THE village of St Weonards makes a good base from which to visit several tiny hamlets tucked away in a landscape of gentle hills and shallow valleys south of Hereford.
Each hamlet has something to offer. Michaelchurch, for instance, has a picturesque group of buildings and a Roman altar stone, while Pencoyd is attractively set among apple orchards.
At Monkton, cormorants roost in the trees above two pools beside the lane, while a very short detour from the route at Treago provides a view of 13thcentury Treago Castle, much altered and rebuilt but still retaining a vaguely mediaeval appearance and four round towers.
Start: St Weonards, on A466 south of Hereford; grid ref SO495242.
Length: Nine miles/14.5km.
Maps: OS Explorer 189, OS Landranger 161/162.
Terrain: Arable, pasture and woodland; there’s a fair amount of lane-walking but only on lanes which are so little used that moss grows thickly on them.
Footpaths: They range from poor through adequate to good.
Waymarking is absent in places but this should not cause any problems.
Paths across arable fields are often not reinstated after ploughing. There is a dangerous footbridge at one point but an alternative route is readily available. One path is currently obstructed by root crops but it’s possible to use the field edge instead.
Parking: Mount Way, St Weonards, signed from main road.
Public transport: Bus (First 420) or train to Hereford then Stagecoach 36 Hereford-Monmouth via St Weonards, Mon-Sat only; herefordbus.info or 01432 260211.
Refreshments: Post Office Stores, St Weonards.
1 Walk through the churchyard then take a footpath which goes to the far right corner of a field.
Continue along the right-hand edge of another field for about 120 metres then cross two stiles to a large field on the right. Go diagonally across to a farm and turn left along the farm access track. After passing a barn a little further on, bear left across a field.
If no path has been made, just head towards a farmhouse on the skyline and you’ll be going in the right direction. Descend to cross Gamber Brook at a footbridge, beyond which you’ll see another brook, spanned by what appears to be four lengths of motorway crash barrier bolted together to create a makeshift bridge. It’s on the line of the right of way but if you don’t fancy attempting it you’ll find a land bridge if you detour to the lefthand field edge. Once back on the path, follow the hedge up to a lane and turn right past Trevase Farm.
2 Keep straight on at Crossways to reach Michaelchurch.
Almost opposite the church, just before the lane bends left, take a footpath on the right. Turn left and follow it past Michaelchurch Court then straight on across fields. If no path has been made you should bear slightly left in the first field, passing under power lines then aiming for a stile ahead. Continue in much the same direction to meet a road, following the power lines closely as you draw near to the road.
3 Turn right along a lane then right again on a footpath at Tretire Farm. At the time of writing the fingerpost is pointing the wrong way but you should turn right just after the farmhouse. Pass through the yard to reach two gates, neither of which is waymarked. Go through the lefthand one and walk straight on through fields to meet a lane.
Continue in the same direction to return to Crossways. Go straight on and keep straight on again at another crossroad. Turn left at the next junction into Pencoyd.
4 Pass St Denys’ Church and then fork left, passing Pencoyd Granary. Go straight on at a crossroad. At Dhamma Dipa (a meditation centre) take a green lane, which is tree-lined at first, before continuing as a broad, hedged, grassy track above Gamber Brook. It soon swings right to cross the brook at a packhorse bridge.
Continue past Lower Mill, proceed to the main road and cross to a path opposite. Go diagonally right across two fields, pass to the right of a cream-painted house to meet a lane and turn left.
5 Keep straight on at the turning for Lower Monkton, beyond which the lane bends left, soon passing Upper Monkton. Turn right at a T-junction then left at the next junction on a lane which is little more than a track. Turn left again at the next junction, by Harp Cottage, then take the next right.
You’ll soon reach two houses at a bend in the lane at Priors Wood. Go straight on, leaving the lane and briefly joining a track. In theory, you should be able to follow the track for about 70 metres and then take a path across the field on the left. However, there is no access from the track to the field at the correct point, so leave the track almost immediately to go through a gate into the field. Follow the righthand edge for 70 metres.
6 You should now be able to go diagonally left to a stile at the far side – not the stile in the near left corner, but the one in front of a plantation, Lady Wood. However, the path is currently seriously obstructed by mangolds and swedes. You may be able to trample a way through or you may need to follow the field edge instead. Cross the next pasture then follow a good path through Lady Wood. Leave it at the far side and go into a large arable field. Go diagonally across to the left end of a line of trees, then follow a fence.
Pass through Treago Farm to a lane and turn left, then soon left again to St Weonards.