Friday, 1 February 2013


Some friends were gathered at the Landmark Trust's Shelwick Court, just outside Hereford, this week, and I was kindly invited to join them there yesterday. My route was roundabout, to put it mildly: up on the train to Worcester (across the very swollen Avon); SW to Hereford (across an equally swollen Severn, and arriving near to a no less swollen Wye); SW again to Newport; E to Bristol Parkway and then home. There had been a landslide near Gloucester, it seems. Anyway, I had good value, I suppose, for my £12.05 fare.

After lunch, we walked from the fine old house down towards the River Lugg, but got nowhere near: more flooding there of course. In the morning, we were in the Cathedral. Its loos have a separate entrance, across a garden: emerging from them, the wind blew my cap off. Up it sailed, onto the loo block's high flat roof. Ah well, I thought, it's not irreplaceable. But I left my address with one of the stewards in case it ever came down.

We went on with our visit, which was timed to coincide with a lunchtime Service. We were out of luck, as there was a funeral taking place in the Lady Chapel. Disappointed, we approached the elderly retired priest from Much Wenlock who had welcomed us when we first came in. "Could you," I asked, "kindly lead us in a short prayer? Our group consists of Pax Christi workers and supporters..." He took us to the tiny Stanbury's Chantry, where we sat for a few minutes. But prayer for peace was there none. It seemed he had never heard of Pax Christi, which gave me rather a jolt.

Just as we'd left the Cathedral, the same steward I'd seen earlier came running after me - cap in hand. My request, "St Thomas of Hereford, pray for us" had borne fruit.

Just as we reached the car park, I noticed The Hereford Cattle Society office, with a statue of a bull over the door. I was about to photograph it when one of the staff emerged. Do you by any chance have "Cotmore" inside? I asked. Yes, come and see him, was the kind response. And so I was able to photograph the painting I'd long heard about, featuring my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Jeffries' prize-winning bull in all its glory. Cotmore was where he had lived, near Lyonshall, and there bred this beast, weighing in - aged 9 - at 35 cwt (over one and a half tonnes).

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