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The Historic City of Hereford

A walk around a medieval city that still retains some of its ancient charm.

Distance 2.7 miles (4.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths City streets, riverside path and tracks

Landscape Riverside and city

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

Start/finish SO 510403

Dog friendliness Not great for dogs, off lead beside river possibly

Parking Garrick House long-stay, pay-and-display multi-storey car park, Widemarsh Street

Public toilets Blueschool Street, Castle Green, East Street and elsewhere

Notes Several busy junctions without subways - care needed

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1 Turn left out of the car park. Within 150yds (137m) is the Coningsby Hospital built in 1614 (now Coningsby Museum). Go back a little way to walk along industrious Coningsby Street, to a T-junction. Turn right, along Monkmoor Street, noting that Canal Road points to the site of the triple canal basin terminus of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal, now the yard of a builders' merchant . Turn right into Commercial Road, where the Litten Tree occupies a former warehouse. At the Blueschool Street junction on the far side is more city wall, while on the near side are the shiny new magistrates' courts.

2 Cross first Commercial Road then Bath Street. Follow Union Street, then go right to High Town. Go left down narrow Church Street, to Hereford Cathedral (to the right of which is the tourist information centre).

3 Go left, beside the cathedral, passing the stonemasons' workshop. Go along Castle Street. Shortly before the Castle House Hotel turn right to Castle Green. Hug the railings on the left, beside Castle Pool (part of the original moat), to walk above the green and its Nelson Column (1809). Zig-zag down to cross Victoria Footbridge.

4 Turn right (or left for an extended riverside stroll), passing the putting green, tennis courts and a wood carving. Keeping on the south side of the river - opposite the regenerative Left Bank complex - cross St Martin's Street to go under Greyfriars Bridge, continuing to Hunderton Bridge.

5 Cross this old railway bridge. When the River Wye floods, blocking the roundabout south of the city, this popular footway and cycleway provides emergency vehicular access. Take steps down to head back towards the city. (Walk 40 touches our route here.) Skirt the rowing club, then walk up Greyfriars Avenue. Just before the junction go half right across a car park to go through a pedestrian subway. (But go right, through the car subway, to see a large chunk of the city wall.) The brick building immediately in front of you is built directly on the city wall. Up some shallow steps, cross St Nicholas' Street with utmost care.

6 As you begin along Victoria Street, see a solitary tree. A few paces beyond it, about 10ft (3m) up in the city wall, is a cannon ball, supposedly embedded there during the siege of Hereford in 1645. Go along West Street to Broad Street. Turn left. Walk towards All Saints Church - does its tower lean backwards? Turn right but then left, down Widemarsh Street, back to your car.

The city of Hereford is small enough for market day - Wednesday - to be discernibly busier than other weekdays. This is currently less obviously the case, as its agricultural economy claws its way back from being slaughtered by the foot and mouth disease episode in 2001. Hereford has a shrinking steel business, and relies heavily on the food industry - Sun Valley (chicken meat products) and Bulmers (cider) - and on you, the visitor. Sun Valley sponsor Hereford United football team. Bulmers, who put brand awareness above parochial sentiment, currently pay Leeds United to play with Strongbow emblazoned on their shirts. Neither of these firms employs as many in the city as the Herefordshire Council, the most recent administrative mutation. The county-corporate logo is a perfect green apple - a conservative choice. The apple may no longer be economically supreme, but it is indubitably more politically correct than a headless chicken - such a choice would certainly have ruffled a few feathers.

Despite the presence of a munitions factory at Rotherwas, the city was essentially unscathed during the Second World War. Visually, like most other shire towns, Hereford's latter 20th-century development was largely unpleasant - the Inland Revenue building in Broad Street and the encroachment of the Tesco supermarket into the city wall at the Edgar Street roundabout are particular horrors. However, Hereford retains pockets of charm, several of which our route embraces. The city oozes history - its castle site, its cathedral, the Mappa Mundi, and so on. The six-arched Wye Bridge, built in 1490 and strengthened in 1626, has seen a lot of traffic, vehicular and military. It was a focus of fighting in the 1640s, when the city changed hands several times. It has enjoyed relative tranquillity since 1965, when its ugly big sister was built. Beside the Wye Bridge, the recently completed Left Bank project - the biggest development since the Maylord Orchards shopping precinct in the 1980s - has really made a difference to this quarter of the city. (It's a mystery why the windowed buttress is not of the same local sandstone colour as the massive retaining wall.)

On the walk, take the opportunity to detour south, down Broad Street, to see the tall, honey-and-grey City Library, which also houses the art gallery and museum; currently deemed 'inadequate' for its functions, it was built in a Gothic style, with quite elaborate carvings. Also down here is the Roman Catholic St Xavier's Church - you can't miss its custard-coloured, Greek Doric columns - threatened with demolition in the 1990s. Until current refurbishment is complete, Mass is being held in Hereford Cathedral on Saturday evenings and in All Saints on Sunday mornings.

Where to eat and drink

The place to be seen sipping coffee nowadays is the Left Bank complex. The sandwiches at Ascari's, on the corner of Berrington Street and West Street, have a high reputation. The Moka Bar at No 8 Church Street can be quite a crush - always a good sign - and at No 10 is the Sandwich Bar. Near by too is Nutter's Wholefood Coffee Shop.

While you're there

Only devout heathens avoid Hereford Cathedral; this, and the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library (entrance fee) are the biggest draws. A circular, three-dimensional model of the hills around Hereford, on the City Library's porch wall, will interest walkers. Mounted on the stair wall is a stunning Roman mosaic floor from nearby Kenchester. On Bishop's Meadow you'll find an endangered species, municipal grass tennis courts - use them or lose them.

What to look for

Visit the Old House Museum (open Tuesday to Sunday, April to September) in High Town. A three-dimensional model depicts 17th-century Hereford. Near by is the relocated Marchants' House. Near the cathedral, the sign 'Tower open today' means you can climb the cathedral's stairs (most days in school summer holidays). Due to be unveiled in 2004 is Hereford's latest piece of art, a sculpture of Edward Elgar - a snip at £30,000.

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