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CLIMB from the scenic Golden Valley to glorious Merbach Hill Common, which rises to 318m, giving panoramic views extending from the Black Mountains to the Malvern Hills.
You can wander at will on the common, so this walk can easily be extended. As many as 60 bird species have been recorded on the common, including relatively scarce species.
This year, a pair of redstarts is nesting there, near the gate mentioned in point seven. The redstart is one of our most beautiful birds so do look out for them.
If you take a dog with you it should be kept on a short lead on the common during the breeding season (March to July), to protect ground-nesting birds, and at any time of year if sheep are present.
Before reaching Merbach Hill you’ll pass Arthur’s Stone, a Neolithic chambered tomb about 5,000 years old. Only the large stones of the inner chamber remain, the uprights surmounted by an enormous capstone angled towards the Black Mountains.
Start: Dorstone, on the B4348 in Golden Valley between Hereford and Hay; grid ref SO313417.
Length: 6½ miles/10.5km.
Maps: OS Explorer OL13 or 201, OS Landranger 148.
Terrain: Pasture and arable, some marshy patches, steep in places.
Footpaths: Most are good but waymarking is patchy. There are some poor-quality stiles, one path has been over-cropped and another is very uneven underfoot, with holes concealed by vegetation.
Parking: Dorstone, near village hall.
Public transport: First 420 or train to Hereford then Stagecoach 39 to Dorstone, Mon-Sat only; Yeomans 39A operates from Hereford to Dorstone on Sundays but Sunday buses from Worcester to Hereford have been axed and there is no Sunday train to Hereford until 1210 (allowing just six minutes to connect with the 39A), but you could take First 44B (summer Sundays only) to Ledbury then DRM 476 to Hereford. Please note that neither Yeomans nor DRM will carry dogs; For details, visit the website herefordbus.info or call 01432 260211.
1 Starting at the village green, look for Chapel Lane and Corner Cottage to find a ‘no through road’ to the church. Pass to the left of the churchyard, cross the B4348 and turn right to find a footpath which is easily followed to a track. Cross a footbridge by a fingerpost and go to the far left corner of a field. Go through a gate to meet a byway (Spoon Lane) and turn right. At the end of Spoon Lane turn left towards Fayreways Farm.
2 Follow a clear track uphill.
When it bends right, going through a gate into sheep pasture, keep straight on instead, climbing a stile after a few paces to access the same pasture. Turn left and keep climbing through fields. Bear very slightly right across the final field, passing through a hummocky area then continuing in the same direction to Arthur’s Stone, which is visible ahead. Turn right along Arthur’s Stone Lane.
3 Take a path on the left, just before a wind turbine. Go to the far right corner of a field. Keep straight on along the edge of another then through the left-hand gate in the next corner. Continue with a hedge on your right. Cross the next stile and turn left through a narrow meadow. After passing an oak tree, drop downhill a little to walk by the edge of a wood. Cross a stile at the end of the wood and descend very steeply through pasture. Cross a stile at the bottom right corner and go through the next field to meet a track by a house.
4 Turn left past the house, then left along a lane. Take a bridleway on the left after 100m. It goes along the edge of a garden then through fields. Many walkers keep to an obvious farm track but the bridleway runs just to the right of it, along Finestreet Dingle.
Meeting a track near a house, turn right, then right again along a lane.
5 Take a bridleway on the left just after Oak Cottage. Go diagonally right across pasture, but don’t climb to the highest point. Head towards a farm then keep well to the left of it, towards a collection of scrap machinery. Just to the left of this you’ll see a holloway. Don’t take this, but go through a gateway just above the holloway and turn left to follow a fence uphill. Go through the next gate and turn right to continue up Bredwardine Hill. Don’t keep to the fenceline but head for the summit. When a large oak tree comes into view head for that, then continue in the same direction, shortly joining a well-defined track to the summit.
6 Descend to the bottom left field corner and go through a gate into a meadow. Turn right, keep to the edge for 100m then go diagonally to the far left corner. Go through a metal gate and proceed through a narrow meadow. Join the Wye Valley Walk (WVW) near a gate and turn left towards a delapidated barn. Go through a gate and follow the WVW to Merbach Hill Common. Go straight on across the common and keep straight on at an unmarked junction. Climb to the trig point, leaving the WVW.
7 Continue in much the same direction, initially heading towards the Wye Valley, then after a few paces fork left and go along the rim of the hill towards the Black Mountains. Shortly climb back to the hill top and head towards a gate next to an obtrusive information panel. Go through the gate and walk across a large pasture, always staying to the left of the trees on the boundary.
Eventually you’ll meet a track.
Follow it to a lane and go straight on.
8 Take a path on the right and keep to the left as you descend through two fields. Turn left on a track, then shortly turn right to descend through a meadow to a lane. Cross to a path almost opposite and descend to Llan Farm, then to Spoon Lane. Turn left to find a gate on the right and return to Dorstone.