The International Steam Pages

South Herefordshire Byways, 2012

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2012 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.

Those with a long memory may recall our first visit to Shibanxi in March 2004 when Yuehong (with friend Ding Feng Yuan) took to her bed when it got too cold and wet. Not much changes, just the odd grey hair and, as I write, the British 'Summer' of 2012 is rapidly going the same way with June the wettest since records began and significantly cooler than normal.

The paths we 'discovered' in 2011 will be a sea of mud and instead we have got on our bikes to explore a little further afield into nearby South Herefordshire but even then there's a lot more water than expected:

The River Wye at Kerne Bridge was well up when we visited, there's a nice view of Goodrich Castle from here. Two weeks later a group of canoeists had to be rescued from nearby when there was a sudden surge in water levels.

One of the features of the English countryside is unique place names, 'Google' any of the places named here and you'll be offered only relevant pages. Just over the border is Dancing Green with a suprisingly prominently named approach road:

We were checking out the small village when we bumped into a little old lady out walking her dog. We asked her about the name and she happily showed us the relative overgrown grassy area after which there was no stopping her. We heard her life story and how she had been a county councillor for many years. One of her pet projects had been to convert a forestry track into a proper road to improve access to the village - hence the name, her story is detailed in a Herefordshire Times article. Some weeks later we were back and again she was out walking her little dog, this time we politely asked to record the occasion on 'Dancing Green', the grass had fortunately been cut in the meantime. Eunice is almost as small as our favourite Burmese Dakhondaing lady.

A little further west is the delightful Hope Mansell, seen here from the hillside with the Penyard in the background, beyond which is Ross-on-Wye.

This is not an area where 'entry level housing' is much in evidence:

In fact, the church is very modest compared with many in the area reflecting its being well off the beaten track. In the churchyard was evidence of what must be a candidate for the UK's longest ever period of widowhood:

Along the road beneath the Penyard between Coughton and Pontshill is the impressive Cobrey Park (house):

On my first visit I was a little surprised to see a Polish registered car in the lane and hear strange foreign voices in a field, the answer to this lies in the large Cobrey Farm around: Literally hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe spend much of the year here. It's certainly hard and not well paid work at minimum wage levels but 'needs must'. I must be getting more right wing and grumpier as I get older but there were 500 people between the ages of 18 and 24 claiming Job Seekers Allowance in the Forest of Dean in May 2012. Plus no doubt quite a few more in South Herefordshire.

Contrast that accommodation with the nearby converted Bill Mills, formerly a flax mill:

And if any of the visitors fancy getting married, I doubt they will hold the reception at nearby Parkfields:

One of the joys of pottering around the countryside lanes in England is that you never have any idea what is round the next bend, you just have to keep the camera ready. This was an extremely well preserved Rover 10 from 1936 out for a spin through Pontshill, it is only on its second (very careful) owner:

Seven years in China taught me how lucky I was to have the kind of choices many do not. Certainly, I now appreciate the joys of semi-rural life in the UK even if we have to count our pennies carefully and there is no possibility of our draping our car over the pavements in our street like some of our less civilised neighbours and their equally lazy visitors because we couldn't afford one even if we thought it desirable to have one.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson