Wednesday, 10 September 2014

My City: Hereford

Birmingham is huge; London quite a distance away; but there are plenty of cities in my part of the world – thanks particularly to the wealth of the area in the middle ages, when Cathedrals popped up here, there and everywhere, but mostly here. Cities in name, and in historical signficance, but not quite the metropolitan hubs you might associate with the title. On an infrequent basis, my office send me to Hereford, and I rather enjoy the chance to explore narrow streets, or pop into the independent shops. The high street has its share of the usual chains, and a newly opened retail centre is the talk of the town (though my impression is of identikit offerings which may be convenient but are unlikely to be really exciting).

The Wednesday market is lively as ever, and full of interesting and diverse offerings: from yarn to vegetables to hand-carved wooden objects to antiques to mexican street food, all against a backdrop of modern shops in rather older buildings, and with the Hereford Bull taking pride of place at the end of the road.

The added bonus of Hereford for me is that all of this is on my way from the station to work, so I have to walk past them and catch up a little; an enlivening route, on which caffeine is, if I'm honest, often collected too.

The real treasures of Hereford, though, are on Church Street... from the cafes and music shop to the independent gallery and jewellers. Tucked away, these might seem hidden, but it is a busy route, and relatively well-travelled. For sewers of all kinds, Capuchin yard is a must-visit; Doughty's have a haberdasher's and yarn shop on the Church Street which is well-stocked and useful, but their reputation is built on fabrics, and the fabrics are in Capuchin yard. 

Make your choice between dress and upholstery on the one hand, and patchwork and quilting on the other, and excellent advice, support and pattern help is available in both! Once your need for all the pretty fabric you can carry is exhausted, pop into for a healthy snack or salad and delicious pudding.

My new favourite spot for lunch is Rocket, where the flatbreads are literally warm from the oven, the ingredients fabulous and locally sourced, and the coffee excellent. Even better, the staff are welcoming and creative, and seemed to appreciate the need to photograph a finished object if you are to share it with the world!

If the sun is shining, then it is worth asking for a takeaway, since only 20 m down the narrow street opens into Cathedral close, where picnics may be enjoyed with a view of the Cathedral, and alongside Elgar and his bicycle. While my lunchtimes don't usually extend to a visit, the Cathedral is magnificent, and houses not only the Mappa Mundi, one of the oldest extant maps of the world, but also a chained library – from a time when books were worth their weight in gold.

Plus, you never know when it might be handy to have Elgar model some knitting for you!

Elgar in Alletta

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