The Golden Valley
As I mentioned in an earlier FB post, I have been filling some of my time by daydreaming about trips I will take when life returns to some form of normality. And one of the first trips I will take, and one I have done many times, is along The Golden Valley.
The Golden Valley is the name given to the valley of the River Dore in western Herefordshire. The valley is a picturesque area of gently rolling countryside, with small villages, ancient churches, and historic sites. To the west is the looming mass of the Black Mountains in Wales. The name, Golden Valley, probably comes from a mistake over the origins of the River Dore. The Normans appear to have associated it with the French d’or, meaning ‘of gold’, whereas the true origins are likely to be from the Welsh dwr, meaning ‘water’. As a teenager, I associated it with the golden fields of ripening wheat and barley. The Golden Valley Railway, which was a branch line between Pontrilas and Hay-on-Wye, sadly closed in the 1950s. If it could have been preserved, it would have been a glorious way to explore the valley.
Take the A465 south from Hereford and when you reach the village of Pontrilas, turn right on to the B4347. This will eventually join the B4348, which will take you to Hay-on-Wye, famous for its many bookshops and the Literary Festival held every year in May. This journey of less than 20 miles is The Golden Valley. A journey, even on a quiet ‘B’ road, that you can easily do in 40 minutes, but which should take you all day if you want to explore the valley.
The main villages are Ewyas Harold, Abbey Dore, Peterchurch and Dorstone (lovely names, aren’t they?), but with other sites just off the road. Ewyas Harold has an ancient church, the remains of a castle and lots of old houses.
Abbey Dore is the site of a 12thC Cistercian monastery, but all that remains is the Abbey church, which is now the parish church. The countryside around Peterchurch is spectacular, with views of the Black Mountains. Dorstone is an excellent centre for exploring the countryside, with a church reputedly built by Richard de Brito, one of the knights who murdered Thomas Becket, as a penance for the murder. And close by is Arthur’s Stone, nothing to do with King Arthur, but a Neolithic Chambered Tomb, or Dolmen, dating from 3700 – 2700BC. The tomb is situated on the ridge line of a hill overlooking both the Golden Valley and the Wye Valley.
There are good pubs in both Peterchurch and Dorstone, where you can get lunch (once the present lockdown restrictions allow), and you could spend a very pleasant day exploring the Valley and finishing the day in Hay with a well-earned afternoon tea!