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The Wartime Poets of Dymock

A quiet backwater on the border with Herefordshire was once home to some of the finest poets of the early 20th century.

Distance 8 miles (12.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs 45min

Ascent/gradient 100ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Fields and lanes, 27 stiles

Landscape Woodland, hills, villages, rural farmland and streams

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 14 Wye Valley & Forest of Dean; Explorers 189 Hereford & Ross-on-Wye; 190 Malvern Hills & Bredon Hill

Start/finish SO 677288 (on Outdoor Leisure 14)

Dog friendliness Stiles and some livestock but plenty of off-lead potential

Parking Main road of Kempley Green, near its south eastern end

Public toilets None on route


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1 Walk south east out of Kempley Green and turn left just before Knapp Cottage. Take the right-hand of two paths. Cross stiles, pass a barn and then go through a gate into an orchard. Enter Dymock Wood to follow a path to a road.

2 Turn right and then left before a motorway bridge. Where this road bears left, proceed through a gate into fields and follow the route, alongside the motorway, down to a stream. Turn left before it. Cross a track and stiles, pass through a gate and walk straight along a track, aiming to the right of Boyce Court.

3 Pass to the left of a lake and continue through woodland to a lane. Turn right over a bridge and left on to a path beside the stream. Continue on the same line, staying first right and then left of the stream, all the way to Dymock.

4 Go into the churchyard and out the other side, through a gate into a field. Turn half left and take the second bridge on the right. Then bear half left to a stile. Turn right along a disused road and cross the B4215. Follow a track, leaving it to keep to the right of Allum's Farm. Pass a barn and go half left across the field to a gate. Enter an orchard, turn right and follow its left margin and then that of a field, to a road.

5 Turn right. After 600yds (549m) turn right into a field alongside woodland. After 120yds (110m) go half right over a mound to enter the woods. Turn right and follow the boundary to a stile. Turn left and re-enter woodland. Follow an obvious path, eventually emerging at a stile. Cross a field, keeping to the left of a chimney, and then right into a field. Look for a stile on your left, cross into the adjacent field and then turn right to find a bridge across the stream. Go half left across fields to a road.

6 Turn left and carry on past St Mary's Church. At the next T-junction go into the field ahead. Proceed into the next field and continue with the stream on your left across several fields to a lane. Turn left to a junction at Fishpool.

7 Turn right and, after 50yds (46m), turn left over a stile. Curve right and then pass a series of stiles to aim eventually just to the right of a cottage. Follow the path through poultry enclosures and then bear left over stiles so that a house is on your right. Pass the house and go right into a field. Turn left and follow the same line to arrive at Kempley Green.

Dymock lies in a frequently overlooked, remote corner of Gloucestershire, on the border with Herefordshire. In the years leading up to the First World War this pretty, unspoilt area became the home and inspiration to a group now known as the Dymock Poets. Some went on to lasting fame, others have been all but forgotten. The first to settle in Dymock, in 1911, was Lascelles Abercrombie. He was followed by Wilfrid Gibson and then by the American poet Robert Frost. Edward Thomas rented a cottage here in 1914 and all played host to John Drinkwater, Rupert Brooke and Eleanor Farjeon. Were it not for the Great War, they may well have continued living and working here, united as they were by a love for the English countryside and a respect for each other's abilities. As it was, their friendship was the catalyst to a considerable body of work, much of which can claim to have been inspired by experiences and friendships gained at Dymock.

Abercrombie lived at a cottage called Gallows, at Ryton, to the east of Dymock. Forgotten though he is, at the beginning of the 20th century he was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a great talent. It was his move to Dymock that was emulated by Gibson, who settled at the Old Nail Shop in Greenway Cross. Gibson, too, is now unknown, but at the time he was the best-read poet in the country. His move to Dymock led to frequent visits by Brooke and Drinkwater. The four of them contributed to a quarterly called New Numbers, published from Ryton in 1914 and which contained some of Brook's poems. Robert Frost, who became involved through a review of his poetry by Abercrombie, rented a cottage called Little Iddens whilst Edward Thomas (who immortalised the Cotswold village of Adlestrop in his most famous poem) lived in a cottage near by, called Old Fields. It was Frost who persuaded Thomas to concentrate on his poetry rather than his prose.

Dymock, which has a number of attractive timber houses, was also the birthplace of John Kyrle, the so-called 'Man of Ross'. A local justice and benefactor to the town of Ross-on-Wye in neighbouring Herefordshire in the late 17th and early 18th century, he acquired his moniker though his countless good deeds. These included securing a spire and bell for the parish church. Kyrle was actually the Earl of Ross by birth, but his good work earned him respect as a common 'man of Ross'.

What to look for

The isolated St Mary's Church, which was once the parish church of Kempley, contains some fine 14th-century mural fragments depicting a wheel of life and St Michael weighing souls. The chancel contains the most complete set of Romanesque wall paintings in England. Completed between 1132 and 1140, they had been painted over and were not rediscovered until 1872. They show Christ in Benediction, the Apostles, pilgrims and the usual members of the sacred host.

Where to eat and drink

The route takes you right past the Beauchamp Arms in Dymock, an old pub with a good lunch menu and a welcoming interior. The pub was saved from closure in 1997 when it was bought by the parish council to be managed as a local ammenity.

While you're there

Newent has some very attractive, medieval buildings and a museum of Victorian life. Near by is the Three Choirs Vineyard. Established in 1973, at 65 acres (26.3ha) this is now the second largest in Britain. You can buy the wine and there is an excellent restaurant.


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