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Hereford's Percy and Fred

Catch a bus from Hereford for this linear walk beside orchards and the Wye.

Distance 3.7 miles (6km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Farmland and woodland paths, old railway bed, 9 stiles

Landscape Orchards, arable fields and riverside pastures

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 189 Hereford & Ross-on-Wye

SO 471414 (city bus stop SO 503401)SO 503400 (Cider Museum)

Dog friendliness Some arable fields, but many cattle beside Wye

Parking At Cider Museum (patrons only); or city centre

Public toilets None on route but several in city

Notes Catch First 101 bus (every 15 minutes) from nearby Eign Street towards Credenhill and ask for 'Wyevale Nurseries'

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1 From the bus stop opposite Wyevale Nurseries on the King's Acre Road take the signed public bridleway between beech hedges. It's straight. Eventually cross a farm track to put a hedge on your left. At the end of Wyevale Wood cross a stile. In adjacent modern orchards one substantial oak stands defiantly.

2 Use two stiles to cross a tarmac road. Keep on this line with a hedge on your left, eventually to reach, in a corner, a kissing gate (Wye Valley Walk marker). Sheep graze in the traditional orchard on the left. Within 60yds (55m) cross another road at Breinton Court Lodge. Go diagonally across a disturbed orchard then a car park corner to a kissing gate. Here head straight across (leaving the Wye Valley Walk). Under some power lines cross a new-ish fence. Keep this diagonal to a green path that passes to the right of the churchyard, reaching a kissing gate. Atop a wooded embankment, initially skirting the vicarage's vast garden, walk beside more grazed orchards.

3 Beyond these orchards a stile leads into an open field. Soon look for a new metal kissing gate that puts the hedge on your left, in pasture. Some 60yds (55m) beyond a massive plane tree, turn right to join a muddy track down to the River Wye. Turn left. Follow the river bank for 1½ miles (2.4km), as far as the old railway bridge.

4 At the old railway bridge ascend steps to turn left - beware of whizzing cyclists! Go along this old railway trackbed. Abruptly, just beyond a road bridge, this sylvan cyclepath and walkway spills into Retail Britain. Wade across the huge supermarket car park to find the seemingly diminutive Cider Museum, ahead and to the left.

By the time you reach the orchards by Wyevale Wood, the bus you caught will be in Credenhill, home of the founding brothers of H P Bulmers, Percy and Fred. Their father was rector at Credenhill for several decades, and was also a contributor to the Herefordshire Pomona, a tome on apples. In 1887, having completed a history degree at Cambridge, Fred joined his brother in preference to taking up the opportunity to tutor the King of Siam's sons. It was some time before steam power eased the physical effort of cider-making. At the start both brothers worked a 16-hour day for much of the year, either walking the 4 miles (6.4km) home to save the rail fare or sleeping overnight at their workplace. On the latter occasions, the suppers their mother had cooked for them would be taken by a boy on the train from Credenhill to Hereford.

The Bulmer brothers' business stuttered early on when the local apple crop was so poor, because of wet weather, that they had to buy their raw material expensively from Somerset. The turning point came when, having filled new, large storage tanks with cider in a year of good harvest, they were able to sell all their stocks at a premium price after a bad harvest two years later.

Direct mail - or 'junk mail' - is not a new concept. Bulmers were one of the earliest to apply this method of creating demand - press and poster advertising was considered too costly. After a day of physically arduous work the brothers would spend their evenings poring over directories, to cull names and addresses of landed gentry, peers, the clergy and doctors, then sending out circulars to this 'target audience'. According to Fred's account, this effort meant that after some years they had accrued 20,000 customers, a big enough base for them to become a 'wholesale only' company. Bulmers' Woodpecker brand was first sold in 1896.

As a child, Fred Bulmer suffered so badly from asthma that he did not go to school. During this school-less childhood he taught himself French. When the business blossomed he went on a visit to France, where the cider-makers of Epernay gave him advice and colleagues demonstrated their méthode champagnoise - perhaps their descendants now rue that generosity.

First published in 1937, and written in the style of the period, Early Days of Cider Making by Edward Frederick Bulmer is a delightful read, a genuine story of sweat, endeavour, opportunism and good fortune - it even has a wicked godfather. The book is available from the Cider Museum.

While you're there

Visit the Cider Museum, allowing enough time to do it justice. The child-friendly Waterworks Museum combines the history of drinking water with the engineering of Victorian steam pumping engines (check for opening times).

What to look for

From the riverbank you'll see the Waterworks Museum's Italianate water tower. In the city look for the number plate 'C1 DER' on the car driven by the preceding years' most successful sales rep at Bulmers.

Where to eat and drink

At No 69 St Owen Street is the Barrels and Wye Valley Brewery; at No 88 is the Victory pub and Spinning Dog Brewery. The Café at All Saints is a café in a church that's moved with the times.

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