Friday – Leominster –Overnight the temperature dropped to a few degrees above freezing. Earlier in the week there was a light grass frost. This morning the sky is covered with scattered cloud and it remains cool. My cold, which inevitably became a bad chest infection, has left me tired and weak, so progress is slow. Up to the end of the street where Dutton House stands with its strange grotesque stone heads on the side of the windows. The house is a 19th century rebuilding of a 16th century building. Along South Street. Starlings and Jackdaws are in the trees.
On past Broadward Hall and Lodge. A Coal Tit squeaks in a tree. Beyond the lodge, cock Ring-necked Pheasants strut around an open field. Blackbirds mutter. The water level in the River Arrow is fairly low as it flows under Broadward Bridge. Overhead the cloud is thickening. A herd of black heifers are in the field opposite. Two Common Buzzards are at the top of a Hawthorn, they fly off in different directions.
Back at Broadward Hall, Chaffinches and Blue Tits chase around the treetops and a Robin sings. Large crops of sloes and haws remain on the bushes. Into the Enterprise Park. Steel is being moved around the Frank Dale site. A large building is being constructed on an empty plot. It appears that the old ponds have been filled and levelled with this building on top of them. The Beefy Boys mobile kitchen has arrived at Swan Brewery, but there is little chance of us coming back down for a burger and pint – we are simply not up to it. The road swings north. To the east is the bypass and railway line. According to older OS maps, the Town Ditch ran alongside the line. It would appear from the maps, a watercourse ran from where the town wall, which ran along the edge of what is now Sydonia Park, turned north, the ditch turned south, running taking water down to the Leominster Waterworks Pumping Station in Castlefields before heading south, where a watercourse still exists, then east to where the railway line now runs, and south again to join the River Arrow.
Sunday – Leominster – The morning is milder than of late, thin grey clouds drift across the sky. A few House Sparrows squeak and chirp. Over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The River Lugg is flowing steadily, its level similar to last week. A Dipper is seeking insects in the leaf litter on the edge of the water. A watery sun pierces the cloud. A Grey Wagtail flies upstream. The Black Poplars have lost nearly all their leaves but the Ash still retains many.
Around to the Millennium Orchard. A lot of Ladies Fingers apples have yet to fall but the Genet Moyle and Dabinett have mostly fallen now. A Rowan has a heavy crop of pale, grey-pink berries. The River Kenwater is flowing at a fair pace. There is a clattering above my head as I watched the river, a Grey Squirrel is clambering through the young Ash trees. One of the dead trees beside the river has fallen onto Pinsley Mead. A good number, probably not far short of a hundred, of Redwings, the first I have seen this autumn, are flying around the churchyard. A pair of Pied Wagtails fly past. There is also a small, very mobile and elusive flock of Siskin high in the trees. The minster bills toll the hour followed by the Compline bells.
Home – I sow some garlic, rather late but they may be alright. Out come the tomato, cucumber and basil plants from the greenhouse. A few spare Cavolo Nero and Pak Choi seedlings are planted out, replacing those eaten by slugs despite the collars around the plants. The last of the Herefordshire Russet apples are gathered in. The damage by birds has been extensive this year. I also take in some Bramley apples. The two barrels of cider are moved from the boiler store to the garage – hopefully to clear soon!
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Fine drizzle falls on a grey morning. Mist hides Dinmore Woods. It is mild. A small skein of Canada Geese fly over calling loudly. A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls briefly from lakeside trees and a Blue Tit squeaks in the tall Lombardy Poplars. Field Maples have turned bright yellow. Old Man’s Beard hangs dank and grey. A Grey Heron stands alone on the islands. Mallard swirl around in the water chasing or washing.
A single Redwing is at the top of the tallest tree in the hedgerow watching as a sentinel, although there appears to be no others present. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies into the trees by the lake and starts working its way up the trunk. A small flock of black-faced sheep shelter under the hedge at the top of the meadow.
There appears to be very little on the water of the lake. The scrape is empty, there appears to be no Cormorants either on the water or in the trees. A few Canada Geese fly over. Evening Primrose flowers on an island in front of the new hide. About thirty five Mandarin Duck are on mud banks at the western end. The mist makes it hard to see them clearly. A pair of Mute Swans feed nearby and a Great Crested Grebe dives. The drizzle is falling constantly now.
Back to the meadow. A small flock of Siskin feed in the tree tops. Lots of cider apples are rotting in the orchard. A Mistle Thrush flies off, calling noisily. There are few apples left in the dessert apple orchard. The farmer is rounding up his sheep with a dog that is not going to win “One Man and His Dog” any time soon! In the village, the stone wall of the Pigeon House has almost finished being rebuilt – it has taken months.
Saturday – A dull, grey morning but the temperature is still mild. I finally get around to digging out the chicken run. The sticky top surface is removed. It always surprises me how many stones manage to rise into this thin layer. There are a large number of worms in the sludge – they quickly slip back down their holes although some are too slow and provide a tasty treat for the hens. A bale of straw and wood chippings are then spread over, making the surface dry and fresh for a while until winter weather and the hens turn it into more compost.
Sunday – Leominster – A much cooler morning although the temperature is above freezing. The sky is almost cloudless. A thick mist lays above the river. Jackdaws chatter on the rooftops. Gulls fly south. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen somewhat. A Mistle Thrush rasps as it flies off. A Dipper disappears into the undergrowth overhanging the riverbank. It emerges and flies to the middle of the river, plunging into the current. A moment later it surfaces and flies back to the riverbank. A short time later it flies off downstream zigzagging from one side to the other. Wrens sing in the Brambles between the river and railway. A Great Tit searches an Ash sapling for food. Blackbirds, Blue Tits and Song Thrushes fly between trackside trees. The sun is a large glowing expanse in the mist.
A loose flock of 40 plus Redwings fly east across the valley. Through the churchyard and unto the Grange where preparations are being undertaken for the Remembrance Sunday service.
Home – The rest of the dried beans are picked, a mixture of Polish climbing, borlotti and runner beans. A few runner beans are left. The empty bean vines are removed, cut off at the base to leave the nitrogen rich nodules attached to the roots in the soil. The Blackberry in the bottom corner of the garden is cut back somewhat – it will need more pruning over the winter. The willow cuttings used as bean poles are stored here. A Jackdaw chases a Mistle Thrush away for some reason. Dunnocks chase through the trees. House Sparrows chatter in the large laurel by the shed. By early afternoon the sun is shining brightly.
Monday – Leominster – A short stroll on a grey morning. My knee is still giving me pain, so I have to take it easy. There is a meeting with the Council on Wednesday to consider reviving the “Walkers Are Welcome” group. The main thoughts I have are about the poor state of footpaths locally, so I thought I would check a few routes. Along the Old Ludlow Road to a footpath that was designated an alternative route for the Herefordshire Trail a couple of years ago. Then it was impassible, and still is. Next, along the lane towards Summergalls. The OS map shows two footpaths which in theory cross the fields to join the track leading to Croward’s Mill. However, these paths have been cut by the River Lugg which was rerouted along here in the 1960s. Thus nearly 60 years on nothing has been done to reroute the paths or even correct the map. The last time I was here, the alternative route, not a designated footpath, had a locked gate across it. Today the gate is closed but the chain hangs loose.
Some brown fungi and an auto-digesting Inkcap are beside the lane. A Raven flies over calling.
Home – I dig out half a dozen beetroot. They are the largest I have ever grown. I was worried they would be woody, but they have cooked well and I now will peel, slice and pickle them.
Friday – Ludlow – Bright sunshine warms my back as I head into Whitcliffe Woods. However there are dark clouds to the north and west. A Robin sings and there is the gentle pitter-patter of falling leaves. The path drop steeply to the rushing River Teme as it pours over the long weir of Lower Broad Street mill. Care is needed descending the wet steps cut into the thick layers of Silurian limestone. A Dipper flies downstream. The bloated corpse of a deer lies in the shallows above the weir. Carrion Crows bark in the woods above. The path is called the Bread Walk. It was restored in 1886 and again in 2008. It was created in 1850 and was known as the Bread Walk because the workers were paid in bread, apparently to stop them squandering their wages in the pubs on the way home.
Above the Weir the river is flowing very slowly. A female Goosander dives. From the common above water drips down saturated rock covered in mosses and water loving plants. Mallard swim under Dinham Bridge. The walls of Ludlow Castle dominate the hill above the bridge. Another long weir is across the river above the bridge. Past Dinham Mill, formerly Castle Mill which had two wheels in the 14th century for grinding flour. Opposite is the miller’s house. A track climbs the castle mound.
The track comes to the marketplace. Through the market and into Broad Street. This is a magnificent street of mediaeval and Georgian buildings. Halfway down is a large house once the Talbot Tavern owned by the earls of Shrewsbury. Through the Broad Gate, the only survivor of Ludlow’s seven mediaeval gateways. The 13th century drum towers still survive as part of the large house stands above the gate, once the town jail. On the other side is the Wheatsheaf Inn of 1753. This is the only survivor of nine pubs in Lower Broad Street. At the foot of the road is the River Teme. Some surprisingly boring modern houses have been built on the site of the Fulling Mill, originally built by the Lacys, the lords of the castle, was later acquired by Peter Undergood, who gave it to St John’s Hospital in 1231. Opposite is the site of the old hospital.
Over Ludford Bridge, past the Charlton Arms and back to Whitcliffe Common.
Sunday – Leominster – The sky shows a lot of blue but cloud appears to be building. A very cool wind blows. I am later than usual so there are are more people about. Jackdaws were searching the road for food when when I crossed earlier to pick up my paper but have now all disappeared. A Blackbird searches through leaf litter at the foot of the railway bridge. The lack of rain over the past week is indicated by the fall in the water level of the River Lugg. A flock of Long-tailed Tits move through the treetops, squeaking to one another. A bus replacement service pulls out of the station. The Minster bells ring. A strange phenomenon in Pinsley Gardens means that the sound is reflected off the wall of one of the houses and it seems like the Minster bells are ringing in the opposite direction to their actual position.
Fresh molehills have appeared in the Millennium Orchard. A tall Field Maple stands as a tower of yellow in the hedgerow of the Millennium Park. The River Kenwater flows quietly and steadily. The carpet of leaves in the churchyard crunches underfoot.
Into Church Street where a queue for Covid vaccinations stretches from the community centre, along Church Street, down Broad Street and into Bridge Street to the Kenwater Bridge.
Monday – Home – Around two o’clock in the morning, a Tawny Owl is hooting nearby. The calls do not last more than a few minutes, but it has been a long time since they were last heard. By morning there is a heavy frost.
Leominster – The frost melts as the sun rises and the rooftops of the houses emerge from the shadow. There is not a single cloud in the sky. The temperature is a few degrees above freezing. Along Worcester Road. It is always strange how little activity there appears to be at the various industrial units. I suppose all the workers are inside. Brown catkins hang on a Hazel whose leaves are yet to fall. A 1977/78 Gwynedd fire service Land Rover van is in a compound at a garage.
Into the business park. A small flock of Starlings flies over. There is not a single bird to be seen on the old settling pools, the usual Magpies and Wood Pigeons are missing. It may well be due to the building works at the end of the site where machinery drones and a loud radio plays. A large amount of soil has been dug out. It is the usual Old Red Sandstone colour and full of large water-smoothed stones. There is much more activity at Dales steel compound these days but this does not seem to disturb the Pied Wagtails which squeak and twitter as they fly along the roof.
An Airbus flying from Toulouse to Chester moves through the clear blue sky. It is actually above Llandrindod Wells but looks just a few miles away. Robins sing around Broadward Hall. A large Acer is turning orange-red. The water level in the River Arrow is low. A Common Buzzard flies from riverside trees to the east of Broadward Bridge. A Wren calls an alarm as does a Blackbird in the plantation to the west of the bridge. The black cattle have gone from the field on the east of the road and a Pied Wagtail flutters around snatching insects. A few Fieldfare fly past but the Hawthorns here have already been stripped of the berries.
Along the road towards the cemetery. A couple of Redwings fly up and down the hedgerow. A cock Ring-necked Pheasant flies across the road. They seems to be an unusual number of aircraft today – Brussels to Montreal, Frankfurt to Dallas, Frankfurt to Houston, Liege to Chicago and several private planes and helicopters.
Up the footpath to Cockcroft Lane. A large flock of over seventy Linnets are in the weedy, grassy broad beans of the adjoining field. Along Cockcroft Lane. A passing Common Buzzard attracts the attention of a Carrion Crow.
Wednesday – Home – A cool, grey morning with rain in the air. Redwings are flying this way and that, making it impossible to estimate how many are in the area. Robins are singing loudly and persistently.
Bodenham Lake – Along the track most of the haws have been stripped from the Hawthorns but rose hips seen largely untouched. A Fieldfare flies up from the orchards. A pair of Bullfinches fly high into a tall Silver Birch. Blackbirds flit to and fro. Apart from a few Mallard, the boating lake and islands are completely deserted. A small charm of Goldfinches and a couple of Blue Tits are in the lakeside trees. A Green Woodpecker flies up from the meadow. A Raven barks from Westfield Wood. A pair of cock Ring-necked Pheasants stalk across the sheep paddock. Another half-dozen are on the bank in front of the hide.
The lake is extraordinarily quiet – no Canada Geese, no Cormorants, just a couple of Coot, a couple of Mallard and a dead Mute Swan. A Grey Heron flies past. A pair of drake Goldeneye appear in the far south eastern corner. A pair of Mandarin Duck appear briefly then fly off. A Grey Wagtail flies across the lake. A Sparrowhawk sweeps in, apparently after a Blue Tit in a rose briar, but decides not to plunge in and wheels away across the lake to the island.
Back along the meadow where the Hawthorns have been completely stripped of berries. A Mistle Thrush rasps as it flies through the trees. Sheep are in the cider orchard. The calls of Fieldfares come from every direction. Despite the sheep there are still pounds and pounds of cider apples rotting away. I pick a few of the last apples on the trees in the dessert orchard.
Brierley – A Red Kite circles the Brierley turning off the Hereford Road, one of the closest to town recently.
Friday – Arley, Worcestershire – A steep hill descends to Arley Bridge crosses the River Severn. The weather is very changeable as Storm Arwen approaches from the north west. A rainbow arcs the sky in the north. As soon as I start to walk the weather changes yet again, a rainbow disappears and rain falls heavily. The bridge leads across to Upper Arley. The manor was given to the college of Wolverhampton by Wulfrun around 996. It changed hands several times after the Conquest, ending up with Roger de Mortimer in 1276. A ferry was recorded here in 1323 laying within the bounds of the Chase of Edmund de Mortimer of Wyre. Between the 15th and late 18th centuries, the manor of Upper Arley was owned by the Lyttelton family. On the death of Thomas Lord Lyttelton in 1779 the manor passed to his sister Lucy Fortesque, wife of Sir Arthur Annesley, Viscount Valentia. On her death in 1783 the manor passed to her son, who in 1816 succeeded his father as Earl of Mountnorris. In the 19th century the Severn Commissioners granted licences annually operate the ferry. The 1931 Edward Woodward, lord of the manor, made ferry over to Worcester County Council. The ferry was declared unsafe in 1945 and a wooden army landing craft was used as a replacement. The ferry become uneconomical by 1972 and the pedestrian bridge was opened.
A lane passes the post office and village shop and drops down to a series of arches beside the hard where the ferry docked. A noisy flock of Mallard congregate around the hard. A stream rushes down a stone built channel under the road and out into the River Severn. Above the road is an extensive house, formerly Sandhouse Farm.
Arley Lane climbs past a combination of houses including a Gothic old school house which made up the now closed Valentia Arms Hotel. Past more Georgian houses. Next to them is Arley Tower, a crenelated folly, now a dwelling. The Old Vicarage has brick-filled timber-framing, is probably not as old as it would like to think. Opposite is the old post office now a dwelling. Large quinces hang on a tree at Glebe House. The Grange large late Georgian house. Past a pair of brick built cottages to a path leading to the church. The entrance to Arley Arboretum is at the top of the lane. A substantial flock of Redwings pours out of Yew trees on the edge of the arboretum and across the valley.
The church of St Peter is early 14th century with 12th fragments. It was extended in the 16th century, and restored in 1791 and again in 1885 when the nave was largely rebuilt. The building was both built originally and restored using red and grey sandstone from the Hexton quarries. A “Doom” painting was uncovered above the chancel arch in 1884 but has faded to near indistinguishability. A chest tomb is beneath the chapel arcade, featuring a recumbent effigy of a knight lying cross-legged on top, his feet on a lion and his hands folded in prayer. It is stated as being the tomb of Sir Walter de Balun. He married Isolde, daughter of Ralph Mortimer in 1270, but was killed in a tournament accident on his wedding day. The circular font is dated 1848. The pulpit is of a similar date. The very broad tower of the 16th century rises in four stages to a parapet, supported by diagonal buttresses. A large polygonal stair turret projects from the east end of the south wall. There is a ring of six bells by Abel Rudhall, 1753.
The sun shines as the heavy rain ceases, although the clouds indicate this is temporary. A gate leads onto a public footpath by the arboretum. A Robin bathes in a water filled hollow in the stone gatepost. A Grey Wagtail is on the track. Blue Tits and Redwings fly to and fro. A bus suddenly appears! The path passes the large gatehouse of Arley Castle, now Arley House. Arley Castle stood on high ground to the east of the church. The greater part of the house was built of sandstone in the Gothic style by Lord Mountnorris in 1844. The only ancient feature remaining is a part of the Old Hall, formerly the dower house of the Lytteltons of Hagley, now forming the south wing. It was a two-storied building, believed to have been built at the end of the 16th century, and enlarged in the reign of James I. The castle was demolished in 1960 and a modern house built.
The footpath now heads off across the fields but I turn back. The land dropped away from the track wards the stream that descends to the seven. The deciduous trees beside the stream are heavily infested with Mistletoe. Back to the gate. A Nuthatch is calling in the vicinity. Descending the hill is not easy as the road is slick with spilled fuel. The sky is darkening again and rain falls. Back across the river. Arley station, on the Severn Valley Railway is on the hillside ahead but the weather is deteriorating rapidly so I decide a retreat is in order.
Sunday – Leominster – The morning is cold but no frost and the air is still. Yesterday’s Storm Arwen has moved away. Locally there were gale force winds that broke down a number of trees but we did not get the snow that afflicted areas in the North. Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Jackdaws and a few Starlings call in the street. The the sun is blindingly bright in the south eastern sky. A pale, waning half moon is high in the sky. The water level in the River Lugg remains low. A Blackbird flies to and fro across the river.
Into Pinsley Mill. A few Redwings are in the trackside trees and the odd one flies about. Four Blackbirds are on the edge of the orchard. A Great Tit calls from across the tracks. A pair of Wrens are on the porch roof of one of the houses. Ladies Finger apples are beginning to fall providing a Chaffinch with breakfast. Aircraft pass over high in the sky leaving long vapour trails – Newcastle to Lanzarote, Edinburgh to Alicante. It is colder here and puddles are frozen.
The River Kenwater flows steadily. A pair of Rabbits are on the lawn of the bungalow over the river. Another aircraft passes over, Leeds to Tenerife. The holiday trade in full flow despite the onset of another dangerous variant of Covid-19. A large Yew has lost its battle against the wind and lays prostrate on the edge of the churchyard. Further into the churchyard, a Common Buzzard sits on a low branch. Another large ivy clad tree has been brought down. This one unfortunately has buried the Polish hero’s grave. Top branches of another tree lay on the grass. Fortunately it appears all the specimen trees have survived. Numerous Blackbirds are on the grass seeking worms and grubs. A number of trees have been felled, by chainsaw rather than wind, at the Church Street end of of the graveyard.
Into Church Street where the wind was so strong that even a relatively young, small bush has been cracked and lays broken in a garden and nearby a fence had been felled.
Monday – Bodenham Lake – The temperature remains below freezing and the land is pale with a heavy frost. A Bullfinch flies across the track into the undergrowth, Dunnocks feed along the edge. The frost has not penetrated the ground deeply, puddles have only a veneer of ice and the track itself in more mud than frozen. A Robin and Song Thrush are on the track. Another Bullfinch with bright pink breast is at the top of a tree beside the orchard. More than 40 Mallard are at the eastern end of the boating lake but it does not appear to be any other wildfowl around. Several Linnets alight at the top of a tall Silver Birch.
Along the meadow. A Song Thrush chucks and squeaks loudly at me. In the garden of the house at the end of the sheep paddock is a glorious orange and rust-red Acer. Two drake Mallard are on the scrape, three Moorhens out on the western and a pair of drake Goldeneye and a few more Mallard at the western end. Chaffinches alight briefly on Goat Willow saplings in front of the hide. A few Mandarin Duck are on the water’s edge at the far western end. Blue Tits are in the tall, yellowing reeds. A Blackbird pecks at hips on the briar in front of the hide but flies off at only a few moments.
Back out through the Aspen plantation. A chattering Magpie at the top of a tree by the Jacob’s sheep pasture seems agitated about something that I cannot discern. A large number of Blackbirds are feeding on fallen and rotting cider apples in the orchard. Fieldfares attempt to chase them off but they soon relocate or move on to another tree whose foot is ringed by fruit.