Sunday, 7 February 2010

A taste of Hereford

Off and out first thing yesterday to Hereford, where I lived for 18 months after uni. It's still one of my favourite places.
I haven't been to Hereford for sometime, and it was only when I was outside the cathedral that I realised that Dad was alive last time I was here, and I sent him a postcard. Yesterday was farmers' market day and the centre of town was buzzing. Sad to see though that Chad's, the department store, has fallen to the recession. It was a lovely, old fashioned shop. Now, of course, part of it is a pound store.
Lots of other shops have gone too, but the farmers' market seemed to be doing good business. In Hereford, it's only right to buy orchard fruit, and I bought some lucsious conference pears.
Next to the fruit lady were these cheery souls from the Pencombe Village Bakery. They haven't been open long, and they're based near Bromyard. Just been nosing at the website and discovered that they do a bread making course. Hmmm. One for the future.
The bread looked lovely, so I bagged a sourdough. I hope they have great success - and are at the market next time I'm back.
One fixture of this farmers' market is the lady who helps owls - normally featuring one of the birds in person.
This little chap was with her, keeping a beady eye on shoppers.
I was really disappointed on my last visit not to see the Handmade Scotch Egg company, perveyors of one of my favourite snacks. So I was delighted to see them in residence yesterday. They make heaven knows how many different varieties, most meaty but some veggie.
After much deliberation, I choose a classic, a scrumpy, a colonel (with beer mustard) and a vegetarian Worcester, made with cheese and Worcester sauce. I devoured the classic for lunch, and it's the only commercial scotch egg I've eaten that's as good as homemade. They do mail order, which is a tempting possiblity.
Next stop was halfway up Church Street: the excellent Mousetrap cheese shop. Inside, a family was selecting which cheeses to go in a wedding day cheese pillar - the cheeselover's alternative to the wedding cake. There was much munching and testing. I couldn't resist a hunk of Beenleigh Blue and a good slice of the shop's own cheese, Little Hereford.
The Little Hereford is a creamy cheese with an almost grassy finish - nice. Food shopping done, it was time to visit the cathedral. I love Hereford cathedral. It's not grand like Canterbury or beautiful like Ely or Durham or even a patron of modern art like Chichester. But it's small and interesting and full of enchanting things, like these piggies snuffling for acorns on the tomb of John Swinfield, complete with their Hereford cathedral jackets.
A couple of additions since my last visit hints that Hereford might, after all, be going down the Chichester route.
These wonderful windows, in the chantry off the lady chapel, are by Tom Denny and commemorate Herefordshire's own mystic, Thomas Traherne. There are four windows in all, glowing with colour and detail. There's more info about them here. It's worth visiting the cathedral for the windows alone, but there's another new thing that I liked very much.
This is the recently completed cover to the tomb of St Thomas of Hereford, who got excommunicated when he was bishop and went over to Rome to argue his case. He got back into the church, but died on the way home. After he was buried at the cathedral, miracles were reported, and in the 17th century his bones were used to ward of plague in the city. No record of how effective that was, but probably a good deal cheaper than Tamiflu.
On the front end of the shrine cover, angels are holding up the Mappa Mundi, the cathedral's most famous possesion.
I wandered back into town, dropping in to see jeweller Mike Gell, whose shop in East Street is another of my favourite Hereford places. Then, with a full rucksack and happy tum, I headed back to the station. I hope when I'm back that this lovely city is as thriving as it used to be.


meemalee said...

I stayed in Hereford for a week back in 1997. We were the resident choir - we arrived on 31 August which also happened to be the day that Diana died, so the cathedral was packed all week with mourners. Slightly freaky for us! Never really got the chance to wander round town though so thank you for this lovely virtual visit.

Btw, scotch eggs rock :)

fran39 said...

Thanks, meemalee. How wierd that you were there that fateful weekend. Hope you'll have a chance to revisit one day.