architecture buildings Church architecture Herefordshire

Some Little Churches of Herefordshire – Part 3

The third church in our series exploring the small churches of Herefordshire was one we knew not for its architecture but rather unusually for its unique hedge! We knew of this church because the village, Brampton Bryan, because it is home to a huge used book shop situated in an old barn. It has thousands upon thousands of titles filling so many shelves that cover the walls of many rambling rooms and passage ways. The book barn goes under the name of Aardvark Books and it houses a coffee shop which serves very tasty coffee and cakes. Coffee, cakes and lots of books! How good is that!

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St Barnabus was well hidden among tall Yew trees and secreted away behind a stone wall topped with a wonderfully eccentric wobbly hedge. It curved sinuously around the churchyard and it seemed to us that the volunteer gardener who cut it must have loved this task and the freedom of imagination he put into his work. It was simply stunning! Some of the best “cloud pruning” we have ever seen!

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When we opened the door we were aware of how dark, cold, damp and unwelcoming it felt compared to the other churches we had visited earlier on. There was no sign of community involvement here at all.

But we did find some artifacts to interest us and above our heads we noticed its dark wood “Hammer Beam” structured ceiling.

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We wandered around the outside of the church building to search for points of interest and found a mixed bag of things to interest my camera.

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Before saying our goodbyes to St Barnabus we could not leave without another look at its most interesting feature, the crinkly hedge.

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architecture buildings Church architecture community gardening Herefordshire

Some Little Churches of Herefordshire – Part 2

Following on from studying St Michael’s at Brimfield we drove along narrow lanes towards another small village called Yarpole. The direction sign at a junction directed us along an even narrower lane to Yarpole itself and on the opposite side of the road we spotted a brown Tourist Sign directing us to Yarpole Belfry. Thus we were expecting to find a belfry but no church. Separate belfries are a feature of several Herefordshire’s churches.

But when we drove into the village following signs for the Belfry we found both the belfry and an accompanying church only a few metres apart. We certainly were not expecting to find such an exciting place! The church here in Yarpole was a true community affair. We were in for many delightful and heart-warming surprises.

As we closed the car doors alongside the churchyard we got our first view of St Leonard’s over a low wall. We could only see the bell tower at that time but the big blue sign made us think there must be a church to be found there somewhere as well.

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The next sign was more confusing as it welcomed us to Yarpole Village Shop and Post Office which were both to be found inside the church. We then realised this was a special place, the centre of village life around which the community revolved.

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Signs outside the main porch provided further clues to the character of this community church.

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On the path that wound its way towards the church porch we took a diversion to get a close look at the belfry which was separate from the main church building. Once inside it took a while for our eyes to get used to the dark before we could appreciate the ancient woodworking skills of its builders.

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We were surprised by a little sign explaining what made the churchyard special and different from most others. The graveyard is managed by volunteers to optimise the wildlife potential. Areas of grass are left uncut for wildlife, and lichen is left to grow on gravestones and stonework. Rough areas are left for nest sites, hibernating sites and groundcover for insects and invertebrates. The area is full of wild flowers to attract bees and butterflies. Another sign nearby announced a Spring Concert

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On either side of the porch carved stone faces welcomed us in, and inside the porch modern colourful stained glass windows added warmth to that welcome.

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We found the door open and the sounds of voices came to meet us. This was a lively community centre with a cafe, village shop and Post Office. From the roof hung beautiful photographic hangings. The stone pillars were built from two types of stone giving it a striped effect.

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In the gallery where the cafe opened each morning a chess group was silently enjoying their games.

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Exploring the interior we found the usual furniture and features of any village church and the worship side of the church’s functions sat so comfortably alongside the community functions.This is what village churches should be like, keeping themselves open and used beyond occasional Sunday services and serving the community as they were originally meant to do. Other features however were exactly what we would expect to find in any church.

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We liked the idea of the pebble pool. Each pebble dropped in the water represented a prayer.

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We then had a wander around the out side of the church looking for interesting little details.

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So the first two churches we had discovered on our initial exploration of the villages of Herefordshire in search of little churches serving small communities were totally different. St Michael’s at Brimfield was quite traditional and typical in the way it was used and in how the interior looked and felt. But St Leonard’s at Yarpole was a totally different kettle of fish – it was a community centre and felt full of life. It had a relaxed atmosphere with a warmth missing from so many of the churches in England.

On our first day we found one more little church in this area and we will share this with you in Part 3.


architecture buildings Church architecture townscapes

Three Cathedrals – Hereford – Part Two

Back at the cathedral in Hereford, we found colour flowing in through the windows even though it was a dull day. The stained glass windows seemed to capture the little light there was. The majority were typical of such windows found in any church building anywhere in the UK …..

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……. but a few were very different indeed. These were of recent design with a original art work and a style and technique we had never seen before.

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Hereford is famed for being the home of one of the most famous of ancient maps ever produced, the Mappa Mundi. The detail was amazing and it was hard to imagine that this was the work of someone’s imagination. How could it have been conceived? Other ancient books were displayed in glass topped cases.

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The craft of wood carving is not left out, as we discovered fine examples on misericords and chair backs.

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The smith was not left out either. We found these very detailed carvings on gates at the entrance to a walkway within the cathedral.

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Our final craft we discovered was the work of the stonecarvers. These two dragons topped off pillars in a tiny chapel.

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Once back outside we were disappointed not to be able to walk around the the building to view it from all sides but we were very pleased to find a courtyard containing this beautiful piece of sculpture and close by some intricate ironwork on a pair of gates.

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As we returned to the car we found a few interesting buildings left in the centre of the city. A row of old cottages close to the Cathedral, the Victorian Public Library and an old warehouse now restored and extended to provide modern apartments. So there ends the look at the first cathedral in this little series.

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