|County of Herefordshire|
- Total (2004 est.)
82 / km²
|Executive||Conservative / Independent|
Herefordshire is a traditional and ceremonial county and unitary district in the West Midlands region of England in the United Kingdom. It borders the counties of Shropshire in the north, Worcestershire in the east, Gloucestershire in the south east and the Welsh preserved counties of Gwent in the south west and Powys in the west. It is pronounced ['herəfədʃə] (i.e. first syllable as in "herring", and -e- a separate syllable).
In 1974 it was merged with the neighbouring Worcestershire to form the relatively short-lived Hereford and Worcester. Within this, Herefordshire was covered by the districts of South Herefordshire, Hereford, and part of Malvern Hills and Leominster districts.
Herefordshire is a very rural county best known for its fruit growing and cider production in particular. When Celia Fiennes visited Herefordshire in 1696 she saw a countryside in which apple and pear trees were growing everywhere 'even in their corn fields and hedgerows'. Modern agriculture has put pressure on the ancient orchards in the county but many of them still survive today providing a habitat for the rare noble chafer beetle.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Herefordshire at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added4||Agriculture1||Industry2||Services3|
Note 1: includes hunting and forestry
Note 2: includes energy and construction
Note 3: includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
Note 4: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
Agriculture has changed massively in recent years within the county. The county is in the west of England which has been historically pastoral as opposed to the east which was more arable.
The county is famous for its apple and pear orchards, and of course its Cider. There are many orchards around the county but not as many as there once was.
In the last few years soft fruits such as strawberries have become a new and rapidly expanding area of the agricultural economy of the county. One of the main reasons for this was the introduction of the polytunnel. This allowed the strawberries to be grown for a far longer season as well as producing strawberries of higher quality with no blemishes from the rain. The strawberries are (in the majority) picked by Eastern European 'students' who come over for the season to earn some money, more than they could working in their country of origin and with the bonus, for many of them, of learning or improving their English. The poly tunnels have been a major issue in the county as some people see them as a 'blot on the landscape'. Others believe however that if agriculture is to survive then it must be allowed to innovate, otherwise the industry will stagnate and the county will suffer.
There was a time when the majority of farms in the county would have had dairy cattle for milk production. The cost of investing in new equipment, long hours, BSE, Foot & Mouth and mainly the falling milk prices have meant that the milk production has drastically reduced, with only a few farms still in dairy farming.
As mentioned above the county is historically pastoral. The soils are mostly clay, meaning that large scale potato production was very difficult, as tractors were not powerful enough to pull the large machinery required to harvest the crop. Around the early 1990s new technology and more powerful machines overcame this problem. Potato production started to increase, fueled by a few other key factors: The previously pastoral soils had not had potatoes grown in them, consequently they were not infected with eelworm (Heterodera rostochiensis and Heterodera pallida), which in the east of England had to be sprayed against weekly (a large cost). Also the clay soil produced an unblemished potato of the highest grade. The intensive nature of the crop meant that potatoes could only viably be grown on a field 1 in every 5 years. This meant that potato growers always needed more land than they owned, and so they rented. This was at a time when the rest of the industry was struggling and in serious decline. Their rents of £300-500/acre (as opposed to normally £80/acre) were very helpful to many farmers in a difficult period.
The M50, one of the first motorways to be built in the UK, runs through the south of the county and, with the A40 dual carriageway, forms part of the major route linking South Wales and the West Midlands.
The hilly nature of the terrain in Mid Wales means that the main ground transport links between North Wales and South Wales run through Herefordshire. The other trunk roads in Herefordshire, the A49 and the A465, form part of these north–south routes as well as catering for local traffic. These are single-carriageway roads and mean that travelling through the county is often slow. In particularly Hereford is a major congestion point with all traffic having to pass over one dual-carriageway bridge in the centre of town. Subsequently traffic can jam and leave the city in gridlock in rush hour. In times of flood a roundabout on the south side of the bridge is impassable leaving the south of the city almost stranded. ASDA supermarkets is currently building a controversial supermarket scheme connecting to this small roundabout on a flood plain. This project will have large flood defences and the roundabout will be replaced by traffic lights and the road level raised as part of the project.
The Welsh Marches Railway Line also runs north - south with passenger trains operated by Arriva Trains Wales offering links to North West and South West England as well as to North and South Wales. Hereford is the western end of the Cotswold Line which runs via Worcester with through services to Oxford and London (operated by First Great Western and FGWL) and to Birmingham and Nottingham (operated by Central Trains).
Former routes which are now closed were Ledbury to Gloucester; Hereford to Ross-on-Wye and onward to Gloucester and Monmouth; Hereford to Hay-on-Wye; Pontrilas to Hay-on-Wye; Leominster to New Radnor; Eardisley to Presteign; and Leominster to Worcester via Bromyard.
There are no airports with scheduled air services in Herefordshire though Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol International Airports are all within reach and the RailAir coach operated by First Great Western provides connections from Heathrow via Reading station. Shobdon Aerodrome near Leominster is a centre for general aviation and gliding. Hot air ballooning is also popular with Eastnor Castle being one of the favourite launch sites in the area.
Historically, the Rivers Wye and Lugg were navigable but the wide seasonal variations in water levels mean that few craft larger than canoes and coracles are now used. There are canoe centres at The Boat House, Glasbury-on-Wye, the Hereford Youth Service and Kerne Bridge Ross-on-Wye, as well as a rowing club in Hereford.
The early nineteenth century saw the construction of two canals, The Hereford & Gloucester Canal and The Leominster & Stourport Canal but these were never successful and there are now few remains to be seen.
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