ROUTE ALERT: The Wye Valley Walk is closed at Hardwicke Brook, about 2 miles east of Hay. (In dry weather it may be possible to cross the stream without having to take a detour.) This is an undulating section with some steep ascents and descents. Leaving Hay cross the Dulas Brook, marking the Wales/England boundary. The route crosses fields, passing Priory Farm, its name hinting at earlier use and continues over fields and country lanes. Just before Locksters Pool Farm the path follows the former track of the Golden Valley Railway for a short distance.
This was the land of the Norman Marcher Lords and the route passes a motte and bailey at Lower Castleton (and at Bredwardine). There's a good climb up to Merbach Hill, which at 1000ft (305m) gives views of the Welsh Hills and the Malverns. The bridleway here may have been an old drovers' route bringing livestock to the markets of the Midlands and London. There is a steep descent down to Bredwardine.
Once an important grazing area for local farms, Merbach Common is now a nature reserve with butterflies, birds and dormice. The Wye Valley Walk follows a bridleway, which was probably an old drovers’ route taking cattle and livestock to the markets of the Midlands and London long before the railways arrived. From the cairn on the summit of Merbach Hill eleven counties can be seen on a clear day.
After former tramp turned millionaire George Davies left £30,000 to help the local poor the unusual settlement of Crafta Webb appeared almost overnight on Bredwardine Hill. Under the 'one night house' idea people believed if they built a house on common land, with smoke coming out of the chimney in one night, the land belonged to them. Francis Kilvert recorded visits to the thriving village of 400 people in his diaries but by 1900 everyone had gone. It’s now called the 'shrunken' village.
One of the finest nature and travel writers of the 19th century, Francis Kilvert, was the vicar of Clyro and Bredwardine. He kept a diary recording day-to-day events of life as he saw them, telling of a way of life on the Welsh border which has been lost. A memorial seat, under the huge yew tree in Bredwardine churchyard, commemorates Francis, who died here in 1879, aged just 38. His grave is a marble cross on the North side of St Andrew’s Church.
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