River Frome - Wye Sub Tributary
29 miles total Fri 18th April - Sun 20th
Where do we start with the River Frome? Do I want to make an inventory of events one after the other, a list of happenings so to speak, such as place names, times, landscape, geology and so on? Surely it would be metronomic and far too familiar! Of course, if by chance I pointed out a bird of prey in the sky – would that be enough? Could you make head or tail of just what is happening from this outline or do I go ahead and describe the colour of its wings, how fast it was travelling, the sounds, typography, its flight pattern or its size? How do I approach this because, simply put, I don’t have time to go into such detail, so instead, it remains for me to give a summary of what was a two day trek in the back country of Herefordshire. It won’t be massively descriptive but rather a fly over of events.
So, it’s great to be out again observing new sights and on this occasion we are seeking out the River Frome, which transforms, seemingly from nothing, into a stream outside Thornbury near Bromyard and widens into a tributary of the River Lugg, an artery of the River Wye. It jostles the brain cells to experience something new and almost immediately down from source there are the Malvern Hills brooding in the distance, holding a line of sight almost alpine - like and grand for what they are. Yes, its new country here and quite remarkable in that only after a few miles a healthy taste is acquired for this hidden and charming part of the world. It has its wonders, the rolling countryside, undulating contours, green fields, old lanes and every inch a classical rural scene. It’s no surprise then that people come here for their slice of heaven and you can only but marvel at some of the money that’s around. Indeed. There’s no shortage of ponds draped in willow, bits of river at the bottom of substantial gardens, ha-has, pigeon lofts, little empires, eccentricity and so on, but of course this would be nothing without the odd dump of a farm. You do get them. Still it’s a pleasure to walk through but it’s only really appreciated from the angle of field hopping and a river’s course. In fact, when following a river like this, you do breach the countryside in a unique way and all of it a genuine micro adventure.
Meandering through the landscape is like retrieving something from the passages of time but it’s not all about quaint cottages, plush houses and estates or about the historic gems that pop up, such as the old Leominster to Bromyard line and station; something we didn’t even know existed. No, what I’m curious about, besides the above, is the timeless quality of awareness that naturally comes over you when following an energy source like a river. Not to say it’s without difficult moments but in the main you do walk free from material influences and familiarity and the way in which they take hold of your consciousness because what starts to impress upon you, as a transformative element, is the unknown. You follow a river and you stick to it, wherever it leads, dealing with whatever comes up. As a result, the mundane dissolves away, leaving space for those enigmatic realms to shine through. Of course, the world is still there but you enter a more fluid encounter with it, which in reality is momentary, yet somehow more alive than a life governed by rigid boundaries. Gently another reality seeps into your consciousness, which could be experienced as a separate reality, one that travellers have perhaps come to know of, as wanderlust, a magic feeling burgeoning within adventurous people everywhere.
Stepping into Bromyard there’s a backwater like quality that holds you, because it appears the shop fronts haven’t changed for a hundred years or more, manifesting as a time-capsule or living museum that, with little effort, acts as reality check for a crazy paced civilization.
On the trail again and we’re walking through more glorious Herefordshire countryside, new pastures, which are a true education of hidden landscapes, vineyards, planet agro farming concerns, churches and grand old estates. We’ll put some grid references and place names in at the end for you.
In total the walk was twenty-nine miles, with Bromyard the only town on route but besides this, on the way to the confluence, there were numerous other areas of interest. In particular there’s the awakening of place names providing context to the landscape, as if surfacing from hidden depths of forgotten topographic language. For example, it had not occurred to us that the River Frome lends its name to Frome’s Hill as well as the hamlets of Bishops Frome, Cannon Frome and Castle Frome. It’s all so obvious but things escape your attention until viewed upon from such an angle.
So the River Frome travels through backcountry and we are struck by how picture perfect the Herefordshire countryside can be, yet some of it is intensely farmed. Even so, it’s still private and provides enough space to lose your-self within. A whole section of valley is taken up by agro farming, which on this occasion due to the red soil and its sheer expanse has its allure. As mentioned churches, vineyards, abandoned buildings, grand houses and so on all find their way into the walk making for a surprising journey through a seemingly forgotten world right here in Herefordshire. To end, the River Frome winds up fairly nondescript where it enters the River Lugg, silent and unnoticed, not a stone’s throw from Hampton Bishop just outside Hereford.
In summary, as you now know, the rivers source is located near Thornbury trickling out of an agricultural pipe adjacent to Manor Farm. Not aesthetically pretty, but interesting none the less, and there is charm to be found in a grotesque looking pig kept within close proximity (Grid Ref: SO 601-618 OS 149). Boar-like, it was unperturbed by our presence grunting around looking for food. Fascinating creature! As mentioned the old Leominster to Bromyard rail station pops out of nowhere, old world in style but now a home, meaning we walk onto it thinking it a rail enthusiast’s dream (Grid Ref: SO 628-565). The occupants were fine. Following on, and just outside Bromyard, we enter an amphitheatre bowl like valley, a kind of, hidden away green and pleasant land occupied by a majestic horse (Grid Ref: SO 635-555).
After a night hunkered down in Bromyard’s cricket pavilion its day two and the A44, then Avebury Lane, passing through a substantial lush valley leading to Acton Beaucamp and Bishops Frome. If you look on the map the contours give away the valley’s existence, which for us is the most iconic part of the trail. These are lazy country lanes where Brookhouse Farm can be seen on route, timeless and stately, and judging from the prominent house and buildings it belongs no doubt to major land-owner’s, but still it’s nice to look at, and you do get a sense of history (Grid Ref: SO 662-525). Close to Acton Beaucamp there’s a vineyard to mosey through, a somewhat surreal and welcome experience. (Grid Ref: SO 669-499).
From the A4103 Worcester Road near Five Bridges and just beyond Bishops Frome (Grid Ref: SO 659-469) to the A417 (Grid Ref: SO 633-434) a few miles down-stream, we cross an extended open space, or what could be described as our planet agro farming world, something alluded to earlier. Beyond this a brief march along the A road and it’s a relaxing jaunt down Watery Lane followed by a break at Yarkhill Church where we were joined by a zany couple and their dog. Good vibes. From this point we made our way to Claston Farm on the A438 following the river’s line to eventually cut through the farm onto the main road, followed by a quick dash to Upper Dormington, where we find an old and abandoned caravan ideal for another brew. Rested, it’s on to Priors Frome close to a favourite backcountry area, then Larport and the rivers’ confluence at the River Lugg (Grid Ref: 561-387), which, barring the enigmatic Lugg Flats, boasts no major geological feature but this is of no real concern as it’s been another eye opener for sure.
Total Distance walked 29 miles height ascended approximately 190 metres.