February 2018

Friday – Mynydd Henllys – A few patches of blue sky peep through grey clouds. From Cwmbrân station I pass through the large shopping mall and on through the network of roads to Old Cwmbrân. On westwards climbing into the housing estates. Past St Gabriel’s church and memorial church hall. On along Pen-y-Waun lane that rises and falls past housing ranging from late 19th to late 20th century. The sun is out, Robins sing, Wood Pigeons coo. Through Seven Dials housing estate. Into Greenmeadow, a modern estate where house construction continues, as usual architectural interest free. This is the route of the Pilgrims Way. The paths continue on and on upwards. Magpies chack in the trees. Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits, House Sparrows and Robins flit through the undergrowth. Into Graig Road, a path, through the woodland on The Graigs. Onto the Hollow Lane past the quartz studded marker rocks. As the path climbs, Cwmbrân is laid out below and beyond the hills rising between the plain of the River Usk and the River Wye.

The track finally reached the lane that rises from Upper Cwmbrân. Another old track heads south. The sun reflects blindingly off the Bristol Channel. Garn Wen farm lies up the hill. The lane deteriorates into an overgrown and sometimes rocky path. The path comes to a locked gate with two large stones, I assume to help climb it. The land beyond is bracken and sedge. Past some stones and a piece of wall, all that is left is a building. It stood beside a coal level, where the coal is extracted by digging across the land, the seam being close to the surface. A path crosses the pit in which grows a large Hawthorn, the top is which only rises slightly above the surrounding land. Another deep pit holds a pool of water. Over a stile onto a very broken path. The path becomes a small stream. A track again, passing round Llanderfel Farm. The old farmhouse looks in poor repair but a nearby cottage has been extensively renewed. Through a small grove of evergreens and into a hollow way. The path is rocky and rough. It emerges onto open land covered in bracken. A notice board states that in the field to the north are the remains of Capel Llandderfel.

The L-shaped remains must be well covered now as I cannot see anything. The chapel was an important stopping point on the Pilgrims’ route to Penrhys. The chapel was dedicated to St Derfel, one of only two in Wales – the other being in Merionydd. Derfel Gadarn was a warrior saint and according to legend was one of King Arthur’s Knights He fought at the battle of Camlaan, where Arthur’s son and enemy Mordred was killed and Arthur himself was mortally wounded. After the trauma of the battle, Derfel gave up his warrior life and became a wandering hermit. He founded churches in north and south Wales before becoming abbot of Bardsey. There he died, and was buried alongside (according to tradition) 20,000 other saints. The chapel became a site of pilgrimage as it was believed that St Derfel could enter hell and bring back dead souls.


I start up the hillside. A rabbit bursts out of a patch of sedge and bounds up the hill. The remains of Henllys Colliery upshaft are on the side of the hill. Above is a long, empty reservoir pit. The main colliery is further down the hill where a large mound can be seen. It was opened in 1814 by Joseph Hanson and closed in 1926. The Dublin-Munich flight passes over with white vapour trails soon dissipating in the now largely blue sky. There are numerous channels across the hillside. Over up the hillside past old quarries of differing sizes which supplied the stone for the Ebenezer Chapel of 1860 at Two Locks, donated by Cyrus Hanson. Out in the Bristol Channel are the islands of Flat Holm with its lighthouse and Steep Holm. Beyond is the north coast of Somerset and Weston-Super-Mare. Following the coast below from Newport the view takes in the mouth of the River Severn. The Severn Bridges are visible, the top of the towers of the old bridge just visible above Wentwood.

Following the hints of sheep trails I eventually hit the path along the top of Mynydd Henllys. The view is stunning. As before Newport lay below and the coast runs round to Cardiff Bay. To the west a deep wooded valley of Cwmcarn Forest that leads down to Abercarn. Beyond in the distance are tall communications towers on Mynydd-y-lan. Ahead is my target, Tymbarlwm hill-fort.

It is not proven that there was a hill-fort here; there was a Norman motte and bailey. The hill is in the lands of the Silurian tribe and with such an excellent position it seems likely the Iron Age tribe would have used it. A now virtually destroyed cairn nearby is believed to be Bronze Age. The site consists of a ditch and rampart some 130 by 330 metres with an 8 metre high Mottetump or motte in the eastern end. It is conjectured that the tump is Roman, a look-out or Norman, a Ruinwooden castle or a later castle or hunting lodge for the lords of Newport. The views are breathtaking. North, the Brecon Beacons shining white with snow. Between are over a dozen wind turbines whirling in the wind. South, the valley of the Pantyreos Brook leading into Newport with the Bristol Channel and Somerset beyond. South-west is Cardiff. East is the Severn crossings. Across to the triangulation point at 198 metres. Raven flies past cronking. Back down the hill. A stone is inscribed “Floss and Griff”. Another huge stone has a 4 inch hole drilled right through it. Back along the hill crest then down an old road, now much broken up. The surface improves but the hill becomes very steep which is murder for my poor old knees. Penheol-y-badd-f√Ęch is an old farm now a ruin. Some way down are sheep in the lane. I worry I will be driving them all the way to the village they turn off up a lane, so I continue. The lane enters Henllys. The nursery in old school built in 1878 with a plaque the Rogerstone and Henllys School Board. On down to the main road. I follow this for a while passing mainly modern housing then catch a bus back to Cwmbrân centre.

Sunday – The River Thames – To Addlestone High Street past the old fire station now a shop with a large villa dated 1891 opposite. The High Street is late Victorian. One large set of shops are dated 1899. There is also a lot is new build. Aircraft are rising steeply from Heathrow and arcing around to set off for distant destinations. Onto the station. Feral Pigeons gather in a roof, going for a quick fly around before resettling back on the same roof. Jackdaws are flying around, seemingly going nowhere. A New York bound aircraft flies overhead. The train arrives. Past new housing developments, fields, little lanes and despite being Sunday morning, a busy M25 motorway. I have to change at Virginia Water. The station is surrounded by modern blocks with a new block being built. Magpies perch on severely pruned trees. A new block nearby has a fair number of for sale signs the windows. Beyond the road bridge rises the tower of Holloway Sanatorium. It was the idea of philanthropist Thomas Holloway, designed in an elaborate Franco-Gothic style by W. H. Crossland, and built between 1873 and 1885. Pevsner regarded these two buildings as the “summit of High Victorian design”. It is now a gated community. Early clouds has mainly cleared leaving the sun shining brightly but it is cold. The moon is low, pale and huge in the west, diminished from its super blue moon status of a few days ago. Into the next train. As it passes the Great Wood of Virginia Water, several deer bound away into the trees. Over the River Thames at Staines. An Egyptian Goose flies across the river.

I alight at Twickenham. The first written record of the existence of Twickenham is in a charter of 704 AD, where the settlement is described as Tuican hom. Beyond the platform is a wall with large Art Deco concrete panels. Behind is Mary’s Terrace, as informed by the name on a large portico. A pair of parakeets fly over, more appear a few seconds later. Cranes tower over the station as a new apartment block is built. The station approach emerges by a bridge, Cole’s Bridge, over the River Crane. By the river Thomas Cole founded a brewery early in the 17th century. In 1892 George Cole sold the brewery to Brandon’s of Putney, which carried on operations here for another 14 years. This later became the site of a Royal Mail Twickenhamsorting office, which has recently been replaced by St James’s Brewery Wharf development. A house at the end of the bridge has a floral plaque with the date 1903. Opposite are shops in Victorian buildings. Back over the railway, the former London and South Western Railways Windsor line, into the shopping centre of Twickenham. A pub, The Cabbage Patch is apparently the “World Famous Rugby Pub”. An aircraft roars over low, I am the only person who looks up! Most of the Victorian buildings are fairly ordinary high street fare but the it Post Office is a good Edwardian building with two ornate portholes high either side of the door columns with swags and putti and above the doors are scrolls of Edward VII. It is, of course now a Wetherspoons. At the junction of York Street is an early 20th century white stone bank and what was once at department store with an ornate façade of 1903. In King Street there are more classic early 20th century department store buildings including one which was almost certainly a Woolworths, now a Poundland.

Water Lane leads to the River Thames. At the foot of the road is an old wooden dock now just remains a few inches high. A bridge leads over to the famous Eel Pie Island, formerly known as Parish or Twickenham Ait. Mesolithic deer antler tools have been found on shores the island. There was an inn here in 1743. In the 19th century the inn sold eel pies which the island its name. The Eel Pie Hotel was built the 19th century and hosted tea dances. On 1956 a jazz club opened at the hotel which later hosted many R&B acts who became famous, such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds etc. The bank is occupied by the inevitable Canada Geese along with gulls, feral pigeons and a pair of Egyptian Geese mating! Eastwards along the riverside. A crane barge is tied to a dock. The church is St Mary has a perpendicular west tower, but body of church rebuilt to designs of John James in 1714-15. A plaque in the wall outside at a height of around eight feet marks where flood water reached on March 12th 1774. Past Champion’s Wharf. Dial House is dated 1890. An Italianate bridge descends to a garden behind a wall where vast statues of horses and maidens forming a fountain can be seen. Their sculptors are unknown. The gardens are part of York House which dates from 1690-1700, being a partial re-building of the earlier house, which was the house of James II before his accession. At the Restoration it was given to the Earl of Clarendon, father of James’s first wife who was the mother of Queen Anne, who was born here, and Queen Mary.

Twickenham Yacht Club clubhouse is an arts and crafts building. Sion Road is a long early 18th century crescent. Parakeets are screeching everywhere. Large Georgian houses stand either side of the 18th century White SwanWhite Swan pub. Opposite is a hard. Orleans House Gallery is a short distance further on. All that survives of Orleans House is the Octagon Room (with its adjoining service wing); the rest having been demolished in 1927. It was built in 1710 for James Johnston, Queen Anne’s Secretary of State for Scotland. Louis Philippe lived here 1800-14 and 1815-17. In 1720 Johnston employed James Gibbs to add the Octagon for the entertainment of Queen Caroline (George II’s wife). The Thames Path runs around a park back to the river. Over the Thames is Ham House. The house was built in 1610 by Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I.

A boat of eight rowers passes. A small marina is the site of a ferry, still operating costing £1. Several Great Crested Grebes are on the river including one being severely hassled by a Black-headed Gull. Marble Hill House was built 1724-29 to the designs of Lord Herbert and Roger Morris for Henrietta Howard, mistress of George II. An unusually instructive exemplar of the architectural ideas of the English Palladian School. The setting of the house was the work of the poet Alexander Pope and Charles Bridgeman, the royal landscape gardener. Opposite, The Royal Star and Garter Home The Royal Star and Garter Homeon Richmond Hill, was built between 1921 and 1924 to a design by Sir Edwin Cooper, based on a plan produced by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1915, to provide accommodation and nursing facilities for 180 seriously injured servicemen. Below the home is the Petersham Hotel. A cottage was built around 1650 and rebuilt as a substantial house in the 1770’s. It got the name of Nightingale Cottage from the nightingales on Richmond Hill. In 1863, Nightingale Cottage (by then renamed Ashburnham Lodge) was acquired by the Richmond Hill Hotel Company. They employed John Giles as the architect to design an hotel built in 1865 – the same year as E M Barry’s new “French Château” wing of the Star and Garter above it on the hill. Though somewhat less ambitious than Barry’s building the Richmond Hill Hotel with its tower, high pitched roofs and many balconies is an imposing structure. Its architectural style was described at the time as “florid Italian Gothic”. A Cormorant is drying its wings, standing on a buoy. An oval island, Glover’s Island, lays out in the river. Most the dogs here are the trendy sorts, often poodle crosses but there is one splendid Border Collie rounding up its owners in collie fashion.

The Thames is taking a great bend around Richmond Hill which is above the far bank. On this side is the “Belgian Village on the Thames”. The community was created by Charles Pelabon who built a vast munitions factory here in the First World War. After the war the area was bought by Twickenham Council who built the largest skating rink in the world in the site. It was demolished in 1992 and now flats cover the area. A new rink was promised but never materialised. The river reaches Richmond Bridge, built in 1777 by James Paine and Kenton Couse and widened 1937. Five moulded segmental arches in Portland stone, rise gradually to the centre, which has the widest and tallest arch. Benches in alcoves on the bridge are cast iron dated 1868. Over to the other side of the river.

Up the hill from the bridge is a classic Art Deco cinema, The Odeon. Back into the Thames Path. Huge developments have a Georgian look but is hard to tell. In the courtyard of what must be a recent build there is a market of hand made and artisan foods, crafts etc. Out of the courtyard and past the former Town Hall, restored in 1952 after bombing damage. Opposite is a war memorial. Over the edge is the river, one Black-headed Gull has almost got its black head back after the winter. Feral Pigeons are rolling in the edge of the water, washing their feathers and cooing contentedly. The White Cross Hotel, like the St Helena Terrace and House alongside it, dates from the 1820s or 1830s. Below St Helena Terrace are old boat stores a couple being used for trade, a Greek deli and a pottery. Prior to the middle of the 18th century, the only walk by the river at Richmond was past the site of the CoverplatesOld Palace. It was called Cholmondeley Walk after the Earl of Cholmondeley. Past the wall of Queensbury House built in 1933. On to Twickenham road and rail bridges. The road bridge was designed by Alfred Dryland and Maxwell Ayrton, built by Aubrey Watson Ltd, completed in 1933. There are decorative Art Deco bronze coverplates over structural hinges. To the south is the Deer Park. The royal connections to this park probably go back further than any of the others, beginning with Edward (1272-1307), when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII’s reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer.

On to Richmond Lock and Weir built between 1891 and 1894 to the design of F.G.M. Stoney. The barrages were installed by the Thames Conservancy to maintain a broad navigable depth of water upstream of Richmond. It is getting windier and darker. Beside the path is a waterlogged woodland. Over the river is a large house, stables and a strange jumble of old and modern buildings. The house dates from about 1720 and was altered in 1758 by General Bland to the designs of Robert Adam. It was formerly called Seaton House. It was later purchased by William IV for his daughter, Lady Augusta FitzClarence, wife of John Kennedy Erskine. She subsequently married Lord John Frederick Gordon. It was subsequently owned by T.C. Haliburton (1796-1865) – author of “Sam Slick”, and was bought by the then Lord Kilmorey in 1865 who carried out extensive alterations. Used as a school for the daughters of naval officers, when the chapel was built. Houseboats are moored in front.

There is now a golf course beyond the strip of woodland. There is the constant screech of parakeets, apart from the gulls, probably the commonest bird here or certainly the noisiest. Islesworth Ait is a large island. Over the river is a church tower. All Saints’ Church is the oldest parish church in Isleworth. In 1943 a large fire, started by two boys who a few days later set fire to Holy Trinity Church in Hounslow, led to complete internal reconstruction in lighter materials. The inner body of the present church was built in 1970 employing architect Michael Blee who designed much of Douai Abbey and glazier Keith New, retaining the 15th century stone tower. A domed pavilion in pink and green was formerly Syon Park Boathouse, built in the late 18th century by J Wyatt. There are some Mute Swans on the river now. On the far bank is Syon House, partially obscured by trees. It was built on remains of a Brigittine Abbey nunnery (1430-70). Part of 15th century undercroft remains. Protector Somerset reconstructed the house in 1547-52 and it was remodelled inside and out by Robert Adam 1767-5. Occupants include Catherine Howard 1541-2, Protector Somerset, executed 1552; John, Duke of Northumberland and Lady Jane Grey, both executed 1553; the nuns recalled from the Netherlands 1557-8; Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, involved in the Gunpowder plot; the children of Charles I; Charles II in the plague of 1665 and the Dukes of Northumberland of 1766 who still hold it. The Thames here is called Syon Reach. Here the Deer Park had given way to Kew Gardens. Back over the river there are a very large number of Rooks but no nests. Both the Deer Park and the gardens have a water course between them and the river bank. Here there is an old drawbridge that crosses the water which now has brick walls channelling it. The early to mid 19th century cast-iron drawbridge with fluted columns and Doric capitals is situated at end of Boat-house Walk and was possibly used for boats ferrying passengers to Syon House opposite. The wooden floor is the bridge had been recently renewed with decking wood.

A large barge moored out on the river carries a crane. Two training crews of rowers pass with a motorboat using a megaphone to give instructions. In the gardens is a glade of emerging crocuses. A long wall opposite leads to a large lock into a marina then the confluence of the River Brent. Past Kew Palace. Dating to 1631 but built atop the undercroft of an earlier building, the main Dutch Housesurvivor is known as the Dutch House, a red brick building. Its royal occupation lasted from around 1728 until 1818, with a final short-lived occupation in 1844. Four Grey Herons and half a dozen Cormorants are on a shingle back on the far side. The path and river reaches Kew Bridge, built in 1903, by Sir John Wolfe Barry and Cuthbert Breveton and consists of three elliptical arches over the river with a series of small arches under the long approaches. Down from the bridge to Kew Green and get a pint in the Cricketers. Across the green is St Anne’s church where Gainsborough is buried. The church is locked. Down to Kew Gardens Station. There is a street market here, again very artisan etc. but it is closing.

Back past the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Loreto and St Winefride. Into Mortlake Road where the houses are the storey late 19th century. To Kew Bridge Station. The trains are in chaos. The train I was going to catch is getting more and more delayed so I go up back to the street and into a pub for a pint and warm. I catch the next train but it is halted at Islesworth. It appears someone has been hit on the line near Virginia Water. Eventually the train is diverted to Twickenham and terminates. There is no indication when any train will run back to Virginia Water or whether any trains are running! So I search on Google and find a succession of buses to go to Addlestone via Hampton Court. Route


Tuesday – Stretton Grandison – On my way to Surrey and stop here for a break. We visited the little hamlet previously but the church was locked. Today it is open. The church of St Lawrence is a 14th century rebuild of an earlier Norman church. Before the Conquest, the lands belonged to Earl Harold. At Domesday, the monks of St Florent de Saumur from Monmouth Priory held the estate. It is likely a wooden Saxon church stood here, rebuilt in the 12th century. As stated previously, a Roman road from Dymock passed over the River Frome which runs along the south edge of the village, proceeding onwards to Hereford and then Magnis (Kenchester). It is probably part of Riknild Street. To the east of the road is a Roman auxiliary Gauntletfort covering some five acres. It is believed that a garrison of a cohors equitata quingenaria, a mixed auxiliary unit of both foot soldiers and cavalry troopers with a nominal complement of five hundred men, probably stationed here during the early campaigns of governor Publius Ostorius Scapula, sometime around 47 CE. Late 1st or 2nd century burials have been found indicating a Romano-British farmstead locally. There are also burials associated with 5th-7th century occupation.

The land was owned by the Grandison family of Ashperton castle by the 13th century. The church has numerous memorials of the Hopton family. In the 16th century Michael Hopton of Ludlow leased Canon Frome Court from Martha, widow of Sir Richard Harford of Bosbury. The Hoptons remained at Canon Frome until it was bought by the Herefordshire County Council in 1952, who turned it into a school for 13-15 year olds. In 1978 the school was closed, and the Court is in private ownership. Under the memorial to Sir Edward Hopton and his wife Deborah, who died in 1668 and 1702 respectively, is a black gauntlet from the Civil War. Another small monument is to John Taylor who died in 1676. The font is hexagonal, a restored 14th century piece. The pulpit is perpendicular in style from the 15th century. There is a faint wall painting over the south door, possibly of St Christopher. The church was restored by Frederick Preedy in the mid 19th century.

Friday – Leintwardine – I start from between Leintwardine Bridge and Watling Street. Opposite is a former shop of 1893. Bridge House stands by the River Teme. It looks 18th century but was commented as “considerably altered” in the 1934 survey. Along Rosemary Lane past The Sun Inn, the famous parlour pub. The real sun shines brightly but it is cold and the ground is slippery with frost and ice. A Song Thrush sings. The lane comes to the foot of Church Hill which I descended last October. A number of Robins are in song. A Pheasant croaks from the hillside. Jackdaws chack in the hillside woods. A Silver Sussex hen been River Temewatches through a gate. South down the lane. A large number of Jackdaws fly over in small groups westwards over the fields. Several Bullfinches are in roadside Hazels. There brownish barely pink breasts indicate they are female and or young birds, last year’s brood. Past Trippleton which is described in old papers as a township. A large Georgian farmhouse with a lead dome on an observation tower in the roof stands above the road. The site was a mediaeval manor house passed by marriage to the Hugons or Higgons. Blount says “There is yet to be seen in the hall of Tripleton House, a Rebus, consisting of a tree growing out of the Bunghole of a Tun, alluding to the name of Tripleton.” (A rebus is a pictorial pun on a name, often used in coats of arms.) Tennis courts stand on a raised area. There are several other houses nearby. A large flowered variety of Snowdrop flourishes on the roadside bank. Dog Mercury is emerging on another bank. Below the Teme meanders across a wide plain. Large numbers of molehills are scattered over the fields. Canada Geese feed near the river.

Graham’s Cottage stands next to Graham’s Bridge which carries the water pipeline from the Elan Valley to Birmingham. A building holds a sluice gate and air valve chamber. Further on a large brick air valve chamber is on the hillside below Standledean Wood, indicating the route of the pipeline. Beside the road is a neatly laid out woodland probably planned mid 20th century. Beyond is Nackleton Farm which straddles a road junction. Behind up the side of Tatteridge Hill is another sluice and air valves chamber for the pipeline. Onto the lane towards the Wigmore road. The older farm buildings have all been converted into homes. Another tennis court lays between the modern farm buildings and Blackbridge Cottage, formerly Criftinford Cottage. The bridge, Criftin Ford Bridge according to the map, is modern. Snowdrops make a pretty carpet under the trees by the bridge. A Little Egret stands on the bank upstream. A woodpecker is drumming nearby. Blue Tits chase along the hedgerow. A small bridge crosses one of the drainage ditches that criss-cross the plain. A dark plumaged Common Buzzard flies across the road.

The lanes joins Watling Street at Paytoe Hall, a large black-and-white timber-framed building. The east wing is mid 16th century. Early in the 17th century the main west part was re-built, and rather later the south wing was added. The small west wing was built early in the 18th century. On the Paytoe Halljunction is the old granary of 1826, now a dwelling. Steps rise to a walled up for where the grain would have been loaded and unloaded. An Edward VII letter box is in the wall of the Hall. Across the fields to the south west is Wigmore Abbey. North along the Roman road. A Carrion Crow watches silently from a sprawling Ash. At Paytoe Cottages there is a more recent kink in the road. Squabbling Blackbirds flash by nearly hitting me. The lane climbs the side of the hill, which is strange as the Roman road clearly ran straight along the foot of the slope. Above in the trees, several Jackdaws and a Fieldfare are in a tizzy about a Common Buzzard. A Great Tit calls loudly. The lane crosses the Elan-Birmingham pipeline again. Over another drainage ditch before the lane straightens as it rejoins Watling Street. To the west is a hill on the far side of which is Brandon Camp, an Iron Age hill-fort that is difficult to get to. A flock of Long-tailed Tits moves through the hedgerow.

Into Leintwardine Green which is mostly a small industrial estate. Across a field is Brockley Villa, which is thought to have its origins in the 14th century but the main house is 18th century. The lane emerges onto the main road at the foot of Leintwardine Bridge, crossing a leet of the water works. Up the High Street. Early 19th century Leintwardine House is hidden behind walls. It was the home of General Sir Barastre Tarleton, youthful British hero of the American War of Independence, later friend of the Prince of Wales, and lover of the Prince’s ex-mistress, the actress, Mary Robinson, known as Perdita. Into Church Street past several 17th century houses.

The church of St Mary Magdalene is an odd looking building. The entrance is a large stone porch in the tower, the entrance doorway being the oldest part of the building, 12th century, although some foundations are of a Saxon Minster. The tower itself is 14th century and rendered. The chancel is 13th century raised on the underpinnings of the Roman defences. It contains two sets of stalls with misericords which probably came from Wigmore Abbey. Several new misericord carvings have been Clockadded in recent years, one of “Flossie” legendary landlady of The Sun Inn; the other of Doug Griffiths, the local butcher. There was a 15th century reredos but all that remains are two tall panels either side of the Victorian reredos and east window. A 14th century chapel is to the north of the chancel. The south arcade is 13th century, the north one is from around 1320. The Lady Chapel was formerly the Mortimer Chapel, was constructed by Roger de Mortimer in order to offer Masses for the souls of his wife and Mistress – Queen Isabella, and her husband Edward II. In the vestry there is a large monument to General Sir Banestre Tarleton (1833), with a military still life, but is not open to view. In the north chapel is a 17th century chest. The 14th century font has an octagonal bowl, each face cut to an ogee form at the base and carried back to a circular stem, on a modern base. A Nicholson organ is behind the north side stalls. An early 16th century clock mechanism stands next to a bier. On the roof of the south aisle are gargoyles with extended spouts. The chancel-arch was rebuilt about 1865, and the upper part of the tower was rebuilt in 1894-6; the tower was further restored in 1920-25.

Opposite the church is a house behind which is the Methodist church recorded as opening in 1841 on land provided by Moses Langford. It is also recorded that there was much local opposition to the Primitive Methodist being built! The church hall, dated 1992, stands beside the house. Down the lane to Watling Street. Route

Sunday – Leominster – A grey day with a hint of rain. Chattering Starlings call out all down the street. Towards the end of the street House Sparrows chirp. A Dunnock is in song by the White Lion. A singing Song Thrush is by the station. The birds are convinced spring is on its way! Across the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The River Lugg is at a medium depth. Work is being undertaken in an old sluice a short distance downstream of the bridge. I assume the sluice is draining down from the railway, although the Pinsley Brook would have run through the relatively small gap between the old sidings and the river. A Wren darts across the river. Riverside trees are mainly Alder and Black Poplar, the latter identifiable by the numerous balls of Mistletoe infesting their boughs. The auction compound is full of vehicles including a good number of police, environment agency and health service vehicles. There are so many vehicles that the compound has been extended and vehicles stand in rows two deep outside the fence. Along Mill Lane to Paradise Walk. The Kenwater is flowing rapidly. Over the river, Pinsley Mead is covered in black molehills. More Dunnocks are in song along the path. A fat Wood Pigeon flies into a tall bush. Another approaches and chases it off. The first flies up to some telephone wires and again is chased off. This happens a third time and now the first pigeon seems to have got the message and departs. Into Bridge Street. The houses here are a sorry sight. They are all historic buildings, probably all listed but decaying. A window is open on the top floor of the former Waterloo Hotel which stands by Kenwater Bridge; Feral Pigeons are entering. The house next door is boarded up as it had been for as long as I can remember. The next few houses are up for sale. One put in a planning application for modernisation but it was refused, so now it just stands there deteriorating. West Street is closed, one supposes for road repairs, but nothing much is happening apart from a couple of pick-up trucks, a few men standing around and one barking into a mobile phone.


Monday – Radnor Forest – Grey clouds hang low over the Radnor Forest, just kissing the top of Fron Hill. Great and Blue Tits are busy in the trackside Hawthorns. Robins are singing from every direction. Cattle low in Vron Farm buildings. There are sheep in a pasture by the barns and more out on the hillside, no lambs evident here. Beyond Vron Farm is a line of evergreens on an earthwork. The dyke is thought to be defensive but no date has been attributed to it. New gates and fences have been installed along the path. Ditches have been dug out. Blackbirds are in the bushes, muttering at each other. A Dunnock sings. Grey Wagtails chase across a swampy pasture. The by-way that crosses the hill to Penny Well has been temporarily closed to traffic for “works”. The track enters Warren Wood, Coed Cwningar. A Grey Squirrel chunters in the trees. Above Black Brook moss covered trees seem to glow and fluoresce. Up the little gorge to Water-break-its-neck, Dŵr Torri Gwddf, waterfall. A tree had fallen across the stream and been sawn up leaving little cream piles of sawdust.

Up the path towards Crynfynydd. A Song Thrush is singing. A Robin is on the ground in a bad way. It flutters a short distance. I then pick it up and look closely but I cannot see any injury. I release it and it flies off unsteadily into the wood but soon is again laying on the ground. I leave as there is nothing I can do for it. It is milder than of late and I am warm climbing up Black Brookthrough the woodland near Warren House from whence comes the crowing of a cockerel. Out into a meadow on the slopes of Crynfynydd. The is a record of a pillow mound on the meadow. These were used by Warreners for rabbits. Into the conifer plantation. The trees are now some thirty feet high, they were saplings when I first came up here. The path is wet and spongy. A thin mist lays between the rows of trees. Across the sedgy marsh to the new track by Pwll-y-Gaseg, still marked as a water feature on the OS map but has been dry for a number of years now. Mist rolls down Cwm Du, obscuring Nyth-crug. Three Ravens fly over. Out along the track across Lluestau’r Haul. A rasping Mistle Thrush flies to the top of a conifer. Skylarks are singing invisibly in the mist. As the path climbs it becomes mistier. A calling Fieldfare flies over. The huge stacks of logs they were here last time I went this way have all been taken off to the timber mills.

The track turns at Esgairnantau and starts to drop gently towards Davy Morgan’s Dingle. Conifers crowd the track, it is impossible to see more than a few yards into the plantation. Skylarks sing up above Great Rhos, then suddenly fall silent. The name “Great Rhos” does not appear on the older OS maps; instead the area is called “Glastwyn”. There is not a peep from anything. The track zigzags down the steep slope to the large flat boulder that has laid above the Dingle for years. Robins sing and Blue Tits chatter. Off down the track. A large area of scree lays down Fron Hill. A pelvis and leg lie, picked clean on the track. Below Black Brook is hidden but can be heard bubbling down the valley. Four sheep have got onto the track. Fortunately they turn off up the hill instead of running away down to the road. Back down to Warren Wood and then to the car park.

Thursday – Leominster – Mid evening and it is getting cold. There is a dampness about the air. The sky is not clear, although light pollution from excessive numbers of street and car park lights does not help. The waxing crescent moon is around half phase. To the south Sirius shines brightly. In ancient Egypt, the name Sirius signified its nature as scorching or sparkling. The star was associated with the Egyptian gods Osiris, Sopdet and other gods. Ancient Egyptians noted that Sirius rose just before the sun each year immediately prior to the annual flooding of the Nile River. At 8.6 light-years distance, Sirius is one of the nearest stars to us after the sun.

Monday – Home – An area of high pressure over Scandinavia is blocking the normal flow of air from the west and bringing in icy winds from Siberia. I finish emptying out the damaged shed. A new one is being built and hopefully installed next week. The day becomes colder, it did not rise above freezing in any case. By 5 o’clock it has started to snow and is laying. However, only short showers continue through the night, not amounting to much.