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Brilley, Herefordshire

Sheep flock grazing the grassy farmland with views across the hilly, wooded countryside in the background.
Enjoy sweeping views over the Herefordshire countryside from Brilley | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Brilley is home to Cwmmau Farm, Fernhall Farm and Little Penlan Farm, in addition to a SSSI Woodland, meadow, orchards, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Scheduled monument

Around 200 meters north of Cwmmau Farmhouse lies an oval castle mound known as Cwmmau Motte. Due to its irregular shape and uneven surface on the top, it is possible that this motte represents the remains of a Norman timber castle.

While there was no settlement recorded here in the 1086 AD Domesday Book, Brilley's location along the border between England and Wales suggests this fortification may have played a role in the Norman invasion of Wales during the 11th century.

Historic farmland

Population records for the parish of Brilley begin in the 14th century with the 1379 Poll Tax Record. Fifty-four individuals were cited on this record, and it is believed that Fernhall Farm was constructed during this time to house and support a tenant farmer family. This was followed by the construction of Little Penlan in the 16th century and Cwmmau Farmhouse in the early 17th century.

Cwmmau Farmhouse

Constructed between 1600 to 1632 AD, Cwmmau Farmhouse is a Grade II listed building looked after by the National Trust. In 1934, George Merges bought and restored the house from poor condition and he bequeathed it to The National Trust in 1965.

The exterior of Cwmmau Farmhouse, Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire
The exterior of Cwmmau Farmhouse, Herefordshire | © National Trust / Mike Henton


The site is home to four sections of woodland; Cwmma Moors, Ashen Coppice, Fernhall Coppice and Cwmma Green Coppice. Within these woodlands, as well as the majority of the field boundaries across the site, veteran trees of ash, hazel, and oak stand as relics of an earlier, extensively wooded region.

Part of Cwmmau Moors is even recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its ‘wet mixed deciduous woodland’ which is characteristic of this part of the Welsh borders.


There are two traditional orchards within the property, one to the east of Cwmmau Farmhouse and one near Little Penlan Farm. Despite being a historic orchard, only a few old trees remain near Cwmmau farmhouse, including a veteran cherry tree and a few veteran hawthorns. The orchard near Little Penlan supports a large number of mature apple trees, as well as some veteran hawthorn, hazel, and field maple.


The remainder of the landscape continues to be utilised either as meadows or pastures. Several fields now qualify as Lowland Meadows Priority Habitats as they support red-list threatened plants such as devil’s-bit scabious and tormentil, as well as southern marsh and common spotted orchids.

In the summer months, there is often an abundance of flowers in these fields attracting a variety of pollinators, including numerous species of butterflies, bees, hoverflies, and beetles.

A purple common spotted orchids and yellow wildflowers amongst tall grass in a meadow
A common spotted orchid in a wildflower meadow | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Other wildlife

There are also high levels of bat activity at Brilley, particularly around the farmhouses. Notable species include common pipistrelle, greater mouse-eared, and brown long-eared bats, with roosts being located within lofts and haybarns.

A young child and her mother bending down to look at flowers in the Sunken Garden in May at Castle Ward, County Down, Northern Ireland


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A misty sunrise over Midsummer Hill, with sweeping views over the surround landscape

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