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Ledbury to Colwall Stone

Ledbury to Colwall Stone

To follow the path of drovers from Ledbury to Malvern and Worcester, go to the splendid Market House (SO 713377), standing proudly on its ten wooden legs near The Feathers.  Behind it you’ll find two parallel lanes going north.  Don’t take the lane with the church spire at the end; it’s the other lane on the left that you want.  It leads past the back of a splendid Tudor pub, the Prince of Wales, so it’s tempting to think that while the reputable drinkers were going in the front door, the Welsh were drinking at the back.  Fuel for the journey…

And the journey soon gets hard.  The tarmac gives out as you climb the hill – the Council have even put four or five steps there – but keep Dog Hill Wood on your left and you’ll reach Cut Throat Lane (#1).  Once across that, it’s tarmac all the way to Colwall1. (#2)

The first ‘landmark’ is Upper Mitchell Farm, the second Petty France Farm, just off the road to the left.  I have no idea why it’s so-called, but the feeling of history grows stronger over the next mile.  As you turn right at 731407 and aim for Cummins Farm (once moated, apparently), you will see the ornate Lower Lodge, belonging to Hope End, where Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning) lived from age three to thirty.  (By 1830 Edward Barrett, pressed by his creditors, had been forced to sell and had moved to his more famous house, 55 Wimpole Street, which is where Robert Browning comes in.) 

After a superb cutting through rock (#3) we came to Barton Court on the left (#4), which has strong associations with the 14C English poet William Langland, author of Piers Plowman.  WL may have actually lived at Barton at some point.  The house looks solid Georgian, but apparently that is only a shell: the old house has been encased inside. 

The first lines of Piers Plowman:

                In a somer sesun when softe was the sonne

                I schop me into a shroud, as I a scheep were,

                In habit as an hermit unholy of werkes

                Wente I wyde in this world wondres to here;

                Bote in a Mayes morwnynge on Malvern hilles

                Me bifel a ferly, of fairie, me-thoughte.


Only the last line needs a dictionary.  If that.

At Barton Court, we meet the Turnpike that takes us up to Colwall Stone.  There’s a tragic story here: in 1841 a woman in labour asked to be dropped off the coach at that turning.  The coachman obliged, but the woman gave birth in a ditch – and deserted the baby.  A passer-by thought the crying sound was from a lamb; his dog persisted, but the man walked on.  The noise was also heard in a nearby house, but both husband and wife decided to ignore the crying and the baby died in the night.  (The mother of the mite was convicted of manslaughter – plenty of witnesses then – and transported for ten years.  Which means Life; a cruel age indeed.)

At the junction there’s a splendid array of pines, then it’s Colwall Stone and houses, houses all the way through the Malvern Hilles to Guarlford (#5).


1The original OS map calls this stretch of road “Old Turnpike”; why I’m not sure.  Surely most turnpikes were relatively new in the 1830’s?

Ledbury to Colwall Stone image 1
On the Flat, at last.
Ledbury to Colwall Stone image 2
And Tarmac.
Ledbury to Colwall Stone image 3
The Cut
Ledbury to Colwall Stone image 4
Barton Court
Ledbury to Colwall Stone image 5
Yew Tree Inn (in distance)