WAW member seeks action to save the ‘at risk’ Herefordshire Trail
A member of the Walkers are Welcome Leominster Group has played a leading role in the launch of a rescue and promotion plan for the neglected Herefordshire Trail. Pete Blench feared the trail, parts of which were in very poor condition, risked losing its status as a recognised Long Distance Footpath.
Donning a backpack and setting off directly from his Leominster home, the former journalist walked the 154-mile circular trail in sections ‘as a tourist’ staying at pubs and B&Bs, compiling a report for Herefordshire Council.
The trail passes through black-and-white villages, all five Herefordshire market towns – Bromyard, Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye, Kington and Leominster. It takes in stunning border landscapes and historic sites such as 12th century Dore Abbey and Arthur’s Stone neolithic chamber tomb.
Pete described his journey in daily posts on social media and wrote a report for Herefordshire Council on access problems, making the case for the trail’s tourism potential. He is now working closely with the tourism body, Visit Herefordshire. A trail upgrade and major promotion are planned.
“Fortunately, I was able to ‘get the ear’ of cabinet members on Herefordshire Council, those responsible for trade/tourism and highways/rights-of-way portfolios,” said Pete. “As a result, they took part in a meeting with PROW and tourism officials, local Ramblers group members and myself. I was asked to kick off the meeting with an ‘overview’ of the Herefordshire Trail. I am delighted with the plan for action.
“This wonderful trail was devised 17 years ago by a group from the local Ramblers, but it was never fully-embraced by the county council which was coping with a backlog of path problems and was unable to give special attention to the trail. Herefordshire Council also has a major stretch of the Wye Valley Walk on its patch which is prioritised.
“But times change. The fact that the trail is exclusively Herefordshire and includes all the market towns on route is now seen as a plus for tourism and the economy.
“The council agrees that it’s something we should be promoting big-time – but there is a lot of work to be done. I struggled on some overgrown parts which were impassable or near-impassable due, for example, to growth of head-high bracken which weaves into an impenetrable mass in the wind and rain. I highlighted these blackspots in my report.
“There were other issues such as dangerous footbridges, broken stiles and poor waymarking on some sections. Problems in that category were meticulously recorded in a report compiled in the same period by Duncan Smart of Hereford Ramblers and has also been taken on board by the council.”
Pete added: “As a Walkers are Welcome local group member, my focus has been on walking tourism and seeking a much-needed uplift for local businesses. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the part of ‘tourist’ in my own county – meeting the people serving the drinks and meals and providing the visitor accommodation. They were really encouraging about my ‘mission’ to promote the Herefordshire Trail and so helpful.”