A circuit from Ashperton




7.75 miles (12.5kms)

260ft (79m)
3hrs 30min

About the walk

Unless you know where to look, the only hint of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal in the city of Hereford today is in the street named Canal Road, which led to the canal's western terminus. In the east the canal joined the River Severn at Over, just west of Gloucester.

A rural backwater

During the 1790s countless canal schemes were promoted, many of which hadn't a hope of making the fortunes promised to their investors. One such was the Hereford and Gloucester Canal. Started in 1793, it took until 1845 to link Hereford to the Severn near Gloucester. Coal, fertiliser, passenger boats and manufactured goods just didn’t produce the income needed to keep the canal open. By the 1860s it was a dead duck; in 1881 it was partly reused as a railway south of Newent.

Not a bad deal

Records show that, typically, a lock keeper would be paid 14s per week but his employers would deduct 2s per week for rent. Lock cottages may have been rudimentary, but what could someone today earning, say, £350 per week rent for £50 per week? This brings to mind the old expression, 'the best place to put your money is in bricks and mortar' – house bricks, that is, not canal bricks.

Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust

Since the 1980s the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust has striven to restore the canal to its former glory. The Trust's greatest tangible achievements to date have been restoring the skew bridge at Monkhide, a section of canal at Yarkhill, and the Over Basin, across the border in Gloucestershire. Its greatest intangible achievement has been to win over public opinion, perhaps aided by the thriving canal leisure sector in adjacent Worcestershire, where almost as many people overnight on boats (13 per cent) as they do in bed-and-breakfast accommodation (14 per cent). A few years ago the planning authorities were successfully lobbied in Hereford city. The service road to a new retail park in the north of the city – connecting Newtown Road and Burcott Road – includes a bridge that spans the course of the old canal, instead of cutting through it or filling it with hardcore or concrete. The Canal Trust is working hand-in-glove with Herefordshire Council to restore a 350yd (320m) stretch of derelict canal through Aylestone Park, just north of Hereford's centre.

Walk directions

From the car park take the wide gate opposite beside the bungalow’s hedge, following waymarks through to the A417. Turn left and cross the road. In 80yds (73m) take the enclosed path, right beside the driveway to The Rosary, leading into pasture. Continue past ancient oaks; in the second pasture a gate in the far-right corner leads to a cricket pitch. Cross to use the stile at the white sightscreen opposite. Keep ahead over a drive and past two oaks to a far corner stile into Heywood Lane. Turn left, passing Tunnel House. The lane crosses the old canal; continue for 0.5 miles (0.8km) to a stile on the left 100yds (91m) past Upleadon Court’s driveway.

Cross the stile, then head diagonally right over several fields, aiming just right of the white farmhouse. Cross the drive and walk to the far-left field corner, near where three wide, waymarked gates lead to a field-side path. Use the stile just past the copse and head for the distant hillside tin barn at Gold Hill Farm. Pass behind this barn over two stiles, look left for the third, then turn up beside the rail-fence. Keep ahead off the corner to a gate 100yds (91m) left of the cottage.

Turn left on the lane and continue 440yds (400m) to a sharp left bend. Use the waymarked path here (left gate), initially beside woods. Climb a corner stile; then cross the huge field, in line with the right-end of woods on the ridgetop ahead. Search out and cross a railed footbridge below trees; turn left to the nearby field corner and then right up to the top wooded corner. Go left on the woodland track, crossing a rough road. At the far end head half-right down the field to the farm buildings and a lane.

Turn right to the T-junction in 800yds (730m). A waymarked footpath opposite heads for the far-right field corner and through a woodland strip. Beyond, head right of the oak to a footbridge, half-right to another near a pylon, then ahead through a waymarked hedge-gap. Turn left along the field’s far edge. At the corner, look left for a handgate; then far-left of the old orchard for a corner stile. Work half-left to wide gates at a concrete bridge. Cross and advance along the line of trees. Beyond a gate, trees shelter a lake; cut half-right to tall elms, cross the fenced driveway, then another track to reach a road by a spinney.

Use the gates opposite, walk ahead past the hedge-end poplar to find the old canal. Go left to cross a stone bridge over the water. Walk along a nearby grassy strip up the new orchard; then bear right to the tall corner-oak and a stile. Walk to the offset copse corner ahead; here turn right, and in 250yds (228m) use a handgate to reach the nearby village hall. Turn left; then right for the church.

Additional information

Field and woodland paths, minor roads, many stiles

Gently undulating, mixed farming, woodland, derelict canal

Close control near livestock and on minor roads

OS Explorer 202 Leominster & Bromyard

St Bartholomew's Church, Ashperton

None on route

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About the area

Discover Herefordshire

Herefordshire is split in two by the River Wye which meanders through the county on its way to the Severn and the sea. Largely rural, with Hereford, Leominster, and Ross-on-Wye the major towns and cities, its countryside and ancient villages are the county’s major asset.

Visitors can take advantage of a number of the trails which will guide them through areas of interest. Those especially interested in historic village life should try the Black and White Village Trail, which takes motorists on a 40-mile drive around timber-framed villages from Leominster to Weobley (established in the 17th century and known as a centre of witchcraft in the 18th), Eardisley (where the church boasts a 12th-century carved font), Kington, Pembridge and others. Other trails include the Mortimer Trail, the Hop Trail and the Hidden Highway, which goes from Ross-on-Wye to Chester. Hereford has a small Norman cathedral, which has a great forest of pink sandstone columns lining the nave. Inside is a chained library, a 13th-century Mappa Mundi (map of the world) and one of only four copies of the 1217 version of the Magna Carta.

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