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Jonathan Manning explores the hop farms, cider orchards and vineyards amid the stunning hills of this short ride from Bromyard Downs Club Campsite
It would be hard to find a cycle route with more alcoholic connections than this fabulous ride through the Herefordshire countryside.
On either side of the road are avenues of tall trellises to train hops; vast orchards of apples for cider; and even the vines of Frome Valley Vineyard.
Happily, there’s also the Cross Keys Inn at Suckley to quench a thirst generated by pedalling through this beautiful, hilly landscape. The ride even caters for the teetotal, with farm-fresh milk for sale direct from a roadside vending machine at Lower House Dairy!
The route starts at the lovely, wooded Bromyard Downs Club Campsite, and while the directions technically head south of the downs themselves, the rolling terrain is every bit as lovely. Be warned, though, that for every down, there’s an up, all of which demand considerable effort or fully-charged e-bike batteries. The rewards, however, are magnificent, with outstanding panoramic views from murmur-quiet roads.
Look out, too, for the pointed cowls on the oast houses (hop kilns), which are different to the flat-topped oast houses of Kent. These distinctive cowls used to provide a source of ventilation while the hops dried. Hops would be harvested in September and laid across a slatted ceiling in the oast house. Farmers would then light a furnace below, and as the heat rose it would desiccate the hops, reducing their moisture content from 80% to a parchment-like 6% ready for brewing. The moisture would evaporate as steam through the conical roof and out through the cowl.
Many of these architecturally intriguing buildings appear to have been converted into houses - the most striking oast house on the ride is now a nursery school – but there is a working hop farm at Suckley – called Stocks Farm – which will even sell its wares directly to home brewers. For the views, the villages and the local produce, this is truly a ride that deserves having a glass raised in its honour.
You can download this route from our dedicated Strava page here.
1 From Bromyard Downs Club Campsite turn left along the A44 and cycle downhill. In 1km, take the second left, signposted to Burley, by a large, white building. Continue along this road (Stonehouse Lane), passing through two gates, before reaching a crossroads.
2 2.4km – Turn left at the crossroads, signposted to Paunton and Evesbatch. Continue riding along the River Frome valley for 3.5km to a crossroads.
3 6km – Turn left here, signposted to Church, and continue to a T-junction.
4 7.2km – Turn left at the T-junction, signposted to Acton Green and Suckley. Continue to a crossroads with the B4220.
5 9km – Go straight over the crossroads, signposted to Suckley and Alfrick. Continue for 3km to reach Stocks Farm with its row of oast houses on the right.
6 12km – Turn left at Stocks Farm, signposted to Suckley, Church and Knightwick. Pass Holloways, with its Glasshouse restaurant, on the left, and immediately after passing a large, white house on the right look out for a turning on the left.
7 13.9km – Turn left, signposted to Linley Green and Bromyard. Continue to a T-junction.
8 18km – Turn right at the T-junction, signposted to Bromyard, and at the next T-junction with the A44 turn right, signposted to Worcester. The Club site is about 1km up the road on the right.