Visiting Cusop, Herefordshire: The Last Village in England on Entering Wales
Over the line, historically and psychologically
Cusop is the last village which will be encountered in England as the traveller heads towards Wales's Hay-on-Wye.
As the traveller approaches the border, marked here by the Dulas brook, a tributary of the Wye River, no immigration officials will be found to ask for identity documents; no customs personnel will seek to control the entry of goods. Here in the United Kingdom, the border between England and Wales is quiet and unregulated from a visa or commercial perspective, since similar arrangements are in place on either side of the boundary. However, historic border it nevertheless is.
Many people who stop and visit Cusop will actually do so coming from the Welsh side of the border, for example, if visiting neighbouring Hay-on-Wye. The county of Herefordshire, to which Cusop belongs, is historically somewhat at the extremity of England. The area adjoining the Welsh border was formerly Welsh-speaking.
Its Anglican parish church of St Mary's belongs firmly to the Diocese of Hereford. This stone building with an expansive churchyard may be visited, and has many interesting features. Some of the building's original Norman stonework is still extant, although the structure was considerably restored in the 19th century. In the Domesday book of the year 1086, Cusop is referred to as 'Cheweshope'.
The churchyard has some magnificent old trees, including yew, a typical species often found in the precincts of older English cemeteries. Within the building itself there is a memorial to a William Seward, sometimes referred to as the first Methodist martyr, killed by local people in 1740, who objected to his beliefs and religious activities. St Mary's church is situated some kilometres from the bridge crossing into Wales. Travellers approaching the border from the English side, and wishing to view the church, need to turn left before the bridge, and follow the road for some kilometres. Various Victorian houses, desirably located in realtors' terms, may be encountered in the vicinity.
The church and village are close to hill country, ideal for hiking. The unsuspecting hill walker may at times lose awareness of whether he or she is actually in England or Wales. Along the English-Welsh border is an historic path known at Offa's Dyke, which attracts many hikers. In contrast, in Medieval times, hostile warriors could be encountered, warily watching the approaches to this traditional line of demarcation between English and Welsh.
Also worth visiting
Hay-on-Wye (Welsh: Y Gelli Gandryll ; distance: 0.8 kilometres) is a market town with a Medieval Castle, and many bookstores, to which industry the economy of the town is substantially devoted. Local bookseller (and inveterate joker) Richard Booth proclaimed himself King of Hay, giving the bookselling industry a further talking-point. While the border between England and Wales runs between Hay and Cusop, these constitute to a limited extent a single agglomeration in the midst of a wider, rural area.
Clyro , Wales (Welsh: Cleirwy ) distance: 2.8 kilometres); only earthworks remain here of a Medieval castle. Clyro's parish church, rebuilt in the 19th century, has a tower which dates partly from the 15th century. The Methodist leader John Wesley is recorded as having been very active in the district in the 18th century. The writings of local clergyman and diarist Francis Kilvert (1840-1879) have been widely read.
Hereford , England (distance: 35 kilometres) is an old cathedral city situated on the Wye River , over which a picturesque, stone bridge crosses. Dating from 1061, the Cathedral contains a Medieval map known as the Mappa mundi ; an old chained library is also a remarkable feature.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 269 kilometres from Cusop. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.