Chic rural hideaway in a converted 17th century blacksmith's forge in Herefordshire
There is so much going on in Herefordshire that we haven’t had a chance to do much more than scratch the surface. We moved into this seventeenth-century Blacksmiths house with an adjoining Forge from Sussex in 2015. We were charmed and fascinated by the buildings and set about unearthing their history. The Forge, located on Turnpike Road (though no-one calls it that anymore), was on a drovers’ way.
We have an old yew in the garden, which was probably used as a way marker for the drovers on their long journeys from Wales to London. The Forge served local farms, shoeing cattle and horses, and making implements and tools. We discovered that the Blacksmith’s house next door had been used as a judges’ court, a cider house, and a poor house as well as home to the Blacksmiths and their families going back to 1640.
It’s been a long haul changing four small workshops, a pig sty, and an artist studio into the holiday cottage while trying to keep the integrity of the building. Sometimes it felt like Grand Designs (on a miniature scale) but finally, it’s all done. We were even able to create a pretty, private garden for guests, despite the best attempts of our resident moles who dug up the new turf again and again and probably will do next winter too.
And now we can sample the delights of this area in all it’s glory!
The biggest event in our calendar by far in the Spring is the Hay Literary Festival (www.hayfestival.com), which runs from 25th May to 3rd June. We’re just thirty minutes’ drive from Hay, through the picturesque Black and White villages and along the River Wye. With speakers this year including Chelsea Clinton, Benjamin Zephaniah, Margaret Attwood and James Acaster, this festival is a really diverse and an unmissable event.
Hay Festival is such good value, and Hay itself is a great place for eating out, browsing galleries and losing yourself in shelves and shelves of books! During the festival, the town buzzes with street food vendors and visitors enjoying the historic castle, which is open to the public. Plus, How the Light Gets In festival (www.htlgi.iai.tv) which runs at the same time, bringing additional entertainment with it. How the Light Gets In began as a fringe to Hay Festival but is now a significant festival in its own right, and features live music, breakfast time debates, and more than 400 events. It’s well worth researching and packing in as much as you can!
We’re on the border between Powys, Shropshire and Herefordshire here, in fact if you walk to the top of Wapley Hill behind us you can see the Shropshire Hills, the Malvern Hills and Brecon Beacon too. The walks here are varied and glorious. Some are very popular like Offas’ Dyke, Hergest Ridge and Herefordshire Way but for me, the very best of all – and the most spectacular – are the activities offered on our doorstep.
I have fallen for the fabulous Wapley Hill woods in May, the Beech tree leaves and Elm tree flowers unfurling in the hedgerows. A short walk from the door and you find yourself on woodland paths with blankets of Bluebells, or along country lanes with high banks of white Ransoms and Pink Campion. We are in the darkest county in England and in the evening, on clear nights, you can while the hours away just looking at the stars. There are no streetlights, and only a few neighbours, so the light pollution is next to nothing. The sky has never looked so big!
With culture, good food and a slow pace of life, we won’t rush to find out everything there is to know about our new home. But we will be making tracks to Hay on Wye this year, and to the bluebell woods. We wouldn’t want to miss either.
Clare Cherry is the owner of the beautiful Forge at Stansbatch which is available all year round from £200 for a 3 night stay / from £340 for one week. Sleeps 2.