Golden Valley Study Group
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by Martin Kibblewhite and the late Brian Smith, first and second chairmen.

Welcome to the Golden Valley Study Group.  In this part of Herefordshire we live close to the Welsh border.  The river running down our valley is called the Dore, from the Welsh dwr, meaning water.  But hundreds of years ago writers thought it was derived from the French d’or, ‘of gold’.  Ever since, it has been known as the Golden Valley.  The river flows past the sites of ruined castles and Elizabethan houses, prehistoric burial mounds and settlements, a Roman road, a medieval monastery, Norman churches and old manor houses.  For some miles it runs through wide water-meadows - and this is where the Golden Valley Study Group [GVSG] began.

A local Elizabethan landowner, Rowland Vaughan wrote in 1610 about his innovative irrigation scheme to enrich the grazing of the riverside meadows.  The GVSG is part of a continuum of study. Taking up from earlier studies a Herefordshire archaeologist and historian, Rosamund Skelton, in the early 1980s led a group of young people in an archaeological survey of the area, including Rowland Vaughan’s waterworks. This interest was passed on to others in the valley, who started to walk over the land identifying the signs that can still be traced of Vaughan’s weirs, sluices and ditches.

This study was greatly helped by an undergraduate thesis written in 1944 by Penelope Bletchly (née Wood) of The Whitehouse, which was loaned to the group by her son Arthur.  Maps in the thesis identified features which had disappeared since the early 1940s, and it became possible to start to understand how the water works had operated.

From this small beginning we developed in 1999 into a formal society. There are now 30-40 regular members, from newcomers to the valley to those who have lived here for generations. We have an active programme that reflects the varied interests of the members.  This revolves around monthly half-day guided walks or visits. Each has a theme, a historical or archaeological site, cheese-making or cider-tasting, a geological feature, a working water mill, bird-watching, the Madley Earth Satellite Station, dovecotes, a church, a castle.  ‘Car-crawls’ are held periodically for the less active, particularly in the winter months. 

To justify ‘Study’ in our title we are sometimes a little more serious. Two lectures are held every year, recorded in an annual Newsletter together with articles written by individual members.  Abstracts or brief reports are included on this website.  Major study projects have resulted in two well-regarded book publications: in 2010, Turnastone; Stability and change in the Herefordshire Countryside 1800-2000. and in 2016, The man who drowned the meadows, Rowland Vaughan 1558-1627 (click here for more information).
  • We hope you find the website useful.  If you live in or near the Golden Valley, come with us for a walk one day or attend one of the lectures to find out more.