Ancient woodland . . . and medieval lifestyle

Amid the hills and steep valleys of northeast Herefordshire lies the Brockhampton Estate, comprising some 1700 acres of farmland (with Hereford cattle and Ryeland sheep), woodland, and orchards (especially damsonsPrunus domestica) just a couple of miles east of the small town of Bromyard, and about 11 miles almost due west of Worcester.

The estate was gifted to the National Trust in 1946, and there are now miles of woodland and park trails to wander and stunning views over the Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire countryside.

The weather was glorious yesterday, so we took the opportunity of getting to know the Brockhampton Estate (only about 30 miles from where we live), and view the magnificent 14th century moated manor house at Lower Brockhampton.

Approaching the manor house there is an imposing Gatehouse that was restored in recent years. In fact the house has gone through several phases of remodelling and refurbishment throughout its history.

And although the family moved out of the house towards the end of the 18th century (and built an imposing house overlooking the estate – the 100 year lease is apparently up for sale at £3 million!), the manor became a farm and has been lived in ever since. In fact one of the National Trust staff occupies the rear part of the manor.

There are also the ruins of a Norman chapel just to the side of the manor house.

The main features of the manor are the impressive beamed hall, the minstrel gallery, bedroom and study. Downstairs there is a parlor. These are the parts of the house open to the public.

The garden was filled with color, particularly dahlias – not exactly a ‘medieval’ blossom, since these were introduced into England (from their native Mexico via Spain, apparently) at the end of the 18th century or early 19th (I’ve seen 1803 or 1804 as specific dates cited).

Behind the house and across the moat is a large damson orchard. Because of the season this year, the damson harvest is running late, and the amount of fruit we observed on the trees did not seem abundant – probably due to poor pollination earlier in the year. It’s apparently been a very poor year for apples, pears, and plums among other fruit because of the very wet weather we have experienced. This part of the UK (in Herefordshire and Worcestershire) is famous for its apples and pears and other soft fruit.

As the autumn draws in, the swallows and house martins were beginning to gather and feed up their growing fledglings. I haven’t seen so many congregating in one spot for a long time.

In the woodland there are six estate walks ranging from 1 mile to over 3.5 miles. Given the recent wet weather it was very boggy underfoot in some parts on the 3.5 mile Oak Walk that we took (the longest), but on a warm sunny day like yesterday it was a delight to walk through the trees and experience the cool breeze of an ancient English woodland – full of enormous oak and beech tress, some pines, and a few ash.

What a magnificent sight. And just occasionally, as the woodland canopy opened up, views over the countryside to the hills beyond. All in all, Brockhampton Estate was a most enjoyable visit, and certainly one worth returning to at another season.

Click here for more photos.

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