On Our Doorstep
There are countless reasons to make Yew Tree cottage your resting place from which to explore North Herefordshire and the neighbouring borders with Wales and Shropshire. But here are six to start – all related to experiences that can be had within a 3-mile radius of our back door.
The appearance of this quaint, picturesque “black and white” village on the trail of the same name belies a fascinating past. A mere 700 years ago this part of the world was the place to be and be seen and, in sharp contrast to today, was the setting for quite a lot of violence and rigorous destruction. Originally named as Penbrugge, it was owned briefly by Harold of 1066 fame. After the Norman invasion, the village was mentioned in the Domesday book as having been worth £16 in taxes before it went to waste and ruin due to incursions from the Welsh Celts. But, later, thanks to sheep and the wool trade, the village later picked itself up and in 1269 got a charter to run two markets. This led to two centuries of boom followed by five of relative bust.
As is often the case, one or two families dominate the story and here it was the Mortimers, the most famous of which, Roger, owned a fortified manor here. At the tender age of 15 he was married in in it to Joan de Grenville. As you will discover, the Marches (the name given the border country with Wales) bristle with castles that the Normans built to keep the marauding Welsh out and they were owned and run by powerful barons. Mortimer was one of them and he and many of his peers were so distressed by King Henry’s behavior later in his reign that they started a rebellion. Roger lost this one at first and was imprisoned but he became one of very few men who escaped the Tower of London and fled to France where he met Isabella, the King’s wife, had an affair with her and the two returned to England to oust Henry from his throne.
After having Henry II killed, it seems that power went to his head. With Isabella at his side and acting as de facto king (the true heir and prince was considered too young to rule) Roger made more enemies than friends. So as soon as he could, the young and future King Henry III managed to take back his power and execute Roger. That didn’t stop the Mortimer family continuing to exert enormous influence and they even show up again during the War of the Roses, this time supporting the winning side.
It’s almost impossible to imagine such a violent past when walking across fertile farmland and through cider orchards down into Pembridge. But the first place you come to is the recently excavated moat of the fortified castle/hunting lodge that Mortimer built shortly after his marriage in an earlier version of St. Mary’s church.
Having read into Roger’s colourful history, I can’t help thinking his story would be an ideal topic for a BBC drama.
The church is well worth a visit – it’s unusually large given the size of its congregation and that just demonstrates the wealth of its sponsors. The steeple built earlier stands separately with thick walls of stone and oak beams from trees that must have been monstrously huge before being felled. It was a safe place to shelter when incursions by the Welsh occurred and saw action in the Civil war – as evidenced by the bullet holes in the thick door of the steeple.
The reasons for making this your next port of call are numerous – first the warm, utterly sincere welcome from Sam and her team; second, the atmosphere and camaraderie that infuses the café; thirdly the delicious food – all hand made by the same team that serve it and all made with local produce. No wonder this is definitely the best tea shoppe in the country (just look at the rave reviews on Trip Advisor) and is now the hub of village social life. Check out the web site, if you wish, but better still, phone and reserve one of the hottest seats in town.
So the Steppes tea shop might feed your body and lift your spirits, but don’t neglect your soul – consider stepping next door into one of the finest smaller galleries in North Herefordshire. The owner of the Gallery, Yasmine Strube, has a very discerning eye and many year’s experience developing a network of the best and most talent artists, artisans, and craftspeople whose creations she displays with great effect in her gallery.
We don’t do things by halves in Pembridge and another resident, Richard Pym, who lives a couple miles out the village, has created the most exquisite water garden at Westonbury that has also attracted awards and media attention. After exploring the many pools, streams and quirky follies, the gardens make a perfect setting for a picnic or a cream tea in their little café. If Westonbury is too far to walk, and you left your car at home, then we will arrange to take you over and pick you up. The Mill has an excellent web site from which we’ve borrowed this enchanting video to stimulate your interest.
If you stand at the end of the garden in Yew Tree and look south east you might make out the roof of Dunkerton’s Cider Mill. It’s that close. In fact one of the first and easiest walks we suggest is a circular amble of just over 2.5 miles that includes both the mill and the café.
The family that has been making cider here for over 35 years – always organically and using traditional varieties – now run an exquisite restaurant that prides itself on celebrating the county’s life, produce and communities. No wonder both the cider and perry (made from pears) has won significant awards and is exported around the world.
Immediately adjacent to Dunkerton’s Cider Mill and a mere 25 minute walk from Yew Tree Cottage is the Cider Barn Restaurant.
Located in a 450 year old, Grade II listed barn at Dunkertons Cider Mill, Just outside Pembridge, North Herefordshire and a mere 25 minute walk from Yew Tree Cottage. is the Cider Barn restaurant that has a rapidly growing reputation for celebrating delicious locally produced food.
7. Country Walks and Wild Entertainment!
The best reason to visit this part of the world is that it’s the perfect place to decompress and chill without crossing an international border. We do “slow travel” best, inspired in part by Wordsworth’s words.
The longer you live here, the less inclined you are to venture far away as your senses become accustomed to the richness of detail – the verdant hedgerows, ancient woodlands, gently flowing rivers, and miles of well marked footpaths. I can provide you with many routes for walks in the countryside around across the countryside with minimum use of roads – although traffic is very infrequent and nearly always locally generated.
In terms of fascinating places to visit, we’ve barely scratched the surface as we’re more or less midway between Hereford and the mighty Wye valley to the south, Ludlow and the Shropshire hills to the north; Rhyader, gate way to the stunning scenery of the Elan Valley and upper reaches of the Wye to the west, and the gentler landscape of Worcester to the east. All accessible within less than 45 minutes’ drive at the most.
Alternatively, you can look outside the kitchen window and be entertained by our local wildlife!