Monday – Leominster – The morning is cold and grey, close to freezing. A slight breeze adds a chill factor. The road is being dug up further down the street. A deep hole reveals over a foot of asphalt laying top of grey clay. Over the railway and then across the River Lugg which is a grey-green colour reflecting the greyness of the sky. A Dunnock and a Robin are in song and various other birds twitter and tweet. To Mosaic Bridge and under the A49. One of the willows whose lower trunks are often submerged in the river has fallen.
Along the path between Easter’s Wood, as the Millennium Wood is now called, and the river. A single Robin provides the only bird song. Then there is the distant yaffle of a Green Woodpecker. Now the explosive song of a Wren. Several Magpies are feeding on the horse paddocks. A tree has fallen across the river causing a large build up of debris and rubbish.
Onto the A44 and Eaton Bridge. The River Lugg flows quietly. Up Widgeon Meadow. A large tree has been felled on the hillside. From the top of Eaton Hill the town is hidden by the thick mist that is covering the area. The top of the hill is quiet. A few thrushes – Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds fly along the hedgerows and through the trees beside the solar farm.
Down the farm track towards Comfortd House. A pair of Long-tailed Tits seek food in the bare branches. On to the A49 then up to Mill Street. Cheaton Brooke is flowing clear, an unusual sight as is usually heavily coloured with the red soil of the area. On along Mill Street. A lorry of “Prestons of Potto”, from North Yorkshire, is delivering large RSJs to Dales. The town is very quiet.
Wednesday – Leominster – Along the alley way known as Miles Court. To the west is a car showroom and a garage, on the site of a large garden and tennis court which was built over in the 1960s. The sky is a uniform pewter grey. The air feels damp and cool. Through the old town wall and into Eaton Close, a small development of old peoples’ bungalows. Two trees with bean-like seed pods, False Acacias I think, have growths of mistletoe. A model aircraft of some size is being flown on Sydonia park. House Sparrows chatter in a large bush of Ivy. Past the still closed leisure centre although children are attending the Day nursery. The secondary school is quiet although the cars indicates that teachers are in, as are some pupils whose parents are key workers. At the top of the school car park is a strange house with a central bay and an awful plastic extension on the roof.
On down South Street where early 20th century terraces face large Victorian and Georgian houses. Into to Hereford Road where the situation switches, the houses on the east being older and the 20th century houses on the west. The large field down from Cockcroft Lane is being ploughed. It is strange that there is not a single bird following the plough.
Past the modern estate on St Botolph’s Green and across Southern Avenue. On past the cemetery and on to Broadward Hall. Daffodils are in bloom along the roadside. A Great Tit repeats its monotonous two-note song. A Dunnock sings from the top of the hedge. A field of heifers, Welsh Blacks probably, are grazing the meadow to the east of the road. More song comes from the surrounding trees – Blackbird, Song Thrush and Robin. House Sparrows are at the very top of a tree in the Hall garden.
Flooding has receded from the field leaving just a few pools. The water level in the River Arrow has dropped several feet. Along the public footpath beside the river for a short distance. A plantation has rows of trees all equally spaced. A croaking Pheasant takes off in a loud flapping of wings. A Song Thrush is singing and Long-tailed Tits and Great Tits move through the riverside bushes. The unofficial but seemingly well used footpath comes to a bridge over the Little Arrow, a tributary that joins the River Arrow a short distance away. Numerous Wood Pigeons fly over. I return to Broadward Bridge.
Back up Hereford Road. A score of Jackdaws sit in a tree in Broadward Hall. Into the Enterprise Park. It is unclear what this road is called (it turns out to be, according to the map, Owen Way). A Skylark singing over the fields to the south where the sky is darkening. At the pool opposite the police station, four Magpies seem to be “discussing” whose territory this is. Wood Pigeons watch on silently. A Wren ticks from the undergrowth. Fluffy grey Pussy Willow has emerged. Leaf buds are swelling on Hazel and Ash trees. Four Magpies, I know not whether they are the same or different ones, are chasing each other around the water treatment plant. A Chiffchaff, the first of the year, is calling from the same site.
Into Worcester Road. It starts to rain. Lesser Celandine are coming into flower on the verge. I buy seed potatoes at the country store – first earlies, Duke of York and second earlies, Nadine. The rain has become heavier as I return home.
Friday – Bromyard – Another grey cold morning with a temperature a few degrees above freezing. On the western side of Bromyard in a modern housing estate. A footpath skirts the northern edge of the estate beside an empty field. Through a gate and away from the estate around the edge of another empty pasture. To the east Bromyard is hidden in the valley of the River Frome the far side of which rises up to the Bromyard Downs. The path officially goes to the northern corner of the field for turning sharply back down to the west but it is clear from the marks on the ground most people cut off the corner.
Through a gate and down to Upper Hardwick Lane leading to houses on the edge of Hardwick Bank. The footpath continues on north-easterly along the edge of the bank which drops down to the River Frome. A Robin sings and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and a Magpie frequent the hedgerow. A Greenfinch calls from the gardens of the houses. The soil is thin here and in places the sandstone of the St Maughans formation shows through. On the far side of the river is the route of the GWR Worcester and Leominster railway line. Hardwick Mill (now apparently spelled “Hardwicke”) and mill race also lay below but there is no sign of either now. Hardwick Manor, an 18th century stone house at one time the home of the Hardwick family is on the hillside to the north. Anthony Hardwick purchased the freehold of Hardwick Hall in 1575. His descendant, John, fell into debt and in 1755 was forced to sell the hall, which was demolished, and the rest of the estate was sold to Thomas Griffiths of Stoke Lacy. The manor house was rebuilt on the site. In the opposite direction, at the top of the bank, is Dry Thistle Farm.
The track drops down to close to the river where Hardwick Mill Farm stood, although now there is little sign of it. The track starts to climb passing an old quarry. An Oak tree is surrounded by fallen branches but a number of shoots are reaching for the sky. One long branch lies horizontal before passing into the centre of and resting on a multi-trunked clump of Hazel. A footpath leading down to a bridge across the river appears to be closed and a sign directs up a muddy track to Lower Hardwick Lane which leads back towards Bromyard. Down the lane past 20th century housing. At the foot of the lane, on the junction of the Tenbury road is a house called Buttermilk Hall which looks like a former milking shed converted some years ago to a dwelling. However, the name is shown on Victorian maps so is more likely to be a barn and farmhouse combined. Across the road is a large industrial estate.
Back towards town. A Sparrowhawk flies over. Past a supermarket and the Conquest Theatre, ahead is the Bromyard Centre. An alleyway leads to Cruxwell Street, known as Corkeswalle Vicus in the late 13th century and recorded as Croxewalle Streate in 1575. At the eastern end is a junction of Rowberry Street and Church Lane. On the junction are the “Bromyard non Ecclesiastical Charities” almshouses erected by Phineas Jackson, Vicar in 1656 to provide for “Poor women of good character from the ancient township of Bromyard”. They were modernised in 1962 and the original seven houses were converted into four flats. Opposite is the Heritage Centre and the Public Hall, all closed of course. A small seating space contains a bronze of a sheep. A large house is the old vicarage converted into offices in 1967. To the north on Church Street are couple of terraces of late Victorian or Edwardian houses and modern housing.
Back to the junction is Cruxwell House, a large Georgian building which had a dairy range attached. On down Rowberry Street. A number of the dwellings are converted industrial or storage buildings. The Old Record House is timber framed open hall of circa 1600. The street comes to a junction with Church Street. On the corner is the Bible House built around 1685 with later additions and named after the Bibble stream which now runs under the building. It is thought that Bible House was part of a shambles that developed on the eastern side of the market after that date. On the other side of the junction is early 20th century Bromyard Post Office surprisingly still being used as such. Into the Market Square, a small area of shops with the 18th century Hop Pole hotel at the top currently the subject of planning disputes. The Market Square lays off of Broad Street where there is the extraordinary “Time Machine Museum of Science Fiction”, formally the Doctor Who Museum. Nearby is the old Post Office, operated from 1852 to 1910.
Up Broad Street where nearly every shop has been closed by the pandemic. Nearly every building is listed and most are 17th or 18th century, often with 16th century cores. Lloyds Bank is still in its building with a long, stone carved sign. The Falcon Hotel is a magnificent 17th century timber-framed building. Behind it, down Pump Street are the former hotel stables. On the opposite corner there is a fine pedimented entrance to a former HSBC Bank, which closed in 2013. Broad Street becomes High Street, which was known as Novus Vicus in the late 13th century and recorded as Newe Streate in 1575. High Street comes out onto Cruxwell Street. I turn westwards. There are several timber-framed houses along with Georgian and Victorian buildings. One large block is a former pub, The White Horse.
Cruxwell Street becomes Old Road. This passes through an area called The Knapp. St Joseph’s Catholic church is a hall and house built in 1956. An area of steep bank is being dug out to create space for 4 and 5-bedroom detached houses, pressed up against a wall some 30 feet high. Oppostite is Nodens, an 18th century cottage. Into York Road. Houses here are probably all early 20th century. One has a hint of the Arts and Crafts, combined with the Gothic, about it. Towards the top of the road are large houses with a plaques dated to 1921. One house has a model pig peering over the hedge. At the top of the road is Kempson Players recreation ground. Kempson Players was left to Bromyard Urban District Council by Lucy Kempson on the 23rd December 1946 and established a trust for the Town Council. Back into the 20th century housing estate in which I started. This area was formerly orchards, now reflected in the street names. Route with obvious glitch
Sunday – Leominster – After a largely sunny day yesterday and a clear night which has caused the temperatures to drop to freezing the sky is cloudy with mottled white and grey cloud. A Blackbird sings. Up onto the railway bridge. A Wren ticks below in the bramble thicket. Several Blackbirds call alarms. Easters and Lammas meadows are lightly frosted. The water level in River Lugg has fallen substantially again. A Great Tit calls from downstream.
Back over the bridge to the White Lion and into Pinsley Mill. Wood Pigeons sits silently in Silver Birches on the far side of the railway. A cherry tree is in blossom in Pinsley Road. The Snowdrops at the foot of the churchyard have faded. The water level in the River Kenwater has also fallen.
Into the churchyard. Flower buds are beginning to open on a straggly Cherry which is tangled through an old broken Elder. A Yew tree has numerous small yellow green flowers. A Robin and Blackbird singing in on an apple tree in the rectory garden whilst a Blue Tit chatters and flits around below them. A Starling chatters from a television aerial on the Forbury roof.
Monday – Leominster – The morning started brightly but clouds are now gathering. Schools are fully opened again but the town remains very quiet. This is not surprising as there is barely a single shop open. Down Broad Street and into Vicarage Street. There is no sign these days of the course of Pinsley Brook which ran along the street. The street continues as a grass path, once the course of the brook, which runs between in the gardens of the houses in Cranes Lane and the River Kenwater. A Dunnock is singing excitedly in a bramble thicket, flicking its wings and chasing a female.
The path is now high above the Kenwater. Modern housing developments stand on each side of the river. House Sparrows, Wood Pigeons and Robins are in the riverside trees. On the far side of the river, a series of ledges are being built in stone down to a platform along the river bank. The path bends and passes Kenelmgaer Bridge which crosses the river to the playing fields and Leominster football ground. The path continues westwards alongside the river.
A Pussy Willow has numerous green-black galls on its branches. A Wren explodes into song followed by a Great Tit’s monotonous call. Ransoms, Wild Garlic, are appearing on the river banks. Out onto a steeply sloping field. Redwings stand at the top of an old Black Poplar and more are in the hedgerow halfway up the field. The river passes over a weir, across the fields is Summergall. The path ends at the confluence of Pinsley Brook and the Kenwater. Another path heads up the hillside. It then continues westwards pass large Bramble thickets fronting Hazels and lichen coated Hawthorns. This path is unofficial but well used and now joins a public footpath which runs down from the housing estates on Green Lane.
Over a stile and into a field along the bottom of which runs Pinsley Brook. The path runs along with top of the field to a lane. The path joins a farm track. A large bull, strangely coloured red and orange, is in a field and is clearly not very happy about me staring at it. Cursneh Hill lays to the west. The track runs south through Wegnalls farm. Another bull, this one cream coloured, is beside the fence and stares at me. An old tractor driven by a man and dog turns into a yard beside a barn with more beef cattle grazing on hay. A six-wheel troop carrier stands decaying by the track. It is likely one of those sold in recent years at Brightwells.
Footpath crosses a field in front of the farmhouse. Past a dead tree still covered with dead ivy. The path exit onto another track beside the entrance to Ginhall Lane allotments and a large electricity substation. Up to Ginhall Lane. A dead mole lays by the track. Back towards the town. A Magpie flies through the trees, a stunning black, white and blue in the dull winter trees. It mutters quietly. Singing Robins and Dunnocks are in the hedges and trees all the way up the road.
Thursday – Home – A wild night with wind and rain courtesy of one of the first Atlantic depressions for well over a week. Up the garden after breakfast to find the hens happily scratching up a dug over vegetable bed. The wind has blown open the door to the run overnight. I have some greens and bread which I put out in the run and it is not difficult to herd them back. However, there are only four but then number five emerges from the hen house.
Over recent days I have dug the first potato trench and sown a row of peas. The first sowings of lettuces have germinated well and cabbages and purple-sprouting are both appearing but indoors the peppers have not shown at all. A second sowing of Zimbabwe Black chillies are put in the bathroom.
Off to the tip with bags on garden waste that our composters will not get hot enough to kill the weed seed or are too woody. The weather is now quieter and the sun puts in an appearance. However, dark clouds are moving in and a brief shower produces a rainbow. Jackdaws are putting in regular appearances in flocks of up to twenty individuals. At other times five or six pairs are in the Ash or Horse Chestnut trees.
Friday – Edvin Loach – The sun is warm when it emerges from the numerous clouds drifting north-east. Edvin Loach is a tiny village north of Bromyard. It is approached along a potholed lane. A track, possibly in better condition than the lane, arrives at a small car park beside the churches, plural as there are two churches here. The site is surrounded by green fields. To the north are the Clee Hills, the white dot of the air traffic control radar on the horizon. A Skylark sings high above the fields.
Edvin Loach was an exclave of Worcestershire in the upper division of Doddingtree hundred and is now is part of the modern civil parish of Edvin Loach and Saltmarshe, which was transferred to Herefordshire in 1893. The parish of Yedeven (the predecessor of both Edvin Loach and Edwyn Ralph) existed in late Anglo-Saxon times and that belonged to the minster church of Clifton-upon-Teme. The manor was held by Ulfac under Edward the Confessor. After the Conquest it was held by Osbern FitzRichard. It is thought a small Anglo-Saxon church stood here which was rebuilt soon after the Norman Conquest, perhaps by an early member of the Loges (hence Loach) family such as Herbert, the lead tenant of the manor. The church was originally dedicated to St Giles but changed to St Mary at some time. The entrance to the church is flanked by two Yews with a third set on the edge of the graveyard in a direct line with the door. The church was a simple nave, chancel and 16th century western tower built in grey sandstone with tufa corners, window ledges and door frames. There is extensive “Herring Bone” style of stonework, typical of early Norman. The east end was rebuilt in the 12th century. The church stands in the bailey of a motte and bailey castle.
The old church became increasingly dilapidated and was replaced in 1860 by the new church which stands a short distance away. This was built in 1858-60 at the expense of Edmund Higginson of Saltmarshe Castle, who employed George Gilbert Scott to design it in the Early English style. The church is in lockdown. Two good sized houses stand nearby, one, the Rectory, with splendid chimneys.
To the south east is Saltmarshe Castle, a static caravan site. Taylor’s map of 1786 marks a house called Salt Marsh, which was occupied by William Higginson (d. 1812) after he bought the estate in 1799. When Higginson died, his property passed to his great-nephew, Edmund Barneby (1802-71), and until he came of age was let to his uncle, the Revd Thomas Barneby. In 1825 Edmund received royal licence to take the name of Higginson in lieu of Barneby as his great-uncle had directed. It seems likely that he went on to build a new house in the Tudor Gothic style sometime between 1828 and 1834. It is thought the house was enlarged with a large west wing, two towers and the whole castellated in the 1830s by Edward Haycock, architect of Shrewsbury. The estate was sold by descendants of Edmund in 1952 and the house demolished the following year.
There are two farms on the lane running past Edvin Loach. To the south is Steeples, a 17th century building and to the north, Hope House Farm, with a 16th century farmhouse, partly rebuilt in brick in the 18th century.
Collington – A small settlement on the Bromyard to Tenbury road. The manor of Collington was split in the Domesday Book between the de Lacy family and the Canons of St Peter’s, Hereford. It was a small place even then with just nine households. The village is widely spread over the farmlands with about 70 residents now. Underhill is a large farm with a 17th century farmhouse, refaced in brick in the 18th century. A solid house stands opposite with a barn that lies perpendicular to the road with its gable end displaying a yellow AA road sign. Opposite is St Mary’s church. It was built in 1856 by a local builder, a Mr Perry, to the design of A E Perkins of Worcester with an Early English style bellcote on east gable of nave. There are three cast iron grave cross markers in the graveyard. Further up the road is the large late 17th century Parsonage.
Saturday – Home – The weather changes by the minute. Sunshine, clouds and wind. The first frogspawn has appeared in the pond. Daffodils are in full bloom now. Crocuses are opening. Bird song is becoming louder and more persistent.
Sunday – Leominster – At dawn an orange blush tints the eastern sky. A couple of hours later the sky is still mainly grey although the cloud is thin and high. A Blackbird sings, Wood Pigeons coo and a small group of Carrion Crows caw harshly as they pass over. Up onto the railway bridge. A rabbit bounces across the tracks and up the edge of the riverside woods. The water level in the River Lugg has changed little over the past week. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on a branch down beside the railway line. A screeching Blackbird races across the river and into the trees. Several Blue Tits and a silent Chiffchaff are also active in the trees.
Through Pinsley Mill. A Chiffchaff calls from the other side of the railway. Through the Millennium park. Another Blackbird feasts on ivy berries and another Chiffchaff is calling. Song Thrushes search the lawn between clumps of gloriously bright yellow daffodils in the garden on the far side of the River Kenwater. A Great Tit see-saws his song. A Robin searches the muddy path for worms. Likewise a Blackbird is in the leaf litter. Into the churchyard where a Grey Squirrel scampers across the grass. Chaffinches fly up into the trees. A lot of pruning has been undertaken and piles of Yew branches lay around the churchyard. Jackdaws chase noisily fighting over an entrance in the apex of the minster church. This sets off several Carrion Crows who all call noisily. The trees at the west end of the minster have bright orange circles on them showing where branches have been pruned off.
Along Church Street. The incumbent of the minster has retired and the rectory stands empty.
Monday – Leominster – A bright sunny day and quite mild although a gusting north-easterly wind lowers temperature. Into the Worcester Road. A cherry tree is in blossom at the bottom of Caswell Crescent. Up onto the old railway bridge. Two rabbits are chasing around the telecommunications equipment and then along the track. Another two chase out of the woodlands and back in again. I look down and imagine how the old tracks lay. A siding still approaches the industrial units, stopping at some buffers made of old rail. Two tracks led on into to the industrial unit. One held a travelling crane, the other continued on to where car repairs workshops stand now. Here were cattle pens to store the livestock that would have been taken by train to the London markets. At this end of the industrial buildings stood a goods shed. On the opposite side of the modern line is a muddy track which would have held the line from Stoke Prior. The bridge vibrates slightly as the Manchester bound train passes underneath.
Lesser Black-backed Gulls circle the Southern Avenue industrial estates. A Magpie is repairing an old nest in the track-side trees. The down-line signal clanks into the proceed position. A few minutes later the South Wales train passes out of the station and under the bridge. Back down to the Worcester Road. An Elder is not only in leaf, tiny flower buds have appeared.
Into Southern Avenue. Areas of grass are dotted with Daisies, all facing south. The first Dandelions are appearing. Along to the Hereford Road and back into town.
Tuesday – Home – Another day of sunshine and again the temperature is held down by a cool breeze. A tray of leek seeds are sown and put in the greenhouse. A drill of parsnip seeds goes on and another two potato trenches are dug. Buds have appeared on the Conference Pear. Leaflets are on the crab apple. The garlic sown just over a week ago are already showing.
Comma and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies feed on primroses near the fruit cage. Rhubarb in the forcing pot is pushing against the lid, it needs cropping soon. Purple-sprouting broccoli is prolific now. The lettuce seedlings in the greenhouse will need transplanting soon. Broad beans have germinated, the mice did not get as many as I feared. It will be a couple of weeks probably before they need planting out but that will mean the leeks will have to be cleared. This crop has not done well, the leeks are all rather thin.
Thursday – Leominster – High, thin cloud filters the sunshine so the temperature is pretty average. Over the railway bridge. Blackbird, Robins and Dunnocks are all singing in the riverside trees. The water level in the River Lugg has dropped marginally. A Grey Wagtail bobs on the fencing along the edge of Lammas meadow darting out now and again to grab an insect.
Along Easters Meadow. Leaf buds are swelling on the Black Poplars. A Chiffchaff calls. Up past Brightwells’ compound which is full of vehicles. The river flows quickly but quietly here. On the opposite bank is an old fence compassing a wilderness of trees. To the south of this stood the engine shed and turntable of Leominster station. Blackthorn is in flower. An old Citroen is being unloaded in the yard.
Friday – Home – The sky is dull and there is a mist of rain in the air. I intend to go out somewhere but it does not happen. The lockdown is still in force which means it is against the law to go into Wales without a good reason and a decent walk unfortunately does not count. There are a number of villages I want to explore in the general direction of Bishops Castle but the churches will be closed and anyway, it is inappropriate to go wandering around communities at present. So I just stay at home.
Another potato trench is dug and I attempt to flatten out the hillocks and clods in the top bed which was made something of a mess when the new raised bed boards were put in place. Ideally, it would have been a good idea to put the potatoes here but that would break the rotation. This bed is supposed to be for salad and greens this year. Tomato seeds are sown in plugs. I have labelled them every year and always lose the labels at some stage of planting on, so I simply do not bother except for the variety “Tumbler” which will go into the hanging baskets. I realise I have not got any bush varieties but can probably manage with what I have got. The usual outdoor tomato bed is no longer available as it now contains asparagus.
The local Robin is singing his heart out these days. A Great Tit is intermittent but does go on at length early morning and in the evening. The Song Thrush seems to have fallen silent. Blackbirds are still chasing around the garden although the females are more interested in throwing the leaf litter about to find food underneath. Large Bumble Bees buzz between clumps of Primroses.
The weather remains changeable with periods of weak sunshine followed by darkening skies as heavy clouds pass, but it remains dry.
Saturday – Home – The Spring Equinox! The astronomical beginning of spring and from today, the days will be longer than the nights. The rough vegetable bed gets another thorough raking and the loose grass and Lesser Celandines are removed although other green items get buried. To greet spring someone has a barbecue nearby. Some forced rhubarb is pulled. It has beautiful coral pink stems and pale emerald leaves. And plenty of slugs which go into the chicken run. The temperature is mild but the skies their usual grey.
Sunday – Leominster – A mild morning with a sky of broken cloud. Robins and Blackbirds are singing, Wood Pigeons coo. A Jackdaw flies out of a cherry tree with a twig in its beak. On to the railway bridge. A Robin alights on the power cable strung high across the track and bursts into song. A Chiffchaff calls from track-side trees. A Wren sings loudly from the undergrowth below. Onto Butts Bridge. The River Lugg flows flows steadily. Fat red catkins are bursting out on a branch from a Black Poplar. A pair of Mallard appear from under the bridge and fly off downstream with a quack. A plank passes downstream, its rapid motion giving a good idea of the speed of current.
Back round to the Millennium Park. Blackthorn is blossom in the hedgerow. The ground under the shrubbery is spotted yellow with Lesser Celandines. The Kenwater is also flowing steadily. Chiffchaffs call from downstream on the far side of the railway bridge and upstream. Along the inside eastern edge of the churchyard. A rabbit dives into a burrow. The Minster bells toll 9 o’clock followed by the call to prayer. Some Wild Garlic is gathered for the hens. The Priory church is open again.
Into Church Street. A large flock of feral pigeons flies overhead with a loud whirr of wings.
Home – I went out early and got some horse manure from Summergalls on the Old Ludlow Road. A bag is tipped into the compost bins. A large container of fish, blood and bone was put in the summerhouse and forgotten. I find it this morning and liberally scatter it over the vegetable beds. Another potato trench is dug.
In the afternoon, Asteroid 2001 FO32, estimated to be about 1 km in diameter, passed the Earth at a distance of 2 million km away, or more than 5 times the distance from Earth to the moon. It is of interest because it is one of the fastest space rocks known to fly by Earth.
Monday – Widgeon Hill – The morning began in bright sunshine and blue skies but now clouds are building. They had been a light frost overnight. Down to the railway bridge and over Butts Bridge. River Lugg flows quietly whilst a Blackbird beside it is far noisier with its constant alarm call. The resident Wren bursts into song. The noise from the bypass is also loud and constant.
Northwards along Easters Meadow. Chiffchaffs call in the riverside trees. On the far side of the confluence of the Kenwater and Lugg is the old area of parkland. Two cherry trees are covered in pink blossom. At the confluence a long spit of gravel is exposed again. Despite being submerged for long periods when the river levels are high, grasses are still growing on it. The Minster 9 o’clock time and Compline bells can be heard.
Out onto to Mill Street. Cheaton Brook is low. Clouds now cover the sky. Pink cherry and white Blackthorn blossom is dotted across the paddocks in front of the two large houses, Eaton Hill and Ridgeway (previously called North Eaton). A tall Wellingtonia stands isolated in the middle of the paddock. More large conifers are at the foot of Eaton Hill. To the north, the Manchester bound train crosses Ridgemoor. Through the woodland by Hay Lane. The ground is covered by the heart-shaped leaves of Lesser Celandine but flowers are few and far between.
Along the field that runs parallel with the A49. A Song Thrush sings in the roadside trees. It would seem the winter thrushes have all returned north now. Cogwell Brook runs beside the field. Over the brook and across a field spotted with mole hills. The route now runs along beside Cheaton Brook again. The brook meanders sharply this way and that. Through a gate which fortunately has the chain removed as climbing the stile over it is a considerable effort these days. A concrete bridge crosses Whittey Brook. The path climbs a gentle slope to the Stockton Cross-Stretford road at Docklow Slade. A pair of Mallard flies over. The gate out onto the road has a chain but has a new carabiner on it which again means I can avoid the stile.
Up Widgeon Hill. There is plenty of fresh growth in the roadside verge, Stinging Nettles, Wild Arum, Garlic Mustard, Dandelions, Red Dead-nettles, Dock, umbellifers and patches of white Violets. A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls from trees beside a large cider orchard. Towards the top of the hill the hedgerow is full of Cleavers, known by many names such as Stickyweed and Goosegrass. Leaves are emerging on the Hawthorns. On a broad section of the verge a tiny clump of Common Speedwell is flowering.
The top of the hill is closed to traffic seemingly so new drainage pipes can be installed. Horned sheep, possibly Wiltshires, with large lambs are in a pasture. Through Patty’s Cross. A Grey Squirrel chunters from a conifer. Flowering Blackthorn is scattered all around. The road descends past Colaba. White Violets are plentiful on the banks. I wonder why all the Violets are white around here?
The rookery at the Pudleston crossroads is noisy with Rooks flying around everywhere. Off down Tickbridge Lane to the west. The bank running down to Holly Brook is covered in Primroses. Over Stretford Brook at Tick Bridge. A cock Ring-necked Pheasant stalks across the meadow. Blue Tits squeak in the trees. Wood Pigeons fly up from a patch of unharvested sunflowers. Nearby shattered body parts and a broken hedge indicates where a car has failed to negotiate the gentle bend. Across the fields a clump of trees has the delicate pale yellow green colour of pollen-covered Pussy Willow.
The lane ends at junction on the A44. Down the hill towards Eaton Bridge. A Skylark is singing high over the fields. It looks like a track once led up onto Eaton Hill but is now blocked by undergrowth, (although this is not bourne out by the old maps). On down the hill on a wide verge. The bank above is covered by flowering Gorse. Down the busy road and over a stile into Widgeon Meadow. On to Eaton Bridge. As I peer over the bridge at the River Lugg, a Wren expresses its displeasure loudly. A Green Woodpecker yaffles downstream.
Down the old section of the Worcester road. The 4x4 has been on bricks here has finally been removed along with all the rubbish associated with it. Back into town.
Friday – Hoarwithy-Sellack – A wet and windy morning. The River Wye flows steadily under Hoarwithy Bridge. A pair of Mute Swans is near the other bank downstream. A Moorhen flies off the bank. A Green Woodpecker calls somewhere upstream. A group of pines stand on the King’s Capel side of the bridge. A noisy rookery is in their canopy. A pair of Rooks tumble down, fighting. A well used path heads south. It is raised above the flood plain. St Catherine’s church campanile stand across the river. Chiffchaffs call.
The footpath joins a lane near Lower Ruxton. A Skylark sings high over the fields. Past a large early 20th century house and the private drive to Pennoxstone Court. Pennoxstone Court is a house of the second half of the 19th century incorporating parts of a house of 1714. It has started to rain. The lane drop down to a dip where there is a large pond. The lane rises again. A house, Fish Pool Cottages, are in a dip below field of poly-tunnels. There are more poly-tunnels on the other side of the lane which joins the other end of the private drive beside the modern rectory.
The lane heads east. It was called Capule Street and was Roman, leading to a ford across the Wye to Red Rail. Past Collier’s Forge. Capel Tump stands opposite St John Baptist church. On along to the crossroads. Many of the houses here are modern. The Sunday and Day School, built by subscriptions in 1840, stands on the junction. A lane runs southwards past by modern housing estate. A flock of Starlings flies over. A field is laid out in neat ridged rows of red soil ready for potatoes. Castle Cottage is late 17th century. Shieldbrook is a large rambling house with a sculpture garden.
The lane turns sharply at Selleck Boat. A footpath leads to a foot bridge over the Wye. A large Ash tree with two major trunks has split and one trunk has been sawn across. Someone has marked some rings with the dates they were formed, starting around the time is WWI. A very confiding Robin comes to see what I am doing. The bridge was made by Louis Harper A.M.I.C.E of Aberdeen. It wobbles and bounces disconcertingly as one crosses. As the name suggests there was a ferry crossing here replaced by the foot bridge in 1895. Its construction was initiated by the Revd Ley who was vicar of both parishes and set up a subscription fund. Donations came in from landowners and tradesmen who desired to see a more convenient crossing. The “outlay incurred in building the Sellack Footbridge over the Wye” totalled £989 12 4d.
A footpath crosses a field then over a dried-up stream beside which are several ancient Oaks. Across another field to Sellack church. Beside the graveyard is another field with large old willows in it. Sheep and young lambs rest quietly.
The church of St Tysilio is a unique dedication in England. Prince Tysilio (or Suluc, which gives Sellack its name) was the second son of Brochfael Ysgythrog (of the Tusks). He probably started his career in Trallwng Llywelyn (Welshpool) and afterwards took up residence in Meifod where he was associated with Gwyddvarch and St Beuno. Because of trouble with his family, Tysilio set up his base at a hermitage on Ynys Tysilio (Church Island) in the Menai Straits and became a great evangeliser on Ynys Mon (Anglesey). After the death of Tysilio’s brother, his sister-in-law, Queen Gwenwynwyn, desired to marry Tysilio and place him on the throne of Powys. Objecting to both proposals, Tysilio refused and found his monastery persecuted by the state. He resolved to leave for Brittany with a handful of followers. Tysilio travelled through Dyfed and across the Channel to Saint-Suliac where he established a second monastery. Tysilio died and was buried at the Abbey of Saint Suliac in 640. Seven churches are known to be dedicated to him, the most famous, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, although the name is a Victorian concoction.
The present building is 12th century with 13th and 14th century additions. Victorian work, described as “over-zealous and with more money than sense” has made it a confusing building. Seeing it is also difficult as much of the building is taped off because of the pandemic. There is a record of a church here in the 7th century, referred to by a grant by Nud, Bishop of Llandaff to Tysilio. Bishop Herwald ordained Iacob ap Amhyr as priest of Llan Sulac around the time of the Conquest. The east window has glass from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries put together by Rowland Scudamore in 1630. There is a fine Jacobean pulpit with its “tester” or sounding board. Above it is an unusual dormer window. The roof is vaulted. The organ dates from 1890 and was moved to the minstrel gallery about 50 years ago. The walls have some ornate monuments but it is difficult to appreciate these as one cannot get near them. A large marble monument to on west wall is to Thomas Symonds and his wife, Penelope, died 1760 and 1771, by Thomas Symonds of Hereford. Outside is a late 19th century cross on a 14th or 15th century base. A good number of decorated tombs are in the churchyard including a fine chest tomb for William Robinson, who died in 1778. The spire is tall. The tradition of distributing Pax Cakes on Palm Sunday is still carried on here.
Several houses stand near the church. A track climbs away from the church to the west. A bank is decorated with Primroses, Forget-me-nots and Lesser Celandines. A Pied Wagtail searches the chewed up soil of a horse paddock. The lane passes a small development of modern houses then a large stone built house. A large paddock houses sheep and their lambs. Caradoc Court is a substantial country house. The Caradoc Manor was held by the de la Mare family from at least 1281 until 1440s when it was acquired by the Abrahalls. It appears to have been sold a decade later to Richard Mynors but it was John Abrahall who sold the estate to Rowland Scudamore in 1594. He rebuilt the house in around 1620. When John Scudamore of Cradock died in 1714 the estate passed to his elder brother the third Viscount, who died two years later leaving Cradock to his wife’s father Lord Digby, but John Scudamore’s wife was allowed to remain at Cradock after her second marriage to William Dew. The Dews leased the Caradoc estate of 322 acres from the Digbys until 1863 when the house with its courtyard enclosed by lofty stone walls was offered for sale. Craddock then contained a hall, dining room, parlour, kitchen cellars, six bedrooms, a drawing room, attics and the farm premises. It was purchased by Elisha Caddick of Leadon Court, who dramatically altered the mansion. The property has been in the hands of race horse trainers since. The building was severely damaged by fire in 1986 but has been restored. There are extensive greenhouses in an ornate garden. Peacocks strut around the property.
On up the lane. Chaffinches are in the hedges. Caradoc Farm houses racing stables. The farmhouse is a large stone mid 19th century building. I purchase a jar of local honey. Three Border Collies are in cages, which I must admit I do not like! On along the lane. A mist has built up over the Wye river valley. The rain returns. Northwards along the Hoarwithy road. It descends past Riggs Wood. Lots of patches of daffodils in these woods look wild, but are almost certainly not. The road runs along the edge of the flood plain of the river. An old quarry is set into the hillside. A stone wall runs along the side of the road it is covered in moss and grass and clearly quite some age. Above, large thick layers of Brownstone Formation rock of the early Devonian is exposed.
Into Hoarwithy. Red Rail farmhouse is fine black and white timber framed house. Red Rail House is a mixture of stone and timber framing. Red Rail is a name which may be derived from the Welsh “ford of the street”, a reference to Capule Street. The river at Red Rail flows along a deep and narrow stretch making it a difficult crossing for man and beast, but it was in use up to the mid 19th century. As several limestone slabs have been found in the river, it has been understood that a causeway or possibly a bridge once existed here. Smaller terraced properties up under steep hillside. The river is now a few feet from the road down a steep bank. Another quarry is cut into the hillside. Nearby is a house dated 1875 which would seem to be typical date for the houses along here. However another terrace has a plaque stating this was rebuilt in 1817. Many of the occupants would have been involved in salmon fishing or working in the mills which lay up the small valleys. Over a stream flowing down to the Wye and into the centre of the village. Aspen House is a fine stone Georgian building. Opposite is a glorious yellow-green Weeping Willow beside Wriggles Brook. Over the road is the New Harp pub, still under lockdown. A little further on is the old Congregational Chapel, later a Plymouth Brethren chapel and now a private house.
Scaffolding is up around the chimney is the large former vicarage which stands in front of the church of St Catherine. Along the lane to the bridge over the river. Route
Sunday – Leominster – The start of British Summer Time means it is barely light when I leave the bed. It was a stormy night. This morning the wind is dropping but it remains wet. Over the railway to the River Lugg. Despite the inclement weather a Blackcap, Great Tit and several Chiffchaffs are in fine voice. The water level in the Lugg continues to fall and it is clear enough to see the river bed.
Back over the railway. Pallets are being unloaded at the former Countrywide store which has been empty for several years. Into the Millennium Park. A single Chiffchaff is the only bird singing; the rest are muttering or sending out alarm calls. The bell ringers must be back at the Minster as peals ring out. The town is almost entirely deserted.
Home – Germination of cabbage, purple-sprouting and lettuce is going well in the greenhouse. The pots of broad bean seedlings are put into the cold frame to harden off. The forcing pot is removed from one patch of rhubarb and placed over another. The forced patch provides a large crop of delicately pink stalks.
Monday – Leominster – Great pillows of dark grey cloud with brilliant white edges have drifted eastwards leaving blue sky overhead. However more clouds are moving in from the west. In sheltered spots the temperature is 12°C but a brisk wind makes it feel much cooler. Up onto the railway bridge. The old rails replaced earlier in the year still lay rusting by the new track. I wonder how long they will remain here? Little bird song can be heard over the raw of wind through the riverside trees. The South Wales bound train pulls in to the station. The train looks like it has been newly repainted.
Over the River Lugg. The newly resident Blackcap is singing in the bushes on the far side. White drifts of Blackthorn blossom run through the hedge by the bypass. Into Easters wood. The tops of the tall, spindly trees clatter together in the wind. Dens have been constructed out of fallen branches. The songs of Wren, Robin and Chiffchaff ring out loudly. Through the wood to the old bridge over the dried up stream. I do a circuit of the upper part of the wood. A fence stops access to Eaton Hill. The path sweeps round and back down to the old bridge and then on to the riverside track.
The pink heads of Butterbur are coming into flower. A Jackdaw expresses its displeasure at a Common Buzzard in the branches of a tree in the paddocks. The Common Buzzard decides it has been insulted enough and lifts off into the wind effortlessly. The river surface is blocked by fallen tree and rubbish builds up. It will need a considerable downpour of rain to raise the level of the river to shift this lot. A Dunnock sings on the far bank Brambles. Great Tits move through the trees. Cloud now covers much of the sky.
The River Lugg flows quietly under Eaton Bridge. Debris is building up along its sides. A Robin sings in a nearby tree competing with the roar of passing cars and lorries. Onto the old Worcester Road. A Goldfinch sings nearby. Another Chiffchaff calls this one competing with the noise of the A49. All around is the snowy blossom of Blackthorn. Another South Wales bound train passes under the old road bridge, this one still in old Arriva livery.
Along Worcester Road and through the Millennium Orchard. Along eastern side of the churchyard. A Nuthatch is on Scarlett family tomb poking at the moss on the lid.
Tuesday – Home – Dawn arrives cloaked in mist. It takes much of the morning for it to burn off, then the sun soon warms up everything. A Grey Squirrel and several Wood Pigeons are raiding the feeders. The Wood Pigeons are also interested in more procreative activities. The same can probably be said for the Jackdaws that are creating a considerable noise in the great Horse Chestnut with much arguments and chasing to and fro. By mid afternoon the Great Tit that has been calling since dawn has quietened but a Robin still continues to stake his territory. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies chase over the vegetable beds and a Peacock butterfly suns itself. The first Bluebells have emerged.
The potatoes are planted out, eight rows of five seed potatoes in each. I try to remove the Duckweed from the pond. There is also a great deal of rotting material in it too despite the efforts to stop leaves falling in last autumn. I suspect the water is badly deoxygenated and there is little life in it.
Kay has created a glorious display of daffodils on the patio. Each container is different – yellow and orange (OK, there are two lots of these beauties), pure white, a delicate little yellow variety and a beautiful pale creamy yellow. It seems sad they will only be here for a few weeks at most, but that is the way of flowers.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Despite a fair amount of cloud the sun is shining and it is warm some 14°C. The air around the car parking filled with bird sound – twittering House Sparrows, a singing Dunnock, a ticking Robin, the persistent call of a Chiffchaff, several Wood Pigeons calling “My Toe Bleeds Taffy”, the repeated phrases of a Song Thrush, the distant yaffle of a Green Woodpecker and the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It is the first time I have been here this year. Many trees are sprouting bright green whilst others such as the row of Lombardy Poplars stand leafless and grey. The Blackthorn along the track is only just coming into blossom.
The water level in the lake has dropped considerably since I was last here, exposing large areas of the newly created islands. Over thirty Tufted Duck are on the water, the most I have seen here for several years. A few Mallard, Coot and Canada Geese are present. A pair of Greylags glide across water, almost certainly feral. Two Oystercatchers are on the boating lake landing stage; they bred here last year and have been observed mating recently.
Into the meadow. A Wren is on a bare Elder branch pouring forth a furious, staccato trill, its tail flicking to and fro. It may be alarmed at me or possibly a Common Buzzard which flies off of a tree above. The Goat Willows that the end of the meadow are the glorious pale yellow of pollen loaded pussy willow. The two-tone song of a Great Tit rings out from it.
The hide door still locked. Peeking through the fence reveals a cock Ring-necked Pheasant on the bank. Canada Geese are noisy on the island. More are in dispute on the far bank. A pair of Mute Swans are at western end of the lake.
Back through the orchards. There is little sign of buds in the apple trees. The new pond is shallow, grey and murky. A Comma butterfly feeds on Lesser Celandines. A Greenfinch wheezes in the car park.
Home – The tomato seedlings are put in the greenhouse. They will come in at night as the temperature drops too low. An old wooden trough on the main patio has rotted beyond hope. Kay empties out the soil and I easily break it up to take to the tip. However, by mid-afternoon, the thermometer outside the backdoor reads 21°C, well above the average for the time of year. The garden furniture is extracted from its winter storage in the summerhouse and set out in the garden. A Wren is singing by a large Ivy mass over the garden wall. It then disappears into the interior of the Ivy. Wood Pigeons hoover up spilled seed, when they are not waddling after one another in hope of nooky! A Coal Tits visits the peanuts, first I have seen for a while. Jackdaws are inspecting our chimneys, which is a bit of a worry as we would rather not repeat the episode of a few years back when one fell down to land on top of the blocked off flue above the cooker. It was impossible to get to it and its demise was very upsetting. Clouds start to build in the latter part of the afternoon.