Me, my husband and our baby on a self-catering week in Aylton, near Ledbury. It wasn’t the most ambitious of holidays. One of the leaflets in our rented cottage was for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens … less than five miles from our house. Steve and I joked about popping home for a cheap day out.
But Herefordshire was radiant after a record-breakingly rainy July; hedgerows sang with foxgloves and wiry lupins, and the orchards were fecund with apples and pears. This is the land of honesty boxes: eggs, jam, perennial plants and runner beans may be picked up for pence – unless you’re enjoying the Roman roads too much to stop. Steve sang along to the radio. Vincent discovered happy screeching and cut a milk tooth. I felt my tiredness lifting.
The Kiln, a converted oasthouse, is part of White House Cottages, run by Marianne and Nick Hills. It felt strangely fun to lie in bed at night and imagine the furnace that once blazed there. Upstairs in what is now a cosy living area and kitchen, hops would have been dried, ready for brewing.
Marianne and Nick have thought of everything – The Kiln even has kitchen scales, mixing bowl and a loaf tin, should you feel inclined to bake a cake. (I preferred curling up in an armchair under the sloping ceiling with a glass of wine and the Olympics on the telly.) A cot and highchair are available on request and there’s a communal laundry room with tumble dryer.
The Kiln may not be ideal for an older child or even a baby on the move – you’d probably need a stairgate and would have to be cooped up in one bedroom together. Although a gleeful entry in the visitors’ book said:
“It was calld the Kiln and I went down stairs to bed! Love Owyn, aged 6.”
Aylton is a rural hamlet, so a car is almost essential for this holiday. Aylton church, with origins in the 12th century, is always open and, unsurprisingly, contains no obvious reference to the spooky story told by Rupert Matthews in Haunted Herefordshire.
Matthews states, without apparent doubt, that the churchyard is haunted by the ghost of one 14-year-old Emma Foulger, whose body was presumed stolen by resurrectionists: “macabre villains” who sold freshly buried corpses to unscrupulous doctors for anatomy studies.
Bearing in mind many of mine and Steve’s usual holiday activities – long walks, tipsy picnics, galleries, pubs and restaurants – are out now we have Vincent, here are my Herefordshire (and Welsh border) heroes …
* Ross on Wheels: a buggy-friendly walk around Ross-on-Wye, devised by Sam Phillips of Ross Ramblers
* Old Grove cider tasting and homemade scones at CJ’s Old Grove Farm Shop
* Scrumptious and generously sized cakes made by Audrey at The Hop Pocket craft centre
* The cavernous Hay Cinema Bookshop
* Once Upon a Tree cider from Dragon Orchard – I liked Putley Gold 2010
* The airy and welcoming (much like a fanfare!) Trumpet Corner Art Studios and Tea Room
* Tea and brownies at The Pocket Bakery in Monmouth
* Picnicking at Queenswood Country Park
* The black and white buildings of Eardisland – a pixel-perfect English village.
Steve’s just sent away for Vincent’s first passport, so perhaps we’ll be more intrepid next time. But sometimes, as a new parent, just to escape is all the adventure you need.