Good Friday – Cleobury Mortimer-Neen Savage – There is enough blue sky for periods of sunshine. However, a chilly wind keeps the temperature down. Along the High Street. A Georgian house has a large enriched stuccoed panel with heavily-draped shell ornament. Towards the town centre is the late 17th or early 18th century Manor House. The town centre is mainly Queen Anne and Georgian. One of the superficially oldest looking buildings has mock timber framing and is dated 1871. A red marble water fountain stands by a grey marble water trough, both of 1900. Nearby is the stump of the Weeping Cross, erected in 1502 to mark the passing of the funeral procession of Prince Arthur. The old Market Hall of 1842 stands next to the church. A plaque remembers members of the volunteers of the Cleobury Mortimer Company who died in South Africa in the Boer War,1900-02. An old carving of the 12th or 13th century is set into the wall on the roadside, the church being above. It may depict a Sheela-na gig but is very worn.
Across the road is the site is the old well, now dry. The Parish Hall stands next to the old Police Station and Court. Then the Methodist church. Opposite is a lane, Ron Hill Lane. A Weeping Willow flows to the ground. The old telephone exchange is now a residence. Houses here are 20th century. The bowling club is hidden behind hedges and walls. The lane descends steeply as it leaves the town and passes a large old quarry. The houses here are all modern.
The lane levels out as it reaches the River Rea. A Great Tit and Chiffchaff call. A bridleway crosses the river on Walfords Bridge. On the other side are some empty sheds and broken down walls. One of the sheds contains the remains of a Land Rover. There was a smithy here in the Victorian period. Wood Anemones flower both sides of the track which now leaves the river bank. Dog Mercury flowers and Wild Garlic leaves have emerged. A large brick barn is slowly decaying. This was the site of Walford Corn Mill, but it is unclear whether this building was the mill. The great pipes of the Elan pipeline, taking water from the Elan Valley in Wales to Birmingham, emerge from the hillside, cross the river and disappear again underground.
The lane passes between fields. A deep channel runs down to the river, its banks dotted with Primroses. There is no sign of any channel on the other side of the track. Into Neen Savage. Past the church and old Vicarage. Down the gentle hill to the ford and footbridge across the River Rea. The lane on the far side of the river climbs gently and steadily. Buttercups, Ground Ivy, Violets and Dogs Mercury flower on the roadside bank. Bluebells are in bud. Green and silver variegated leaves are frequent – a naturalised garden escape of Yellow Archangel. The true wild variety do not have the variegation.
The lane continues past fields of cereal. A Skylark sings overhead. As the lane reaches the summit of the hill, the dome of the air traffic control station can be seen on Titterstone Clee and the radio masts on Brown Clee. The lane comes to a crossroads at the 17th century Stone House, a large farmhouse in a shallow H-shaped. The barns have all been converted into residences.
The route turns left back towards Cleobury Mortimer. Broome Park Farm is a working farm. The lane descends. A pair of Swallows twitter on wires, the first of the year. A small stream flows down the slope below the lane. It passes under the road by Lea Crossing water treatment plant. On the other side of the stream are the Victorian cast iron railings around access hatches for the Elan Valley water pipes. A small road runs alongside the brook into a caravan park on the site of the Cleobury Mortimer Union Workhouse. The workhouse was built in 1836. From 1932-36 it was a youth hostel known as Styper House. During the WWII it housed refugees from Europe. It has now been entirely demolished. A public footpaths passes through to the far side of the caravan park. A sign states there is no public footpath through the park which is contradicted by the map but never mind, the route leads to where I want to be.
Path climbs across Workhouse Hill to Viol. Grassy tussocks of ant hills are dotted across the hillside. A pair of large Oaks stand together on the hill, a Greenfinch calling from them. A small herd of cows lay across the hillside. The path re-enters Cleobury Mortimer into a modern estate and the primary school. Past the old school and down a narrow lane to Childe Road, formerly Back Lane. Lacon Court is a greatly extended large Victorian house. William Lacon Childe was MP for the county of Salop in the 1720s and 30s. Nearby is Lacon Childe School on the site of Cleobury Mortimer castle. In the Domesday Book, the manor of Cleobury was held by Ralph de Mortimer. Cleobury Castle is first mentioned in 1154 when it is recorded as being destroyed by Henry II after de Mortimer’s rebellion. By 1179 had been rebuilt and Hugh de Mortimer came from overseas to reside at Cleobury. Leland visited the site between 1538 and 1545, and noted that there was a castle at Cleobury, by the church, the plot is yet cawled the Castell Dyk. In 1740 Lacon Childe founded the school. A twitten drops down into St Mary’s churchyard and onto Church Street. Back up High Street. There are a lot more people around now. Route
Easter – Leominster – The sky is azure and cloudless. But this has resulted in an overnight frost and the air is still cool. The railway foot bridge is frosty. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen further. Birdsong rings from all directions – Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Blackbirds and Robins. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drums nearby. Few of the larger trees have any leaves yet. A Carrion Crow flies up onto the station lift with a large piece of bread in its beak. The “flower” spikes of Wild Arum are rising from the leaves.
Back over the railway. A Greenfinch calls from the tree at the road junction near the White Lion. The Millennium Park and churchyard are filled with bird song. Some Wild Garlic leaves are collected for the hens. The scaffolding had gone from the west end of the Minster.
Home – My first plan is to dig out the chicken run but the surface has dried to the consistency of concrete! I simply cannot manage it, so I will either wait until it rains or put out the new bedding anyway. I leave the decision for now. The last of the leeks are cropped. By the time they are topped and tailed they are a rather pathetic amount. Still, our mantra is “there is always next year”! A couple of barrow-loads of compost is spread on the former leek bed and the broad bean seedlings planted out. The row of peas sown a couple of weeks ago do not seem to have done much, so another two rows are sown. Wire netting goes over the top in case it is pigeons that have gone after the first sowing. A tray of plugs are sown with beetroot – Detroit Globe. This goes into the greenhouse. The recently sown lettuces are looking good. The Buttercrunch lettuce is pricked out and planted in the greenhouse and one of the beds. Rings of plastic cut from yoghurt pots are placed around the seedlings to try and stop slugs. The ones in the bed are protected by a tent of material. Chilli and sweet peppers have been a complete failure, so another tray of sweet are tried – Marconi Rossa.
Tuesday – Leominster – Bright sunshine between fast moving clouds. A few minutes earlier there was a short blizzard. Onto the railway bridge. A Common Buzzard and a Carrion Crow tussle over the riverside trees. They twist and turn rapidly, updating the strong breeze. The water level in the River Lugg remains low.
Through Pinsley Mill. Lesser Black-backed Gulls fly to and fro. One half heartedly dives after another. A Dunnock sings from the far side of the railway track. Small bright green leaves surrounding tiny pink nubs foretell of apple blossom to come. Birds are silent, just the noise of traffic and children. A Magpie stands by a snowy drift off Blackthorn. The plum and pear trees on Pinsley Mead are coming into blossom. The Kenwater runs shallow and clear. The thin, paper like bark of the white birches rustles in the wind. A couple of Wood Pigeons fly off from the trees in the churchyard, otherwise there is quiet. Not so on the Grange where people sit and chat, youngsters play with a football and others just walk in the cool afternoon.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The airflow from the Arctic seems to have put spring on hold. A few miniscule patches of snow linger on the grass. House Sparrows are noisy around the barn by the car park. Spiky green catkins adorn a Grey Willow. Blue and Great Tits call along the track. Canada Geese gabble in the distance. Fresh leaves emerge on the Old Man’s Beard. Gulls are flying south west, mainly individually. Blue Tits, a Chiffchaff, Blackbirds and a Song Thrush move through the Blackthorn and Hawthorn. Dozens of Sand Martins sweep low across the water of the lake. A pair of Mute Swans stand on one of the islands. One still has the brown markings of last year’s brood. A Great Crested Grebe dives nearby. Tufted Duck are spread out across the water. A Blackcap and Willow Warbler are in song. One Oystercatcher is on an island. The adult Mute Swans are near the meadow.
Onto the meadow. Blackbirds and a Song Thrush probe the soil for food. The Goat Willow has faded to cream. Blackcap, Wren, Robin are are singing in the lakeside trees. A Willow Warbler stands on a branch silently.
The hide has finally been unlocked. A Swallow joins the Sand Martins over the lake. Only a small area of the scrape is above water. A pair of Mallard and a Coot occupy it. Several Tufted Duck swim nearby. Three Cormorants are on an island, two have pale breasts. Several feral Greylags are present. A House Martin appears in the southern side of the water. The Coot near the scrape is unhappy about the presence of the Tufted Ducks and chases them off.
The trees in the new area of the orchards are in blossom but only a couple of cider apple trees, the Bulmers Norman, have any flower in the older orchard. In the dessert apple orchard, none have come into blossom yet, which given the ongoing threats of frost is a good thing.
Friday – Bringsty Common – A cool grey morning. Rain is in the air. A metalled road leads down onto the common. A Dunnock and a Blackbird are in song, Blue and Great Tits call. A Carrion Crows sits motionless in a dead tree watching barnyard ducks feeding in the grass. In the field beyond are llamas. The Malvern Hills are in the skyline. It starts to rain. Several cockerels crow. A couple of older houses are at the foot of the hill, both substantially extended.
Across the hillside a short distance is the The Live and Let Live pub. A small thatched cider house built as a cottage in the 17th century, it has been greatly extended and seems to be undergoing further enlargement.
Across the common onto a bridleway. Another stone cottage has been incongruously extended in brick. Past an area that has been burned in the past year. Opposite is a wood of mainly Silver Birch. A Chiffchaff calls from within. More cottages have been extended greatly. Primitive Methodist Chapel stands next to the track. Wall plaque states, “Mount Sion Primitive Methodist Chapel Erected in 1861”. It is believed it closed as a chapel before 1940. The building is now a store. On past a late 20th century house with no redeeming features.
By the entrance to Cider Mill Farm, a path runs down into Mitchell’s Coppice. Across a small stream. Over the stream is an area of mud with several clumps of Marsh marigolds – arrow shaped green leaves and bright yellow, large buttercup-like flowers. The path had been churned into a quagmire. A track passes more houses, one seems to be a genuine timber-framed building. A grassy track runs alongside paddocks before rejoining the cinder track. Flowering Cherries abound. The track descends through Nuttage Dingle. The track leaves the common beside pillars and gates of Nuttage Farm. The rain gets heavier.
The lane joins the Linley lane at Hainscroft. There is no easy way to get back to the common from this road, so I retrace my steps. A Willow Warbler sings its descending notes. A grassy path heads up hill. Violets peep out of the grass. Up the steep hillside to the triangulation point. The land is now covered in a grey murk, hiding the Malvern Hills. However, the rain has eased. Along the hilltop is a toposcope, dated for the Millennium on a plinth erected for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, not that this makes a lot of sense!
A seat is dedicated to the Roberts, two blacksmiths and the postmistress. The smithy, which is still a working forge, and the post office are side by side back up the Bromyard Road at a place called Bedlam. A path returns to the car park. Route
Sunday – Leominster – A cloudy morning with the temperature only just above freezing. Down the road, over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. A Blackcap sings in a tree overhanging the station fence. Below a Dunnock flaps his wings at a female. A pair of croaking Ravens fly over. The water level in the River Lugg continues to fall. Leaves are yet to appear on the Ash or Black Poplars. A Chiffchaff calls.
Into the Millennium Park. A Song Thrush sings from across the railway. Wood Pigeons coo. A Blackbird is repeating its alarm call from the foot of the churchyard. A rabbit bounces away. Marsh Marigolds are in flower in the old pond. The water level in the Kenwater is also falling.
Into the churchyard. Wild Garlic leaves are gathered for the hens. The Minster bells toll 9 o’clock followed by the Compline bells. The flag is at half-mast as the country gets rather hysterical about the death of Prince Philip.
Along Church Street. The antique shop has some wonderful old stone devils in the window, although I dread to think how much they are charging for them. They are also displaying a rather eccentric but wonderful diorama of a church.
Home – More lettuces are planted out and a row of Swiss Chard is shown alongside them. Carrots and beetroot are sown in another bed. The seeds are covered with fresh compost from one of the bins. The air is still cold despite periods of bright sunshine. By early afternoon the sky has turned dark grey and there is a brief downpour of snow.