the ambitious Marcher Lords; their increasing resentment of crown power eventually led to the execution of Edward 11's favourite Hugh le Despenser at Hereford . Industry never made a huge impact on the county, except in the Wye Valley , where the special 'trow', or cargo boat, carried iron, corn, wood and cider to Bristol , and iron- smelting and paper-making were established by the Tudor age. The short wool of the Ryeland sheep made Leominster a prosperous wool-making centre and funded wonderfully carved buildings such as the 17th-century old Town Hall, now known as Grange Court.
The county's hop yards and apple orchards helped to slake the nation's thirst and the apple trees that flourished in the southeast's moist, clay soils produce Slack-my-Girdle, Handsome Maud, Leather Coat and other well-named crops to be pulped in the mills and transformed into cider.
Poor roads and a marginal position meant that the heavy development of the Industrial Revolution passed Hereford- shire by. The stagecoach and the railway did eventually provide links between Hereford and London , the north and Wales ; but this has stayed a county of villages and churches, rather than cities and factories - a beautiful corner of unspoilt Britain .