Tuesday – Home – The sunny, hot weather continues as does the weeding. I am soon soaked with sweat. The wet weather followed by this heat has allowed the weeds to proliferate and get a good hold on the vegetable beds. Yesterday however I concentrated on limiting the Stinging Nettles at the end of the garden. There is a sizeable nettle bed here, good for several species of butterfly and other beneficial insects but the nettles spread rapidly and need controlling. And then there are the inevitable brambles. After weeding, the broad beans and row of tomatoes are staked.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The morning is warming rapidly in the sunshine. Bird song is a fine chorus, Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Robin. Two Oystercatchers are on one of the islands along with several dozen Canada Geese and Mallard. Two Carrion Crows stalk like undertakers across another island. Hawthorn blossom is already starting to fade. Common Blue Damselflies, Enallagma cyathigerum, hover over the meadow, electric blue needles. The white flowers, petals deeply notched, of Field Mouse Ear grow amongst Field Buttercups and Red Clover. A patch is Early Spotted Orchids had appeared putting my earlier concerns to rest.
A herd of two dozen Mute Swans are scattered over the lake. Four Cormorants are on an island, another is nearby. Mallard sleep on the scrape which is getting more extensive as the water level falls. A Great Crested Grebe chases another across the water. A few Coot and Tufted Ducks are present. A Common Buzzard circles lazily high above. Mallard are just about to go into eclipse. In front of the hide, Ox-eye Daisies are coming into flower. Ribbed Plantains with white collars of flowers are almost as high as the daisies. A pair of Canada Geese have goslings at the far west end. As last week, a Coot is chasing female Mallard off the scrape, but today one fights back, chasing the Coot. A blue butterfly flits past without stopping. The female Mallard and her four ducklings arrive at the scrape. The ducklings are getting quite big now.
Back to the meadow which is a glorious canvas of yellow spotted on green as the Field Buttercups reach their optimum. An Orange Tip butterfly passes. Sheep are in the dessert apple orchard, lambs not yet frightened of passing humans.
Home – The afternoon gets muggier as clouds move in from the west. Eventually rain arrives – very welcome for the garden.
Friday – Kerry Ridgeway – High in the Cambrian Mountains of Mid Wales. The sun is intermittent as clouds drift eastwards. Skylarks sing overhead. Sheep baa. This is the western end of the Kerry Ridgeway, an ancient track and drovers’ road crossing the hills to Bishop’s Castle.A Cuckoo calls in the distance. To the west is the extensive Fferm Want Llandinam wind farm. A track heads south to Cider House Farm, where the Ridgeway starts. Originally simply called Cider House, it was precisely that, a welcome stopping place for the drovers. Off eastwards along the Ridgeway.
The track climbs gently past pastures. An old sheep pen is now just two rows of rotting posts. A Red Kite glides over the hillside. I reach a gate just in time to open it for a tractor. He checks behind to ensure no sheep are following him through but they are too far behind. They gallop up to me noisily but are out of luck, no food here. The Cross Dyke runs up the hill and crosses the track. It is a deep ditch with low ramparts either side. Known as Double Dyche, it was originally a boundary of an Iron Age farm. To the south of the track are two large Bronze Age barrows, Two Tumps.
As the track climbs, the views to the north, in particular, become more and more extensive. A circular platform with view-guides helps identify the hills and mountains. Settlements such as Montgomery and Newtown are hidden below. To the north west, in the haze, is the vast bulk of Cadair Idris. South of the mountain is another great prominence, Plumumon. Further north is Mynyddoed yr Aran, The Aran range above Bala Lake. To the north east are the hills enclosing the Vale of Montgomery and round eastwards is Cordon Hill.
A track leaves the Ridgeway and crosses a field of cattle and calves and sheep and lambs. A large white bull grunts and wanders away – thankfully! It then enters open moorland at Irchrn Quarry. A Common Buzzard flies up and off. A Small Heath butterfly suns itself on the ground. A Curlew calls in the distance. A Cuckoo calls in the valley below. It flies around before alighting on a post of the fence separating the fields from the moorland. Then a second joins it and shortly a third. There is some chasing around before one departs, leaving a male and female. The remaining two are constantly harassed by Meadow Pipits. A Pied Wagtail also sits on the fence.
Below is a deep small defile with a dried stream. This is one is at least three sources of the Afon Tefeidiad, River Teme, in this small patch of meadow and sedgy land. Back up the hill and around the summit of Bryn Coth. Ahead is Cilfaesty Hill, but I am not sure I want to plod up an open moorland hill in the hot sun, so I head back to the Ridgeway.
As the track descends towards Cider House Farm, to the north is a sloping field with a strip of sedge, the source of the Afon Miwl, River Mule, which joins the Severn at Abermule. From the car park, a short distance down the road is a gate that looks into a field along the edge of which is a fine route of mature Beeches. From the edge is the trees is a small patch of sedgy ground, the source of the Afon Iethon, River Ithon, which joins the River Wye south of Newbridge-on-Wye.
Back along the road south, a deep hole called The Ring has the stream flowing down a small gorge, tumbling down rocks and flowing out the end – the young Teme. The Ring is a natural feature in the Bailey Hill Formation of interbedded sandstone and siltstone formed approximately 424 to 427 million years ago in the Silurian Period. It was used as a waste dump for many years.
Sunday – Leominster – yesterday afternoon became cloudier and muggier by the hour but only a couple of spots of rain fell. However, it was raining heavily by 3:00am and continued until around 6:00am. The morning is still damp and cloudy as I wander down the street. Trees are all fresh with shiny green leaves. Jackdaws call from the rooftops. Over the railway. Wrens, a Blackbird and Chiffchaff are all in fine voice. A Great Spotted Woodpecker chips from the trees a short distance up the track. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen substantially with the gravel banks close to the surface. A Blackcap sings from bankside trees.
Back round past the White Lion where a Song Thrush sings from a chimney pot. Into the Millennium Orchard. The dessert apple trees are all showing signs of distress with the ends of their branches dead. The cider and cooking apple trees all seem fine. Into the Peace Garden. The pink flowers of Red Campion have forced their way above the Stinging Nettles. Hogweed is even higher and yet to flower. Next to the fence, Cleavers are striving to find the sun above the nettles. Through the churchyard where a few Wood Pigeons call.
Monday – Home – After a hot weekend in Surrey, we return to a dry garden. However, only the runner bean seedlings have suffered and hopefully they will recover. A lot of watering is necessary as the unbroken sunshine continues and the temperature keeps rising.
The runner, borlotti and dwarf French beans are planted out. All have germinated poorly. The leeks, also a poor germination, are potted on. Three Dudi, a bottle gourd, are also planted out. Strawberries are ripening. As usual, weeds are growing at a prodigious rate.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The sun is blazing in a cloudless blue sky and whilst temperature is very pleasant at the moment it will soon heat up. However the weather forecasters have issued dire warnings of thunderstorms and torrential rain moving in from the south west. House Sparrows are noisy around the barn by the car park. Wood Pigeons call from Westfield wood, but the spring chorus seems to have ended. Field and Dog Roses are blossoming on the briars climbing up the trackside hedgerow. A fresh bright Teasel is already three feet high and climbing. Elder is in flower. A Chiffchaff starts calling in the lakeside trees. A Wren bursts into song. A Teasel has a blob of cuckoo spit attached to a leaf.
A pair of Oystercatchers occupy an island along with Mallard and a single Tufted Duck. Damselflies quarter the water. A pair of Mute Swans with their cygnets rest on another island. Nearby Canada and Greylag Geese honk as they glide across the lake.
Into the meadow where are the rich dark rose pink Early Marsh Orchids are now in full bloom. Much paler Common Spotted Orchids have also risen into the grass. The resident Garden Warbler is in song in the lakeside trees. A Green Woodpecker yelps as it rises from the long meadow grass and flies off towards the wood. A Rabbit feeds on the grass at the end of the path as it dips down into the Alder wood. It is good to see there are more orchids along the edge of the meadow.
Into the hide. The 30 strong herd of Mute Swans are scattered across the water and Islands. A Reed Warbler sings in the reed bed below. Ox-eye Daisies have grown tall and flowered on the bank hiding a croaking Ring-necked Pheasant. Drake Mallards are now mainly in eclipse. At least two Sedge Warblers are in the Willows. Two Cormorants, several tufted duck and a Great Crested Grebe are on one of the islands. A Gadwall is in the centre of the lake. A pair of Coots squabble. A Blackcap is singing in the trees next to the hide. A family of Blue Tits move through the same trees.
Back through the Alder plantation where there are more Common Spotted Orchids. Into the cider apple orchard. The grass has grown tall. There is a glorious mixture of grasses – Yorkshire Fog, Cocksfoot and Crested Dogὑs-tail are three I manage to identify.
Thursday – Kyre Park – A return to Kyre, this time with Kay to visit the park. Through the small gate and past a Cut Leaf Beech, a wonderful old tree with the largest girth for this specimen in the country. Down to a bridge whose cast iron railings were made at the Stourport foundry. Beneath is a small stream, the outlet of the complex of lakes out in the landscape. It is covered with Yellow water-lilies and round the edge are Yellow Flags. Up the slope past a Parted Yew thought to be possibly two millennia old. A path passes a folly with a Green Man plaque over the entrance to a tunnel.
Down to a viewing tower which looks out over a large pool of water-lilies. Above is a large Cedar of Lebanon. A channel of steps takes the outflow of the pool down to the stream crossed previously. A path runs alongside the pool past more steps forming water channels but these are dry. The next pool is a large area of water called Hanning’s Pool, a former fish pond. It has Yellow Water-lilies, the occasional White Water-lily and a few red-pink ones. A few Moorhens, Mallard and Tufted Duck are on the water. Blackbirds and Blackcaps sing. A garden cupola has a weather vane topped by a sailing ship. Glorious purple Rhododendrons stand by the lake.
Up the hill to another long lake called “The River”. A bridge crosses to a small thatched summer house. Alongside the lake past a pair of Mute Swans and a good number of Mallard, but the other end is closed off. So back and on across the hillside. A Picturesque ruin called “The Hermitage”. The path runs along the other side of The River to a Ginko tree. Here the path is closed – a bit annoying as this is supposed to be a circular walk. We find a gate onto the road opposite a small terrace of estate cottages and return to the park this way. A large barn has been converted into an antique centre and café which we browse before a cuppa and piece of cake.
Friday – Rhayader-Rhaeadr Gwy – A much cooler, cloudy morning with a strong breeze. Across the road is the old telephone exchange now a small residence. Into town past a terrace of yellow brick late Victorian houses. The next terrace of 1894 has an almost Arts and Crafts look to it. The end house is the post office and is pure Victorian with an arch and swags. Opposite is a pub and houses in stones of various sizes. A large stone house is set on a slope with imposing wall and gates. Towards the centre of the town the buildings become three-storey and are mainly shops. The Co-op is in an ornate building with “DB and Co” on the pediment over the door. It was a bank, H&SBC before becoming a food store. On the other side of the road is the Old Market Hall. On to the famous crossroads where the Clock Tower is a considerable traffic obstruction.
Onto West Street. It is good to see that the majority of the shops in the town are still here. The old police station is now residences. The United Reformed Tabernacle Chapel has no services for the foreseeable future. Opposite the Old Drapers is now a holiday let. A cast-iron ground-light into a basement was made at St Pancras Ironworks in London. Onto the bridge over the River Wye. The river flows past water smoothed rocks. Downstream is a series of logs across a channel between the rocks, clearly placed there and presumably something to do with channelling water for the tannery and corn mill that stood nearby. Into Cwmdauddwr. Down a lane past the Triangle Inn and cottages below St Brides church.
The lane climbs a hill through banks of Greater Stitchwort, Common Vetch and late Bluebells. A Foxglove has come into flower. Past New House, not so new as it was present in the mid 19th century, where the lane begins to level out. Lane passes over a long mound under which is the Elan Valley Pipeline taking water to Birmingham, crossing the fields marked “STW Easement, Severn Trent Water”. A briar in the hedge has some particularly beautiful deep pink Dog Roses adorning it. The lane divides and ahead is the Wye Valley Walk but I take the sharp turn southwards staying on the road. Red Kites circle fields. A Chaffinch calls and Blue Tits flit between trees. Past a small grove of pines edged by Oaks. A Chiffchaff calls. A patch of Hemp Agrimony, shortly to come into flower, grows next to the road. A Barn Owl suddenly appears in front of me and flies off into the trees.
The lane is now heading downwards towards a gap in the hills, Gwasedyn Hill to the east and Carn Gafallt to the west, where the River Wye has cut through. The end of Gwasedyn Hill is scarred by a large abandoned quarry. Through mixed woodland. Chaffinch and Chiffchaff both call and the Great Tit and Robin move through the trees. Ahead is the steep slope is Carn Gafallt. Below a saddle is a small cottage. The peace is constantly disturbed by the main road the A470 which runs along the Wye River Valley beneath Gwasedyn Hill.
My musing is suddenly disturbed when I realise there is a flock of sheep being driven down the lane behind me. The line starts to drop steeply and below is the River Wye flowing over a wide rocky bed. The lane passes the abutments of a bridge which once carried the Cambrian Railway (Mid-Wales Section), which closed in the mid 1960s. The lane comes to a farm, Glyn. Through a gate which stops the sheep from following me. The old farmer, wife and dog give me a wave as they pass, or at least the humans do, the dog is too busy concentrating on a couple of sheep that have drifted off the lane.
I sit awhile on a large rock which is a conglomerate, Dyffryn Flags Facies, laid down 433 to 445 million years ago in the Silurian and Ordovician Periods. The lane comes to wide ford over the River Elan. Nearby a footbridge, Glyn Bridge, crosses the river. The bridge which is a suspension bridge rocks and sways as one crosses sending my nether parts clenching. Fish break the surface of the far side of the confluence. Black winged Beautiful Demoiselles, Calopteryx virgo, flit across the water. The rusty railway bridge can be seen crossing the Wye. Three Ravens are across the river. Siskins are in the riverside trees.
Back to the foot of the Glyn Bridge then northwards along a footpath. Bright yellow Marsh Marigolds are on the rocks in the River Elan. The footpath meets a road by a smallholding at Wern Newydd where a cockerel sounds more like it is being strangled than crowing. The lane heads north along the river. Old Oak trees, twisted and bent, stand by the lane overlooking the river below. Dolifor Farm lies hidden in trees on the slope up to Carn Gafallt. A modern bungalow stands at Dolgam. A short distance on, the River Elan has meandered close to the road. This river is the one dammed up the Elan valley to form the great reservoirs. A large old ash tree has a bulbous bole at the bottom of its trunk and growth of bracket fungus right up trunk which split into three parts although one large section has fallen. A section of Hazel hedgerow is covered in in white silken webbing of one of the Ermine moth caterpillars.
The lane comes to a junction at Dolafallen. A Blackcap sings in an Ash tree on the junction. The substantial cast iron girder Dol-afallen Bridge (spelling on older maps) crosses the river. The lane joins the B4518. A cycle trail runs alongside the road in the old Birmingham Water Corporation Elan Valley railway line. It was laid in 1896 to assist the construction of the dams in the Elan Valley. The tracks were lifted after construction was finished in 1912. Past an old railway retaining wall that is slowly collapsing. A Garden Warbler sings. Over a bridge which crosses a narrow track connecting two fields, a minor bridge but beautifully constructed out of stone blocks. The Elan Valley line joined the Cambrian Railway line just before a cutting. The path now rises up beside the cutting that becomes deeper until the line went into the Rhayader tunnel now bricked up. The trail now crosses the pipeline again. The line emerges from the tunnel into another deep cutting and the path is descends to join it again.
The trail continues to descend into Cwmdauddwr. The railway line however runs now along a high embankment crossing the B4518 by a now demolished bridge and entering Rhayader station shortly after. Back into town which is now much busier than this morning. Route with a glitch..
Sunday – Leominster – The weather has changed at last, the temperature has dropped and there is a cooling breeze. The sky is a uniform pewter grey. Birdsong has diminished over recent weeks but a Chiffchaff still sings loudly behind the Baptist church and Jackdaws chack around the street. Privet and Elder are in flower along the ginnel that leads to the railway bridge. Another Chiffchaff calls from the riverside trees. Below Brambles are in blossom.
Hogweed, Red Campion and Hedge Woundwort flower beside the path that leads to Butts Bridge. The water level in the River Lugg is low, although not a great amount more of the shingle banks have been exposed. A Wren sings in the bushes. A Song Thrush starts his repeated phrases. Easters Meadow is overgrown with grasses, Dock and Hogweed. A Blackcap starts to sing. A Raven croaks in the distance on Eaton Hill.
Into the Millennium Park. Cider apples are forming on most of the trees although several have failed to produce hardly any fruit. Meadow Cranesbills are coming into flower. A young rabbit slips away to the railway embankment. The water level in the Kenwater remains similar to recent weeks. Swathes of an umbellifer, Hemlock Water-dropwort, I think, have collapsed under the weight of raindrops and lay prostrate on the surface of the river.
Into the churchyard. Two greenfinches are calling along with a Wren and Wood Pigeons. Elderflowers are at their peak now. Large green and red cream spiky cones have been chewed and fallen from a Douglas Fir just outside the Minster entrance.
Monday – Cleeton St Mary-Silvington – The sun is struggling to break through grey clouds. Outside the church of St Mary. House Sparrows chatter in the hedges and shrubs of the houses opposite. Out of the village down a steep hill through a bracken covered common. A Kestrel flies high above. A Common Buzzard circles. Woods and fields lay to the north east before the land rises to Brown Clee. To the North West are the domes and towers of the air traffic control station high on Titterstone Clee. Vallets House lies in the valley below. The lane crosses a high buttressed stone bridge above Shirley Brook.
Past Cleeton Gate, a modern house with holiday barns. There was a house here in the 19th century, but I cannot discern if this house has been built around it or replaced it. A cool wind is rising. After a gentle rise, the lane, Cleeton Lane, descends again. Red Campion and umbellifers dominate the roadside banks. Long tendrils carry tiny green flowers and heart shaped leaves of Black Bryony. Above, Cleavers have even smaller white flowers. Through Cleeton Court, once Upper Cleeton, which has a large farmhouse and barns of lowing cattle. The house has a 15th century main front range and alterations and additions have been made in every century since. There are barn conversions and modern buildings. Goldfinches sing. The lane drops down to cross another brook this one almost completely dry. Past Goldthorn House.
The lane rises again. The umbellifers on the bank have already run to seed. The top of the rise is a junction at Bromdon. I turn right into High Lane towards Silvington. A Chaffinch sings and a Bullfinch disappears through the trees. Tufted Vetch, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Meadow Sweet are in flower here. On past pastures of sheep and fields of cereal crops. A Skylark sings overhead. Large Oaks, several hundred years old, rise beside the lane. An Ivy-covered Ash is followed by a Yew opposite a Holly, where a Chiffchaff calls.
Right into a lane which descends gently into a valley. A single honeysuckle flowers in the hedgerow. Silvington Brook passes under the lane. The lane arrives at Silvington. The lands of Silvington are documented as having been held by the Abbey of St Remigius at Rheims from the 12th century. The Prior at Lapley represented the Abbey in England and Silvington was held nominally under him until the early 15th century when many foreign owners were banished. There is historical evidence for a succession of tenants and owners who held the manor in the medieval and post medieval periods, including the de Beysin and de Hawkstone families in the 13th century. A millrace flows past the former corn mill. A very large 18th century barn, stables and cow house with a stone ground-floor and weatherboarded timber-framed loft level has converted into dwellings. Opposite are 18th century stables. At the end of a short lane is the Manor farmhouse, dating from the 13th and 16th centuries. The house was probably built by Walter de Beysin, possibly the most important figure in Shropshire at the time. He died in 1309. There is a moat behind the manor house but I could not see it. On a junction is the church of St Michael.
The entrance to the church (formerly St Nicholas) is through a porch over which is a plaque declaring, “This porch was built by John Hil, Gent and Ursula Hil Widdow 1662”. Through a door which is studded, boarded and cross-boarded with iron strap hinges, bearing date 1679 and into the nave which is relatively narrow. A plain circular 12th century font stands under the tower. The nave and tower are both late 12th century with Transitional features. The chancel is possibly earlier. There is a fine armorial tablet to Edward Mytton, who died in 1683, in the chancel. Brass tablets of the Commandments are dated 1676. Carved 16th century wooden panelling runs behind the altar. A small pipe organ stands near the door. The glass is all by Burlison and Grylls from around 1900.
Beyond the church is the large Rectory, larger than the church itself! It dates from 1835, built by George Evans of Cleobury Mortimer. Out of the village and up towards Silvington Common. A Common Buzzard flies out of a small tree and off across the fields. A greatly extended cottage stands on a junction, the former smithy. The road heads east and a bridleway heads west, I take the latter. A path climbs up across the common to another bridleway. A Linnet and Willow Warbler sing. Tiny white flowers of Heath Bedstraw are frequent. Behind is the bulk of Brown Clee and in the hazy distance, the Wrekin. Small patches of Bell Heather are in flower. The bridleway runs westwards past a modernised house. A farmer in a JCB is filling in potholes in the track. A white painted stone cottage appears to have had little external change. It is The Birches and believed to have been a squatter’s cottage. The moorland of the area provided common grazing for livestock, and, increasingly from the 16th century, farming was supplemented by the industrial activity of mineral extraction. These coal mining and stone quarrying opportunities drew “pioneer” smallholders, who would often build cottages on a piece of wasteland paying an annual fee to the landowner. Smallholdings and squatters' cottages can be found fringing these industrial sites and encroaching onto the moorland. The cottage seems to have been built in two phases; the western part is presumed to be the earliest, and initially was a single-cell, two-storey cottage, onto which an animal shelter was built to the east, and another room to the west. The associated barn had been built by 1885.
The track joins the Cleeton St Mary Lane at Woodlands Farm. Down the lane back to the church. Route with glitch again!
Tuesday – Home – The Met Office has reported that yesterday, the Summer Solstice was cooler than the last Winter Solstice. Strange times! We were hoping for more rain but it has not happened despite the heavy clouds. By mid afternoon they clouds have thinned and it is getting warm.
The second sowing of dwarf and climbing French beans has been a little more successful than the first and they are now planted out. A row of cabbage and one of kale are also planted out and a tent of netting constructed over them to protect from the Wood Pigeons that will devour our brassicas. Each plant also has a ring of plastic cut from old yoghurt pots around it to try and stop slugs.
The potatoes are now beginning to flower. Small broad beans are appearing. The mange tout peas are climbing the net strung along the row. Sticks are put in for the maincrop peas although these are progressing rather slowly. In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are coming along nicely and the cucumbers have been potted on and are also growing well with plenty of bright yellow flowers. The chilli peppers are slow but still growing. Two troughs of basil have been placed in there and they are doing well.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The day is warming up as the sun beats down from a cloudless blue sky. A Blackbird sings in the trees. Some Bramble and Field Rose blossom has already finished and small, green blackberries and hips have appeared. A Brown Hawker dragonfly, Aeshna grandis, lands on a Stinging Nettle stalk. The yellow petalled, red and black centred Dark Mullein are in flower. A Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Blackcap sing. Patches of yellow Biting Stonecrop lie beside the track in the poor soil. Mallard, Coot, a Cormorant and a Mute Swan with cygnets are on the islands. A few, strangely silent Canada Geese swim around the lake.
A Blackcap and Garden Warbler are both in song by the entrance to the meadow. A Green Woodpecker flies through the lakeside trees. Damselflies move slowly through the grasses some of which are over five feet tall.
A sizeable flock of Canada Geese are in the western bay. The Mute Swan herd is also present, but hidden on the northern edge. The Reed Warbler sings from the reed bed in front of the hide. A young Moorhen, its beak still brown, is beside the scrape. Drake Mallard are now nearly all in in eclipse. A Grey Heron is on the island in front of the Southern hide. Another Cormorant is on another island. A single Great Crested Grebe is present. A Kingfisher is on a post of the fence around the southern reed beds, it dives and appears to make a successful catch. Despite the breeding season coming to an end Mallard still find it necessary to squabble. A flotilla of 31 Mute Swans emerges from the northern bay. They all have pale beaks indicating they are non-breeding. An adult cob appears and heads towards the flotilla which moves away from him. A couple of Reed Warblers are moving around the bushes beside the lake. So far I have only seen a single butterfly today, a Meadow Brown.
Back into the meadow. A Garden Warbler is in the hedgerow but remains hidden despite its loud and constant singing. A majority of the Clover in the meadow is the red variety, however under a tall Poplar is a large patch of white clover. Another Meadow Brown and a Ringlet are on the meadow. A Jay and Green Woodpecker are in the cider orchard.
Friday – Newport-Cae-Newydd – My first train journey for over a year. Although not as empty as the trains that those that passed through Leominster in recent times, there are still very few passengers. The sun shining on Newport although there is still plenty of cloud in the sky. A whole section of the station car park has been taken over by vehicles – equipment lorries and trailers, camper vans, generators, location catering etc. attached to a filming operation.
Into Caerau Road, a long terrace of small Victorian houses on one side and larger semi detached of the other. The road climbs steeply, towards the top the houses are in yellow brick with red ceramic tiling although one has been horribly pebble dashed. Spencer Road drops down into Clytha Park. This area seems to be mainly Edwardian and later in construction. Llanthewy Road Baptist church was built in 1912, designed by architects Habershon and Fawckner. A 100 year lease for site was acquired 1899 and Sunday School built 1904. It was the daughter church of Commercial Road Baptist Church. The church was closed in 1996 but has a large coloured plaque declaring, “Iglesia ni Christo”, meaning it is now an independent nontrinitarian Christian church, founded and registered by Felix Y. Manalo in 1914 as a unipersonal religious corporation to the United States administration of the Philippines. From the church, Llanthewy Road rises past houses of the same yellow brick, to a junction, Hand Post. Shops and the Hand Post Hotel stand around the busy crossroads. The Handpost Hotel was originally built in the early 1800s as a lodge. The lodge was used by post-men travelling from the Welsh valleys to Newport docks. Sometime between 1885 and 1911, Cemetery Road was renamed Bassaleg Road and the Handpost was rebuilt. During the early 1900s The Handpost was again rebuilt (almost as it is today). Bassaleg Road heads towards the city centre. Very large Victorian and Edwardian houses line the road, some in brown stone, others in red or yellow brick. These are the backs of the houses which face into Stow Park Crescent. Into Stow Park Circle where an ornate red brick pediment is dated 1885. There is modern infilling. Mansion House is the city Register Office.
From the top of Cae Perllan Road, there is an extensive view down across the railway good yards and main line to the west, fields and the sea with north Somerset across the mouth of the River Severn. Down Cae Perllan Road. The houses here are interwar. A track leads down into Stow Park past allotments where a Blackcap sings loudly. Sadly, many of the allotments are in a poor condition. The track comes to a footbridge over the newly electrified mainline. Up the line, it emerges from tunnels.
The track emerges onto Coldra Road, terraced housing, the end gable dated 1894. Up Llandaff Street and into Waterloo Road which runs beside Belle Vue Park. Into Friars Road where there is the delightful Burton Alms Houses, built in 1908 in brown stone, yellow trims and dark green woodwork. Past the bowling greens with an Art Deco pavilion. St Woolos Hospital stands on the hill. On the junction with Belle Vue Lane is the park Lodge House built in 1893-94, by T H Mawson (1861-1933), landscape architect, of Windermere. This lodge was for the use of the nursery foreman. The land for the park was given by Lord Tredegar in 1891. Opposite is the Royal Gwent Hospital with a large house, The Friars, on the entrance. The Friars is recorded in its listing as “a early to mid 18th century house, perhaps incorporating 18th century work, on site of ancient buildings. The site has long been held to be that of a medieval Friary, but there is dispute as to which order possessed the site. In 1547, the manor house which became known as “The Friars” became a private dwelling. From 1839 to 1888 the property was lived in by Octavius Morgan, brother of Lord Tredegar and respected antiquarian; during this period the house was rebuilt in a Tudor style and enlarged.
Friars Road comes to Stow Hill at a complex junction beside the cathedral. Most of the buildings look Victorian, one abandoned building, seemingly on the site of the tithe barn, is dated 1902. A glazed tile drinking fountain, dry of course, has the inscription, “To the town of Newport in the name of the British Women’s Temperance Association, Erected 1913, Presented by a Former President”. It was originally erected near entrance to Belle Vue Park and moved to this site in 1996.
Into the cathedral grounds. A plaque commemorates the 20 supporters of the Chartist movement who died on November 4th 1839 in an exchange of shots at the Westgate Hotel Newport, ten were buried in the churchyard in unmarked graves. Annoyingly, the cathedral is closed under Covid restrictions. Tradition states the church founded around the year 500 by Gwynllyw, Lord of Gwynllwg, (whose name has corrupted to Woolos). The present St Mary’s Chapel is said to be on the site of the original church, and retains some pre-Conquest masonry. Around 1080, a Norman nave of five bays was added. Around 1200, St Mary’s chapel was raised in height. In the 15th century aisles were added, following damage when Newport was razed by Owain Glyndŵr. The tower, known as the Jasper Tower, after Jasper Tudor, who was responsible for some of the work, was added at the same time. The church was restored 1818/19. In 1853, R G Thomas, architect, demolished the medieval porch and built a new one; and the chancel was rebuilt. At this time the church was known as St Gundleus’s. 1913, William Davies, architect, built vestry, and uncovered archaeological features. In 1960-62, the chancel was demolished and rebuilt, on a large scale by A D R Caroe, architect. In the early 1990s, a hall was added on the north side. The Diocese of Monmouth was created only in 1921; St Woolos achieved full cathedral status in 1949. The stump of a preaching cross remains on the northern side.
On down Stow Hill. The Deanery, formerly the Vicarage, is aa dead tree beside Kenwater in Pinsley Mead. The water level in the River Kenwater remains very low. large house of 1845. Vicarage Hill drops steeply down towards the river. The narrow Street joins Dewlands Park Road and on to the Victorian Clytha Square. Across the Cardiff Road into Clytha Crescent, down Mountjoy Street to Commercial Road in the district of Pillgwnlly. The shops look mainly rundown. Commercial Road Baptist church is now happy clappy and looks worn and eroded. There two more chapels a short distance own the road but they have been demolished. A closed down Kwik Save’s car park is a Covid Test site. The next section of the street is the Asian shopping area. The Black Horse pub is closed and wrecked. The road crosses a junction with Frederick Street where GWR railway lines came through. The Alexandra Inn has just been up for auction. A housing development of 2000 is already looking in poor condition with some properties boarded up.
Across a grassy square, sadly rubbish strewn, although a Herring Gull does not mind! Into Alexandra Road. Alexandra Court is a large stone and yellow brick block of apartments, built in 1891 as a hotel – The Ship – again in poor condition with a fine growth of Buddleia. St Stephen’s church was “gifted” between 1897 and 1899 and built from local stone at a cost of £7,000. The land and money for the building of the Church was given by Thomas Whitaker of Everthorpe Hall, who with his wife is buried at the east end of the graveyard. It is called the “spite church”. Because of the traditional rivalry between the two villages of Newport and Gilberdyke it was to be built between the villages so it did not belong to one or the other. A short distance on is a former late Victorian Baptist church, now offices, its hall a boxing club. The street approaches the docks. A ship’s chandlers business is noted on a faded board but long gone. Most of the shops are closed up. The Waterloo Hotel looks like it is still in business. It is a glorious building of 1904 with glazed yellow brick of the ground floor. Red brick with terracotta detailing second and third stories, which look abandoned, and a pierced brick and terracotta tower and cupola. Sadly, the impressive interior is not able to be seen at present. Along the Usk Way, another fine looking pub, weirdly called The West of England Tavern, built in the 1890s on the site of an older beer house, is closed down. Extremely annoyingly, the Transporter Bridge is closed – they might have mentioned this in the website...
Off along Mill Parade. Into an industrial estate of mainly motor related businesses. Most of the buildings are 20th century but one property has some fine old walls of rough unshaped stone. A former warehouse is the Warehouse Church, no other information. A short terrace of houses is called River View. These would have been beside the Tredegar Dry Dock which is now filled in. Across a piece of land where the GWR Newport Old Dock railway line ran and into Church Street and then St Michael Street. The Ship and Pilot pub looks like it is still in business. The Catholic church of St Michael, designed by W Garner, is a large building with an iron statue of St Michael with his foot on the dragon above the door. The church opened in 1887. It was paid for by public subscription and built by volunteer Irish immigrant labourers. It has some fine stained glass windows by Mayer of Munich installed in 1894. Sadly, these are covered by plastic sheeting to protect them against vandalism. Around to Commercial Road again and back towards the centre.
Mariners’ Green is a large triangular space in the middle of a major road junction. It contains a tribute to the men and women of Newport who lost their lives in active service during the Second World War. Newport Borough Council commissioned Sebastien Boyesen in 1989 and the seven metre high memorial was unveiled in April 1991. One side is occupied by the modern building of Gwent Police. Around the other success are tall Victorian buildings, now nearly all housing takeaways or beauty shops. One was The Prince of Wales hotel built in 1890. St Paul’s church was designed by T H Wyatt in the Early English style, in 1835. It was refurbished 1859 by G Clarke of Newport. Redecoration and new porches added by Habershon and Fawckner 1888. The church was consecrated in 1836, and was then the only church within the town of Newport. It cost £5000, raised by public subscription. It closed in 1991. Last time I passed here I commented that the street looked rundown. Even more shops have closed now – even a pawnbrokers. The film crew are at the entrance to the Kingsway Centre. The pedestrianised section is busy. Up the lower end of Stow Lane to a pub for a pint. Opposite, the Catholic church of St Mary is closed as all others are. It was built in 1838-40 by JJ Scholes in the Early English Gothic style. Beside the church is the Catholic Infant School, built around 1900 and on the other side the presbytery, built in 1905/6 by F R Bates, architect, of Newport. At the foot of the hill is a four storey building with rooms in the attic, in grey stone with yellow brick chimneys, sandstone window dressings with shields insert, all badly eroded. It is the Westgate Hotel built in 1887, by EA Lansdowne, architect but retains (in present entrance) the Regency porch of earlier hotel; there has been a hotel on or near the site since 1709.
Into Bridge Street where the mid Victorian Queen’s Hotel, recently a chain pub, now looking closed, stares imperiously down the street. Back to the station for a very crowded and certainly not socially distanced journey back home. Route
Sunday – Leominster – A grey overcast morning with a cool breeze. The street is quiet until reaching the lower part where Swifts sweep over screaming. Over the railway. A tall, upright plant with spikes of white crucifer flowers is by the line. I cannot identify it – maybe some sort of beet? On to Butts Bridge where the leaves of the trees rustle in the wind. The water level in the River Lugg is low. There is intermittent song from a Blackbird and Chiffchaff. Over the bridge to Easters Meadow. A Blackcap sings near Mosaic Bridge.
Back over the railway and down the alley beside the White Lion. There is the musky smell of Privet which is flowering profusely. A pair of Wood Pigeons clatter noisily out of a Hazel tree, one crashing through a 4-inch gap in the railings – how it got through I cannot see.
Into the Millennium Park. Some of the Hogweed by the dessert apple orchard is now over 8 feet high. Large swathes of Meadow Cranesbill have spread under the cider apple trees. A Rabbit bounces across the grass. A Greenfinch sings from the very top of a dead tree beside Kenwater in Pinsley Mead. The water level in the River Kenwater remains very low.
Tuesday – Bodenham Lake – Rain falls intermittently. It is not particularly warm just 14°C but is very humid. The House Sparrows around the car park are particularly noisy today. Grasses along the track are beginning to turn brown. The trees and bushes retain their green vibrancy. Roses and Elderflowers are coming to the end but Brambles are just beginning to flower profusely. Bright purple flowers appear on seven foot high Spear Thistles. A Hawthorn is beginning to sag over the track under the weight of of Traveller’s Joy. Spiked, green Teasel heads have appeared.
Canada Geese and Mallard occupy the islands. The flock of Greylags has grown to ten and are together on the far side of the lake. Tufted Duck, Coot and Cormorant are in the middle of the water. Through the meadow where are the orchids are still in flower but the Meadow Buttercups are beginning to fade.
Several Mandarin Duck, in eclipse, are scattered about the lake. A dozen Tufted Duck are together in the middle of the water with a Great Crested Grebe nearby. Over fifty Canada Geese at present. Wood Pigeons fly to and from the island. Full-grown but still brown Moorhen fledglings are on their own now. Seven Mute Swan cygnets drift into view. A Reed Warbler bursts into song in the reed bed below the hide. Another pair of Greylags appear on the scrape. Purple Loosestrife is coming into flower on the scrape. Just a single bee appears to be the only insect visiting the swathe of Ox-eye Daisies in front of the hive. The banks on the southwestern corner is covered in Meadowsweet.
Agrimony is coming into flower in the Alder plantation. The Blackthorn along the edge of the meadow has plenty of sloes on it although many appear to have mould. Selfheal is coming into flower, a rich purple. A good number of Yellow Rattle flower in the corner of the cider Orchard. A Meadow Brown is the only butterfly seen so far.