Now, the weir-d thing about The Weir is that there is no weir! Apparently, it used to be half a mile or so downstream from the gardens but it was removed, along with others on the River Wye, when a 1696 Act of Parliament decreed that the river should be a freely navigable waterway. So, don’t waste your time looking for it.
Your time would be much better spent just ambling along the high and low paths alongside the river, basking in the peace and quiet, saying hello to the occasional bumbling bee pottering around among the flowers or simply standing quietly to listen to the varied birdsong all around you.
The Weir is certainly an example of how very different the National Trust’s properties can be. Having visited a fairly formal garden at Sissinghurst just a week before, I came across something totally different in Herefordshire. There is very little formality to The Weir, with only the rockery and the walled garden showing strong indications of design. Instead, the woodland walks give the illusion of being entirely natural, although I am sure the gardeners are still very busy everywhere, clearing, pruning and clipping to keep the trees and shrubs under control. At the far end of the garden, there is also a perfect grassy picnic spot alongside the river and a swathe of nettles and weeds has been cleared back from the bank so the lazy visitor, lounging in a deckchair, can still admire the views along the river. I admit that we were exactly that kind of visitor, taking advantage of the strategically positioned deckchairs to rest for a while and watch the river flow gently by.
Another way in which The Weir differs from other NT properties is that the obligatory tea and cake is very much a DIY affair. Halfway along the upper walk, you will find a toilet block and a tea tent complete with kettle, a variety of teas, takeaway cups, a mini fridge containing milk, a selection of biscuits and flapjacks and an honesty box in which to leave your money. It’s a lovely touch and we made full use of the makeshift kitchen before taking our tea and biscuits down to the river with us.
There is no guidebook available for The Weir but the free map includes some further snippets of information about the gardens, including some details about Roger Parr, the man who bought the estate in the 1920s and created the gardens that you see today, before leaving it to the Trust in 1959. The Rustic Hut that you will come across on your wander was built by Parr in the 1950s and has some unusual features, including a floor made of river cobbles, white quartz and horses’ teeth! There is also some information about the Roman history of the site and you can still see the buttresses that used to support a riverside building that was either an important villa or a temple.
The Walled Garden, which is located outside the main gardens and is accessed via a gate from the car park, is another important feature of The Weir but I have to confess that I wasn’t able to see it. I visited The Weir as part of a girls’ weekend away and we got sidetracked by a lovely lunch in Ross-on-Wye before being held up in traffic in Hereford so we arrived fairly late at the gardens and after a casual stroll and cup of tea we simply ran out of time. Not that The Weir is especially big – I am sure it’s possible to see everything in an hour or so – but you may find like us that it simply demands a leisurely approach and time can easily get away from you (just as it can over lunch in Ross-on-Wye!).
So, I apologise for not being able to give a fully comprehensive report this time. I have since looked up some pictures of the Walled Garden online and there appears to be a fairly impressive glasshouse but I can’t really tell you much more than that. The volunteer who greeted us to the property told us that it is a work in constant progress and that its restoration has been ongoing for a number of years. Unfortunately, The Weir is quite a long way from other properties and it is unlikely to be somewhere I will be able to go back to in the near future, but if I do, I will certainly top up this entry. In the meantime, I hope a nice photo of the rockery will help to take your minds off my poor time management!
Highlights: Rockery and river
Refreshments: Cup of tea and oat crunchie biscuits
Companion(s): Silver Girls