Today we picked up a pamphlet on the famous Black and White Trail from the Tourist Board office in Leominster. I had learned of it whilst researching Herefordshire before we left home and it seemed a good way of touring the area with a theme in mind. Black and White refers to the wealth of timbered 16th and 17th century houses in this part of the county.
The man in the information centre said that we should be sure not to miss Eardisland and Pembridge if time was too short to do the whole 40 mile trip, oh and don’t miss seeing the church at Shobdon, just north of Pembridge. I must tell you now that the latter was the highlight of our day and has merited a whole post all to itself!
So, obediently we set off for Eardisland and found a charming village on the River Arrow.
Over the stone bridge and the first building you come to is the 18th century dovecote, a tall brick building which apparently was allowed to become derelict over the years, until in 1999 it was taken over by the local trustees and completely renovated. The ground floor is occupied by the community shop, staffed by local volunteers, and the upper floor houses the Eardisland Local Heritage Centre. A splendid display contains artefacts donated by villagers and much interesting information on the history of the village.
But what is that AA man doing there?
The answer is that Harry Gittoes from Eardisland joined the AA as a patrolman in the early 1920s and started with a uniform and a pedal cycle. At the end of the second world war when the AA started up again, Harry was given a BSA and sidecar. His AA box was at Legions Cross and Harry was particularly proud of the garden he created around it. In the days when telephones were few in the village, he used to use the one in the box to phone in a weather report to Fanum House (AA headquarters) in Birmingham!
When the old boxes were replaced by little telephone boxes on posts in the early 60s, Harry saved his box and it languished in an orchard until 1999 when it was rescued and completely restored. It now has pride of place in the visitors’ car park (in its own carefully tended garden obviously) and is believed to be the oldest authentic box in the country. It still has Harry’s oilskin coat hanging inside!
Of course, the exhibition is not all that is in the dovecote. The remaining walls contain no fewer than 850 nest holes set in tiers up to the roof! Just a few of them shown here…
St Mary’s Church at Eardisland is certainly worth a visit too, with its all-year-round exhibitions. You get the feeling that village life is very much alive and well in this pretty place.
Spending so much time here, we decided to go straight on to Pembridge, a few miles away, which has a large quantity of black and white timbered houses.
Just a handful of many which line the main street.
The parish church of St Mary’s has an unusual addition – a remarkable detached 17th century bell tower, believed to be unique. This extraordinary structure is supported by massive 14th century timbers and houses the clock and a ring of five bells.
Oh, and the odd coffin carrier too!
The church itself is large and comfortable and, a bonus for me, the organist was practising when we went in.
The village also sports an ancient market place:
And, interestingly, a mobile Post Office parked in the car park:
We finished off our afternoon in Pembridge with a delicious cream tea at the Cafe on Bridge Street – to be recommended.