February 2021

Monday – Stoke Prior – Today is Imbolc, a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, that was Christianised as a festival of Saint Brigid. The air is damp and cold under grey skies but the temperature is above freezing. Various birds twitter and tweet down the street. Along Worcester Road. Up onto the old road bridge over the railway. Below, one bush records last year with the white Old Man’s Beard, a wild Clematis, whilst another is yellow with this year’s pussy willow. A clank is heard from the signal box as a signal is changed somewhere. Jackdaws fly from the roof of the industrial units to the woodland that runs alongside the railway. Wood Pigeons sit silently in these trees. Along the old section of the A44. A Song Thrush is singing in the bushes. Blue Tits dash hither and thither. A Wren ticks from the undergrowth. A pair of Dunnocks slip unobtrusively into an Ivy ticket.

On to Eaton Bridge. The water level of the River Lugg is high, swirling and eddying as it heads southwards. Riverside trees have their roots submerged. The horse paddocks are flooded with large pools. I stare for a while at multi-brown coloured “duck” before realising is actually a large lump of horse droppings.

Into Stoke Prior Road. Robins and Song Thrushes are singing along the road. A Blackbird is on the wires and House Sparrows in the hedgerows. A cockerel crows at Eaton Barns. The small orchard planted a few years back at Eaton Hall is now a sizeable pond. All along the verge there are new scrapings and burrows – rabbits I assume. A Common Flooded FieldsBuzzard is on the field sloping up to the east. It is searching for worms which makeup up a sizeable amount of its diet at this time of year. Large sheets of water laying the fields but it appears just a single pair of Mallard are taking advantage of them.

Past Wheelbarrow Castle, a name for which I have yet to find an explanation. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drums in an avenue of trees. Half a dozen Redwings fly off. Ditches and channels have been dug out beside Castle Cottage taking away the water that is pouring off the hillside.

Into the village of Stoke Prior. The new development on the edge of the village is still under construction after what seems to be quite a number of years. Those houses close to completion are large and certainly not what one might consider to be affordable. Apart from the ceramic West Country badge by the door, there is nothing that shows a large house was The Lamb pub. It is sad, it was one of the first long walks that I took Maddy and we stopped here. She barked madly when I went in to get a pint, leaving her outside, but she soon learned that pubs mean snacks as she polished off a bag of scratchings. Through the village and up the lane that leads up to the Steen Bridge junction.

Snowdrops are reflected in the large pond at Wall End Farm. A Moorhen wanders across the grass searching for food. On up the hill. The first Primroses are about to bloom on a roadside bank. The primary school is quiet but the presence of cars outside indicate teaching staff must be in with some children.

Up to to the road junction. A Common Buzzard is standing on top of a large pile of soil on the edge of a field. A flock of over 50 Fieldfares and Redwings search the field for grubs. Along the lane towards the A44. A pair of cock Ring-neck Pheasants run across a rough pasture like clockwork toys. Past The Drum, a large house which has been nicely redecorated. A Goldfinch flies up to a thistle in a field of sprouting oilseed rape.

Across the A44 and into the Stretford Bury lane. Down the hill. The horsebox which has stood outside one of the houses ever since I first came down this road has finally disappeared. Down to Stretford Brook and Stretford Bury. The brook is orange-brown with mud. Road rises to the Pudlestone crossroads then descends again to Holly Brook. A few Rooks are calling from the rookery on the junction. Up the hill again to Colaba Lodge. Massive English BottomsLonghorn cattle with white stripes down their backs are feeding in the field. One of a pair of Ravens at the top of a conifer by the entrance to Colaba Lodge is making a strange gulping noise.

Past Patty’s Cross and the Hamnish junction. The fields are completely empty of life. A pair of Long-tailed Tits flit along the hedgerow. A Song Thrush sings from the top of the tree at Widgeon Hill. A Mistle Thrush rasps from nearby. A Common Buzzard stands on the fence post by a paddock. On down to Docklow Slade. A footpath crosses the fields to the path to Hay Lane. The path crosses Whittey Brook just before it joins Cheaton Brook. The next field runs alongside a meandering Cheaton Brook. Across another field to the bridge over Cogwell Brook. Hay Lane Farm has been painted and is shining white in the landscape with pale blue window frames.

On to the A49. On the other side of Cheaton Brook a line of sheep show their bottoms to the world as they stick their heads into the feeder. At Easters Court a lighting firm now has a showroom and factory shop.

Tuesday – Home – Today is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Feast of the Holy Encounter; one of the oldest feast days. Rain has fallen throughout the night. In many parts of the country, it has been snowing. By dawn the rain has stopped. The resident Song Thrush is singing loudly. Jackdaws are fussing around the spaces in the chimney of the cottage down the road. A little later in the morning, fourteen Jackdaws gather in the Ash tree. In the early afternoon, two Jackdaws are still on the chimney, peering into the space in the bricks like any prospective home purchasers. Later in the afternoon the sky darkens and the rain returns, pounding on the roof.

Friday – Leominster – A bright sunny morning with scattered cloud but everywhere is still saturated. There is a light breeze which nips at the fingers and cheeks. Over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The River Lugg remains at a moderately high level. A Robin and a Wren both sing. Back around to the Millennium Park. Several Robins are in song here also and another Wren ticks from the track-side hedge. Snowdrops, The Maids of February, along the edge of the churchyard are at their best now. The Minster bells toll the hour. Sky is clouding over rapidly.

Into the Peace Garden. A Song Thrush sings from a tree beside the river Kenwater, which is flowing rapidly although the water level has fallen slightly. A lone Goosander flies over the churchyard towards the river. More Robins are singing the trees and a Dunnock skulks in a bush.

Into a quiet town. There are few people at the market. By early afternoon it is raining.

Sunday – Leominster – The sky contains plenty of grey clouds and a strong, cold, easterly the wind blows up the street. Jackdaws searched pavements and road for morsels. One bounces up and down on the spot uncertain whether to take flight or not. Onto Butts Bridge; the water level in the River Lugg has fallen again. The water is green-grey. A distant Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on a branch that resonates well. Wood Pigeons fly out of bankside trees.

Back over the railway. A bus stands at the station, the line is probably closed again. Several flocks of Jackdaws join up the form a single flock of over fifty birds. It looks like they are exalting in the wind, flying just for the joy of it. Other birds are keeping their heads down, I have yet to hear a single song. Then just to prove me wrong a Dunnock starts singing on the far side of the railway.

Through the Millennium Park. The River Kenwater is flowing rapidly. Into a Snowdrop strewn churchyard. The sun emerges from behind the clouds and the white petals glow brightly. A new information board has been erected on the Grange giving its history and showing pictures of its use as a cricket pitch and the gathering of crowds to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Other pictures show the now demolished Grange House Academy, a school on the edge of the Grange. The school was established in the 1790s and moved to what is now The Rankin Club in Corn Square in the 1880s. In 1896, the News advertised that the pupils of Grange College would move to Dutton House on Etnam Street, whilst a small girls’ school remained in Corn Square. By 1912 the girls had gone, but there was a boys’ school in Dutton House until the 1960s.

Monday – Home – A few small flakes of snow fall. Across the country, Storm Darcy has moved in from the east dumping a lot of snow in some places. The birds’ water is frozen so a kettle of hot water thaws it a bit. The chickens’ water is simply changed. An elastic band around wires attached to the lid of the seed feeder was supposed to stop the Grey Squirrels flipping it open and helping themselves to the seed – it has not worked! House Sparrows wait in the shrubbery for the feeders to be refilled. A Greenfinch calls his nasal song, something that is not so common these days.

Leominster – A few flakes of snow are still falling as I head off down the road. It is raw with a north Thus Nature of the Spring will dream
While south winds thaw; but soon again
Frost breathes upon the stiff’ning stream,
And numbs it into ice: the plain
Soon wears its mourning garb of white;
And icicles, that fret at noon,
Will eke their icy tails at night
Beneath the chilly stars and moon.

John Clare
easterly wind increasing the chill factor. Into Caswell Crescent. Pairs of Jackdaws are searching the grass verges for food. One pair fly off and one of them reveals white secondary feathers. Round in to Worcester Road. Gulls drift over their wings barely moving as they ride the wind. A takeaway food wagon is parked in a lot but I suspect customers will be few and far between.

Into the Enterprise Park. A Robin sings. A Carrion Crow and a couple of Magpies are on the wall of a settling tank in the water treatment plant. Opposite is a company working in metal panels and structures. An artic lorry from Liverpool is unloading rolls of sheet metal. Goldcrests flit around the trees beside the drainage ditch that runs between the Enterprise Park and the fields to the east. The patch of ground opposite police station is silent, nothing moving. A large lorry from Lincoln passes carrying brand new farm equipment. To the east, the Manchester bound train slows for the station.

A quick scan of the distant flooded fields next to the A49 reveals nothing. On to the Hereford Road and down to Broadward Bridge. The River Arrow is running high again and there is extensive flooding on both sides of the road. A sizeable flock of Redwings and Fieldfares are feeding on the saturated field. A brief appearance by the sun is quickly extinguished by dark clouds.

Back up the Hereford Road. House Sparrows chirrup in the bushes outside Broadwater Lodge. Westwards into Passa Lane. To the south, the Arrow valley is flooded. Beyond the hills are dark although in the distance, the misty Black Mountains look like they are shrouded in snow. The track down to the river has been cleared; last time I was here it was virtually impassible with thistles, nettles and undergrowth. Passa Lane is narrow with few passing spaces which makes the volume traffic surprising.

The lane turns northwards passing a 19th century house and a barn conversion. Ryelands, built by the Lane family, stands back from the road, the substantial outbuildings seem unused. A modern house lays up the hill near Cockcroft Lane. Into Ryelands Road and back towards town. Little pellets of snow are falling more heavily now although the sun has re-emerged briefly.


Tuesday – Leominster – The sun is shining although there is still plenty of cloud in the sky. It is cold but the wind has dropped. There was a thin scattering of snow overnight but now much has melted away. Over the railway. Blue Tits squeak and churr in the trees between the railway and the river. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen slightly again.

Into the churchyard. Buds are appearing on the Daffodils that grow all along the edge of the graveyard. Council workers are pruning trees on the old playing field and a large chipper is spraying the sawdust and chipped branches into the hedgerow.

Wednesday – Home – Another thin layer of snow lays on the roofs and pavements. In the garden the green grass is still visible through the white. A new peanut feeder seems less popular – have the Blue and Great Tits not yet got used to it or is it too difficult for the Grey Squirrels and Jackdaws to empty it? A kettle of boiling water is poured onto the ice in the birdbath. When I clean out the hen house there is a thin, floppy shell of a failed egg. It has a vague blue colour so is one of Russett’s. This is only her second “egg” since last summer. Emerald is still laying four or five eggs a week. The youngsters lay every day but Rocky is still not laying. After her problems last summer it seems likely she will never lay again.

The purple sprouting broccoli is still not really producing the sprouts we are waiting for. I notice that a seed packet claims that purple sprouting will produce a crop in 30-40 weeks, no chance here! It is usually well over a year from sowing to cropping. The lettuces in the greenhouse are hardly growing at all at the moment and a couple have rotted at the core, but the rest may pick up when the weather warms. The evenings are drawing out slowly but winter is not over yet and may still bring some unpleasant surprises.

Thursday – Home – The temperature has not risen above freezing all day. The chicken water is changed but it has iced over by the late afternoon. The feeders are being visited but amount of peanuts and seed being eaten has reduced. It seems the Grey Squirrels are having less success stuffing their faces!

In the early evening a scattered flock of over seventy Jackdaws heads east. A Carrion Crow flies off the Ash tree with a sharp barking call. It is good to see the ground frozen, hopefully killing off some pests.

Friday – Leominster – Bright sunshine lights up the town but it is still cold, just around freezing. Cloud appears to be building in the west. A second information board has been erected on the Grange, this one showing the area in the 14th century as as postulated by Duncan Brown and Duncan Wilson. The Jubilee Hornbeam that the Civic Society had planted Hornbeamon the Grange in 2012 has been been substantially pruned. A few gulls are circling to the north-west, probably over the refuse tip. A fight breaks out between Blackbirds deep in a thicket of Ivy towards the end of Pinsley Road.

Work continues on the Minster tower accompanied by the two note song of a Great Tit. Down The Priory and over the River Kenwater which is still flowing rapidly. Along Paradise Walk. There seem to be Blackbirds everywhere, flying out of ivy thickets and in the undergrowth on the riverbank. Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits are in the riverside trees.

Back up The Priory and onto Pinsley Mead. A new information board has been erected here giving information about the Old Priory House, one of the few surviving buildings of Leominster Priory. Towards the end of Pinsley Mead, a town council worker is digging the foundations for another information board.

Through the churchyard. Blue Tits chatter, a Greenfinch wheezes and Robins sing. At the west end of the churchyard a Dunnock is repeating his simple song. Another is singing from the top of the Rectory hedge. Another information board has been installed at the Forbury chapel. It records how John Ward, grandfather of famous actors, Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble, hired the chapel in the 1750s for his touring company of actors. In 1861, Thomas Sale bought the chapel and the adjoining house using the chapel as his office. Sydney Bridge, who gifted Sydonia Park to the town owned in building in the 1930s and 1940s, then Samuel Beaumont, who was the last private owner, installed a dance floor and hired it out. In 1984, a Trust associated with the Priory purchased the Forbury chapel for community use.

Sunday – Leominster – The weather is changing. The morning is dull with a uniform grey sky and a chilly wind but the temperature has risen slightly. A Jackdaw walks along the edge of a roof peering into the gutter to see if there is anything edible there. The easterly wind is getting stronger and increasing the chill factor. Any pools of water laying on the ground are frozen solid. On to Butts Bridge. The River Lugg is flowing steadily grey and cold looking; the water level has dropped again. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on a resonant branch above. It is answered by another drumming some distance away. A Grey Wagtail stalks the water’s edge then flies off with a double cheep. A Blackbird cries in alarm continuously.

Back over the railway and down the path by the White Lion. A Dunnock slips away through the Ivy. Through Pinsley Mill. A Song Thrush is singing and Blue and Great Tits squeak and chatter. Two Magpies stare at each other across the railway, one churring loudly. The River Kenwater is also flowing grey and rapidly and, like the Lugg, the water level is still falling. Into the churchyard where the swathes of Snowdrops brighten the dull morning.

Monday – Leominster – The lockdown drags on. Although there is now talk of schools reopening in early March, lifting of travel restrictions seem to be set back to April or May. This may be a forlorn hope as it is likely the reopening of schools will cause another spike in Covid-19 infections.

The temperature has risen and it is a damp, misty morning. A couple of skeins of Canada Geese fly north. A wintry sun shines low in the south. Through Pinsley Mill. Birdsong is inconsistent, a blast from a Wren then silence followed by tentative warblings of a Dunnock. Something excites Jackdaws down near the river and they start chattering noisily. A few notes from a Robin then the Dunnock recommences his song. Now the two notes of a Great Tit song ring out.

Into the Millennium Orchard. Three dozen new molehills have appeared. Snowdrops shine in the sun. Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons seek worms and grubs in the short grass. The new information board has now been installed on Pinsley Mead giving a brief history of the area. Large molehills have appeared here. These are made up of very dark soil, much darker than that in the Orchard. Fish ponds once lay here and it is probably centuries of decaying material in them which has produced this rich black soil.

Down The Priory and over the footbridge to Paradise Walk. The Covid-19 testing station is now a substantial site with marquees and large portacabins powered by generators. Wrens dart in and out of the conifers beside the River Kenwater. A Chaffinch sings overhead. Paradise Walk turns north at the point which was originally the confluence of the Lugg and Kenwater. Wild Arum leaves are unfurling by the fence at the edge of the cricket pitch.

Wednesday – Leominster – A watery sun is fighting a losing battle with grey clouds drifting in from the south-west. The air is still mild for the time of year. Along Worcester Road. A Robin sings above the noise of machinery from the plastics factory. Up onto the railway bridge. There is a crash as the home signal changes to safe to proceed. It is an old GWR style signal where the arm drops to indicate the train may proceed. Despite lack of travellers these days the Milford Haven train is still managing to be running late. Robins and Great Tits are vocal in the strip of woodland beside the track. The train passes underneath the bridge and the signal clanks back upright again. I wistfully watch the train disappear down the track towards the south, heading for places we are not allowed to visit under lockdown.

Across the A49 and along the old section of the A44. The piles of rubbish surrounding the 4x4 that someone seemed to be living in have been removed and the windscreen has been smashed. It will be tricky to move it has several wheels Primrosesare missing. A Dunnock sings from the top of a scraggly Ash sapling. On to Eaton Bridge. A Cormorant flies upstream. The water level has dropped again and the flow is slower. A Moorhen flies off of a branch overhanging the water and heads downstream.

Up Widgeon Meadow. The ground is slippery from overnight rain. Along the field at the top of Eaton Hill. A Linnet sings from the topmost point of a bush in the hedgerow. Jackdaws in the solar panel farm seem to be completely Arumoblivious to the artificial bird cry alarm. A Wren alights at the top of a dead stalk, sings loudly then darts away. Down the track from the hilltop. Primroses are beginning to emerge on the bank. A Treecreeper scurries up a trunk. Magpies are chatting up on the wooded hillside. A patch of Italian Arum has beautiful variegated leaves. The Mediterranean species seems to have been introduced in the late 17th century and can be rather invasive.

Along the A49. A number of trees have been felled beside Cheaton Brook. The level crossing closes as I approach and another South Wales bound train passes. Four Lesser Black-backed Gulls drift over head seemingly undecided which direction to go. A Song Thrush stands in the middle of Paradise Walk staring at me before flying over to the far side of the hedge and is hidden by Ivy.

Sunday – Leominster – The mornings are getting lighter earlier as spring slowly creeps closer. Dawn breaks I take the car for a drive down to Marlbrook and back to keep the batteries charged up. The fields south of Leominster are extensively flooded. For the past few days there has been frequent long periods of rain and high winds.

A little later I set out down the road. Grey clouds drift eastwards under a higher, lighter covering. Jackdaws chack as they fly around. It is milder now nearly 10°C.

Over the railway and on to Butts Bridge. The River Lugg has risen several feet in the last few days and the water is a reddish brown. Carrion Crows are making a considerable fuss over the other side of the A49. It used to be said that a single large black bird would be a Carrion Crow whilst a flock would be Rooks. Things are very different nowadays, Carrion Crows congregate into large flocks whilst Rooks are becoming less and less common. By the river, Robins sing and Blue Tits chatter.

Back over the railway and into Pinsley Mill. Great Tits and Dunnocks call on the far side of the track, Blackbirds sit in the bushes but are strangely silent. Jackdaws chack in the great Black Poplars on the far side of the river. Into the Millennium orchard. A Song Thrush sings from a bough of an apple tree. Snowdrops still create a magnificent display along the foot of the churchyard. Daffodils are in bud. The River Kenwater has also Snowdropsrisen and is flowing rapidly. An electric turquoise flash marks the passage of a speeding Kingfisher heading towards the confluence of the Kenwater and Lugg.

The Minster bells mark the hour and then ring out the call to prayer. However the church gates remain chained and padlocked. One of the new information boards has been erected just inside the churchyard. Along Church Street. House Sparrows chase around the gutters of the old vicarage. The rookery that occupied the two trees by the entrance to the Forbury nursing home has now completely disappeared. Starlings whistle and chatter on the rooftops of the Georgian houses. A small flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls head south. Into Corn Square where another information board has been attached to the wall of the tourist information centre.

Monday – Home – An old cottage, probably 17th century, runs back from the Georgian house to the south of our plot. There are spaces all around the chimney, presumably to create a Bernoulli Effect which reduces the pressure at the top of the chimney and draws up the smoke. These spaces have proved very popular with Jackdaws over the years. This Jackdawsmorning a pair are on the chimney. One keeps looking inside one of the gaps whilst the other seems to keep lookout either from the chimney or the adjacent television aerial. They then both stand on top of the chimney, chacking continuously and flicking their tails rapidly.

The garden is coming alive! Snowdrops have been in flower for several weeks and they are now joined by primroses, daffodils and crocuses. The chicken run is a swamp but with the threat of more rain it seems pointless to dig it out yet. A Robin is in song but the Song Thrush that started singing long before dawn has fallen silent. A female Blackbird is gathering pieces of leaf litter.

Later in the morning there are two pairs of Jackdaws on the chimney. After a lot of noise a full blown fight breaks out with two birds locking claws and tumbling down the roof and only breaking apart before an impact with the ground seems inevitable. Two return to the chimney and proceed to mate whilst the other two call loudly from the television aerial.

The afternoon is warmed by bright sunshine. Seeds need to be sown! The first broad beans went into large pots in the greenhouse at the end of last week but I discover mice have been at them. This necessitates a search for the traps. Then pots of chillies – Zimbabwe Black and de Bresse; sweet pepper, Marconi Rosa; lettuces, Bronze Beauty, Bunyard’s Matchless and Buttercrunch and modules of cabbage, Green Express and broccoli, Purple Sprouting Early. It seems strange to be sowing the sprouting broccoli whilst still waiting for the crop sown at this time last year. The Cox’s apple is tied in to the wires. It is not the best bit of espalier work but hopefully we will get a few apples again this year. The apricot in the fruit cage was cut down a couple of years ago but now has sprouted vigorously. The new shoots are trimmed. If it does nothing much this year it will be dug out. A bird nesting box has been cleaned and left to dry in the shed. It is reassembled and put back on the Yew tree. The box has not been particularly successful, but with the considerable numbers of Blue Tits around this year, it may get used. A column of gnats dance in the sunbeams. Kay has her first cup of tea in the garden of the year, sitting in the sun. She reports she has seen her first bumble bee of the year.

Tuesday – Leominster – The sun is shining brightly but the wind is gusting strongly. A wood chipper is outside as as the tree surgeon is trimming up the great Horse Chestnut in next door’s garden. Along Worcester Road. Three large Hungarian artics are being loaded at the plastics factory. A Manchester Evening News lorry is in the drinks delivery yard. The dynamics of logistics is somewhat beyond me. Tiny green buds are appearing on Hawthorns.

Into the Enterprise Park. I notice for the first time there is a reproduction blue lamp with a crown on top attached to the modern police station. A forklift is operating the Dales’ compound, the first time I think I have ever seen any action here. Beyond southern edge of the estate is a field containing long rows of Cavolo Nero, curly kale and cabbages. The sun glances brightly off the large flood lake in the distance.

Onto to The Hereford Road. A Common Buzzard twists and glides in the winds above the fi Wednesday 24th February – Leominster – It is early afternoon. The sky is grey and there is still a wind although it has dropped since yesterday. The temperature remains very mild for the time of year. More rain fell overnight and everywhere is muddy. Down to the River Lugg where the water level has not changed over the last few days. Robins and Blackbirds are singing in the riverside trees. A Manchester bound train pulls into the station. There appear to be a few more passengers on board than of late. A few minutes later the Carmarthen train pulls in, it is of course running late. Round to the Millennium Park. Several Chaffinches fly through the trees. Blue Tits chatter in the hedge beside the railway, a Wren sings nearby. The first daffodils are in flower amidst the snowdrops. The River Kenwater is flowing rapidly. elds to the west. Dozens of Jackdaws are high in the sky to the south, seemingly just enjoying playing in the wind. The water level in the River Arrow is very high, less than a foot below the apex of the main arch. The woodland to the south-west of the river is underwater, all the fields to the south-east are flooded. The river flows out into the pasture beside Broadward Farm. Twenty two Goosander are on the flood waters to the east of the Hereford Road. All but one are female. A few Redwings and Carrion Crows search the small amounts of pasture above water. A pair of Mute Swans are feeding in the water close to the road. Loud shotgun blasts from the far side of the flooded wood send finches, Redwings, Fieldfares and Jackdaws fleeing in every direction.

Back the Hereford Road. Daffodils are coming into flower on the bank opposite Broadward Hall. Cloud is thickening and has now obscured the sun. Back into town.

Wednesday – Leominster – It is early afternoon. The sky is grey and there is still a wind although it has dropped since yesterday. The temperature remains very mild for the time of year. More rain fell overnight and everywhere is muddy. Down to the River Lugg where the water level has not changed over the last few days. Robins and Blackbirds are singing in the riverside trees. A Manchester bound train pulls into the station. There appear to be a few more passengers on board than of late. A few minutes later the Carmarthen train pulls in, it is of course running late.

Round to the Millennium Park. Several Chaffinches fly through the trees. Blue Tits chatter in the hedge beside the railway, a Wren sings nearby. The first daffodils are in flower amidst the snowdrops. The River Kenwater is flowing rapidly.

Thursday – Home – A both exciting and sad moment in the garden this morning. I removed the net that partially covers the pond during autumn and winter. There is a pale spotted belly laying on the surface and I pluck out a dead Smooth Newt. To have newts in one’s pond is good news, the fact it is dead, less so. Hopefully, there may be more or though this is unlikely in such a small pond.

Ludlow – A short visit to the Farmers’ Market in Ludlow. It is far quieter than in normal times and many stalls are missing, including unfortunately the small holders who always have good produce. We notice a number of shops in the town have closed down.

Friday – Bromyard Downs – We take a short walk on the downs above the town of Bromyard. A Great Tit calls from the woodland that runs along the top of the down. Below North Herefordshire lays before us in a haze. The old workhouse, now apartments, stands isolated, an indication that still prevails that the poor should be out of sight and out of mind. Glossy Carrion Crows stand like sentinels on top of a Hawthorn. The ground is soft. Lots of dogs and, despite requests to keep off, horses have been here chewing up the path. Robins sing in the woods on the edge of the Brockhampton estate.

Sunday – Leominster – The sky is entirely cloudless and the roofs dusted with frost. The temperature is just a little above freezing and there is a light mist. Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons call from the rooftops. Over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen and the flow is steady. A rabbit lops down the edge of Lammas Meadow. A Great Tit calls his rusty bicycle wheel song nearby. The rabbit suddenly makes a dash from above the riverbank across the frosty meadow into the trees beside the railway. A Wren arrows across the river. Mist rises off the water like steam.

Back over the railway and round to the Millennium Orchard. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies across the railway into a tree on the far side. A Blackbird comes to investigate its presence. A Common Buzzard is on one of the apple Trefoil Stonetrees. Snowdrops are beginning to fade now. Leaves of Ransoms, Wild Garlic, are beginning to emerge. The water level in the River Kenwater has also fallen.

Through the churchyard and along the southern side of the minster. Behind a buttress attached to the porch and beside a drain is a stone trefoil set into the ground. The trefoil symbol was used on gravestones to represent the Trinity. The surface in this area is constructed from gravestones. Some are eroded completely others are legible, one has the date of 1767.

Into Church Street where Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons occupy the roofs. A pure white dove sits on a chimney pot at the corner of Broad Street.