October 2013

Friday – Radnor Forest – Heavy overnight rain has left everywhere saturated. It is reduced to fine drizzle then it stops and the sun appears. The sheep in the fields by the track to Warren Wood have wet fleeces but it does not seem to bother them. A Hazel tree has small bright green catkins. Clouds of mist rise from the conifer plantations. Chaffinches flit through the hedgerow. Along the gorge to the waterfall, Water-Break-Its-Neck which is flowing fast. The sun has gone and the drizzle returns. The humidity is draining my energy as I puff up the long slope through the woods. Black Brook gurgles far below. Ravens, Carrion Crows and Common Buzzards soar along the ridge of Fly AgaricFron Hill. A Ground Beetle is in its back in the track, legs clawing the air. I turn it into its feet but it immediately flips over again. After several more attempts I put it in a clump of grass. Maybe it will recover or maybe its brief span of existence is over. It seems strange there are day-flying moths out in this weather. They do not stop so I have no idea of the species. The track reaches the point, high above Davy Morgan Dingle where a large flat boulder with drilling marks lies. The ground is a mixture of heathers, mosses and rosettes of thistles. Coltsfoot grows on the steep banks stony banks. After the three miles the path levels off at Esgairnantau. It has been a struggle today for some reason, although the climb is gentle. Various fungi are growing beside the track. The air is scented with pine resin. Maddy tries to roll in something disgusting, which is odd, she does not normally have this habit unlike previous dogs I have owned. The little that gets on her face is removed with a large clump of moss. At Lluestau’r Haul, CommaFly Agaric gleam red from the darkness under the conifers. Down to the end of the track where it turns into a path across a bog at Crynfynydd. A Wren zips out of the sedges and into the dense conifers. On down the woods where the path is strewn with Sweet Chestnut husks but the nuts themselves are, as usual very small.

Sunday – Leominster – A very heavy dew-fall pales the grass on the Grange. I collect fallen perry pears, a slightly risky operation in the half-light of dawn as many have fallen into a bed of nettles. These are mixed with the crop off our two perry pear trees. The crop is pretty good for such young trees. The Herefordshire Russet has also cropped well. Courgettes are still appearing but the squash has died back leaving a couple of decent sized squash to ripen. A pair of Comma butterflies rest on magnolia leaves along with several bees. A little later Commas and Red Admirals are feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies. The latter is an older specimen as its wings are quite faded. The pears produce over a gallon of juice.

Monday – Croft – A Great Tit is calling and a few other species twitter and squeak but the woods have an autumn quietness about them. The pool at the foot of the drive down to Fish Pool valley is emerald green with weeds. The next two ponds are clear but the water is a dull grey colour. The recent damp mild weather means that fungi are proliferating – Tawney Funnel Cap, Lepista inversa, Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea, Common Funnel Cap, Clitocybe infundibuliformis, another Clitocybe species which has a couple of spiders on the gills, Grey Tricholoma, Tricholoma terreum, Little Japanese Umbrella, Coprinus plicatilis, one of the red-capped Russula species, a couple ofLittle Japanese Umbrella Fungiwell chewed Ceps or Penny Buns, Boletus edulis, clumps of Coral fungi of either the Clavaria or Ramaria species, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum and a sickly yellowish slime mould to name just a few. The humidity is still considerable making walking a hot and damp affair. Up Lyngham Vallet where Nuthatches are calling. Onto Leinthall Common where the bracken is browning rapidly. Many trees are taking on a yellow tinge. Long-tailed, Great, Blue and Coal Tits are here is large numbers flying between the trees, twittering or squeaking constantly. A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls. Onto the Iron Age hill-fort of Croft Ambrey. Mistle Thrushes rasp and fly off across the valley. Grey clouds threatening rain. Down the track towards the Spanish Chestnut field. A deadly poisonous Panther Cap, Amanita pantherina and slightly less deadly Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria are growing beside the track. Across the fields but the hoped for Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris are absent.

Thursday – National Botanic Gardens of Wales – We are on our way to Carmarthen and although this is not the best time of the year to visit a botanic garden, as we are passing we may as well visit. The gardens are built on the estate of Middleton Hall, the first hall being built in the early 1600s by Henry Middleton, who was the High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1644. Both Henry’s son Christopher and his grandson Richard were High Sheriffs of the county in 1668 and 1701 respectively. Richard Middleton’s son Henry died childless and Middleton Hall passed to his sister Elizabeth who married Thomas Gwyn of Gwempa. Richard Gwyn settled at Middleton Hall and was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1761. In 1776 Middleton Hall was sold to pay off debts and by 1789 was in the hands of William Paxton’s hands who turned the old mansion into a home farm. Between 1793 and 1795 a new mansion, designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, was built at the heart of the estate. The whole estate was re-landscaped with the help of landscape architect Samuel Lapidge and engineer James DamselfliesGreer. On Paxton’s death in 1824 the Hall and estate were sold to Edward Adams, a wealthy man who had made his money in Jamaica. On Edward Adams’ death the estate passed to his son, also called Edward Adams who changed the family name to Abadam. When Edward Abadam died in 1875 the estate passed to his daughter Adah. In 1919 the estate was sold to Colonel William N. Jones. In 1939 the lakes which had distinguished the estate in Paxton’s day were drained. The dams were probably breached in accordance with new government legislation regarding reservoirs and their safety. In 1931 the mansion was gutted by fire. Carmarthenshire County Council bought the estate in the 1930s and divided it into seven farming starter units for lease. In the 1954 the derelict walls of the mansion were pulled down. In 1978 a scheme was set up to restore some parts of the park for public access. In the mid 1980s painter William Wilkins conceived the idea of a National Botanic Garden of Wales. We set off up the main walk past various water features and a display of large boulders telling the story of Welsh geology. On the hill, across from the mansion. Now called Principality House, is a vast glasshouse, the largest single span glasshouse in the world. Inside are plants coming from six areas of the world: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. They are not at their best at this time of year but interesting nonetheless. We have a sandwich in the old stable. Up on the hill is a huge wickerwork hog. Of more interest to us is the double walled garden dating from Paxton’s days. A fine range of autumn vegetables and some late flowers are on display. Inside a tropical house are some wonderful specimens of rain-forest plants. Many of which are familiar as house-plants but much greater in size and quality. It is very warm and sprays fill the air with mist. We head out through the Japanese garden. Back near the entrance is a lake. A number of Large Red Damselflies, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, are flitting around. A pair locked in mating land on the stonework by the water.

Friday – Carmarthen – Into the gloom of early dawn. Past modern stores and down steps to the main road along the north of the River Towy. A small road runs along the edge of the river with warehouses and yards of building materials. The business premises of Towy Works, builders merchants and ironmongers, opened on this site in 1908 and the building is a fine example of early 20th century commercial architecture. This is part of the Quay where ships would dock. The walls here were built in 1805. Over the river and into Tre-gynwr, although the town is somewhat further away, this is more retail stores eventually ending at an Aldi. Back to the river and past the railway station where the Manchester train, which passes through Leominster in three hours time. Over the footbridge, the Pont King Morgan, constructed in 2005. The bridge is named after the King Morgan family, who served Carmarthen as chemists, and supported many good causes, for most of the 20th century. Up into the town centre.

Tenby – A delightful town on the south coast of Wales and very much a tourist centre. The earliest reference to a settlement at Tenby is in Etmic Dinbych, a poem probably of 9th century date, preserved in the 14th century Book of Taliesin. There was likely a hill-fort here. Its Welsh name, Dinbych-y-Pysgod, means “Little fort of the fish”. After the Conquest the lands were owned by the Earls of Pembroke who built a castle on the headland. The town grew as a seaport but it was attacked by Welsh forces in 1187 and again in 1260 by Llewelyn the Great. To defend the settlement, town walls were built by William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke, in the late 13th century. Extensive sections of these walls still remain and give a clear insight of how the town would have looked as travellers approached. Henry Tudor, along with many other Lancastrians, sheltered within Tenby before sailing into exile in 1471. He returned to defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Consequently, in the Late Middle Ages, Tenby was awarded various royal grants which Town Wallsfinanced the maintenance and improvement of the town walls and the enclosure of the harbour. The harbour during this period became a busy and important national port. Originally based on fish trading, exports from Tenby included wool, skins, canvas, coal, iron and oil. In 1566 Portuguese seamen landed the first oranges to be brought to Wales. In the Civil War, the town declared for Parliament, and resisted two attempts by Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, to capture it for the King. In 1648, the Royalists captured the castle for ten weeks before surrendering to Colonel Thomas Horton, who welcomed Oliver Cromwell to the town shortly afterwards. In the following year, 1650, a plague epidemic killed half its population. This resulted in the town being abandoned by the merchants, and slid into decay and ruin. By the end of the 18th century, the visiting John Wesley noted how: “Two-thirds of the old town is in ruins or has entirely vanished. Pigs roam among the abandoned houses and Tenby presents a dismal spectacle.”

In 1802, William Paxton of Middleton Hall (see entry on the National Botanic Garden above) built a bathing establishment and invested heavily in the town. This proved popular and the town grew as a Victorian resort. We start from the South Beach. Just off shore to the north is St Catherine’s Island which can be approached at low tide. It contains Palmerston Fort, built in 1867. To the west is Caldey Island where Monks first came in the 6th century. Pyro, the first abbot is remembered in the island’s Welsh name, Ynys Byr. Pyro was followed by St Samson, from the Celtic monastery at Llantwit Major. Viking raids may have ended this settlement in the 10th century. In the 12th century Benedictines from St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire, set up a priory on the island. They remained until the Dissolution in 1536. In 1912, Anglican Benedictines purchased Caldey and built the present Italianate style abbey which now towers above the village. Their stay was relatively short, financial difficulties forcing them to sell in 1925. The present monks of Caldey Abbey are Cistercians, a stricter, contemplative offshoot of the Benedictine Order. They came from Scourmont Abbey in Belgium in 1929. We walk up into the town past a number of delightful gardens set in the cliff tops. In one, a young Herring Gull stands on a wall and watches us quizzically. Down into the harbour past a house where Roald Dahl spent every Easter holiday as a child. Outside the harbour the lifeboat station, built in 1852, stands on stilts over the sea. Inside, the air is marred with diesel from boats running their engines. The road runs back up towards the town centre and another road leads down to the harbour beach past the Fisherman’s Church. St Julian’s was built in 1878 with stone from Caldey Island Gullwith door and window surrounds of Bath stone. There is a crenellated defensive tower above the harbour beach. Steps travel up to the top of the cliff where a long row of Victorian town houses stand. Back up into the town, where many shops reflect the tourist trade.

The church of St Mary’s said to be the largest parish church in Wales. It is not known when the first church was built on this site. In 1210 Giraldus Cambrensi complained that tithes of fish due to him as rector of the parish were not forthcoming. Little remains of his church but the tower and part of the chancel date from shortly after 1260 following the sacking of Tenby by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd. The chancel has a “wagon” roof and the panelled ceiling has 75 bosses carved with a variety of foliage designs, grotesques, fishes and a mermaid. St Thomas’ Chapel was added in the mid-15th century, and the St Nicholas Chapel was added around 1485. The spire was also a 15th century addition. Inside the church is a 15th century font and a 15th century bell with the letters “Sancta Anna”. On the west side of the north door is an effigy of a decomposing corpse. These figures, knowns as cadavers, were often used by ecclesiastical dignitaries to signify the mortality of man. This one is possibly John Hunden, Bishop of Llandaff, 1461-75. The sanctuary is up a surprisingly high flight of steps. To the south of the chancel is St Thomas’ Chapel, with St Nicholas’ to the north. The latter contains a large memorial, recently restored so now in glowing colours, of the first wife of Thomas ap Rees of Scotsborough. The inscription describes her as a “worthy wife” having borne ten children in twelve years, dying in childbirth of the eleventh aged only thirty! A monument to William Risam, merchant and mayor who died in 1633 is in St Thomas’ Chapel. The monument retains some of its original colouring but has been mutilated. Against the altar steps are the tombs of Thomas White and his son John, both merchants and mayors in the later 15th century. The faces of the tombs have cusped alabaster panels with heraldic shields. Thomas White hid Henry Tudor before his escape to Brittany. There is wall tablets in memory of Robert Recorde, an Elizabethan scholar, who introduced the equals sign (=) to mathematical calculation and that of Captain Bird Allen, R.N. who died at Fernando PO in 1841 whilst in charge of HMS Soudan on an expedition into the interior of Africa. It is said that on some nights a ghostly figure dressed in a cowled robe walks quickly down the central aisle of the church and fades away. It is not known who this person is, but there are several tunnels leading from beneath the church to various parts of the town. From the church we cross to Castle Hill where a statue of Prince Albert looks over the town. The entrance and curtain wall of the castle lie around the sides of the hill which is on a promontory. It is delightful sitting in the sun on the terraces around the castle walls. Sea Cabbage and Old Man’s Beard grow here. On the summit are the remains of a lookout tower. Several old cannon surround the summit. We return to the centre and have crab sandwiches before walking down to the Five-Arches Gate, a fine barbican in the town walls.

Carmarthen – We return to Carmarthen. Around AD 75 the Romans built a fort called Moridunum, Brythonic Celtic Moridunon, meaning “sea fort” from which Carmarthen derives its name. The fort was located in the King Street/Spilman Street area and a trading settlement quickly developed to the east. By the 2nd century this had grown into a substantial town, one of only two in Wales. It was constituted as a civitas, the administrative capital of the Romanised Demetae, from which the ancient kingdom of Dyfed took its name. The Normans arrived in 1093 and founded a religious community in the now ruined Roman town. Dedicated to Teulyddog, this was soon to become St John’s Priory. Caerfyrddin, in Welsh, became associated with Merlin (Welsh Myrddin), especially after it was given currency in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his “History of the Kings of Britain”. William II built a castle to establish a royal presence in an attempt to control the local Norman lords. Two townships developed, Old Carmarthen administered by the priory and New Carmarthen controlled by the castle. New Carmarthen developed rapidly and its town walls were converted to stone by 1233. During Edward I’s final solution for the subjugation of Wales, Carmarthen became the capital of the Principality of South Wales. By the end of the 13th century the town had grown massively and the town walls and gates had been completed. The castle was remodelled using the latest military architecture, and stone had replaced timber for the bridge. The two towns were amalgamated under a new charter of Henry VIII, following the dissolution of the Priory and the Friary.

The town was an early centre for tinplate manufacture, based on a blast furnace built in 1747 and tin mills built in 1761. The port of Carmarthen flourished between the 16th and 19th centuries with echoes of its past reflected in the quay. The South Wales Railway reached Carmarthen from Swansea in 1852. The remains of the castle are approached through the main gatehouse. A few remnants of the other towers overlook the river. Beside the castle is the huge block of County Hall, a château style building designed by the Percy Thomas Partnership, which was begun in 1938 but not completed until 1948, after the war. Nott Square, formerly the Fish Market, was named after General Nott (1782-1845), remembered mainly for his achievements in the Afghan wars between 1839 and 1842. The monument stands on the site of the medieval market cross and the supposed site of Bishop Ferrar’s martyrdom. The narrowing at the King Street end recalls a town gate: the Prisoners’ Gate, once the town’s lockup. The shopping centre is modern but there are many side streets with independent shops. CoraclesThe Guildhall was built in 1771 on the site of a medieval hall. Formerly on open pillars, the building houses both Crown and Magistrates’ Courts. I end up in a small area of modern shops beside the market with a pint of cider and a pot of jellied eels!

Saturday – Carmarthen – We are staying at the Falcon Hotel in Lammas Street. Outside the hotel is the Fusiliers’ Monument was erected in 1858, in memory of the men of the 23rd Welch Fusiliers who gave service during the Crimean War. Down the steps to the Quay. A wooden and wire store contains racks of coracles. Along the Quay a way are three huge earthen salmon with large metal fins and tails. Up behind the police compound are the Bulwarks, remains of earthworks from the Civil War. A sorry graveyard stands behind one of the many chapels in the area, certainly more than a dozen with a goodly number of conformist churches and it appears all are still in use.

Sunday – Leominster – The weather has turned properly autumnal, much cooler, windier and wet. The early morning amble with Maddy is in darkness. I hurl her ball into the black but she finds it. Down Etnam Street as the first winter thrushes of the year pass over, a large flock of Fieldfares. The Sunday market is a small affair with only a few stalls.

Monday – Croft – Honey Fungus is rampant up the drive to the castle. Some grows out of the grass where stumps are buried, more is clustered thickly around the base of the trees. The sky is overcast and threatening rain. The woods are damp, dark and gloomy. Up through the Beeches. A Robin sings fitfully with long pauses of silence. Up to the hill-fort. Blue Tits squeak in the Hawthorns. Flocks of finches move around. One flock passes swiftly but the individuals look larger than finches, probably Redwings. It is chilly in the wind on top of Croft Ambrey. The hills are misty but the rain I anticipated has not arrived. Field Mushrooms and a couple of Common Puffballs are picked in the Spanish Chestnut field. Into the castle field where a young bullock looks threatening at Maddy but backs off as I growl at it. The rain arrives as I reach the car park.

Tuesday – Leominster – The sky is a mixture of broken cloud and sparkling stars. Orion lays to the south, his belt and sword so distinctive; the Pleiades shine and a planet is bright, probably Jupiter. A female Tawny Owl’s tuitt call comes from the direction of the River Lugg. A satellite passes over, Sich-1, Ukraine’s first Earth observation satellite launched in 1995. The path through the Millennium Gardens is invisible in the dark. Round to the front of the Minster. A meteorite flashes over.

Home – The final round of harvesting is undertaken. The last two pumpkins are taken in and the dead plants removed. (It is slightly galling to notice that pumpkins far larger than mine, which I have been growing for months although not really doing anything arduous apart from a period of watering, are being sold all over the place for £1!) Out too come the courgettes. They are still producing but the new ones are nearly all rotting as soon as the flowers drop off and I have so many now that I am at a loss to know what to do with them. The climbing French beans are also stripped and put in a bowl to dry completely. Most of the tomatoes and sweet peppers are now picked but there are still chili peppers appearing. All the beetroot are dug, a number of decent sized roots which are placed in a tray, covered with compost and put in the summerhouse for storage. The rather pathetic sweetcorn are brought in, just half a dozen small cobs. Kay has been slogging away at gathering up the enormous number of conkers that have fallen off next door’s tree into our garden.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Early morning showers have combined into persistent rain. Outside the village maize harvesting is under way with a machine that strips the cobs then shreds the stalks and shoots them into a large trailer being towed behind. The strong wind means shreds of stalk are being blown over the road. Sheep are in the meadow, to coin a phrase, many sheltering under the tall Poplar in the corner. At first glance the lake looks deserted but a couple of Mallard shelter by the start of the long spit along with a sleeping Mute cygnet and a few Cormorants sit in the trees. The water level has fallen considerably and a lot more of the scrape is exposed. A couple of dozen Mallard are standing in the shore at the south end of the lake. Columns of mist drift across the top of the woods in Dinmore Hill. The rain falls more heavily now. A Grey Heron stands hunch backed on the mud at the southern end. A couple more Cormorants wing in, one alighting on the pontoon, the other making an ungraceful landing in the trees. Many apples in both cider and dessert orchards are glowing red in the rain.

Home – The wind and rain is sweeping through the Horse Chestnut next door and conkers are raining down. After poor Kay’s hard work yesterday there are at least as many again on the lawn!

Friday – Mortimer Forest – The tree tops are in mist before the first cross path is reached. Blue Tits chatter and Carrion Crows caw. Down to the Mary Knoll Valley. Jays fly over silently. Every little breath of wind creates a whispering fall of dead leaves. The humidity is high again. There is a moment by Peeler Pond when the silence is absolute, not a drip rustle or squeak; quite eerie! Up to High Vinnalls in paths getting muddier and more churned as autumn proceeds. The sides of the track around to High Vinnalls have been cut back and the tractor is still working out on Climbing Jack Common although it cannot be seen as visibility is reduced to only twenty yards before everything fades into the cloud. Again no birds are making any sound and without the tractor which is fading into the distance there would be silence. Leaves, bracken, Rosebay Willowherb and many grasses are now brown. Down the track where the tractor passes. The wind is rising and cooling things considerably. Down by the Deer Park where appropriately there is the strange guttural call of a rutting Fallow stag coming from the far valley. On down past the ponds which have little water in them.

Wednesday – Leominster – It is a typical autumn week. Depressions are sweeping in from the Atlantic bringing rain. The wind is being pulled from the south as so it has remained mild. A peep out of the window before Maddy’s early morning walk shows raindrops splashing into the puddles in the gutter, so on with my over-trousers. But as soon as we are outside the rain has stopped! The Grange is very wet, the bottom of the steps turning swampy. It is very dark in the Millennium Gardens with a single break in the cloud revealing a single star. A Tawny Owl is calling from somewhere near Grange Court. Back home to await Kay’s return from swimming, it is her birthday. Nearly all the conkers have fallen from the great Horse Chestnut, thank goodness. The chicken run is a disgusting swamp but trying to dig it out would be like forking up soup. Clumps of chocolate brown fungi grow on the lawn. They are almost certainly one of the large cortinarius family possibly C. brunneus but there seems to be something of a mystery about this species as it is missing from all my books.

Thursday – Leominster – A clear sky means stars, moon-shadows and cold air. A Tawny Owl hoots from the churchyard. Millennium Park is ghostly pale. It is still very wet. A Robin ticks angrily by the entrance to the Grange.


Hergest Ridge – Cloud has covered the sky now and thick fog makes the journey to Kington unpleasant. The ridge is also fog bound but it is brightening as the sun tries to break through. A pheasant calls. A farmer on his quad bike with his dog as a passenger drives up the hill and disappears off into the mist. A few minutes later there is the sound of a whistle as the dog presumably starts rounding up sheep. A whirr of wings as a large flock of Redwings and Fieldfares fly off. Ravens make various calls but cannot be seen. Meadow Pipits are everywhere, piping and fluttering around with each other. Bright yellow fungi, Wax-like Hygrocybe, Hygrocybe ceracea, are scattered across the closely cropped grass on the track. Maddy hurtles after her ball then realises she has Park Woodalmost run into a pony and retreats with nervous backwards glances. As the sun burns off the fog a vast expanse of blue sky emerges with a pale moon high in the heavens. The land is copper with dead, wet Bracken. Mist lies down the valleys with the hills emerging like islands. Over the top of the ridge past the Araucarias and onwards for a short way then south. Down into the thick mist again. Carrion Crows caw in the valley ahead. The path becomes a track between banks of ancient hedgerows. It was once cobbled but is now overgrown. At the foot of the track is a rushing steam which pours along a ditch by the roadside.

The lane enters Upper Hergest. Past School Farm and New House, a name that is relative as it is probably one of the older buildings. Ivy flowers up the trees in the garden. A large flock of Starlings land nearby and chatter noisily. A Common Buzzard mews in the mist. Scarlet Rosehips and Bryony and white Snow Berries adorn the hedgerow but Elderberries and Blackberries are gone. Spiders webs are white on a metal Castle Twtsfield gate. Into Lower Hergest where substantial cottages sit by the road. A tall castle motte is beyond a junction. The motte and bailey are Castle Twts but it seems likely that although the motte was thrown up there was never a completed castle here. Dating the site is difficult because of the lack of remains but it seems reasonable to assume it pre-dates nearby Hergest Court which was originally constructed in the 13th century. A track crosses a rushing stream as water pours off the ridge. Pheasants and rabbits scuttle away as Maddy approaches, she ignores them. The path leads past fields with dozens of Ring-necked Pheasants rushing off noisily. We then enter Park Wood, part of the Hergest Croft Estate. A track runs down to a pond from which water passes under the track and tumbles down the hillside past a glorious rich smoked paprika red Acer. Past Park House deep in the woods and up the edge of Haywood Common to Haywood Farm. Here a path travels through specimen trees to Ridgebourne Road and the start of the track over the Ridge.

Monday – Croft – The Great Storm that wasn’t passed through last night and early this morning. There are reports of high winds, trees and power lines down and damage caused but it was not 1987 again as some predicted. It would seem the “Michael Fish Effect” overcame the weather forecasters. Fish underestimated the 1987 storm so there modern day forecasters were not going to get caught out like that! It was a very severe storm along the south all the same and here the mercury dropped to 972mm around three o’clock in the morning before rising again. The Fungusback road to Bircher is full of holes again, they were filled only six months ago after frost damage during the winter. A rainbow glows over Croft. The sky is cloudy but with plenty of blue patches and there is a cool wind. A Nuthatch calls in the car park then flies out of the great Oak and off across the south field. Trees are turning gold. The track is covered in leaves, mainly Ash. Carrion Crows and Great Tits call. It is very wet, water drips from the trees. A stump has little reddish-brown fungi, Ascocoryne sarcoides, sometimes called “jelly drops” which contain ascorinin which acts as an antibiotic against some gram-positive bacteria. A flock of Long-tailed Tits are moving through the tree tops. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies overhead chipping. A pair of Goldcrests feed frenetically in an old Hawthorn. Jays call from the edge of Bircher Common. Along the top of Leinthall Common and up to Croft Ambrey. The sky is darkening and as we get to the woods again rain is falling. Stumps of conifers have yellow coral-like fungi, Jelly Antler Fungi, Cakocera viscosa growing on them. In the vicinity are large numbers of various members of the Lactarius family of toadstools, mainly in stages of decay. Down the Spanish Chestnut field and through to the old quarry which has water in it again. Maddy is sent in for a swim which cleans off the coating of mud on her belly. She is annoyed that I fail to throw a stick though. It is raining heavily now A search of the castle field reveals a few puff balls but no Field Mushrooms.


Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The weather has calmed. It is sunny but beginning to cloud over. Everywhere remains wet. A large area of water south of Leominster has been populated by Mute Swans, ducks and a large number of gulls. A pair of Canada Geese gabble incessantly on Bodenham Lake. Haws, hips and Bryony still adorn the hedges. From the hide the lake is green soup with large patches of algae. Over fifty Mallard are scattered across the lake, mainly in two large groups, one on the southern edge and the others across near the island with a few Canada Geese. A Cormorant is preening on the southern mud and a Grey Heron stalks the corner. Another couple of Cormorants sit in the trees, otherwise there is little else avian around. Dinmore Hill is a glorious patchwork of greens and yellows as the trees turn.