Monday – Croft – It is decidedly cooler today with a grey, overcast sky. Chiffchaff and Nuthatch call persistently around the car park. A Blackbird sings at the top of the Fish Pool valley. Blue Tits chatter in the trees. Cleavers, Stinging Nettles, Dog Mercury and Lesser Celandine cover the ground. Down in the valley, Wood Anemones and Saxifrage flower. A Robin stands on the roof of the old pump house. A drake Mallard quacks quietly on one of the pools. More Ash trees have been removed. The rear of the limekiln had been pointed and both the entrances filled with stones. Ransoms’ leaves are growing. The valley is carpeted in daffodils in front of the Rustic Shelter with another large patch a little further up the valley. Wild strawberries are in flower in a bank. Great Tits call, Wrens stutter alarms, Chaffinches sing.
Up out of the valley past piles of softwood logs. The lack of rain over the past few weeks means that the paths have largely dried out and patches of mud are few and far between. Up onto the hill-fort. Views are misty and the distant hills are obscured. Lorries trundle along the lanes to and from the quarry on the far hillside. There must have been a good number of sheep on the hill-fort recently as the ground is littered with their droppings. I find the flock on the southern side by the pillow mounds. The lambs are well grown. There are a good numbers of Chiffchaff down from the western entrance to the hill-fort. The cleared areas of open woodland are now chrome yellow with flowering Gorse. All down the hillside are territories of calling Chiffchaffs. A whooping Nuthatch scurries up a tree. Fresh young leaves and embryonic candles have appeared on the Horse Chestnuts. The Spanish Chestnuts however have yet to awaken from their winter’s repose. A pair of Jays fly out of the woodlands and across the car park field. A herd of cattle are laying in the field. It is said that cows lying down foretold rain but this lot look like they have simply filled their first stomach with grass and are now chewing the cud.
Thursday – Home – The bright spring days have been temporarily halted by the last gasp effort, hopefully, of winter. It is dark into the morning. Frosts have returned, unfortunate as damson, plum and greengage trees are all in blossom. It rained overnight and into the early morning – then turned to snow. It was very wet snow and hardly laid at all here, but there are reports of more significant amounts to the west of here.
In the garden, things are turning greener. Tulips and daffodils are in flower and the first bluebells emerge. The hens are still laying well. Indoors, tomato plants are growing well, but they will not being going out to the greenhouse any time soon.
Later in the afternoon, great leaden clouds move in and there is a loud rumble of thunder. Heavy rain quickly turns to hail which crashes onto windows and roofs. The thunder clouds move away leaving grey skies and steady rain.
Friday – Hallow-Holt – Another night of rain leads to drizzle in the morning, now hopefully clearing away. A cool wind blows. My route starts outside Hallow church. The oak tree on the village green is sprouting small leaves. New housing estates being built on the north side of the village. In between are older properties. A three storey Georgian house is in a derelict condition. A similar three storey house dated around 1840 is in a far better state. It stands next to Hallow Primary School which looked more like a church than a school with a three stage bell tower. It was built in the High Victorian Gothic style in 1857 by William Jeffrey Hopkins. It was founded in 1712 by Bishop Lloyd, with part of the money left by Anne Bull, a local benefactress, who died in 1707, to purchase land to provide the endowment for schools in Hallow, Grimley and Madresfield. The school had fallen into decay by the early 19th century and the present school was built with money from the rent from Anne Bull’s lands.
Into Greenhill Lane. A cottage is dated 1904, next to it are older cottages. These are followed by more modern dwellings leading to Greenhill farm, a large Georgian style farmhouse looks considerably modernised. All the farm buildings have been converted into residences. The lane turns, then turns again, heading down into the Severn River valley. A pair of swallows fly past.
The lane is a bridleway but has been laid with brick tiles in a fan decoration. Hop Pole cottage is a sizeable building probably built in at least two different periods. The older section would have been a row of cottages. The tiled lane passes through a grandiose gate with a coat of arms into Green Park. A pair of stone sphinxes stand either side of the lane. The bridleway now continues as a mud path. Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and Great Tits all are in good voice. The lane passes a large lake with an island in the middle. Lakes, all former gravel pits, continue northwards. Another set of gates to Green Park when the lane is again paved for short distance before joining Camp Lane. The name “Camp” is said to date from the murder of two of Harthacanute’s tax collectors in 1041. A force was sent to collect the taxes and the town’s people fled to Bevere Island and set up camp. A small caravan park stands beside the lane. On the far side of the caravan park is the Camp House pub. It was probably built as a house in the 17th century but has been extensively altered over the years.
A small flock of swallows are feeding over another lake. Four Cormorants fly in. A House Martin flies over. The lakes continue along the valley. Retreat Farm is now just dwellings. The farmhouse is early 19th century. The River Severn lies just beyond the farm buildings. The lane continues to in open fields and the lakes. Skylark sings high above the fields.
Camp Lane enters the village of Grimley past the Manse. The Dallows is a late 16th century house refronted in brick in English bond. Old properties including the large Church Farm stand between infill of modern housing. All the buildings associated with the farm are now dwellings. Grimley and Holt primary School is in an extended Victorian building. Opposite is a house with a small plaque, “Grimley National School 1834”. The village pump stand outside this house. Next to it is the church of St Bartholomew. A restored preaching cross stands in the graveyard. It is probably 15th century.
Grimley was probably occupied from the Neolithic, but was passed through by Palaeolithic people whose implements have been found nearby. The name is Saxon, meaning the “clearing of Grimm or Grime”. It has been suggested this means valley of ghosts, from Old English grima, a spectre or goblin and leah, a woodland clearing. Land was given to the church by Bertwulf, King of the Mercians, in 851 and it is said that King Offa also gave land to a monastery here. By Domesday, these lands were in the hands of the priors of Worcester. The church of St Bartholomew dates from the 12th century but little remains of it. The chancel is 13th century although the east end is 15th century. The tower is of a similar date. The nave was rebuilt in the 14th century and the north aisle added in 1886 during a major renovation. There are six bells, one is dated 1482 and dedicated to St Gregory, a gift of Robert Multon the last prior but one. A gallery stands at the west end of the nave. The restoration in 1886 added the neo-Norman porch with doorway and an outside stairway with intersecting arcade giving access to the gallery. On the North wall are prayer boards and above the south door is the royal coat of arms of George III. The pulpit is late 19th century, carved by Mr Forsyth of Worcester, and the gift of Mr T. G. Hyde. There are two windows, one on the south side, the other on the north which contain 15th century stained glass. The north depicts a saint receiving a Paten and Chalice, the other shows the Annunciation with the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel.
Village still has a pub, the Wagon Wheel dating from the 15th century with a fine thatched roof. The Severn Way crosses the graveyard continues across fields. The Green Woodpecker yaffles in the woods. Through the woods to a small stream. The ground is covered in Wild Garlic, Ransoms. A footbridge crosses the stream. Onto a lane that passes a wildlife centre and animal sanctuary. Opposite is a field occupied by Hereford cattle, mainly laying down. The Severn Way runs past a large house behind which is Top Barn Business Centre. Then across a large, empty campsite. This area was a mediaeval deer park.
The lane enters Holt. St Martin’s church mid 12th century, altered in 13th century with 14th and 15th century additions. It was restored in 1859. The west tower is 15th century. It has an exquisite Norman doorway with a round arch having horizontal and vertical chevrons, double nookshafts with cushion capitals and grotesque heads. Unfortunately door is chained shut. The north doorway, also 12th century is round-headed of two orders, richly chevron moulded, and having nookshafts with figured capitals, the left one illustrating the fable of the Fox and the Crane both drinking from a cask. It is rather more worn than the south door. Windows by the doors look of a similar period but are Victorian. The lych gate also is of Norman design but of Victorian construction. I must return when it is open!
Opposite is Holt Castle. This is a fortified house with a 14th century tower. The rest of the original fortified structure was rebuilt 15th century, altered in 16th century, remodelled early 18th century and further additions and alterations were made in the mid 19th century. The tower was believed to have been built by John Beauchamp, the first Lord Beauchamp of Kidderminster, who was executed in 1388. The castle was built by Urse d’Abitot, Sheriff of Worcester and although the actual date of construction is unknown, it was here in Domesday. By the 12th century it had been acquired by the Beauchamp family. The Beauchamps became Earls of Warwick in the mid 13th century. Before they moved to Warwickshire, they dominated Worcestershire, firstly from Worcester Castle and later from Elmley Castle. Holt became a residence for a junior branch of the family. It was acquired by John Wysham hands in 1420 when took ownership. It passed by marriage to John Guise in 1472, sold to Sir John Bourn in 1557 then to Thomas Fortescue in 1578. It passed by marriage to the Bromley family in 1760 who sold the castle to Thomas Foley (later Earl of Dudley). It remains in private hands.
I now trace my steps to Grimley. Climbing a hill back towards the church, I am watched by a Mute Swan standing in a field with a pair of Canada Geese. From Grimley, an unpaved track leads down to the River Severn. A Jay and a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly past. The track passes a flooded willow carr. A great old, cracked Willow is tagged. The track comes to the riverside path. A wooden footbridge crosses a stream from Grimley. A brick structure once stood between the bridge and the river but a willow has grown across and into it crushing some of the bricks. Onto a sheep pasture where some of the sheep are in need of shearing. A Grey Heron rises from the willow carr. A few drake Mallard are on the river. A flock of Canada Geese are in the next pasture. The River Salwarpe enters the canal on the far side. Shortly after, the Droitwich canal joins the river via a lock. Cuckoo Flowers, Lady’s Smock, surround an old byre site which is full of nettles.
The river splits around Bevere Island. The western arm enters a lock to avoid a weir. A cast iron bridge, built in 1844, crosses the eastern arm onto the island. It is possible Bevere Bridge was built for the secretive and wealthy Sir Richard Moon who owned property and land here. He was chief engineer of the London and North Western Railway Company and lived the last years of his life in Bevere. A pair of Great Crested Grebe glide past. The lock keeper is having a quiet day on large Belvere lock. A Mute Swan is on a nest at the southern tip of the island. Her mate stands on the shingle below. A small cast iron plaque below the hedge states “Stourport 9 miles”. The path works its way around Camp House Inn, passing several Peacocks on the way. After the pub, the path crosses a rough meadow where daffodils stand erect and glorious yellow. The path leaves the meadow and enters woodland below Hallow Park. The floor of the woodlands is dotted with the palest violet Cuckoo Flowers. A large area of the woodland has been pollarded.
A path leaves the river and crosses has swampy woodlands before climbing steeply out of the river valley it enters Hallow beside the old church site and graveyard. Route
Sunday – Leominster – Luminous grey clouds cover the sky. It is cool enough to nip the fingers. The street is rather quiet, no Starlings or gulls and the Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons are sitting quietly on the roofs. Over the railway. The area between the railway and the river is full of brambles and honeysuckle climbing up over Ash saplings. The water level in the river Lugg has risen again. Blackbirds sound alarms either side of the river. Great Tits call their rusty bicycle wheel song. Yellow Archangel is coming into flower. The market is a fair size with plenty of browsers. A new meat van has arrived. Several of the regular plant vendors have not appeared yet this year. House Sparrows chatter in Paradise Walk. The River Kenwater seems devoid of birdlife. Up through the town where, as usual, one shop has closed and another opened.
Wednesday – Leominster – Most of the sky is covered in cloud and there is a chilly east wind. The sun breaks through fitfully as I approached the White Lion. The water level in the River Lugg remains the same as at the weekend. The grey-brown surface swirls and ripples as it flows rapidly southwards. A Song Thrush sings in a riverside Ash. Another tree contains several Goldfinches chasing through the top branches. Under the busy A49 through Mosaic Bridge. The Millennium Wood has been renamed Easters Wood. The floor of the wood is mainly Stinging Nettles and Wild Arums. Around the back of the woods is an open space. A Blackbird scurries into brambles with a large worm in its beak. Chiffchaff and Blackcap sing from the woodland. An old bridge crosses a still, stagnant stream. On one side is a tangle of broken, cracked and twisted willow trunks and branches. It is many years older than the wood. The water was a drain that ran across a rifle range from a pond to the north. The bridge allowed shooters to cross the drain to the targets that stood to the east at the foot of the hill. A path runs around the base of Eaton Hill. Maples have been planted in long rows. A fence stops progress up the hill. A rabbit runs away, heading up the hill. There are ornamental trees here, a conifer, Wayfaring trees, flowering cherries, all at least 20 to 30 years old.
Back over the bridge and down to the river once more. Butterburs are in flower. A path now runs along beside the horse paddocks. A pair of Mistle Thrushes rasp in trees at West Eaton. They are joined by Chaffinch and a pair of Collared Doves. Then a small flock of Long-tailed Tits flies through. Up the drovers path on to Eaton Hill. Bugle flowers in purple profusion. A black slug glides across the muddy path. There is a path along field at the top of Eaton Hill. Usually the crop comes up to the rough edge but this year a space has been left although it appears to be filling with Stinging Nettles which will make it difficult later in the year. The crop is cereal this year and for some reason it appears very weak and flattened at the north-western edge of the field.
Past the long arrays of solar panels. Down the track towards Eaton. Chiffchaffs and Blue Tits call. Garlic Mustard is coming into flower by the hedge running down to the A49. White Dead Nettle is also in flower along the side of the lane. Three very large stone troughs stand outside Brightwells’ auction room. Along Mill Lane. A maintenance crew are working on the railway line just north of the level crossing. Back into town. A Grey Heron flies over omitting the occasional squawk.
Friday – Martley-Knightwick – A blue sky and bright sunshine shining down on Martley. Along the main road past The Jewry, an early 17th century house altered over the succeeding centuries. The name is interesting. Generally, it is thought that the name is a direct reference to properties being connected with Jews. Glebe maps refer to the house as The Jury in 1714 but The Jewry in 1736. It was, at one time, a public house and locally it is said it was called “The Judge and Jury”, but the name “Jewry” pre-dates this. Martley Memorial Hall is a modern building. Next to is the playing fields and park with skateboard ramps and pitches. A lane leads westwards past modern houses. Birdsong is loud and mixed. Out into open countryside through wide fields with skylarks singing overhead. The Worcestershire Way leaves the lane and heads south. The route crosses a large open field lying fallow. A Grey Wagtail passes chirping with every undulation in its flight. In the next field inch high, bright green shoots are pushing through the reddish-brown soil. The path comes to the lane leading to Berrow farm. The farmhouse is a large building reminiscent of a French château. Deeds date it between 1615 and 1635. In front of it are large stables and dovecote, all converted into dwellings.
The lane turns up towards a cottage at the foot of Berrow Hill. Woodland on the hill obscures an Iron Age hill-fort. The Worcestershire Way continues straight ahead across two meadows. The path now joins the main road towards Knightwick and the A44. Yellow Archangel flowers on the roadside, its leaves have a flash of silver. Past Tucker Hill Farmhouse and into Berrow Green past the Admiral Rodney, a large country pub. Older timber-framed properties are scattered among the more modern houses in the village. The way leaves the road and passes down the edge the large harrowed field. Then across another field past timber-framed cottage with a splendid stepped chimney stack.
I now take a lane, Hipplecote, running south. Lesser Stitchwort flowers on the roadside. They are then replaced by Garlic Mustard and then Greater Stitchwort. Over the hedge there is an orchard in full blossom; I suspect these are pear trees. Ahead in the distance are the Malvern Hills. Further down the lane are Primroses, Celandines and the first Bluebells. On both sides of the lane fields on slopes occupied by sheep and their lambs. Up on the hill is Easinghope farm and a short distance away Hawksnest farm. The Worcestershire way rejoins the lane, which joins Easinghope Lane. Opposite Hawksnest farm is a small pond surrounded by willows. The farm buildings have all been converted into residences. The way leaves the lane and crosses a gently undulating field. The route now drops steeply down into a valley.
The path enters Ankerdine Common Nature Reserve. It crosses a brook which in mergers a little further up the hill from the rather quaintly named Nipple Well. Into Nipple Coppice. Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Wren and Song Thrush are all calling and singing. The path joins a track of muddy, wet, red clay. Below is Nipple Well emerging rather prosaically from a large plastic pipe. The route leaves the track and start climbing a hill. To one side there are drifts of Bluebells. Wood Anemones are coming into flower, pushing their way through the dog Mercury. Further up the Wood Anemones take control and cover the hillside. Among them are a few Lesser Celandines and Dog Violets. The path continues to climb steeply up Ankerdine Hill. Wood Splurge and Ransoms grow alongside the path now. A pair of Mallard sit beside a very small muddy pool. The path reaches the Knightwick Road beside Tower Cottage, a sizeable house with a central tower. Opposite is a pleasant white painted cottage. The road descends, cut into the steep hillside. Ankerdine Farm lies in the valley below with two oast houses which still have their cowls at the rear of the fine 15th century farmhouse with a 16th century cross-wing. It was rebuilt in the 17th century and has extensive 20th century alterations. Beyond is the River Teme.
Into Knightwick. Before the Conquest, the manor was held by the monks of Worcester, but were leased to a nun called Eadgyth. After the Conquest she passed the lands back to the monks. At the time of the Survey, however, the hide of Knightwick was in the hands of Robert le Despenser, brother of Urso the Sheriff. It passed to Walter de Beauchamp. The overlordship remained with Walter’s descendants, the Earls of Warwick. Towards the bottom of the hill is a row of almshouses JFGW dated 1889. The initials are for John Francis Greswolde-Williams, the benefactor. Beside them is the old school and schoolhouse. Opposite is the village hall which has been sold with planning permission to convert into a one bedroom house. Beside it, the church of St Mary has already been converted into a residence. The church was built in 1856 to the designs of A E Perkins. It was declared redundant in 2002 and converted in 2016. The Talbot Inn, dating from the 15th century, stands on a junction. The road turns right down to the A44. Another lane reaches the River Teme where it becomes just a footbridge now. I head back up the hill to pick up the Three Choirs Way.
A pair of Ravens fly over cronking as I steadily climb the steep hill. Onto the footpath. This combines the Worcester Way, The Three Choirs Way and the Geopark Way. Some old buildings in the woods have collapsed completely. Both sides of the path I covered with great swathes of Ransoms, Wild Garlic. The path divides, my route heads south. A Chiffchaff calls and a Blackcap sings. The path climbs and passes round a modern house built high on the hillside. On the summit of Ankerdine Hill is a knoll with a picnic bench. Ankerdine Hill is Silurian limestone, Much Wenlock Formation. Down to the east is Triassic Sidmouth Mudstone. Running up the ridge from Martley is an outcrop of Helsby Formation Sandstone from the Triassic. All around the ground is covered in Wild Garlic. I picked some buds to pickle. The path emerges from the woods beside another 20th century house and a car park. I had missed the footpath I wanted and retrace my steps and find it somewhat obscured by a hedge. This path is far side of the field that backs onto Tower Cottage. The path drops steeply down and joins a track beside a brick and clapperboard barn. I almost missed the path I want which runs beside the barn then into a wood. The route is somewhat convoluted but I wish to avoid ending up on the busy A44. The steep slope of the wood is an azure sea of Bluebells.
I pause on a stile behind the barn. Below is the A44 running through the wide floodplain of the river. A large hopyard stands in green fields. The footpath will be a challenge later in the year as it is covered with young Stinging Nettles. However yet again, this is not the path I want. I am following a National Trail, yet the waymarking has failed completely. I suspect the gates and fences are all new and the waymark symbols have not been replaced. Following the map, I cross a pasture of sheep and lambs down to a lane. This leads to Bannersbrook Farm by the A44. Here again the paths are confusing and complicated, but this time it would appear that the landowner is actually blocked the Three Choirs Way and I have to find an alternative route. I end up returning up the hill to cross to Easinghope Lane.
The day turns into afternoon and it is getting warmer despite the breeze. A lane turns eastwards from Easinghope Lane. Past a couple of houses, one is called Leap House. Another house can be seen deep in the woods behind these. The map marks either the area or a feature as Devil’s Leap but there appears to be no access to it. The lane drops down deep into a valley cut by two small streams, one from Nipples Well. The streams join just beyond the bridge and flow into Walnut Shell Coppice. They join the Teme just beyond Bannersbrook. The lane rises again to Haynes Green. Haynes Green farm house is a very substantial 17th century building although it does not look like if it anything to do with farming these days. A modern house stands next to it. Further up the lane is the Old House. A plaque says “Keepers Cottage” but it is far larger than usual. I suspect a substantial 17th or 18th century farmhouse with extensions to each side. Cowslips are in flower on the banks. An old orchard lies to the west, its trees covered in mistletoe. Beyond is a Shooters Coppice.
Past couple of houses, one is 20th century the other, Heathy Cottage is 18th century. Hypsmoor farm looks like it is halfway through renovation. A large boat covered in a tarpaulin is deep inside a thicket. Wolverton is a timber-framed cottage. At a crossroads is a yard on a former brickworks. Across into Hollins Lane. A female albino Pheasant runs off the road, into the hedge then across the field with her normal plumaged mate. A Whitethroat chatters in the hedgerow. Herb Robert is coming into flower. Upper Hollins and Lower Hollins farms lay either side of a junction. A large field of oilseed rape is in flower, its brilliant yellow stretching away across the landscape. The lane enters a 20th century housing estate on the western edge of Martley. Route
Tuesday – Mortimer Forest – The morning is grey and overcast and the north wind still brings a slight chill. The weather are apparently about to change for the Easter weekend with warm Mediterranean winds sweeping up through the country. A Blue Tit is calling and a Wren sings. Up through the woods. Chiffchaffs call, a woodpecker drums, a Jay screeches. Leaves are yet to appear on most of the larger trees. Foxglove leaves are growing rapidly. There is rain in the air. Across the enclosure. It start raining. More Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap are in song.
Dog Violets are peeping out of the grassy banks in good numbers. A Song Thrush sings on the edge of Climbing Jack Common. The hoped-for Bluebells are yet to emerge. A Garden Warbler sings lustily from the interior of a Hawthorn tree and, although the leaves have yet to fully develop, the bird still manages to make itself almost invisible, just the odd flicker as it disappears behind another branch. The rain becomes more persistent so I decide to head back down the hillside. Along the forestry track. A spindly Forsythia is in flower. Lime green Wood Spurge is widespread along the woodland edge. The mixture of birdsong stays the same. A Raven cronks repeatedly from the top of a conifer.
Wednesday – Leominster – The sun rises through the haze as a great orange disc. A Blackcap sings in the alleyway between Mile’s Court and the garage. Jackdaws are very active around the area. Some are bringing food to the chimney pots in which they have nested, others are still building their nests and bringing sticks. Kay watches one that has brought a stick far too large for the space. There is a nest or maybe two, in the chimney of the cottage across the south side of the garden. There is trouble this morning. Eight or nine Jackdaws (it is hard to tell as there is much coming and going) are on the chimney stack and the television aerial attached to it. Much excitement surrounds one entrance to the chimney. One Jackdaw tail is in the air, quivering rapidly. Then a fight breaks out and four birds tumble and chase down the roof. Eventually things seem to settle and just a couple are present. Earlier, a Jackdaw chased a Grey Squirrel off the roof.
Home – Three Flowering Blackcurrant, Riba, shrubs have died over recent years and I spend the afternoon removing and chopping them into pieces. We still have several which are in flower, filling the air with their scent. Brimstone and Orange Tip butterflies flit around the garden. There is a Chiffchaff nearby. Our resident Robin inspects the area Kay is digging (to remove Ground Ivy), with occasional bursts of song. The Nuthatch is still calling from the Horse Chestnut, Great and Blue Tits call, House Sparrows squabble as they visit the seed feeder and there is a brief outbreak of Dunnock song. I come into the house to find a Birch Shieldbug, Elasmostethus intersinctus, resting on the windowsill. Later, out comes the garden furniture from winter storage and we relax with a drink. Tulips have come into flower to join the daffodils that are sadly coming to the end of their time. The bird feeder is busy with a Coal Tit darting in to grab a seed before retreating into the trees to eat it, a glorious male Bullfinch with his pink breast and jaunty black cap and the usual gang of House Sparrows squabbling over who has right of access first. Grey Squirrels chase round and round the trunk of the Horse Chestnut. There is another brief altercation between Jackdaws on the chimney stack.
Maundy Thursday – Brockhampton – The morning is hazy as the sun begins to warm the air. Off to Brockhampton, a National Trust property near Bromyard. We sit beside the moat of the manor house. Cowslips and Lady’s Smock are in flower on the bank. Marigolds form a brilliant yellow clump on the other side. Swallows fly over the most and around the roof of the house. Black bees are inspecting holes in the walls of the small Norman chapel. We then visit the manor house. More rooms have been opened up since our last visit. Walking through each room takes one 100 years forward, from the late 14th century hall to the 1960’s parlour. The place is filling with families as we leave, children excitedly following the Easter Egg trail.
Home – There is a cooling breeze but behind our tall garden walls it is very pleasant in the sunshine. A Grey Squirrel is rather cheeky, squatting on the stone birdbath near the peanuts, watching us. There is a plant pot dish on the pole under the seed feeder, both to catch falling seed and to stop the squirrels getting to the feeder. Collared Doves land on it, tipping it over, and they gobble down the spilt seed. There is a dish under the peanut feeder to stop squirrels climbing to the peanuts, but they just jump down from the Ash tree. House Sparrows, Blue, Great and Coal Tits visit the seed feeder but nothing goes to the peanuts whilst we are in the garden.
Good Friday – Home – The weather is suddenly like summer. The sky a clear cobalt and the temperature rising to over 20°C by mid-afternoon. A Grey Squirrel is on the cottage chimney stack and there is no sign of the Jackdaws that have been present here for several weeks. If there was a nest here, it is almost certainly abandoned now. The usual stream of House Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits visit the seed feeder. A Nuthatch makes several brief appearances. I crossed the Kenwater Bridge earlier in the day and glimpsed a Dipper flying upstream at high speed.
The Grey Squirrel disappears and some time later a Jackdaw flies in with a stick and enters the side entrance to the chimney stack (there are spaces below the chimney pots I suppose to improve updraught).
Saturday – Home – The sun rises into a clear sky – it is going to be another hot day. An interesting article in the news reports the finding of the fossil of a new species of ophiocistoid, a nine-footed sea creature of an extinct group that shares characters with both echinoids and holothurians. It was found locally in the Upper Wenlock Series of Herefordshire Lagerstätte. It comes from approximately 430 million years ago. The creature has been named Sollasina cthulhu, Cthuluhu after H.P. Lovecraft’s monsters. As a teenager, I was very keen on the stories of Lovecraft, who wrote in the early 20th century.
I dig out some of the old compost in the greenhouse bed, put up strings to support tomatoes and add fresh compost from our bin. Later peas that have been sprouting in a piece of guttering in the greenhouse are planted out into a shallow trench. Spinach seedlings are also planted out, covered with netting and sadly, slug pellets sprinkled under the netting. My first attempt at lettuces this year disappeared within hours of being planted out, so I am taking no chances! The afternoon is very warm, the thermometer showing 25°C.
Sunday – Leominster – The sky is completely cloudless so it looks like it will be another hot one. There is the constant background chatter of birds – House Sparrows, Wood Pigeons and Wrens, several of the last latter for some reason. The woods by the river are turning green rapidly now. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen considerably over the past week. Leaves are appearing on the great Black Poplars along Easters Meadow. The market is not as large as I would have expected on such a sunny bright morning. A drake Mallard stands on a sunken branch in the River Kenwater, quacking quietly. A Magpie flies into the dense crown of a tall Hawthorn on the edge of Pinsley Mead with a stick in its beak.
Home – Another small tree in the garden died several years ago and that needs removing. It has dried out to such an extent I can remove all the branches and snap them into small pieces in my hands. The tomatoes have been planted out in the greenhouse and seem to be doing well. A compost bin is emptied, the second one turned into the first and two of the plastic bins’ contents moved into the now empty bin. I am now hot and aching!
Friday – Ludlow – Storm Hannah is on her way according to the Met Office. it seems that storms are now being named by the Irish meteorological service, Met Éireann, rather than the British one. In Leominster wind is rising as I wait for the bus but is yet to start raining. Stormy grey clouds moving steadily north-eastwards across the sky. The occasional burst of sunlight goes to emphasize the dark leaden cloud.
I am the only passenger on the bus until another gets on in Orleton. Several more join on the outskirts of Ludlow. One can see why local authorities are reluctant to keep paying out subsidies for this type of service, although it would be more useful if one could get a return bus at a sensible time!
In Ludlow, I leave the town square and head down past the Assembly Rooms in Mill Street. The Town Council offices and coach house stand on one side. It was formerly the Palmers’ Guildhall, built in the late 14th timber aisled hall and encased in brick in 1768 by T F Pritchard. Opposite are large Georgian houses, one dated 1727, including one once occupied by Caesar Hawkins, Sergeant Surgeon to George II and George III. A small 17th century timber-framed cottage stands on the corner of Mill Street and Bell Lane. The houses beside it opposite again are Georgian with the occasional later 19th century property. Palmers’ Hall is late 18th century with a fine wooden bellcote. It is joined by the former Grammar School, a mediaeval great house that became the school in 1527, closing in 1977. The buildings are part of Ludlow College now. Into Lower Mill Street past the site of the Mill Gate. It is raining now. More buildings of Ludlow College, these being late 20th century. The foot of the road is a mixture of modern and old buildings and then finally the mill house, a single storey block. The short path leads down to the River Teme beside the Mill Weir gates. The weir stretches right across the river.
Back up the hill. A Blackbird sings in an apple tree that is covered in blossom. Into Camp Lane. One side is a very long stone wall, the other is also a stone wall but ceases at several small cottages followed by modern housing. Up a narrow lane, Dinham, passing several timber-framed cottages to emerge at Chapel House, once the chapel of St Thomas built around 1170. Dinham Lodge opposite is a large Georgian house. Down a steep hill, also called Dinham, past Dinham Gate, a mediaeval postern gate with the chamber over an arched entrance, which was demolished in 1786.
Onto the green beside Dinham Bridge. The green was formerly a swimming pool, built in 1961 and closing in 1977. The mill building was used as the changing rooms and is now a café. The water wheel is still in place. On the wall are fragments of an old watermill and a spanner cast by Hodges foundry in 1848. Upstream is the large Dinham Weir. There are a dozen or more Mallard on the river. Across the lane, Linney, stands the miller’s house. The lane lays at the foot of the steep slope on top of which the castle is built. Past a park and playground. Beyond is Ludlow rugby football ground. The lane rises. Below is Ludlow Castle Bowling and Tennis Club, being well used by children.
A Blackcap sings from a Stinging Nettle bed, hopping up the dead nettle stalks to search for insects. A Long-tailed Tit flits through the trees. Linney drops down again passing mainly 20th housing. Some houses on the hillside of considerable size. The lane bends round to the foot of St Leonard’s churchyard. The lane continues on to Corve Street. By the junction is the site of St Leonard’s Chapel founded by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem in 1186. Later the house became a glove workshop in use between 1787 and 1816. Up Corve Street and back to the market.
Sunday – Leominster – Grey clouds cover the sky and it is certainly cooler than of late. Starlings chatter and whistle from television aerials. Dunnocks, Wrens, Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds sing beside the railway. Broom and Garlic Mustard flower beneath the railway footbridge. White buds of Hawthorn flowers have appeared. The rain deposited by Storm Hannah has raised the level of water in the Lugg again. The water is grey and opaque. The way onto the Brightwells’ site is blocked again so I go up beside the river. Several riverside Alders have been felled and the logs piled up. The market is smaller than of late, unsurprising with the threatening cloud moving in from the west. Along Mill Street and into Paradise Walk. The area that had formerly been a little garden is disappearing under Stinging Nettles and Himalayan Balsam.
Home – Shoots are emerging from the potato bed. Two troughs and two hanging baskets are planted up with bush tomatoes but kept in the greenhouse for a bit longer, cold weather may, or may not, be on the way. Beetroot and chard seedlings are planted out along with lettuces. Radishes have sprouted but it seems the spring onion seed is non-viable. The tray of leeks has also been patchy in germination, so I sow another half a dozen plugs with several seeds in each. The pond is covered with duck weed so I scoop it off and into a large pot which is placed on its side by the water to allow creatures to return to the pond. The water is murky and again there are a large number of leaves rotting despite covering the pond since last autumn with a mesh. A frog disturbs the surface but there is no sign of any tadpoles.