Walk 16 - Near Ledbury
Ledbury town Centre to Eastnor Castle circular walk
This circular walk from Ledbury town centre to Eastnor Castle experiences the rich historical legacy of the Herefordshire countryside. The walk will take three hours without refreshment stops or time spent looking around the grounds or venturing into Eastnor Castle. To enter the castle or grounds the opening times are from Easter until the last Sunday in September. Opening times are extended from Sunday to Thursdays in late July through to August. There are plenty of events taking place at the castle which are worth looking out for. For further information see the website www.eastnorcastle.com.
Starting from Ledbury’s iconic Market House walk towards the cross-roads near the Feathers Hotel, take the turning signposted A449 Malvern. Follow the footpath past the Police Station. Just a little way past the Police Station on the opposite side of the road is a footpath sign and a little sign indicating the route to Eastnor. The footpath begins its uphill climb into Coneygree Woods past a house called Eastwood.
The path lies in a gully and can be quite muddy if the weather has been inclement, therefore walking boots are advisable. During the summer the tree canopy makes the ascent rather gloomy. On reaching the first fork in the path continue to the right. In places there are short flights of steps. The path continues uphill crossing two transverse tracks and soon after a brand new galvanised swing gate gains entry into the open fields. The path is clearly marked by the footpath sign. The woods are to the left as our route heads towards ‘Dead Womans Thorn’ as indicated on the OS Explorer Map 190 Malvern Hills & Bredon Hills.
The path exits the field where another new gate this time of the 5 barred variety. The route is straight on and crosses a track which eventually leads to Hill Farm. The unusually large pheasant population in this corner of Herefordshire is now in evidence as one gets closer to Eastnor. Continue along the edge of the next field and on the left tucked away amongst the trees is a ramshackle building and a little further on the view opens out with British Camp prominent in the distance. The path heads down to the left (north) corner. The footpath sign indicates the route through another new galvanised swing gate.
The path now follows the route of a designated vehicle track. Every few moments the silence is shattered by a daft pheasant making a bid for freedom out of the undergrowth. The contours of the hillside are downhill from left to right. Following, there is a very short downhill stretch through the corner of the woods indicated as Eastnor Hill. On exiting the wood the view ahead is quite panoramic with Eastnor Castle tucked in the trees behind the farm buildings with their not so attractive large stainless steel silos. To the left is Eastnor Church and in the distance British Camp.
On reaching the churchyard the ground levels out. This first section of the walk will have taken 45 minutes at a gentle pace. The pheasants are now more abundant than seagulls on a school playground following break time. The footpath continues next to the churchyard and to the left is a football pitch with a biased gradient for the wingers. A couple of steps lead down to the minor road connecting the A438 to Eastnor village, castle and onto Clenchers Mill.
Follow the road to a lovely triangle of grass with Eastnor Primary school to the left. On the well tended grass there is an attractively constructed well housing. Unfortunately the inscription above the well basin is misleading as there is no opportunity for a man to quench his thirst. Clenchers Mill Lane continues past the castle entrance where there is an excellent cafe serving a wide range of foods and beverages when the castle is open.
The Eastnor cricket ground is opposite the castle entrance. Return back down the lane and on the left is the road leading to the Eastnor Pottery centre and Eastnor Estate Farm, do look out for the antique air hose made by Laycock probably used for vehicle tyres many years ago located on the corner amongst the ivy as the road turns left.
Eastnor Estate Farm is to the right opposite the pottery centre. The track is also a bridleway and appears to be well used. Continue up-hill skirting the edge of Bircham’s Wood. Over to the right is a view of the hillside which was traversed earlier. Several tracks lead deeper into the woods, our route follows the single vehicle width track. A little further on to the right the footpath indicates a diagonal path across a field with ‘The Holts’ buildings on the skyline. The path does in fact cut through the grounds of the Holts and a single track now leads downhill towards a five barred gate, but the footpath turns off to the right with a view across a large field. The path crosses diagonally across the field leading back to Coneygree Woods.
Another new galvanised gate has been erected and after passing through it the old wooden gate is now passed. The footpath here in the woods can be quite muddy and climbs up through the woods, the path then levels off making a right hand turn which is well signposted route around the woods. There is a path to the right which heads up to the centre of the woods. A few metres on down the path a right hand turn heads off to Bullens House. Our route is to head down the track towards the fairly busy A417. Fear not, as not one step has to be taken on the main road as there is evidence of the old road which is now a rather suitable footpath running parallel to the A417 on a slightly elevated footing.
Along this path into Ledbury are a number of well placed iron seat and rubbish bins. Reaching the roundabout, signposted Hereford A438 head back into Ledbury the road is called Southend. On the right is the impressive house Underdown and next door is Ledbury tennis club, then following Ledbury Park. On the opposite side of the road are the stylish Georgian three storey town houses, the leisure centre and then John Masefield High School. The impressive Gloucester House nestles between quite an interesting mix of Edwardian, Victorian and older black and white cottages. A few moments later you are back in the centre of the delightful market town of Ledbury where a variety of refreshments or retail therapy can be enjoyed.
This is an abridged version of a walk from Book Four: A Pictorial Guide to Ledbury, published by Malvern Walks at £7.95. Available in local bookshops like the Malvern Book Co-operative (2 St Anne's Road, Malvern) and Tourist Information Centres in Malvern, Upton Upon Severn, Ledbury, Worcester.