A (Mostly Wet) Week in Herefordshire and One Book

Moonow River Cottage meadowIt started so well: a glorious summer’s evening, sipping chilled white wine and eating our supper on the lawn of our idyllic rented cottage in Longtown, followed by a lovely, warm Sunday walking through wildflower meadows. What could be better? Come Monday morning, those meadows were sodden. The rain continued on and off for the next four days, ranging from torrential downpours to the kind of irritating warmish drizzle for which neither a waterproof nor an umbrella seems to quite work. It was supposed to be a walking holiday, exploring the lovely wooded Herefordshire countryside, culminating in scaling the path over Bruce Chatwin’s famous Black Hill just above us and walking into Wales. Instead it turned into a ‘practising for Mr Big (1)retirement’ kind of week – pottering around, lunching out, spotting a nuthatch at the bird feeder and stroking the gorgeous, big, black, purry tomcat who adopted us. That photo really doesn’t do him justice but by our last day he was altogether too relaxed to sit upright for very long.

In between all that lounging about there were a few outings. I met my old Waterstones friend, R, for a coffee in Hereford while H went off to explore the town which, having already visited the Mappa Mundi and the chained library not so long ago, didn’t take him very long. Poor old Hereford’s suffered badly from the ravages of out-of-town shopping plus public spending cuts: I was shocked when R told me the library had closed. The lack of a reliable mobile phone signal and a decent broadband service hasn’t helped, I’m sure. Hay-on-Wye was in much better shape although there were fewer bookshops than I remembered. R had recommended the café at Richard Booth’s bookshop which turned out to Hampton Court borderbe excellent. Lovely shop, too.

By Friday we were so encouraged by the weather forecast that we decided to visit Hampton Court near Leominster. We could have put on our boots and gone for a walk, I suppose, but the prospect of waterlogged fields was distinctly off-putting and by this time we were both well into dawdling mode. We’d visited the gardens about a decade ago when they were freshly laid out and a little too new but now that they’ve matured they’re absolutely delightful: gorgeous herbaceous borders in full flower, a beautiful organic kitchen garden and a suitably jungly sunken area – all set against a grand, wooded riverside backdrop.Hampton Court poppies

And the book? I’d taken Ed Taylor’s Theo with me. It’s published by Old Street Publishing and I’d long assumed they were based in the hipster end of London but it turns out they’re in Brecon not a million miles from where we were staying. Theo is the ten-year-old son of a famous rock musician. Taylor’s novel covers two days in his life during which his mother disappears to ‘rest’ and his father turns up with an Theoentourage, planning to record his next album. Theo spends most of his time in the incapable hands of his grandfather and his father’s friend, running wild but desperate for some sort structure, someone to take responsibility. It’s a little too long, but Taylor captures the slightly panicky, constantly questioning voice of a little boy who seems altogether more mature than the self-obsessed adults who barely register his presence no matter how desperately he begs for their attention.

So, despite everything that the great British weather threw at us we enjoyed our week away. And I discovered a liking for perry, a lovely drink for a hot summer’s day should we ever get one. Back to books shortly…

13 thoughts on “A (Mostly Wet) Week in Herefordshire and One Book”

  1. Hampton Court sounds especially nice. I’m glad you had a nice time, despite the weather.
    (The Tomcat looks just like one of my cats, who is also very purry and affectionate.)

    1. Thank you. We became quite besotted with Mr Big, Naomi. Such a softy! And he went some way to temporarily fill the void left by our own dear twenty-year-old moggy who’d we’d had to say goodbye to earlier in the year.

        1. Thank you – I still miss her. We plan to rescue one after our September holiday. Trying not to visit the local cats’ home website too often!

  2. Lovely blog Susan. It’s a shame about the weather, but what a lovely location and it sounds like you had a relaxing time irrespective. And what a gorgeous cat. I love cats.

    1. Thanks, Belinda. He was an absolute sweetie – so big he managed to stretch himself out across both our laps!

  3. Sorry to hear that your week was a bit of a washout on the weather front. Hampton Court sounds lovely though – Hertfordshire is such a gorgeous part of the world. Finally, I have to add my voice to the chorus of purrs over that cat – what a handsome chap!

    1. It was a shame, Jacqui, but we’re not far away from that part of the world and the cottage was so lovely that I’m sure we’ll go back. Nothing to do with Mr Big, of course….

  4. A pity about the rain, but I guess its all that rain that ensures the continued beauty of the English countryside, everything has browned up here and dies without intervention. Happy to hear you found a way to enjoy yourself despite the weather.

    1. Thanks you, Claire, and you’re absolutely right about that verdant countryside. Same goes for lovely Ireland, too.

  5. Thats such a shame because the area is wonderful when the clouds part. Hereford is indeed looking a bit sad but thats the way a lot of these country towns are going unfortunately. Your eyes didnt deceive you, Hay has lost some shops since a number of the owners have found they can sell on line and thus avoid the rental cost of actual premises.

    1. It’s a gorgeous part of the country, for sure, and only 90 minutes from where we live so we’ll be back. I thought that was the explanation for fewer bookshops in Hay. I suspect rents have rocketed over the years since Richard Booth first put it on the booky map.

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.