Monday 29 October 2012

Landscape in particular 5: Hergest Ridge

This is the latest in a regular-occasional series of posts on specific landscapes that mean a lot to me, or are new discoveries; after all, interest in the topographical is nothing without a feeling for sense of place: genius loci.
Previous 'Landscape in particular' posts: 
Kenilworth Castle
Bolton Abbey

Hergest Ridge in north east Herefordshire forms part of a belt of modest upland outliers that pockmark the borderlands of the Welsh Marches; seemingly created specifically to provide viewing platforms over the orderly and settled lowlands that drift eastwards into the English Midlands and the terra incognita of the mountain country of Wales to the west. Its modest 400 metres affording endless horizons and dramatic skyscapes in every direction. To further cement the feeling of transition, the actual England-Wales border tracks the line of the ridge from a safe distance and then, without warning, cuts right through it; leaving you wondering whether this line on the map was created by violence or cooperative compromise.

Traversing the three miles of the ridge relict features of past human activity ghost in and out of your stride: a nineteenth century racecourse, the foundations of World War Two gun emplacements, a prehistoric boulder - the Whet Stone, and an incongruous clump of monkey puzzle trees.

And, had you been taking in this scene in 1974, a quiet, long-haired figure intently controlling a model glider may have caught your gaze. Fresh from the huge popularity of Tubular Bells and ill at ease with sudden fame, Mike Oldfield had retreated to a house called The Beacon overlooking the ridge, and from there drew inspiration for his album named after the hill, Hergest Ridge and its follow-up Ommadawn. In the sleeve notes to the 2010 CD re-release of Hergest Ridge, Oldfield comments:
"In front of my house was a beautiful, long, ridged hill called Hergest Ridge, which had a prehistoric boulder called the Whet Stone on top of it. I passed the time at the Beacon building radio controlled model aeroplanes which I used to fly on Hergest Ridge. Flying model Gliders and making music was my salvation at the time...I incorporated all sorts of influences that were drawn from the landscape around me...".Although the album went to No1, Oldfield was unable to escape his earlier monster hit as Tubular Bells returned to replace it shortly after. Images of and from Hergest Ridge, October 2012:



  1. Lovely photos of Hergest Ridge: thanks for invoking that special place.

    You mention "the foundations of World War Two gun emplacements". Do you refer the boulders in your first photo? I understood those to be relics of clearing the land to be ploughed during WWII, although I'm not sure where I garnered that information.

    1. Thanks for the comments. I think you are right about the boulders as the ridge was ploughed up during the war. There are also a couple of rectangular earthworks now gone to grass where the gun's stood.

    2. I see, I didn't know about those. Thanks!


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