Travellers’ tales: Ice-age cycling in Herefordshire

Glaciers created Herefordshire’s lowland ponds during the last ice age
Explore Hereford’s geological history by bike with Ian Fairchild and Mike Brooks’s app, Ice Age Ponds

Landscapes tell stories of the ice age. Everyone knows about the U-shaped valleys and arêtes (sharp mountain ridges) of upland landscapes, but the lowlands are just as fascinating. A great place to combine finding out about the ice age with a good day out on the bike is western Herefordshire, which was invaded by glaciers from Wales near the end of the last ice age about 20,000 years ago.

Hummocky landscapes are dotted with ponds where ice melted. Strange valleys, often dry, were cut by meltwater under the ice, and the major rivers of the Wye and Arrow cut gorges as they had to find new courses when the ice retreated. A 60-mile loop west of Hereford through rolling hills and mostly on quiet lanes takes you through this landscape.

To do it justice we’ve broken it into 30-mile circular trips, including off-road options. You can download the app – which is free – and access further material via Herefordshire Ice Age Ponds.

These aids help you see the landscape in different ways. Photographs are overlaid with features that can be seen. The contours of the land are brought into sharp relief with LIDAR images. Best of all, it helps you feel at one with the scenes you are travelling through.

Ian’s favourite section is the deserted Noke Lane by the Arrow Valley, which emerges from a landscape that combines an incised valley, rolling hills, and secret ponds.