The views were spectacular, with the Black Mountains to the west, a ridge of hills to the east, and Much Dewchurch and the hills beyond to the south.
The farm buildings were huge and appeared to have been rebuilt several times. There were steps everywhere which most of us tripped on. There was even a games room with a pool table and darts where we had our final challenge match. The lounge, kitchen and sitting room made up the main social area. There was also a drying room and washing machine area beyond the lounge.
Outside we had access to a large barn where we stored our bikes and fraternised with the six puppies who lived there. We all wanted to buy a puppy. Several of the puppies had big paws so we expected them to become big dogs. The little one called Rosie was our favourite.
The Black Swan
The local pub the Black Swan was the highlight of our visit, we visited it for six night in a row (one one night twenty of us turned up). It was an rather old-world building, originally built about 14th century and even had a priest hole. Every night we were welcomed personally by Jill, the landlady.
The menu had about eight regular items and usually some specials such as roast beef on Sunday nights. All the standard meals were priced at £7.95. There was no room on the plates for "arty farty" decorations! Jill managed to serve all of us quickly with hot meals with every item cooked to perfection.
Various groups of members decided each day where they wanted to go. The "hard riders" (I wasn't one of them) started off with a ride to the mining museum at Bleanavon. I don't think they had time to visit the big mine there as the climb up the Stumble was three miles of 1 in 10. I'm told the total climb was 521m, I'm glad I didn't go. At least one pair opted to turn back at Abergaveny, though the riders who did complete the climb were very proud of their efforts; inevitably they were a bit tired on their return.
At the top of The Tumble
Doug and I visited Peterchurch on the way to Hay on Wye. We failed to find a cafe so we visited the local church which had a notice outside about a library. We found the Library in the tower and then got chatting to the librarians and the church verger. It was a very small version of the local access libraries we have in Cambridgeshire with just 500 books.
The verger, seeing we were cyclists, asked us if we would like a coffee, which we obviously did so she took us to here house just behind the church. She told us the church had been converted into a "hub" so it could be used by the community for a variety of functions. When necessary, the east end of the nave could be screened off. She told us the church was about 800 years old but that the yew tree outside was probably over 1000 years old. We thoroughly enjoyed our coffee and cakes!
Hay on Wye
There were several trips to Hay on Wye. This is well-known as the "second hand book capital of England". There are more bookshops and cafes than you can shake a stick at. There is a huge house on the top of the hill with the shops clustered below. The river Wye is just below the town and makes quite a sight. It is heavily used by canoeists. We availed ourselves of one of the cafés before heading home.
One group went to Arthur's seat on the way and we were told that the route up is very steep at about 1 in 4.
The Cheese making farm near Leominster was another great draw.
Two groups of us went to Symond's Yat. The group I was with didn't attempt the climb to the view point but stayed in the valley. At Symond's Yat east we found the local cruise boat complete with skipper and his mate and lots of flowers on the top. It was a very civilised cruise with tea served in china cups at the cheapest price I've seen for years. We had a running commentary which filled in a lot of detail. It was explained that this was one of the major places where the industrial revolution developed. It was hard to imagine blast furnaces along the shore line and barges coming up from the Severn with material and returning with cast iron.
The valley has more recently become a major tourist attraction with visitors such as Nelson and famous poets such as Wordsworth. The Wye is the fifth longest river in Britain and must be easily the most scenic. There are good cycle routes along its length. There isn't a bridge at Symond's Yat but there is a rope hauled ferry which takes bikes, and which we used.
Phil and Doug on the rope ferry
The route back via Whitchurch proved a bit too much for me. It was very hilly and kept diving down into valleys before climbing back up to the tops. Craig and Phil went ahead and got Adrian and Stephen to bring their van and Susan to bring her car so I could be rescued. I was very grateful.
We had a problem with our own farmer who insisted on cutting his Hawthorn hedges, scattering thorns all over the road. We had several punctures, including Doug whose Marathon Plus tyres were speared. We eventually got a broom out and swept the road of most of the thorns.
Abbey Dore Church
Abbey Dore. The golden Abbey was situated in the Golden Valley. It is a huge church with just a tiny notice by the road. It proved well worth a visit and we took several pictures. We then spotted the Abbey Gardens which had a very nice tea shop which we (of course) visited. Craig and Frances and Molly the white highland terrier loved it and we all sat outside in the sunshine. Molly had special transport arrangements with a basket on Craig's bike. She even had her own cover so she could sit warm in her basket and observe the scenery.
Doug, Molly, Frances, Adrian and Phil
Adrian arranged two outings. The first was car assisted to visit the Morgan works at Malvern. Morgan make the last hand built cars in the UK. There is a huge waiting lists so it takes several months to get one built. I didn't as the price was too High. I understand at least one of our visitors was able to buy a small one as a souvenir. Here's a car I spotted in Chipping Norton.
Our second outing was Adrian's traditional walk, which he took to the Malvern Hills. The Malvern Hills are a spectacular outcrop looking out across the Severn valley on one side and towards Hereford and Wales on the other. I didn't join him, but I'm told that it was a long steep climb.
Hereford was visited via cycle route NCN46. This makes use of an old railway line across the west side of Hereford. Hereford itself is relatively small but has some attractive streets particularly Church Street and the area around the Cathedral.
Hereford Cathedral, home to the Mappa Mundi
Hereford Cathedral is home to one of the versions of the Magna Carta. This version was not the original signed by King John but a latter version dated 1217 with considerable changes from the original. English law has evolved ever since this historic text. Also in the cathedral there is a chain library with some 1500 books many on vellum and later ones on paper. The Vellum ones were generally hand written while the paper ones were printed. Each book is placed on the shelves with its spine at the back so the chain can be attached at the front and not get tangled when it is taken out to be read. The famous Mappa Mundi is also located in the same area. It is thought to have been drawn on Vellum in about the 12th Century possibly by a scribe from Lincolnshire. It centres on Jerusalem and shows everywhere else as being around that point. England and Ireland are islands shown on the western edge of the circular map. There is an English translation nearby which makes it possible to understand it. We retired to the Cloister area with refreshments from the café.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Hereford was the Madeleine Café in Church Street, recommended by a local cyclist. It was easily the best we visited all the week. One went through the shop into a walled garden with flowers everywhere. The fare on offer was particularly good and included scones with local jam. We then adjourned to the Mousetrap Cheese Shop on the other side of the street, where Lorraine bought a whole cheese. The way home was quite hard but provided us with great views over the hills near Little Dewchurch.
Lorraine and Tom at "the mousetrapcheese shop"
On the last night Eva and other members made a super meal which we enjoyed in the dining room. Then we adjourned to the games room for a knock out competition of darts and pool. Could someone remind me of the winners? It was all delightfully chaotic as some of us, particularly me, have difficulty hitting the dart board.
People chose two very different routes for the journey to and from Herefordshire. One group chose to use the standard satnav route which took them via the motorways, while others chose to do their own thing and went across country using maps. The motorway route was a little faster but the reports were that it was busy and there were some jams, whereas the country route was very pleasant with very little traffic and plenty of time to stop for refreshments at nice pubs. I was convinced the traffic on the country route has decreased over the years. Mike Stapleton