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Hergest to Kington

Mostly  about  KINGTON


Cattle from mid-Wales being driven to the Midland markets rather than London may well have passed through Gladestry in Radnorshire (SO 233552) – the most inaccessible and peaceful village I have ever visited.  The Royal Oak is thriving & popular, as is testified by the fact that so many are prepared to walk 3 miles from Kington for their Sunday lunch there1.


The walkers come west over Hergest Ridge; the drovers used to take the same route eastwards to Kington.  It is a bleak journey in bad weather, but we were lucky.  The first hint of the cattlemen is at the foot of the ridge:  ‘The Camp’, a house of ill-repute, or, let’s face it, drovers’ brothel.  (#1 - Gladestry is off the picture to the left.)


As for the top, not a lot to say except: fantastic views and I am always stirred by the sight of those green lines/lanes where beasts have walked over the centuries and manured the ground enough for the grass to oust the bracken. (#2)


Kington, just below the ridge, is the smallest and oldest market town in Herefordshire (#3).  In 1717 it was described as having “the most considerable markets"2 and the important commodity was cattle –  ‘Keynton’,as it was called, meant ‘cattle town’... the incident described by Thomas Skarratt, a draper, in 1854 was probably typical:

There was excitement in the town due to the stupidity of a drove of young cattle...  At Wichlade’s, the butchers, persuasion or force could not force them to proceed.  The foremost turned to go back.  The drovers continued with shouts and blows to urge them forward.  No sooner did those from behind appear in front than they also turned back, pushing & squeezing, until at last the posteriors of some went crash into the window of Humphrey's the cabinet-maker, breaking frames & glass together.   This was a signal to the neighbours fearing a like catastrophe – and up went their shutters, and double quick too.


(The ‘stupidity’ of the beasts confronted by a butcher’s shop sounds like good common sense to me...)


The museum at Kington is well worth a visit.  A friendly, helpful curator and her volunteers printed Skarratt’s article and let me take a photo of their turnpike ticket issued for 6d to a gig3.  (#4)


Finally, the lucky folk of Kington can walk down the extension of Apostles Lane, under 2 miles south of the town, which starts at SO 297534 and goes ENE.  We would like to think this was once part of a route up from Brecon to Birmingham or Worcester.  No matter: the beauty of the lane and the views from inside it are enough for anyone.  We will return there one day.  (#5)


1 The drovers preferred to drink at The White Hart, opposite the church.  It is now a private house.  There were 6 pubs in Gladestry before the last war.

2 A weekly stock sale is still held there.  And the town was probably in Wales at one time because it’s west of Offa’s Dyke.


3 The ticket reads:  KINGSWOOD  GATE  Frees [allows passage through] Floodgates, Hergest, Sunset, Headbrook, Mosely, Crossway, Titley, Avenue [SO 329590], Next-end, Lyonshall, Eardisley Gates & Bars.  All are fairly easy to find on the Explorer map except Avenue.   Better still, go to where all is explained.

Hergest to Kington image 1
Drovers' Delight!
Hergest to Kington image 2
Where beasts have trod...
Hergest to Kington image 3
Not the Busiest High St...
Hergest to Kington image 4
Tollgate Ticket
Hergest to Kington image 5
Apostles Lane (extension of)