Are you into genealogy? Do you know your family’s heritage? Our family’s love of all things Hereford and the cattle’s lineage was front and center during a recent two-week trip to England for my husband, Terry, and me.
Our London-living daughter, Hayley, is our family’s resident travel guru, so she researched and orchestrated our adventures. While we saw amazing London again, plus incredibly beautiful scenery, villages and historical sites, including Highclere Castle of “Downton Abbey” fame — and lots of fluffy sheep — the greatest sight for sore eyes was driving up picturesque lanes of established Hereford farms. Hayley knew we, especially Terry, would be thrilled to visit Herefordshire, pronounced “hair-a-ford,” where the breed originated.
Even more, our Hayhurst Farms Polled Hereford cattle and England’s Herefords can proudly claim similar lineage from the late 1800s. According to “Birth of a Breed: The History of Polled Herefords — America’s First Beef Breed,” “Herefords are a fairly recent import to the shores of America. Only a bare handful, less than 300 head, had been imported to the U.S. prior to the late 1800s.” In the 1975 volume, author Orville K. Sweet notes that time frame until now “is not a long time in the history of man, but it is a significant period in the realm of improved seedstock.”
We concurred with his writing as we surveyed the two breathtaking and distinctly preserved Hereford farms where Hayley had tours scheduled. Our first stop was Hawkins Estate near Ledbury. Sarah Hawkins acquired the herd — pedigreed Bosbury Polled Herefords, a continuation of the Bosa Hereford herd established nearly 40 years earlier in Herefordshire — in 2018. The operation’s website, hawkinsestate.co.uk, boasts high-fertility cows with all calving done in springtime.
Hawkins Farms also produces Grade 1 hops, fine apple ciders, hay and Christmas trees, and manages woodlands. The family’s hops operation is over 150 years old, and hops are marketed and sold to breweries in the United Kingdom and across the world.
Our second stop was The Haven, Dilwyn, Herefordshire. According to their Facebook page, Haven Herefords, established in 1822, is the oldest family-run herd of Hereford cattle in the world. The herd’s owners are in their fifth generation and; it is currently run by Edward Lewis and his family. The website, havenherefords.co.uk, notes, “Today’s herd contains 60 cows and followers … along with a commercial farming enterprise of cider fruit, arable crops, hop bines and garlands, and pure Hereford beef delivered to your door.”
Following brief rides to both operations’ multiple, lush green pastures, we were greeted with our favorite and universal cattle lowing and bellowing. Like a fairytale setting come true for Terry, he would have gladly sat down alongside the cattle and had a campout with his favorite animals.
Very gracious hospitality, conversation and Herefords filled our afternoon. We didn’t need ancestry websites to determine how blessed we were to make these new friends. It only took our daughter, the internet and Terry negotiating dozens of roundabouts while driving through England.
Hayhurst writes from Terre Haute, Ind.