We parked at Kilpeck church, a few miles south of Hereford, and went straight to the church. It is a 12th century building with wonderful original features. Corbels (89 of them) decorate the edge of the roof; the images cover a wide range from a bird pecking a smaller bird, Celtic knots, Sheelagh-na-gig, hound and hare, serpents and some strange creatures which are difficult to identify. Then there is the entrance door. Although there is no porch it is in an amazing state of repair. The stone prights and arch, of the doorway, are covered in carvings including dragons and the tree of life. The door itself is solid wood with huge metalwork holding the door together and bolted through the door to giant hinges. A lot of the furniture within the church is Victorian but the architecture is 12th C – 14thC. There is a minstrel’s gallery; its origin is a mystery as the staircase leading to it is Victorian but it may be Elizabethan or Jacobean. The former seems likely as that was when music in churches became more sophisticated and wooden galleries at the west end of churches became popular.
The church probably survived so well because of the village’s unfortunate history. The population was devastated by famine and the Black Death in the 14thC. Hence the church remained small and unknown for many centuries. When it was renovated in the 19thC the architect, Lewis Nockalls Cottingham, was sensitive to the Romanesque original design. There are windows designed by Pugin.
The area around Kilpeck had been known as Ergyng when it was a small Welsh kingdom. Later it became part of the Welsh marches and was renamed Archenfield. In 1086 a timber castle was built to establish Norman rule in the area. Although a stone castle replaced the original, little remains of Kilpeck castle sat on a mound to the west of the church.
Now we set off on our walk travelling in a generally southerly direction towards Marlas and then Bagwyllydiart. It was a lovely late autumn day and the countryside soft and rolling made a very pleasant stroll. The views were extensive but now and again mists rolled across the hills creating fascinating scenes.
At Bagwyllydiart we turned northeast, going towards Orcop Hill. This stretch of the walk was mainly on a quiet road and we could see the hill ahead of us. Two of us stopped to buy tomatoes from
a roadside stall and then waited to watch a shrew cross the road in front of us (attempts at a photo were thwarted by the speed with which it darted for cover). Suddenly we were way behind everyone else and it wasn’t until they stopped at Orcop Hill that we caught up.
At lunch we arranged ourselves over huge pieces of a tree which were beside the road and wondered whether it had come down in a storm blocking the road.
Walking through Mynde wood we found large holes which must have been made by badgers, we carefully skirted these. Emerging from the wood we could see The Mynde ahead of us.
The Mynde was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War. It was home to the Pye family from the 1350s until about 1709. Walter Pye was attorney general for Charles I. His second son, Robert Pye, had different religious affiliations which decided his fate. He was beaten by a Roman Catholic neighbour with a billhook and died a few days later. The house is mediaeval with a grand Georgian facade. Apparently it has always been a private residence and is promoted as a film location. According to the Herefordshire Times ‘It has a 1,180 acre estate and parkland passing through a seven-acre lake’.
Now we turned northwest and were heading back towards Kilpeck. We passed through more beautiful rolling countryside. In a field we came across a large flock of sheep that ran from us and covered the horizon. We passed a few pretty cottages and arrived back at Kilpeck church.
Distance walked 8 miles and 750ft climb. OS Map 189