Hereford Cider Museum and Cathedral.
The first destination was the King Offa Cider Museum, near Hereford City Centre. This was previously the Headquarters of the Bulmers Cider Company. Here we were divided into two groups and given a detailed and very interesting tour of the museum. We were shown mock-ups of old cider works and saw an exhibition of old cider making equipment. The guides explained the centuries-old processes of manufacturing cider and perry (fermented pear juice) and how the industry was critical to the local economy of both Hereford and Worcester.
We also viewed beautifully engraved crystal goblets and other cider-related memorabilia.
We were then taken into the Board Room of the former Bulmers factory , complete with Boardroom table and Chairman’s desk, and photos of the Founders adorning the walls. Our Guide explained the origins of the Company and its subsequent history before taking us into the cellars, where we were shown unique equipment and row upon row of bottles decorating the walls, as they had been in the heyday of the Company. Again the Guide explained other processes that were used in the production of cider and perry.
Following this, the Group had a Ploughman’s lunch in the cafe, complete with a complementary glass of cider, before the coach whisked us away to nearby Hereford Cathedral.
Here again, we were met by Guides and divided into groups to tour the Cathedral, dating from 1079 and dedicated to St Ethelbert. The history of the Cathedral, from its Norman origins to its Victorian refurbishment, following a major wall collapsing, were pointed out and we admired the excellent examples of Norman and ‘English Gothic’ architecture and the Romanesque Nave; the stunning windows, including medieval and Kempe windows and the historical and ornate tombs of former ‘Worthies’.
A particular delight was seeing the misericords and the five storeys high monks’ galleries, a marvel of Norman and medieval construction. Another feature of the Cathedral was the relic of a medieval saint, displayed in the beautifully restored Shrine of St Thomas of Hereford in the North Transept.
From there, we were taken in small groups to view the Mappa Mundi and the Chained Library, both unique features of this extraordinary Cathedral. The Cathedral’s most famous treasure is Mappa Mundi, a vellum mediaeval map of the world. The Hereford Mappa Mundi, dating from about 1300AD is unique in Britain's heritage; an outstanding treasure of the medieval world, it records how thirteenth-century scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms. The nearby Cathedral Chained Library contains exquisite manuscripts and early printed books some dating from the 15th Century and earlier. It was humbling to realise how the gift of printing and books was taken so seriously many centuries ago, compared to the ‘information overload’ of current times.
All in all, everyone enjoyed a fascinating and enjoyable day, exploring the features of a neighbouring County Town and Cathedral City.