Ramblings

June 2021


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.

Sunday 6th June – 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 arou nd 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.

In the early afternoon, clouds begin to thicken which lowers the temperature a bit. Jackdaws fly about, jinking in the air. The resident Blackbird tales his customary spot in the Ash tree and sings continuously. Swifts glide high overhead, occasionally chasing in pairs. By later in the afternoon, the air has thickened and it feels like a thunderstorm may be on the way.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The morning is warming rapidly in the sunshine. Bird song is a fine chorus, Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blackcap Damselflyand 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 Orchidsappeared 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.

Sheep

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 Cross Dykefollowing 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.

Cuckoo

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 Source of River Temesecond 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. BeeHowever 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.

Orchids

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. GrassTwo 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 Follypast 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 CupolaLebanon. 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 Rhododendrona 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 Wyeand 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 Bridgeabutments 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.

Confluence

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 Ravennether 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.

Cone

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 Bridgedown 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 Barnowners 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