Leintwardine to Downton on the Rock

NEAREST LOCATION

Downton on the Rock

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

10 miles (16.1kms)

ASCENT
1200ft (366m)
TIME
5hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Hard
STARTING POINT
SO403741

About the walk

By the end of the 18th century, formal neatness in landscape architecture had fallen from favour; the new word on the lips of those who counted was 'picturesque'. This craving for a laissez-faire type of landscape had been of great benefit to Ross-on-Wye, where the Wye Tour had become the must-do trip. Downton on the Rock was to benefit from Richard Payne Knight, under whose direction Downton Castle was built between 1772 and 1778. If you like regimented rows of trees, twee fountains, manicured lawns and symmetrical paths, then it's not the castle for you.

Richard Payne Knight

Richard Payne Knight knew exactly the sort of landscape he wanted for Downton Castle, having travelled extensively, particularly in Italy. He sought a rugged, wild view, like those seen in the landscape paintings of Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa, who had produced their best works in the mid-17th century. Poussin had worked at the Louvre in Paris as painter to the king, whereas Lorrain and Rosa had studied in Naples. None came from privileged backgrounds and all had struggled to gain recognition for their work. For some time after they had established themselves as artists, all three lived as near neighbours in a street in Rome called Trinità dè Monti. It would be interesting to compare their works with those of the little-known English painter, Thomas Hearne, who painted several views of the Downton Estate. Incidentally, the British landscape painter, John Constable, was born in 1776, when Downton Castle was being built. It is said that, when aged about 20, sight of Hagar and the Angel, by Claude Lorrain, sparked Constable's smouldering ambition to be an artist.

As for the privately owned Downton Castle's interior, it is wholly classical in style. Some alterations and additions were made in the 1860s.

Roman Leintwardine

The Romans built a fort beside the River Teme here, and stayed at Leintwardine until the late fourth century AD. Where an early church is found within a Roman earthwork, the inference is that usage of the site continued when the Romans left, as is the case with Leintwardine. The High Street lies on the line of the Roman Watling Street. Today Leintwardine's population is well below half its late 19th-century figure of nearly 2,000.

Walk directions

Begin downhill, very soon taking the first left, Church Street. Turn left. As you reach the primary school, turn right. Aim for a brick, brown-and-white house but, after a two-plank footbridge, go left to a tarmac road. Turn right. In 300yds (274m) turn left, to the A4113. Cross, turning immediately right up a lane. Ascend for a short mile (1.6km). Soon after a skew junction go forward beyond a corrugated shelter, taking the left of two gates. Just beyond a second corrugated shelter, take a gap in the hedge by a defunct stile on the right. Go three-quarters left, across two more fields, to replanted woodland. At the A4113 turn left but soon right, beside a wire fence. At the end follow the field-edge round to the left for 40yds (37m). Go down a very steep, earthy bank (care needed) in trees to pass Hollows Farm on your right, then along a good road, soon dead straight for 0.5 miles (800m) to Brakes Farm.

Go straight ahead (waymarker), across a field to find a stile/gate beside a pond in the far left corner. Cross a minor road diagonally, then cross fields to a minor lane beside houses Nos 20 and 19. The parallel minor road could be used if the field is ploughed. Turn left. Soon turn right, downhill. Turn right, along the river, just before a bridge over the River Teme. Skirt two unnamed houses. Up a bank, join a dirt road. Follow this to Castle Bridge. Ascend but within 110yds (100m) of leaving woodland go half right, across a field, rejoining the dirt road into forest for perhaps 60yds (55m). (If the footpath is not established, it would make sense to go round the road, not trample the crop.) Scramble up a bank (waymarker). Traverse the steep meadow to a gate in the top, among oaks. Keep this line to go across a wide meadow, locating a stile on the left into harvested trees.

Turn left and descend. When you reach open meadow, curve round a dry valley. At a left bend go through a gate on the right. Go left of a specimen oak to a hidden gate in the bottom corner (marked by a bright red disc). Cross over a footbridge and turn right. Cross meadow to a gate, and soon reach a minor road. Turn right. Descend easily through Burrington, to St George's Church. Behind the church, cross meadows to Burrington Bridge. Cross the River Teme. After 650yds (594m) take the right turn. When you reach Downton, head towards Old Downton Lodge, and skirt around the Lodge buildings. Beyond a wall take the rightmost gate (waymarker), along an old lane. Shortly move right to ascend a right-hand field-edge, soon following a beech-lined avenue to reach a junction with a dirt track.

Over a stile into an expansive field, swing left to descend, initially steeply. Past a small (possibly dry) pond veer left along a right-hand field-edge to a hidden stile in the corner and a road. Turn right. Within 275yds (251m), at Wysteria Cottage, take a kissing gate. Cross three fields to soon emerge on Watling Street. Turn right to Church Street and back to the start.

Additional information

Pastures, leafy paths, grass tracks, dirt tracks, tarmac lanes, three steep banks (care needed on one), 15 stiles

Rolling country, wooded and farmed, above River Teme

Mostly on lead, lots of game birds

OS Explorer 203 Ludlow

Community centre and village hall car park, Leintwardine

At start (not always open)

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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.