The 'Black & White' Village Trail
The term ‘black and white’ village refers to many old English villages, typically in the counties of the Welsh Marches, and in Herefordshire in particular. The timbered and half-timbered houses in these areas have black-painted oak beams exposed on the outside, with white painted walls in-between. The numbers of houses surviving in this style in the villages creates a very distinctive impression and while not unique in Britain, generally differ from building styles outside this area. We often call this style of timer-framing, with ‘wattle and daub’ in-fill, Tudor or Elizabethan, but it was a building method that had been in use for centuries. There are so many of these black and white houses in Herefordshire, that a 40-mile circular tourist has been created, visiting those villages with large numbers of these houses, while giving visitors a closer look at the countryside and heritage of Herefordshire. Paradoxically, as old as the buildings generally are, it was probably not until late Victorian times that it became fashionable to finish the buildings in a black and white veneer. In earlier times, the oak would not have been stained, but retained its natural colour and the walls would have reflected the colour of the local clay, generally a pink colour, rather than a white whitewash lime.
Map of the Black and White Village Tail
The Black and White Village Trail visits 9 villages (Kington is officially a town) and while it was developed mainly for travel by car, the Trail it has become a popular cycle route. The 9 villages are:
Dilwyn, Weobley, Sarnesfield, Kinnersley, Eardisley, Kington, Lyonshall, Pembridge and Eardisland.
The Trail begins in Leominster, a pleasant market town 13 miles north of Hereford, with many black and white buildings of its own. Following the A44, the Trail then turns on to the A4112 and then takes a small detour through Dilwyn, with its Grade I listed, 12th-century church of St Mary. Three miles further on you take another small diversion to Weobley, probably my favourite amongst all the Black and White villages. Weobley has a pretty village square, centred on a rose garden, the 13thC church of St. Peter and St. Paul, castle ruins and a 400-year old building called the ‘Throne’ where Charles I is reputed to have stayed after the Battle of Naseby in 1645 .
Apple orchards in Herefordshire
Through Sarnesfield to Kinnersley, which is surrounded by apple orchards, producing Herefordshire’s famous hard cider. Kinnersley Castle is an Elizabeth Manor House and in normal times sometimes open to the public. Eardisley has many black and white houses lining its high street and the 12thC church of St. Mary Magdalene, noted for its font, carved in about 1150. It is a Norman work of the Herefordshire School and bears some resemblance to the carvings at Kilpeck in south Herefordshire. It combines intricate Celtic knotwork patterns with dramatic scenes, including the Harrowing of Hell and two knights fighting.
Brook Cottage in Eardisley
Before you get to Pembridge, you may to make side trips to Westonbury Mill Water Gardens and Dunkertons Cider. Pembridge stands on the River Arrow, with the 13thC St. Mary’s church on a little hill above the town. Interestingly it has a separate 13th C bell tower, with a ring of 5 bells. The village has 3 pubs, including the New Inn, which dates from the 14thC and is a wonderful, timbered building.
Black & White timbered house in Pembridge
Eardisland, is another village set amongst rolling arable and pastoral farmland, with ancient apple and cider apple orchards. Remarkably close to the Welsh border, Kington is officially a town, although it has a population of less than 2500. As it lies west of Offa’s Dyke, it was officially Welsh until the 11thC and retains the medieval grid pattern of streets and back lanes.
Another 3 miles brings you to Lyonshall,a small rural parish, with the ruins of what was once a large and imposing castle, home to the powerful de Lacy and Devereux families. Finally, before you return to Leominster, you pass through Kingsland, which has a motte and bailey castle by the church, and an old coaching inn, The Angel.
Although you can drive the route in a few hours, you do need a full day to explore the black and white villages fully. There are numerous pubs on route for lunch, cafes for afternoon tea, and lots of places to sample Herefordshire cider!