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Berrington Court: 'Back to The Fruiture'

A moderate stroll around a rural backwater, among more trees than a forest.

Distance 5.7 miles (9.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 280ft (85m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Town streets, field paths, minor lanes, 15 stiles

Landscape Undulating mixed farmland, small market town

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 203 Ludlow

Start/finish SO 598682

Dog friendliness Lead preferable most of time

Parking Long-stay car park, beside swimming pool, Tenbury Wells

Public toilets Off Teme Street and on Market Street

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1 Leave the car park by the 'no exit' sign. Over the bridge with railings turn left. At the Crow Hotel turn right then immediately left. Now walk through Tenbury Wells. Cross over beyond Pembroke House, soon taking 'Berrington'. Opposite the bungalow, Somfield, cross a stile. Go up and down to another, walk on level ground, following power poles. Cross a ditch over planks behind fallen trees. Go to the field top.

2 Turn left then right. Cross fields to join the driveway of Manor Farm. About 50yds (46m) beyond a bridge turn right at a triple waymarker to a close stile. Cross fields for 440yds (402m). Veer down and right, through a gap, then back up left, and through The Green's several gates.

3 Go left on this lane for 750yds (686m). Some paces past '30mph' follow the unsigned driveway of abandoned Upper Green. Through more gates, head for the far left field corner. Start up the left edge. Over the brow, at an old tree line, strike diagonally, to a footbridge.

4 Turn right, soon on Cadmore Lodge Hotel's golf course. Go straight and level, leaving the course when a little beyond the hotel. Walk round the right field edge, then down a farm track. Join a minor road between imposing dwellings. Turn left. In 100yds (91m) take the fingerpost, up some steps. Cross this field diagonally. A path leads through bracken to Berrington Mill (and many high-decibel dogs). Turn right, up the lane, then right to Frank P Matthews' nurseries at Berrington Court.

5 Take the track behind a house. Enter the nursery. Walk beside mind-boggling numbers of potted trees under glass (or plastic). Leave this gravel track where it cuts down through woodland. Meadows lead to Bednal Bridge. Just beyond it take double gates into trees. Keep your line when this ample track runs out. It's now straightforward to the outskirts of Tenbury. (A yellow arrow pointing right eases a sharp slope.) Round the backs of gardens, emerge through a gate.

6 Turn left, but only for 15yds (14m). Take a hedge-hugging kissing gate, on the left. Now go forward, across the flood plain, for 90yds (82m). Turn right (a gate aperture is now behind you) to hit suburbia again. Turn left. Move left at 'No cycling'. Keep on the tarmac footpath, left of No 14, soon beside tall garden fences. Emerging at the church, turn left. Opposite a church gate turn right, down Church Walk, to Teme Street and thence your car.

The 'Wells' in Tenbury Wells only came about after attempts in the mid- to late 19th-century to capitalise on the mineral water in the town's wells. The Pump Rooms, built in 1862 and recently restored, are its other legacy, but it was too late into the fashion - Malvern Wells, Droitwich Spa, Buxton Spa and the like - for it to yield prolonged success.

Once upon a time Tenbury was known as 'the town in the orchard'. It has been estimated that between 1970 and 1997, 64 per cent of Britain's orchards were grubbed up. Why? Often it was because the grants system operated by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) encouraged many farmers to grow cereals, not top fruit. Orchards on urban peripheries were, and those that remain still are, ripe for house-building. The cider industry is still thriving - witness the number of young orchards you may see while driving in the two counties - but some varieties of apple are verging on extinction.

On this walk you will notice that Frank P Matthews grows a lot of trees. The company sells about 60 varieties of apples. They also have a commercial interest in 'tree heritage', being the supplier of rare species to the Fruit Tree Kits scheme, administered by the Herefordshire Council Parks and Countryside Service and run every autumn.

The scheme's stated aim is 'to help people source old apple varieties that were once traditionally grown in Herefordshire but that are now rarely planted or difficult to obtain commercially and in turn restore or replant traditional standard orchards.' Those available may be culinary, dessert, or cider apples. A particularly quirky apple is called Ten Commandments; this is a rather insipid dessert apple, in fact, but its strange name comes from its bizarre internal colouring - when cut open, ten red spots are evenly spaced around its core. The scheme is not exclusively for apples, embracing particular varieties of quince, plum and pear.

Commercially, apple trees are propagated by grafting on to another rootstock. One reason for this is that they might otherwise grow into large but relatively unproductive trees. The time of maturing, the 'cropping capacity' and the final height of the tree are therefore determined by the rootstock on to which it is grafted. The fruit tree kits for orchards are supplied on rootstock coded 'M25', that is a vigorous sapling that will grow to a standard height of perhaps 33ft (10m). However, to widen the net of propagation, fruit tree kits can also be purchased for growing in a garden. Trees for this purpose are 'M26, dwarfing', growing to 8-12ft (2.4-3.6m) tall, making them practical for the gardener to harvest.

Where to eat and drink

Despite its modest size, there are plenty of options in Tenbury Wells, including a pizza house. In the heart of Tenbury is the Crow Hotel, which has a beer garden. Several of its pubs are old, timber-framed affairs, including the Royal Oak in Market Street, the King's Head Hotel in Cross Street and, on the route out, Pembroke House, which serves Caffrey's Irish Ale.

While you're there

About 3 miles (4.8km) south east of Tenbury Wells is Kyre Park, a large private house, basically medieval with Elizabethan and Jacobean pieces bolted on, set in 32 acres (13ha) of landscaped gardens, including five lakes, a medieval dovecote (resited in 1756), and a brick tithe barn from 1618. You can get married here if you want to, or just share a pot of tea. Apart from running about in the gardens, children have a 'fun palace' and there's even a miniature soft play area for toddlers.

What to look for

No 18 Teme Street (now the Country Restaurant) once housed Tenbury's most famous resident, yet he lived there for less than a year, struck down by tuberculosis when aged 30. Henry Hill Hickman, born in 1800, was a pioneer of anaesthetics, but never a practitioner (and only recognised posthumously), beyond experimenting with animals. The seventh of a farmer's 13 children, he was a truly brilliant youth.

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