Hereford's movers and shakers
PUBLISHED: 10:07 02 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:23 20 February 2013
There has never been a better time to visit Hereford. The city, and the county, has a new enterprise helping to guide and enlighten residents and visitors alike
Chris Poole meets the people who help the city to bloom
There has never been a better time to visit Hereford. The city, and the county, has a new enterprise helping to guide and enlighten residents and visitors alike.
The Discover Herefordshire Centre is at the corner of King Street, literally within a stones throw of the cathedral, the Mappa Mundi and the Chained Library. Project Manager Liz Hill, herself a Herefordshire girl, says "Were working with local craftsmen and women, food producers, artists and the hospitality sector to showcase the amazing range of quality products and services available right on our doorstep. Hereford is full of surprises its a bit quirky. This centre is a focal point, making it easier for visitors to find their way around." The Discover Herefordshire Centre opens officially on June 1.
One of those who have welcomed this fresh approach is Edward Pritchard. With an acknowledged eye for design, Edward heads one of Herefords longest-established family businesses, Pritchards Menswear just a few metres from the Discover Herefordshire Centre.
"When Sir Ben Gill donned the Discover Herefordshire mantle he asked me about presentation and showcasing. I was happy to help," says Edward. That expertise is very evident at Pritchards own premises in King Street where stylish, modern design sets off top menswear brands.
"My great, great grandfather established the business in High Town 175 years ago. When my father came back from the First World War, he found the country and the city changed and recognised that the business had to evolve with the times. Its what weve been doing ever since."
"Hereford has so much to offer. And many of our clients find it perfectly possible to combine the quality of life that you can have here with successful business activities."
Across the other side of Cathedral Close, where a major restoration project is nearing completion, Hereford Cathedral School has been educating youngsters for many centuries. It, too, has evolved with changing times. Today, as a modern co-educational school, it has an outstanding record of academic achievement.
Headmaster Paul Smith says: "The school is very much at the heart of the city. Providing excellence in education is only a part of what we do. Pupils of this school find success in sports and, above all, in music. We arent exclusive. Our pupils come from across the social spectrum. A great strength is the emphasis we place on giving youngsters the self-confidence they need for whatever lies ahead for them.
Paul and his wife Jane came here from Portsmouth with their teenage daughters Eleanor and Beth. What did they see as the biggest contrast between their two homes? "Beth," replies Paul, "said that when we lived in Portsmouth a lot of people had boats, here they have fields."
Much of the school is housed in buildings along Castle Street. The city no longer has a fortress although it is well documented for those with an interest in the citys historical importance. At one end of the street, today, is Castle House Hotel.
Herefordshire, as a county, attracts those who enjoy good food, as the Michelin-starred restaurants testify. The city itself caters for a variety of tastes but for those wanting British cuisine at its best the restaurant at the Castle House is second to none.
Head Chef, Claire Nicholls, grew up in Hereford and Hong Kong. "I trained at Hereford Technical College and Birmingham College of Food. My career has taken me to the stunning hotel on Lake Vyrnwy in mid-Wales and the Old Vicarage in Bridgnorth. I feel so lucky to have been offered this position back home in Hereford in the citys best restaurant for this type of cuisine. Coming back here I could see that the city had changed theres now much more variety for eating out."
Another Herefordian runs something very different in nearby St Owen Street. Frankie Devereux is manager of The Haven. The charity Breast Cancer Haven is renowned across the country for providing alternative therapies and care to those affected by the disease.
"People think that the Haven has branches all over the place," says Frankie, "but that isnt right. We are only in London, Leeds and Hereford. Were so lucky to have this incredible facility here and its thanks to the Fred Bulmer Charitable Trust which provided the building."
The Haven uses highly skilled and qualified therapists but relies on volunteers to help raise the funds it needs. "People in Herefordshire are so generous," says Frankie, "giving of their time as well as their money even in these austere times."
For other reasons, the people of Hereford are much on the mind of Superintendent Charlie Hill of West Mercia Police at his Bath Street police station. "Ive been here for seven months now. Were fortunate to be in a low-crime area anyway and one in which crime is falling and detection rates rising. Its a good place to live and to work. One of the advantages is that everyone concerned with the community knows each other. This means we have a very close working relationship with the other emergency services, the voluntary sector, business, the probation service and the citys administration."
As she hands over the chains of office, Herefords Right Worshipful Mayor for the past 12 months, Anna Toon, reflects on the citys strengths and her time in office. "Strengths? Many, but its history especially," she says without hesitation. "There are so many hidden treasures which will be much more accessible this year as our City Guides become more visible."
One event that stands out for her? "The Blind Football World Cup last year which put us very firmly on the map for disability sports and showed the true generosity of spirit among the people of this city."
Discovering Hereford and its charms, its idiosyncrasies, its history and its hidden treasures is a delight. And if you start your quest from 1, King Street you will be following in the footsteps of a famous actress. Nell Gwynne was born and lived just around the corner until she departed to seek fame and fortune in London.