Ski and outdoor writer Rob Stewart joined an active group press trip to Ledbury. The goal was to conduct a review of Maier Sports clothing and enjoys a rural Herefordshire outdoor adventure at the same time. Here’s how he got on:
The English county of Herefordshire is perhaps best known for its herd of cattle and SAS Special Forces headquarters. But the first thing that often strikes visitors is the complete lack of any major road, the M50 dual carriageway even managing to skirt around the county’s southern border. It seems to be the perfect location to review the Maier Sports clothing range in an outdoor adventure playground.
Herefordshire is flanked by The Malvern Hills to the east and the Black Mountains to the west, the Forest of Dean to the south and the Shropshire Hills to the north. All are AONB’s (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) with the exception of the Black Mountains which is part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The whole region feels like an enclosed slice of the English countryside. Populated by apple orchards and hop farms, with the River Wye slicing right through the middle it is Beautiful and idyllic.
On a clear day you can easily see the whole county from any area of high ground. Often those views extend into Wales, Shropshire, the Cotswolds and down to the Severn Estuary.
During the late summer of 2020 I joined a trip with the clothing brand Maier Sports to explore part of the region and test some of the outdoor clothing collection. Our small group found the perfect location for walking, foraging and outdoor cooking.
We stayed in Woodside Country Park, a camp site close to the market town of Ledbury that also offers wood cabins and a bunk house for large groups. Here are the activities we tried during this Herefordshire outdoor adventure.
Our walk started at the famous cider mill of Weston’s in the village of Much Marcle. The path winds its way up through a vast, open farm and as we gradually climb upwards, the views of the county to the north start to open up.
We end up on the Marcle Ridge, an escarpment that runs for several miles with steep sides down to the River Wye on one side and sweeping views for 50 miles and more to the other. The two hour walk ends at The Crown Inn, Woolhope where lunch, and their own brand of cider, Kings, awaits.
You don’t need to go far to find edible plants anywhere in the countryside, but you do need to know what you’re looking for. Fortunately we have Liz Knight from Forage Fine Foods with us.
Liz runs courses on foraging and has written a book on the subject. She also works closely with the BBC TV presenter Kate Humble and herself is a regular contributor to radio and TV shows about the countryside and edible plants. Dandelion, burdock and wild sorrel were just some of the culinary treats found just metres from our accommodation, perfect for our evening barbeque feast.
Well technically it’s an activity and especially welcome following a long walk. Local food included Herefordshire Rib-Eye steaks, pork chops, local sausages, all sourced from Wallers in Ledbury and plenty of local veg from The Nest.
The accompanying drinks included wine from the neighbouring vineyard (Once Upon a Tree), Cider from Little Pomona and Weston’s and beer from the Wye Valley Brewery. For the non-alcoholic options, we had Blackcurrant juice from another neighbour, Pixley Berries.
A tour of the market town of Ledbury by local guide Carl Flint took in some of the local history as well as exploring the famous black and white architecture that can be found in Herefordshire. The half-timbered buildings are crowned by the Market House in the centre of town, built in the 1600’s but on a sheep and cattle market site dating back to 1122.
The historic church of St Michael’s was founded in the 8th century, with parts of the current building dating back to the 12th century and onwards. A painting of the Last Supper has recently been discovered as a work by the Venetian master Titian, completed in 1576.
Unfortunately this trip to review of Maier Sports clothing during a Herefordshire outdoor adventure was only for two days so we did not get to try all that the region offers. Here are a few more great activity ideas.
The ancient hunting area of the Forest of Dean is one of the surviving ancient woodlands of England. It is an adventure playground between the River Wye and The Severn with most of its territory located in Gloucestershire.
The Cannop Cycle Centre has trails for all ability levels including a family cycle trail. There are two single track enduro trails (blue and red), alongside a number of downhill runs with uplift services. Bike hire is available from Pedalbikeaway located on site and there’s a café and large car park available.
Three new marked trails for road cyclists were launched in 2020 that help discover the county’s roads whilst taking in some of the famous cider spots on offer. They are designed for keen cyclists with some prior experience.
There are optional stop offs including Oliver’s Cider, Little Pomona, Gregg’s Pit and the Orgasmic Cider Company to name just a few. The routes can be done by vehicle too, great for filling up the boot with goodies.
The off-road terrain at Eastnor Castle in Ledbury (also home to festivals including Lakefest) is ideal territory for Land Rover’s Discovery Centre. Tackle the steep and deep tracks through the forest that has been used over the years as a test base by the company’s 4×4 research and development team.
The River Wye is one of the best canoeing and kayaking rivers for budget adventures in Britain. The stretch around Symonds Yat is the most popular destination although there’s many options further upstream for longer tours that make use of the fast flowing water coming out of the Welsh mountains, through the city of Hereford itself and down to the River Severn at Chepstow.
Hire canoes for the day or choose a multi-day trip and explore the whole county on water.
It’s not only cider that can be found in Herefordshire. Chase Gin has become one of the country’s best known brands that started life as a potato farm before inventing Tyrells Crisps and then in 2008, turning some of those potatoes into vodka. Sample their gin and vodka on distillery visits or virtual tours.
Penrhros Spirits makes small batch production gin and liqueurs from the fruit grown in their orchards. And Foxtail based in Ross-on-Wye is another small distillery making high quality gin.
Herefordshire is located in the west of England and borders Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and has a westerly border with Wales. The principle city is Hereford, located in the centre of the county. The city is approximately 3 hours’ drive from London and Manchester, and 6 hours from Glasgow.
Direct trains from London Paddington to Hereford depart several times a day and take around 2 hours 40 minutes. Trains from the north change at Birmingham New Street (1 hour) and from Cardiff are direct (1 hour).
We stayed at Woodside Lodges in Ledbury: www.woodsidelodges.co.uk. They offer camping and wooden lodges as well as a bunkhouse.
The Crown Woolhope: www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/43532115. A country pub with stylish rooms sleeping up to 14 in 7 bedrooms on a self-catered basis with the option of eating in the pub.
Lemore Estate, Eardisley: www.lemore-estate.co.uk. Upmarket boutique hotel with rooms in the main house and self-contained shepherd huts in the grounds.
Maier Sports is an outdoor clothing brand that specialises in a ‘size for all’ system that includes 61 size variations in its trouser range. During this Herefordshire outdoor adventure we tested a number of clothing items that are available for the 2021 spring and summer season. Here’s my pick of the best men’s items that I tried during the trip:
The Nil hiking pants have a leg rollup feature and elastic fabric, making them ideal for any walking tour. The belt and flex zone waistband help to create a good fit and the waterproof, PFC-free finish protects from outside moisture, and dryprotec technology keeps the pants dry if they become wet.
Four pockets with zip fasteners and an interior security pocket helps keep everything close at hand too. These trousers are one of the best sellers in the Maier Sports range and are a ‘no nonsense’ everyday walking pant for the summer. RRP: £89.95
This is a lightweight 2.5-layer jacket that offers weather protection as well as freedom of movement. It feels comfortable to wear and its mTEX 10.000 membrane provides decent breathability as well as keeping the wind and showers at bay.
The 2-way stretch material definitely helps with movement when climbing over stiles and the jacket can be folded quite tightly to make it easier to carry in a backpack. Two spacious pockets with waterproof zip fasteners and one smaller interior pocket offer safe storage for any small items. RRP: £179.95
The new Kerid Mix trekking pants feel pretty robust and the bold look really stands out. The material is labelled as abrasion-resistant, with breathable material mix and Maier Sports’ own mSTRETCH Ripstop 4 technology. The pants feel like they provide good freedom of movement for walking and hiking, and the adjustable waistband and leg hems helps with the fit and comfort
Using dryprotec technology helps them to dry off quickly when they get wet. Meanwhile, four pockets offer space for important items. RRP: £139.95
We hope you found this review of Maier Sports clothing useful find out more at: www.maier-sports.com/gb-en. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to take a Herefordshire outdoor adventure. If so check out the Herefordshire adventure travel options.