13. Day Seven of the Walk: Fownhope to Hereford

I rose quite early to pack up the rest of my stuff (more scattered than usual due to two days in the same place), and broke fast at 7:30 AM. I was really glad for this energizing meal, as I needed a faster pace to get to Hereford in time to see the Mappa Mundi and chained library. The book said 6.75 miles. I was betting on more like 9 on my Fitbit.

Homemade granola and yogurt, yummy fruits.
Fresh eggs from their hens!
This was an auspicious start to my walking day!
The road leads ever onwards.
Ohai little one!

A couple of miles from Fownhope is a little village called Mordiford. They are famous for their dragon legend. The dragon, some said, would amble down from its lair in Haugh Wood to drink from the confluence of the rivers Wye and Lugg near the village. The Dragon Trail tells the story in more detail, including, of course, a maiden who raised and befriended the dragon.

If you read between the lines, it may appear that the maiden and the dragon were more than just friends…

Really pretty little village is Mordiford. This is the oldest surviving bridge in Herefordshire, dating in part to c. 1352 and completed in the 16th century.
There were loads of sheep around here, but I admired this introvert. Perhaps she was about to pop out a little lamb, but she seemed happy enough to chill away from the baa-ing crowd.
A lot of the walk looked like this.
Sometimes the Walk goes through or beside fields.
And sometimes through a fallow field.
I do prefer the green fields. Coming up near Hereford at this point.

Entering Hereford was a little confusing, but I finally ended up on pavement and my feet were unhappy. I spotted a bus stop, and quickly Googled whether the bus would take me near my destination. Lo! A bus was to come within 10 minutes and stop a few blocks from my Airb&b!

The bus was super nice, and payment was touchless so I didn’t need change! It turns out, all the buses in the UK have the same touchless (just tap your credit card) system. <insert rant about backward mass transit in the USA>

While Google maps saved me a couple miles walking, it was singularly unhelpful in directing me to my accommodations. It was a crazy busy part of town, with infrequent crosswalks. Then the building was tucked in a courtyard that had escaped Google’s notice. It took me 20 minutes to find my digs, 2 blocks from the bus station.

Up two flights of steep stairs, and worth it. That bed was the most comfy of the entire trip.
Very posh bathroom!

Washed my teeth and face and headed out right away for Hereford Cathedral. I could see the cathedral from my street! But crossing the busy intersection was frustrating. Then a friendly stranger pointed me to a subway (underpass) very close to my digs. Sheesh, thanks for nothing, Google maps!

Dead bishop.
Lovely modern windows.
Blissed-out suckling Baby Jesus.
15th Century chest was most likely for a bishop’s traveling library.

As lovely as the cathedral is, my target was the Mappa Mundi and chained library. A special wing was built in 1996 to house these medieval treasures and ensure their conservation.

I like to think of the Mappa Mundi as a fanciful cartoon written and drawn by Mad Monks. It is more insidious than that, sadly. Their conceptions of The Other (i.e., non-Christian, non-European) were riddled with dangerous preconceptions and stereotypes. Those conceptions drove church and political policies (one and the same, for the most part) for centuries. Vilification of Jews and people of color was especially widespread.

Here is the original, dating from the 1300’s. It is astoundingly well-preserved after many years of being disregarded, part of the decor of the Cathedral. The history of its journey is interesting; its preservation is a near-miracle.

There was a recreation of the map in 3D, which one could get close up looks at the fabulous creatures imagined by the Mad Monks. The expressions on the faces are especially intriguing.

Shitting demon and well-endowed man.
Horned and hoofed birdman, with a little tail.
I’m not sure how a robot spaceship found its way into this map. But I love the coy look on the Unicorn.
WHut the WhUt.
I do believe Chuck Jones was familiar with the Mappa Mundi.
Obviously male demon doing yoga.
Ain’t no party like a bear party.
There’s so much going on here, I don’t know where to start. Monster on above left cruising monster on right? Then there’s the Sendakian character lower right.
Anatomically correct … sad looking angel?
Footus giganticus
An attempt to explain. I think they were just drunk and a little insane.
There be dracones.
I thought this might be a cozy scene, a monk worshipping his cat. But no. It is a stereotypical rendering of a Jew (hooked nose) worshipping a demon (which appears to be farting?).
Merman? or Plantman?

Away from the crazy, and on to the scholarly. If you have seen “Game of Thrones” or any of the Harry Potter movies, or both — you’ve seen a chained library, and it was a real thing. I really did not know of this until I researched things to do in Hereford, and I surely didn’t know it was at the Cathedral. The texts date from the 9th century up until the 19th. It is a working library: if you’ve got credentials, you can get access to the tomes.

These are the original shelves.
Embiggen and be amazed.

Some of the books, unchained, below.

God and monsters.
I really love this depiction of Ganesha. The only accurate depiction of anything, as far as I could tell.
Well, if you’re not like us, you must be monsters and cannibals! Stands to reason.
A little about the movement away from tolerance in Europe in the middle ages.
Late 13th Century Torah scroll.
Whatcha gonna do?
The ONLY pub or restaurant open in Hereford on a Monday. Srsly. I lucked out that it was really delicious! Bacon mac and cheese pleased.
Full of cheese and beer, I went to Evensong service. As you do. The music was transcendent. Mostly boys and men, with a few token girls (since the 13th century, male only — until FEBRUARY 2022? Well, better late I guess).

And so the day came to a close, with many more miles walked than planned (LOL), and an early rising scheduled for the next day — the longest walk of the journey, from Hereford to Monnington-on-Wye.

9 May, 2022


One response to “13. Day Seven of the Walk: Fownhope to Hereford”

  1. So amazing! I had a goal of doing the kind of research that would give me access to medieval books. Alas, Latin is hard.


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