If the Voilette Szabo trail in Herefordshire was a rainbow then they’d be three pots of gold at the end of it.

The six-mile walk takes in the colours and shades of the Herefordshire countryside in all its glory. And the pots of gold?

Well Golden Pot I is the most unlikely museum celebrating the real-life heroism of a beautiful young woman who became a secret agent in occupied France in World War 2.

Pot 2 is the extraordinary pensioner Rosemary Rigby MBE who singlehandedly created the museum in her back garden in Wormelow where the young Violette often visited as a child.

Pot 3 are the pubs on the route and at the end including one of the best pubs I’ve ever been in – the wonderful Black Swan at Much Dewhurst.

More of all that later but let’s start with the walk, which was created by former members of the SAS, whose regiment is based nearby in the county.

It starts at the Graftonbury garden hotel (GR504364). We left one vehicle in Wormelow and then drove to the start and found a grassy verge nearby to park the other car.

The route is extremely well marked with distinctive signs showing the way throughout. Paths through crops are well worn and clear. Stiles are accessible and in good order.

After walking across fields and Grafton Wood be careful crossing the busy A49 but on the other side we walked through turnip and winter barley fields with no stock in sight so our well-behaved dogs could be let off their leads.

This is a beautiful rural landscape of rich agricultural land. There are a couple of climbs but nothing too challenging. The climb up through Aconbury Hill is the sharpest but is rewarded by a viewing point with a sweeping vista of the countryside.

After that it’s a mix of tracks and small country roads and there is the opportunity to make a small divert to visit the Castle Inn at Little Birch. It was closed when we passed nearby, so, unfortunately, I can’t give you a personal review but I’m told its worth it.

More fields to cross after that and a dip in and out of a valley before re- crossing the A49. We popped into the aptly named Pilgrim’s Rest for a well-earned pint or cuppa and I was delighted to find they served one of my favourite ciders from these parts – Robinsons.

Then it was simply a case of following the road down to Wormelow and the Old kennels. The walk is about 6 miles and took us under three hours at a stroll and with multiple stops to admire the views and have snacks.

On arrival Rosemary was waiting to let us into her back garden and the museum. Please note that you do need to contact her in advance to make sure she is available to open up. Call her on 01981 540477. The address is Cartref House, Tump Lane, Wormelow, Herefordshire HR2 8HN.

Inside the two-room museum you will be enthralled by the incredible heroism of Voilette Szabo.  She was born in 1921 to an English father and French mother and lived in both countries in her childhood before settling in London aged 11. She spent many holidays at the old kennels in Wormelow with an uncle and aunt.

By the time war broke out she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman strikingly similar in looks to the film star Ingrid Bergman.

In 1940 she married Etienne Szabo of the French Foreign Legion. He died fighting at El Alamein in 1942 having never seen the daughter they had together.

Their baby daughter, Tania, was to lose her mother later in the war as well because incredibly Violette aged just 21 was recruited into the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and after training, was parachuted into France as a special agent to liaise with resistance groups.

She survived her first mission but on the second she was betrayed and was captured after a battle with Nazi soldiers who she held off with a sten gun while her driver escaped. She was captured only when her ammunition ran out.

She was taken to a prison and tortured but never gave any information away.

At the museum you will learn that she was moved to various prisons and concentration camps before ending at Ravensbruck where she endured several months of inhuman treatment before being shot in the back of the head alongside two other girls in early 1945 weeks before the war ended.

Violette was 23 years old.

She was awarded the George Cross by Britain and the Croix de Guerre by France.

A sanitized version of her story was made into a film in 1958 starring Virginia McKenna OBE called “Carve her name with pride”. Virginia McKenna and Violette’s daughter Tania have been strong supporters of the museum where you will learn more about her courage in the face of the atrocities that she and her fellow inmates suffered.

It is an incredible story but the woman who set up the museum in her back garden is also extraordinary. Rosemary Rigby MBE has worked tirelessly to create this jewel of a museum in peaceful Herefordshire.

We were lucky enough to be let in and taken round by her. Her energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge, well into her Eighties, is a testament to her. She is fascinating and you get a sense that she is a force of nature that created this unlikely memorial and brought 2,000 people from around the world for the opening in 2000.

Who can resist her or the stories she tells.

We visited on Remembrance day 2022 and at 11 o’clock of the 11th day of the 11th month we joined Rosemary and local people to pay our respects and hear local school children read their poems by the simple cenotaph. People like Violette need to be remembered and honoured, and we were privileged to be part of the ceremony.

A short walk from Rosemary’s cottage is the Tump Inn but it was closed when we visited so we took a short drive to Much Dewhurst and arrived at the Black Swan just before it opened on a Friday night at 5pm.

There were a couple of locals waiting for the doors to open and when they did we went into the saloon bar to be greeted by an open roaring fire, flagstone floor, a great selection of local ales and ciders and a friendly barman. I enjoyed a couple of pints of Traditional Herefordshire Perry made by our friends Gwatkins. What a perfect end to a special day.

Thanks to John Davis for organising the day out and Pete Maggs for taking some of the photographs.

Skirrid holiday cottage under construction

The Violette Szabo Trail is well marked throughout.

Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction
Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction

The paths are clearly defined through crops.

Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction

Plenty of stunning views along the way.

Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction
Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction

The two room museum is a fitting memorial to a genuine herione.

Sugarloaf and Blorenge holiday cottages under construction

Tania receives her mother’s George Cross in 1947. Copyright: Imperial War Museum