As flowers blossom along the route, take a drive through black-and0white clad villages in a tour of architectural history, with Simon Whaley.
The heart of an oak tree is almost as hard as iron, making it the ideal house-building material. Herefordshire’s 40-mile Black and White Trail is the perfect opportunity to see a forest of these traditional timber-framed buildings, and with daffodils, flowering magnolias and the first sight of the county’s blossoming orchards, this Black and White Trail is anything but monochrome.
Timber-framed buildings are constructed in a way that if you could pick them up and turn them upside down they would remain intact. At the tour’s start in Leominster, the intricately-carved timber Grade II listed Grange Court may not have been picked up like this, but it was moved from its town centre location and, in 1859, rebuilt beside the Priory Church.
The tour heads west, along the A44 and A4112, through Dilwyn, to Weobley, with its 185-feet tall church spire — the second highest in the county (topped only by Hereford’s Cathedral). Broad Street has several timber-framed buildings, but the oldest is the Manor House, first built around 1320, in Bell Square. When a bakery caught fire in 1943, several timber-framed buildings in Broad Street were destroyed: a reminder of their vulnerability.
The trail saunters through Sarnesfield, where John Abel, carpenter to Charles I and builder of Leominster’s Grange Court, is buried, before reaching Eardisley.
Several of Eardisley’s timber-framed dwellings date from the 15th and 17th centuries, but a 19th century literary plot can be seen in St Mary’s Church. Two plaques recount the life story of the Barnsley family, the foundations of which bear a strong resemblance to the plot of Bleak House. Dickens is known to have visited Eardisley. No timber-tour is complete, without a small diversion to Eardisley’s Great Oak, a fine specimen reputedly first recorded growing in 1086.
The trail heads northwards to Kington, the English town on the Welsh side of Offa’s Dyke, before turning eastwards, along the A44, through Lyonshall to Pembridge. Many buildings here have numerous vertical oak uprights, unnecessary for the building’s structure, but important for showing off the owner’s wealth. Oak was an expensive building material.
Pembridge Church has an unusual 13th century detached wooden belfry, and next to the New Inn pub stands the old Market Hall. Look for two stones in the south-west corner, struck when traders agreed a deal, hence the expression, ‘paying on the nail.’
From Pembridge the tour drives to Eardisland, where the timber-framed cottages are reflected in the tranquil waters of the River Arrow.
Don’t miss the 17th century Georgian Dovecote, with its 900 nesting alcoves. Although many timber-framed properties date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, the tradition of painting unseasoned oak timbers black is actually a Victorian idea.
From here it’s a short drive back to Leominster, (pronounced as Lemster, and spelt like this on some old mileposts) or Llanllieni, as some Welsh say.
How To Get There
Leominster lies 12 miles south of Ludlow and 15 miles north of Hereford.
Find Out More
Download a full trail leaflet from here: http://visitherefordshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Black-White-Trail.pdf
Ye Olde Salutation Inn, Market Pitch, Weobley, HR4 8SJ
Tel: 01544 318443
This timber-framed inn has great views down Weobley’s black and white High Street.
The Manor House B&B, Bell Square, Weobley, HR4 8SE
Tel: 01544 318425
It’s one of Weobley’s oldest buildings, with its timber-frame construction and beamed ceilings.
Hergest Croft Gardens, Ridgebourne Road, Kington, HR5 3EG
Tel: 01544 230160
For even more colour, visit Hergest Croft, open daily from 3rd April, with its 70-acre gardens, split into six distinct areas. April is best for daffodils, primroses, forget-me-nots, tulips, magnolias and some rhododendrons.
© Simon Whaley