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by Gill James

Chris James with celebratory cake.

As part of their celebration of 25 years of Ross and District Walking Group, members are leading a walk on each of the 9 days of the Herefordshire Walking Festival covering the entire Mortimer Trail. The Trail covers 30 miles from Ludlow to Kington and is unusual for a long distance path in that it also has five designated loops covering places of interest along the way - Yarpole, Wigmore, Lingen, Shobden and Titley.

Saturday 13th June - Ludlow to Orleton. 19 walkers completed the stretch from Ludlow to Orleton Village, a distance of 9.5 miles, leaving Ludlow Castle and descending to the River Teme before a long, steady climb up through Mortimer Forest. The walk then descends through Betty Knoll's valley before ascending again to the highest point in the Trail at High Vinnals, where 360 views take in Malvern Hills, the Radnor Forest, the Brecon Beacons and Black Hill, the Clee Hills and the Cotswold Ridge on a clear day. A well earned picnic lunch was enjoyed at High Vinnals before the steady descent back to Orleton Common and then, leaving the trail for the day, back to the cars in Orleton Village.

Sunday 14th June - Croft Ambrey & the Yarpole Loop. 12 walkers left Orleton Village to retrace their steps to the Common to rejoin the Trail, ascending to and then along the ridge to the end of Croft Ambrey with views over the Radnor Forest and Wigmore. They had a photo stop by a well placed bench, meeting another group of walkers at this point. Then a short scramble on to Croft Ambrey itself with again 360 views from the summit. A steady descent down through Fishpool Valley then took the group out through the main drive of Croft Castle, on the Yarpole Loop. Yarpole has an ancient bell tower in its church yard and as the Church is presently being refurbished so was not accessible on this occasion. after a picnic lunch the group left Yarpole and crossing fields to reach Bircher, then on to Bircher Common, resting near the top to take in the views again, before descending down through a steep valley, back to the cars through fields, including one of elephant grass, Miscanthus, which is used for biofuel.

Monday 15th June - The Wigmore Loop. The longest walk of the 9 day series at 11 miles, the Wigmore Loop, the only walk of the Mortimer Trail which is completely devoted to one Loop. Leaving Wigmore by road to near the Leinthall Barns, then along the edge of the Wigmore Glacial Lake to go steeply up to the edge of Croft Ambrey, resting at the bench which we reached on Sunday! In spite of the forecast heavy showers, we enjoyed the views once more. We then walked through Mortimer Forest and the Croft Castle Estate turning to descend to Aymestry and across the River Lugg to follow the river to Ballsgate Common and on past Woodhampton Wood to return to Wigmore. One small shower did not dampen our spirits at all!

Tuesday, 16th June - The Lingen Loop. A very pleasant walk from the Forestry Commission car park at Lyepole Bridge through fields and woods, past Lingen Hall where a friendly cat joined us for a short distance. Then on to Lingen Village itself, before returning to Upper Lye. The return route took us over bridges and stiles, with a sharp ascent through a wood to open farmland with extensive views. We saw a large number of southern marsh orchids on a track as we made our way back to Upper Lye. Our picnic spot was in a shaded area of Sned Wood before making our way the wood down to the river and back to our cars at Lyepole Bridge.

Wednesday, 17th June - Byton and Shobden Wood. Leaving our cars again at Lyepole Bridge, we made our way up a short steep track to enter the woods for a long, steady climb to the top. Just as we reached the summit the rain began which spoiled the distant views, but did not dampen our enthusiasm for the walk. There was still the odd bluebell to be seen and a large variety of other plants and many butterflies. As we crossed the top we passed an area where trees had been felled in the previous weeks so were able to gain views not seen for many years. We then descended down to Byton, stopping at the Church to see the Clock which is also the war memorial. We then walked up the road to Kinsham and returned along the River valley to our cars.

Thursday, 18th June - The Shobden Loop. Parking at Byton, we climbed up through the village to take the Trail through another section of Shobden Wood. Then crossing farmland we descended to cross the golf course at Shobden, to the main road before turning left into Shobden Court drive. We walked up past the pools sighting a heron on the way, up to the Strawberry Gothic Church by Shobden Court. A number of the walkers had not been there before and were enchanted with the interior of the Church. We then walked up the avenue to the Arches for our picnic. The arches formed part of the original church and whilst over the centuries they have 'weathered' the carvings are still visible. >

Ross and District Walking Group.

Friday 19th June - Wapley Hill. A steady climb initially up the edge of farmland and woods with good views over the bracken! Then up through the centre of the wood to Wapley Hill Fort, an ancient earthwork. We did not have time to explore the vast area of the fort on this occasion, but dallied long enough to have our coffee stop! We then descended through the wood, admiring on the way, a bench which had been carved from a tree trunk, in memory of the 'bird man of Wapley'. We made our way back through Stansbatch across farmland to Byton and our cars.

Saturday 20th June - The Titley Loop. Parking at the Village Hall car park, we made our way past the Church and up the hill over farmland to an ancient green lane which was believed to be part of the link between the ancient settlements of Hergest Ridge, Wapley, and Croft Ambrey. We walked on through the northern edge of Knill Garraway Wood before descending steeply down to Knill Bridge, returning back along the valley up through the wood on a different track. At the top we rested and picnicked whilst enjoying far views, before descending to our cars. Some of the group felt they had walked enough so did not complete the final loop. The rest of us went over the fields to Stansbatch crossing the former rail track from Titley Junction to Presteigne. We then followed the main trail back across fields to join the Herefordshire Trail, (both trails merge and cross at various points) back to the cars.

Sunday 21st June - The Final Stretch. Parking in the centre of Kington, we ascended up through the highest golf course in Herefordshire to join Offa's Dyke Path on Bradnor Hill for a short length. Spectacular views were enjoyed from here into the Welsh Hills, across to the Malverns, the Cotswold Ridge and the Shropshire Hills. We then descended to through Little Brampton Wood to the River Arrow and crossed at Knill Bridge before ascending Little Brampton Scar to walk gently down though farmland to Kington. We then enjoyed a celebratory tea at The Chocolate Box where Tina had made us a special chocolate cake decorated with a footpath, a finger board and a stile. A fitting end to 9 days and over 80 miles of walking!

Over the nine days of the Walking Festival we met a large number of people, many now living in Herefordshire, but also walkers from as far afield as Edinburgh, Halifax, Norwich, north Wales, Colchester and Poland. It was great to meet you all.

I must end by saying a special thanks to the members of Ross and District Walking Group who helped take over the leading of these walks after Chris James had a heart attack in May which meant he was unable to lead any of the nine walks. Thank you to Allison, who co-lead 5 days, Jean who co-lead two days and to Gordon and Robin who co-lead one day each, also Gordon supported on two further days and Helen on one. I could not have done it without you!

The final stretch.
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