Looking for links to bring in visitors

Looking for links to bring in visitors

For some years now the Herefordshire and Shropshire Churches Tourism Groups have worked hard to encourage visitors to our many fascinating church buildings. Each church is special, interesting and unique.

They may be unique but also churches have many things that link them together in many ways. Some groups of parishes and deaneries have produced leaflets about the various churches in their area or about items of common interest.

There is a group of late Saxon or early Norman churches in the Corvedale, north of Ludlow, including Stanton Lacy, Diddlebury and Culmington, the last two with the distinctive 'herringbone' style of masonry.

Many churches display the work of the Herefordshire School of Romanesque (Norman) Sculpture, such as Kilpeck, the fonts at Eardisley and Castle Frome and the richly carved tympana (the panel between the top of a doorway and the arch) at various places including Brinsop, Stretton Sugwas and the old chapel at Yatton. Shropshire has a fine group of Norman fonts including those at Stottesdon, Morville and Holdgate.

There is the unusual or bizarre, such as the Italianate church at Hoarwithy – a bit of Tuscany in deepest Herefordshire – or the extraordinary font in The Lea, near Ross, standing on a pedestal in the shape of an elephant. The chancel ceiling at Bromfield, Shropshire, painted in 1672 by Thomas Francis, shows angels and cherubs in a state of near nudity prancing around the heavens. Sheila-na-gigs – female fertility figures - adorn some of our churches: there is a group in Shropshire including Church Stretton, Holdgate and Tugford. The extraordinary tower of Llanyblodwel in North Shropshire looks like a rocket on its launching pad. It was designed by the vicar, Rev John Parker in 1855 and was apparently based on the spire of Freiburg Minster in Germany.

And what about churchyards? Most contain gravestones and monuments, some grand and ostentatious, others more modest. Many are havens for wildlife and have been studied by Caring for God's Acre. There are yews of great antiquity, such as those at Hope Bagot and Much Marcle.

What the two Churches Tourism Groups would like to do is to create a number of church trails in the diocese, linking some of the features described above. People can then put on their walking boots, pump up their bicycle tyres or jump in their cars and explore a group of churches in their area or in another part of the diocese. If you would be interested in helping with this, please get in touch with Anni Holden at sctgoffice@gmail.com or  01432 373342 07889 186316.

Andrew Pike

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