Matthew Constance tells Sharon Chilcott why Goodrich made it to the top of his wish list more than 22 years ago!
What attracted you to the village?
When we were house hunting 22 years ago we had two children and my wife, Caroline, was pregnant with our third. We were living in Ross and we didn’t want to move too far from our families there. We looked at all the villages around and there actually weren’t that many that had everything we wanted.
Goodrich had it all – a good school; a village shop and post office (which has since sadly closed); a pub within walking distance (in fact we have two) and a village hall (where I am now the bookings secretary). We also wanted to have good access to the A40 dual carriageway. I tune pianos for a living – my family has been doing it since 1887 – so I need to be able to travel for work. We were so determined to live here that in the end we bought a plot and built our own home, between the village hall and the tennis court.
What makes Goodrich special?
The surrounding area is extremely beautiful. Sitting in my house in the evening I can see the sun shining on Coppett Hill; from our bedroom I can see Symonds Yat Rock and from the same window I can look down the valley to Bishopswood and Lydbrook. Caroline is profoundly deaf, so the visual aspect of our surroundings is very important to her.
For you, personally, what’s the best thing about living there?
There’s lots to do – there are tennis courts; a cricket pitch; pubs where there’s lots going on. I am involved with the village hall and we have 700 bookings annually – about 10,000 people come through the doors every year! There’s Pilates, table tennis, music events, open mics… Our next booking is for a paranormal meeting! It’s a lovely Victorian hall so people come from all over to use it for weddings and events as well.
The other reason I love living here is that it is really easy to get somewhere else! One of my daughters lives in Cardiff and we can be there in 40 minutes. Another is in Cheltenham and we can be there in 40 minutes, too. Bristol is about the same and Hereford, Gloucester and Newport are about half an hour away. We are right bang in the middle of where we want to be!
What, if anything, spoils it for you?
Not having a railway station – the nearest are Ledbury, Newport and Gloucester.
Describe the vibe in your favourite local pub…
In the past few years The Hostelrie has been taken over by a local family and they do great food and there is always a brilliant atmosphere.
Where do you go for a spot of “culture”?
It is very easy to get to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff for opera; for the cinema we go to Newport, Hereford or Gloucester and we have a choice of good theatres close by – the Hippodrome in Bristol or Birmingham; the Everyman in Cheltenham and Malvern Theatres in Great Malvern. We go to them all. There’s also lots of festivals to go to – in Hay and Cheltenham, for example.
Where would you book up for a celebratory meal?
The Hostelrie or the Old Court Hotel in Whitchurch or No. 3 Restaurant in Ross. For something really special we might also go to The Chase Hotel in Ross.
Where would you go for a casual evening out?
The other day we went to Leonards at 39 in Ross – it’s a tapas bar and very nice, too.
What would you do locally to “blow the cobwebs away”?
Go for a run up Coppett Hill. I jog regularly and a few Saturdays ago I joined a Fell Run up, down and around Coppett Hill organised by the Forest of Dean Athletic Club – it was an hour of agony but fun.
What leisure pursuits do you enjoy locally?
Canoeing on the River Wye. The other day I took my own canoe from Lydbrook to Symonds Yat and then had a nice meal at the Saracens Head. There is a tennis court just up the road where I was a member for a year and then there is the cricket club and table tennis twice a week in the village hall.
Now the village shop has closed, where do you go instead?
The closing of the village shop was a great sadness – I used to go there every day. However, there’s an amazing village shop, Woods of Whitchurch, a couple of miles down the road.
What’s the most fun you have had at a local event?
I really enjoy being involved with our local Roaring Megs community choir, which I chair. There are about 50 of us and we meet every Monday night in the village hall, supposedly to rehearse – but mainly to have a good time. We give two or three concerts a year.
Tell me one fascinating fact about your village that you don’t think is generally widely known.
Prevented from buying and restoring Goodrich Castle to house and display his extensive collection of armour, Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick had the architect Edward Blore design a spectacular mock castle, called Goodrich Court. It stood just across the valley from the old ruined castle and was built in 1831. It was demolished in 1949 but you can still see the old Gothic-style gatehouse alongside the A40 between Ross and Monmouth.
Facts and Figures
Goodrich is a small, south Herefordshire village near an historically strategic crossing point on the River Wye, between England and Wales. A castle was established in the area by one Godric Mappeson in the 11th century, but it may not have been on the site of the medieval ruins which, today, are maintained by English Heritage and an important tourist attraction. On this site, a small keep, built in the 12th Century, is the earliest fortification of a castle that was largely rebuilt in the 13th Century under William de Valance, half-brother to Henry III. Goodrich Castle survived until 1646, when it was besieged by the Parliamentarians. Much of it was ruined by mortar fire and in the courtyard now stands the famous “Roaring Meg”, the only surviving Civil War mortar, which was cast at Goodrich forge.
Goodrich Castle boasts a new visitor centre with a tearoom serving a choice of refreshments and the ancient village of Goodrich has two pubs, The Cross Keys and The Hostelrie, a landmark 19th Century Gothic-style building. Another prominent building is the Tudor-style Village Hall, built by the Moffatt family of Goodrich Court as a working men’s club and, in 1975, gifted to the village on condition that its outward appearance was retained. The village, which has about 550 residents also has a primary school founded in 1850 and now housed in a modern, purpose-built building to which it moved in 2000.
Photos: Sharon Chilcott & Caroline Constance