Walford Parish is predominately rural with much of the are lying within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Most of the land is given over to farming and inevitably potential tensions exist between protecting the environment and allowing a competitive farming and food industry which contributes towards global food security. Via informed planning, it is necessary to manage the impacts that food production has on the natural environment. Market demand has dictated a requirement for soft fruits and asparagus for much of the year which is accomplished by use of polythene to extend the growing season. A large portion of the husbandry of the environment falls upon the local farming community.
The Parish is bisected by the B4234 as the principal transport route and bounded to the West by the River Wye. Most roads crisscrossing the Parish are designated rural access, narrow and unsuited to heavy traffic. Only small sections of the B4234 have pedestrian paving. Public transport is sparse and limited to the B4234.
The 2011 census showed the population of Walford Parish to be 1,514 people with a mean age of 46.4 years, 35 of which were school age. The population is almost doubled with the inclusion of migrant farm workers, most of whom are housed in temporary accommodation. There were 648 dwellings within the Parish, of which 87% were normally occupied. 76% of the properties were owned and 74% were detached houses.
Vernacular architecture of older properties is predominately stone/rubble built with plain or lime washed finish and slate/pantile roofs. Later development (mainly Walford village and Leys Hill) has seen introduction of a mixture of styles, some sympathetic to the local environment, some not.
There are some seventeen listed buildings within Walford Parish of which there are two Grade I and one Grade II*.
Walford Parish Church of St. Michael and all Angels – Grade I Norman in origin and thought to be one of the oldest churches in Herefordshire, the war memorial is also listed Grade II
Hill Court – Grade 1 an impressive brick-built house completed in 1708 Since 1994 it has been the UK headquarters of Rehau Plastics Ltd
Upper Wythall – Grade II* a predominately untouched Tudor mansion Home to descendants of the Stratford-Collins family since 1680
The following are all Grade II listed:
- Bollin Farmhouse
- Brook Farmhouse
- Castle Brook
- Coughton Mill House
- Flaxley House
- Kerne Bridge
- Lower Wythall
- Old Hill Court
- Paraclete Chapel
- Tan House
- Upper Warryfield and attached Cottage
- Walford Court
- Priory Lea (formerly Walford House Hotel)
- Weirend Farmhouse
Most of the Parish is on mains water supply with drainage to septic tank and soak-away except those within reach of the Ross on Wye Sewage treatment facilities. Electric supply is predominantly overhead and suffers in areas from frequent supply interruptions. The Parish has an improving internet and telephony infrastructure as part of the Fastershire project, mobile coverage is poor. The Parish has few areas away from the B4234 supported by street lighting.
Walford Parish is predominantly rural yet has a thriving and diverse local economy. Three large farms are located within the Parish boundary supporting a range of agricultural production from arable through meat and poultry to soft fruits and asparagus of international repute. The Parish hosts the national headquarters of Rehau, a timber business and a public house/hotel. In addition, there are many bed and breakfasts, small holdings, small businesses and sole traders operating from houses and home workshops.
Jobs and employment opportunities are essential to a vibrant and sustainable community. The diverse nature of the local economy is interdependent and underpins the character of Walford Parish. Without successful year-round agricultural enterprises, the fields and woodland that make up so much of the Parish and create the natural beauty of the area, would not be managed. Without the attractions of the countryside and the river Wye, there would be little call for tourist facilities and bed and breakfast accommodation. Without local visitors there would be limited demand for the public houses and other related facilities. Moreover, this countryside and these facilities form a great attraction to people who move into the area, importing wealth and boosting maintenance of the housing stock.
Whilst the natural environment largely supports the local economy, it also impedes the expansion of business within the Parish. Much of the Parish lies within the Wye Valley AONB and is subject to additional protective measures within the National Planning Policy Framework and the Herefordshire Council Core Strategy. In addition, the transport infrastructure within the Parish consists of predominately narrow lanes with limited capacity both in terms of vehicle volume and weight.
The river Wye runs along the Western boundary of the Parish and supports local tourism. There is a thriving industry serving boating on the Wye. Most of the riverside boundary is on private land with no formal footpath access. There are a significant number of public rights of way across the parish, which is a popular walking and horse-riding area.
A significant part of Walford Parish is contained within the Wye Valley AONB and there is statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 together with policies SS6 and LD1 of the Herefordshire Core Strategy.
The River Wye SAC is a European site. The SAC citation tells us that the site is designated because of its habitats, flora and fauna. The SAC description lists the following fauna of the site as a primary reason for the selection of the site as an SAC:
- White-clawed (or Atlantic stream) crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes)
- Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)
- Brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri)
- River lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis)
- Twaite shad (Alosa fallax)
- Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
- Bullhead (Cottus gobio)
- Otter (Lutra lutra)
The Wye holds a dense and most well-established otter population, representative of otters occurring in lowland freshwater habitats in the borders of Wales. The river has bank-side vegetation cover, abundant food supply, clean water and undisturbed areas of dense scrub suitable for breeding, making it particularly favourable as otter habitat. The population remained even during the lowest point of the UK decline, confirming that the site is particularly favourable for this species and the population likely to be highly stable.
The Parish is home to several European Protected Species (EPS):
- Bats, Horseshoe (all species) (Rhinolophidae)
- Bats, Typical (all species) (Vespertilionidae)
- Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius)
- Newt, Great Crested (or Warty) (Triturus cristatus)
- Otter, Common (Lutra lutra)