The Hergest Estate
The Estate extends to over 405 ha (1,000 acres) and runs along the river Arrow valley southward to Hergest Court, up to Hergest Ridge and along the Back Brook valley to the north. Hergest Croft Gardens has a light loam soil overlaying broken shaley rock and a neutral ph. The annual rainfall is just over 102mm (40 inches). The weather is temperate with warm winters and cool summers. The elevation ranges from 185–275m (600 to 900 feet). There is excellent shelter from the north and west. Good air drainage makes damaging late April frosts rare.
Hergest Croft was built in 1895 to a design by Richard Drew who did much work for the family and locally. During World War II, the house was requisitioned and used for a school. It later became an extension of Lady Hawkins School, Kington, and finally housed the Herefordshire Archives until it was released back to the family in 1972. It now contains five flats and facilities for visitors including the Tearoom and Gift Shop.
At the south-western end of the estate, the fortified manor house Hergest Court, dates from 1267 was built by Hwyel ap Meurig and subsequently occupied by the Clanvowe and Vaughan families. The Banks family bought it in 1912 and it is now owned by Richard Banks (b1965) who has a son Bill (b 1995) and daughter Esther (b1998). The house, which can be seen from the bottom of the lawn below Hergest Croft, is reputed to be haunted by a great black hound, ‘The Black Dog of Hergest’, which is believed to be the inspiration for Conan Doyle's 'Hound of the Baskervilles'.
To the west of the estate lies Hergest Ridge, a 1,000 acre common split by the English-Welsh border. Offa's Dyke Path crosses from west to east. It is grazed by sheep and horses. The square Whetstone was used in the medieval times to leave food for people suffering from leprosy. Dick Banks planted nine monkey puzzles trees on top of the hill, having seen similar trees growing on mountain tops in Chile in the early 1990's. The views are spectacular and well worth the climb.
Kington has been an English border market town for around a thousand years and has changed little in size, with a population of about 3,000 people. Today it still contains many independent shops, pubs, a museum, a hotel and spa and the highest golf course in England. It is a centre for walking especially on Offa's Dyke Path and locally on Hergest Ridge.