Friday – Hereford – I alight from the bus at the junction of the Roman Road and the Canon Pyon Road. The route continues on down the latter road into Bobblestock. The persistent drizzle has stopped and the sun now shines. Either side of the road are 20th century houses on large plots. A large hedge containing rotten blackberries and Ivy is attracting large numbers of bees, hover-flies, wasps and bluebottles. The eastern side of the road is now late 20th century housing estates and a supermarket. To the West is the large Three Elms pub. The main road becomes Three Elms Road. Three brand new gritting lorries pass.
A Common Buzzard flies over a cropped field to the west. Part of the field is being ploughed, attracting Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Beyond is the large Whitecross school. To the east is a retail park. The sky grows darker and rain is in the air. A footpath follows Yazor Brook. This is Moor Park. Past a large playground and Primary School. The Moor farmhouse is a large timber-framed building of the late 17th century. A quite extraordinary building with an extension tilting slightly but being held up by cast iron posts and a wing which can be barely 8 feet wide.
The path now runs between Yazor Brook and 20th century housing. The valley through which the brook runs is larger than would be expected for such a small brook. However, the valley was first sculpted by the late Devensian Wye Glacier and then by the River Wye which ran through here before being diverted to its current route some 12,000 years ago. The brook has fallen in water level since the closing of Stretton Sugwas quarry which used to pump water out into the brook, although heavy rainfall can result in the opposite and flooding occurs.
The path joins Yazor Road. This runs a short distance South to the White Cross. Tales were told some 200 years ago of “Old Taylor”, a ghost that haunted Whitecross Road up to the cross. The area was just a few scattered dwellings at that time. On south along Wordsworth Road which rises. In the 19th century this area was orchards and nurseries. Kennels lay to the west, later to become a preserves factory. Across the junction with Westfaling Street, named after Bishop Herbert Westfaling of the late 16th century, which is lined with 20th century housing. The sunshine has now returned. Past the cemetery and crematorium. Westfaling Street starts to descend into the city centre. The housing becomes older. The road becomes Breinton Road then Barton Road. A terrace of 1895 faces a row of early to mid 20th century mock Tudor semis.
Over the railway line. A large house is in a poor state. Barton Road reaches the A49 beside the modern river crossing and St Nicholas Church which is closed as usual. Into St Nicholas Street and passed the site of Friar’s Gate and a small section of the mediaeval city wall. This leads to the cathedral and the city centre. Into Aubrey Street. An old brick building with seven arches and offices inside; it would seem to be a former warehouse. Into High Town. A busking saxophonist has a QR code to donate!
Into St Owen’s Street. The town hall is apparently in poor condition, requiring several millions of pounds to repair. Route
Sunday – Leominster – The last few days have seen plenty of rain; indeed our butts are now all full. The sky this morning is clear blue above and to the west with the cloud front moving eastwards over Eaton Hill. It is the coolest morning yet this autumn. House Sparrows and Blue Tits chatter in the street. The sun rises above the cloud bank and brightens the house façades.
Over the railway. Robins and a Wren sing. Onto Butts Bridge. The rain has finally had an effect on the River Lugg and the water level has risen, the shingle banks have all been submerged again.
Into Pinsley Mill. A Dunnock darts around my feet before disappearing through the fence and into the undergrowth beside the railway. Through the Millennium Orchard. The Broxwood Foxwhelp and Tom Putt apples have almost all fallen now, but Lady’s Fingers, Genet Moyles and Dabinett are still ripening. The water level in the River Kenwater has also risen considerably.
Into the churchyard. A Robin sings whilst another one ticks in annoyance. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws call harshly. A Mistle Thrush is at the top of one of the tallest trees seemingly bathing itself in the golden rays of sunshine which light it up. It is then chased off by a Carrion Crow seemingly for no reason at all as it does not land and flies on. The Minster bells toll the hour, then the Compline bells ring out. The organ is being played and can be heard quietly outside. At the western end of the churchyard the Rowan trees carry bunches of glowing vermilion berries.
Home – Cloud moves in from the west then seems to disappear again. Cavolo Nero and Pak Choi are planted out with plastic collars made from cut-up yoghurt pots and then wire arches are placed over them. The afternoon remains changeable as cloud moves over then clears. Suddenly there is a quite violent downpour with hail mixed in. Just as quickly it is gone and the sun shines again.
Tuesday – Leominster – Rain rain fell in the night, rivers of water poured down the street. This morning threatening clouds still move slowly overhead. Over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The water level in the River Lugg has risen again by several inches and the water is coloured grey-brown. A Dipper stands on a water-level measuring post. Spots of rain fall.
Into Pinsley Mill. Tall dead stalks of Rosebay Willowherb line the far side of the railway line. On this side, which has been cleared, Stinging Nettles have replaced the tall plants strimmed down. Manchester bound train thrums northwards. Like the Lugg, the water level in the Kenwater has risen considerably.
Along Church Street. Both the shops at the western end of the street are closed now. Into Broad Street. The large antique market is closed for refurbishment although nothing seems to be happening. In New Street the house whose wall was destroyed by a car crashing into it is finally, after many many months, being repaired although as seems usual these days nobody is actually working on it at present.
Up Green Lane. I have never noticed before but there is some commercial property on the junction with Oldfields Close. A long workshop stretches out behind a dwelling. It contains metalworking equipment. Five Starlings fly south but one changes its mind and returns north. A deep hole has been dug in the pavement exposing rather battered looking electricity cable feeding into a block with a metal access cover.
Into Ginhall Lane. A strong wind is gusting. Immature cones are falling from a large Cedar. A Carrion Crow barks from the top of one of the row of Wellingtonias by the old presbytery. To the north, fields drop to the Kenwater, then across the valley to the hills dark with conifer plantations. On along the lane. A large Oak hosts Jackdaws in its crown with Blue Tits and Robins in the lower boughs and undergrowth at its foot. Below the flower stalks of Hedge Woundwort are pale having lost their dark red petals.
Out along the Cholstrey Road. Three cows chew the cud contentedly in the corner plot. The dark clouds have moved on and the sun shines brightly. A milestone near the roundabout is falling backwards into the hedge and needs reporting.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – As the day progressed yesterday the wind grew more violent and this morning numerous conkers lay scattered across the lawn haven fallen from the great Chestnut tree over the wall. The wind has now subsided and the sky is a mixture of blue and grey as lines of cloud move slowly eastwards. Down the track to the sound of cackling Canada Geese. Bright scarlet and vermilion Hips adorn the hedge. The Haw crop looks abundant. The fallen Willow has been sawn up and pushed to the side of the track. Mallard and Coot scatter from close to the bank on the sailing lake. More Mallard splash as they wash near the islands. Canada Geese start up their cackling again. The family of Mute Swans glides serenely passed. There is just a single Tufted Duck here.
Along to the meadow. A Chaffinch flies up into the trees. A pathetic, strangulated hee-haw comes from one of the donkeys in the paddocks beyond the meadow. Both Robins and Wrens tick their alarms have I pass. A Green Woodpecker yaffles.
The slope in front of the hide has been strimmed down to the reed bed. Out on the lake are a dozen or so Mute Swans, a good scattering of Mallard and a pair of Mandarin Duck on the island. There appears to be less than half a dozen Cormorants in the trees and none on the lake. A rabbit watches the hide from behind a large briar, it then dashes across the open space to the other side. A Little Grebe is at the western end of the water. A Grey Heron is on the far side. A skein of Canada Geese fly in. Four more skeins follow. Inevitably the noise level rises. There are well over 130 present now.
Apples continue to fall in the orchards. Some of the dessert apples are completely down now.
Leominster – A long hedge on the southern side of Grange Court is full of Ivy in flower. This has attracted numerous bees and several Red Admiral butterflies.
Friday – Yarkhill – It is very mild, air coming up from the tropics although the dampness is noticeable. I park in the church car park. Past the former school of 1874. Off down the A417, main road in Stretton Grandison. This is the Roman Road to Glevum (Gloucester). Mist sits on the hills to the south-west. A timber-framed farmhouse has brick infilling. Opposite large cider apple orchard already being harvested, large wooden pallet boxes stand ready to take the fruit. Into Watery Lane. Either side are fields of red clay. One has been recently ploughed, the other already sown with a hint of green shoots spread across it. The ditches either side of the lane are some six feet deep. The name, “Watery Lane” usually means the lane is liable to flooding and these substantial ditches suggest this is the case. A Robin bobs along the hedgerow and another is singing from woodland ahead.
Behind on the main road a tractor passes pulling a wagon loaded with cider apples, heading for Westons at Much Marcle, I should guess. The lane rises in a ridge before dropping back down to field level again. This was a bridge which passed over the Hereford and Gloucester canal, although little can be seen now. Ring-necked Pheasants scurry like clockwork toys across a field of sheep. A yaffle from a Green Woodpecker rings out from trees on the far side. Cider apple trees stretch as far as the eye can see beyond the far edge of the field. Telephone cables have been placed underground and now the wooden poles that formerly carried them have been sawn-off and just carry repeaters. A row of Crack Willows lines the lane; some are remarkably large indicating considerable age. Something is tapping high in the canopy of the Willows that is refusing to allow itself to be seen. Then a quiet yaffle indicating a Green Woodpecker. Five Lesser Black-backed Gulls circle high above the fields. Another Crack Willow has been reduced to a small tree going out of a huge rotting stump. A Hawthorn and Field Maple have both taken advantage and grow out and through the Willow. House Martins are feeding above. Skylarks fly over the fields uttering just short bursts of their summer song.
The lane passes The Ark, probably a 19th century brick house which stands next to a bridge over the River Lodon. Across the fields a number of Wood Pigeons and Magpies are in a sprawling Oak. Carrion Crows fly to and fro. At Covender Farm, House Sparrows and a flock of Long-tailed Tits flit through the hedges and shrubs. On past Newhouse Farm. There are several houses here and of course Newhouse is probably the oldest of them. Great Tits call from the hedge. A rather small Common Buzzard stands mewing on a wooden electricity pylon.
Into Little Yarkhill. Little Yarkhill Court is a fine Georgian house with recessed arches over the upper windows. Across the lane is a stone barn with a corrugated iron roof. At a road junction a lane leads south over Yarkhill Marsh to Tarrington. By the junction is a bridge of 1911 over the River Frome, which is flowing fast and brown. My route continues westwards past a long hedge of Ivy filling the air with its musky scent. The lane follows the line of the River Frome. Previous flooding of the river has left Himalayan balsam seeds all along the lane which have now grown into tall plants. A screaming Sparrowhawk darts overhead.
Watery Lane enters Yarkhill. To the south of the lane is a largely overgrown moat around an undulating site of a mediaeval manor house. Historic England record that, “The platform had a drawbridge on the eastern side in 1900 and the half-timbered house which occupied the platform was documented as having been left by the Vevers family in 1804 (recorded in family diaries) and reports the house as having been dismantled in around 1870. It once formed part of the Foley estate. Pottery found in the fill of the moat implied a 12th to 13th century origin and further 18th century material suggests the moat may have been re-used as a mill during the 18th century.” Beside it is a field containing the almost obligatory alpacas. To the north of the lane is Yarkhill Court, a three storey Georgian house and the church of St John the Baptist. A Raven is calling and a Mistle Thrush rasps in the Yew trees in the churchyard.
Yarkhill was a settlement called Geardeylle, meaning “enclosure with kiln.” Held in 1066 by Arkell, a knight of Harold II. The present name may derive from Yarcle meaning “slope of a hill”. The parish is very straggling and disconnected. The village would have been on the south slope of Shucknall Hill. Domesday refers to a mill and the Roman road. The church was late Norman, Transitional, restored heavily in 1862 by Ainslie and Blashill, when the nave was completely rebuilt. The chancel had already been rebuilt at an earlier date. There are three fonts, a Norman one, a 13th century font and stoup, currently in the bell tower and one with a fluted bowl installed in honour of Francis Stedman. He was Rector of Yarkhill from 1625–1671. Francis had the current ring of four bells installed, one cast in 1636 by John Finch of Hereford and three cast in 1671 by John Martin of Worcester. His son, Fabian Stedman was born in the village and baptised at St John’s church on 7th December 1640. He pioneered the skill of change ringing, writing “Tintinnalogia”. A bier stands by the wall near the tower.
The majority of dwellings in the village are conversions of buildings associated with the Court. Old Orchard Cottage is 19th century as is another cottage nearby. The village pound stood at a junction of roads and tracks. A track heads north past an older extended cottage. A muddy path churned up by horses runs to a field which has been used for potatoes. The original track is lost in undergrowth. By luck I see a metal pole and a small path runs through a hedge into another large field. The bridleway follows this field curving round towards Shucknall Hill. Onto a track on the edge of an extensive farmyard of Garford Farm, which has a 17th century farmhouse. There are young pheasants everywhere. A white horse watches my progress. A driveway leads to the busy A4103, the Hereford to Worcester road. Fortunately there is a wide and reasonably level verge, although I still manage to turn my ankle.
A junction takes the original road passed a large farm, Woodmanton, a modern dwelling and the village school and schoolhouse. The school is now the village hall. In the gable is a round window, an early Powell glass, (the Powells were owners of Whitefriars Glass), designed by Enrico (Henry) Casolani who was born in Malta and became a pupil of the Nazarene painter Johann Friedrich Overbeck.
Back to the main road. Just as the road starts to drop down into Crew Pitch a lane leads to Monkhide. A business park now has just a single business, a supplier of farm equipment. The lane is narrow. Several Starlings fly out of the hedgerow. Showle Court, a large farm with a 17th century farmhouse and a moated site nearby, lays down a lane. Skew Bridge crosses the canal. It was built by Stephen Ballard at an angle of only 27° to the canal in red brick with some stone dressing, and the parapets capped with large black engineering bricks which indicate that they were made by B W Blades of West Bromwich. There actually is water in the overgrown canal. A large flock of Starlings are on wires across a field where a line of cattle wander through to the next meadow.
The lane enters Monkhide. Homme Cottage is timber-framed. It stands next to an extensive old orchard. The next timber-framed building is the old post office. The village is a mixture of newer and older buildings, although none look particularly old. Another bridge crosses the canal. A lane passes several blocks of estate workers houses before coming to a larger house, Monksbury Court Cottage. The lane comes to a junction of footpaths. One leads to Monksbury Court, a large fairly plain stone house, over an old stone footbridge which crosses the canal which is completely dry and lost here. The house has a 17th century wing but the rest is later. My route is straight ahead. An aqueduct carried the canal here. A concrete bridge crosses the River Lodon. Beside it stood a long gone corn mill. The path becomes muddy chewed up by horses and deer. It then rises and turns to cross a bridge over the canal, which is a dense thicket of scrub.
Round a large ploughed field, passing an overgrown old barn and out onto the A417 to the west edge of Stretton Grandison. A large early Georgian farmhouse, Town’s End, is now a children’s nursery. Barns have been converted into dwellings. Stretton Grange is a substantial Georgian property. Behind are a number of dwellings including the stables, the forge, the threshing barn and the coach house. Route
Sunday – Leominster – The weather remains mild. Overhead clouds are grey with their edges glowing pink and orange as the sun rises. However the southerly air flow which has brought this warmth may be ending as the prevailing wind now appears to be coming from the north. A large number of Jackdaws circle in the sky above the station. They then disperse in every direction . The water level in the River Lugg has fallen. A black Labrador is running up and down the edge of the river excitedly.
Through Pinsley Mill. The sky is getting darker and darker to the west. The sun is lighting up the trees at the foot of the churchyard. Molehills have appeared around the Millennium stone semi-circle. Two large Parasol Mushrooms, Macrolepiota procera, grow beneath a Willow. The water level in the River Kenwater has also fallen and the water is now clear.
Into the churchyard. There is the constant pitter-patter of falling leaves. Fungi grow in the grass, one may be Iodine Bonnet, Mycena filopes, another Conical Brittlestems, Parasola conopilus. A Nuthatch calls from the trees and a Robin sings fitfully.
Home – Yesterday, a Ring-necked Pheasant was walking down the garden wall. The Conference pears are growing larger and larger and the poor tree is bending over in response to the weight of fruit. Large numbers of yellow and white chard stems are still growing on huge woody stumps. The beans are now nearly all too tough to eat as pods and they will be left to dry for winter storage. All the quinces have been gathered and they are mixed with some Bramley apples and reduced to pulp, which is put in the jelly bag. The juice comes to about half a litre and two jars of jelly are produced.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Pillows of cloud are scattered across a blue sky. To the east the cloud is thick enough to obscure the sun. A pair of Bullfinches fly along the hedge. Several groups of Mallard are scattered across the boating lake. A Grey Heron hunches under the trees. Most of the islands seem empty of wildfowl, but the western ones have several Cormorants, two Grey Herons and a Little Egret on them. A pair of Great Crested Grebes swim by. A single pair of Tufted Duck are on the water.
On to the meadow. A Green Woodpecker flies off across the fields. Into the Alder plantation. Common Puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum and Brown Rollrim, Paxillus involutus grow under the trees.
The number of Mute Swans on the lake continues to diminish. The family with eight cygnets, or is it two families as the are four adults present, are still here. Two military jets roar over upsetting a Pheasant. Nine Mandarin Duck, drakes in their gaudy breeding plumage, are preening on the western end islands along with Mallard. Moorhens investigate the scrape. A small but noisy skein of Canada Geese flies in. More arrive in several skeins. A flock of Great and Long-tailed Tits move through the Willows. A pair of Carrion Crows flies down to the scrape. A good number of Mallard and Coot are on the far southern side along with squabbling Canada geese and a single Greylag. Several young Great Crested Grebes are around.
Back to the meadow. A croaking Raven flies along the edge of Westfield Wood. Sky is now grey and it has grown colder. A Jay passes over high in the sky.
Friday – Penybont - Pen-Y-Bont – A grey morning with rain in the air. Westwards into the village. A Calvinistic Methodist Chapel Cemetery lies just off Dolydd Yr Hen Farchnad, the Old Market Meadows. A small modern development lies in a rectangle fronting the main A44 road. On the other side of the housing are the footings of buildings, a development that has never been completed and abandoned. The Silver Birch saplings indicate it had been over five years since building stopped. Various fungi grow in the stony ground. The maps are unclear but it would seem likely this was the cattle market.
Across the main road are a couple of large houses, one the former Post Office, another the former Police Station and a Council depot. Back in this side is a service station, no longer selling fuel and the Severn Arms Hotel (mistakenly recorded as “Seven” on the older maps), with scaffolding and part of the roof removed, but still apparently operating. The listing records:
Behind it is the clubhouse of the Penybont United Football Club. Attached to the pub is the community centre. Back across the road is a junction. The Knighton road heads north. The War Memorial stands on the junction with modern housing nearby. A small single storey building, partly faced in slate, is the former bank. On down the road towards the river. A house, Brynithon, is mid Victorian with Gothic arched windows. The Thomas is a shop and museum standing behind an old meeting house. It is housed in Maesyfed, originally a small mid 18th century house and attached general store established by John Price of Penybont Hall. It was taken over by the Thomas family in 1805. By the late 19th century the premises included, besides a large shop, a tailors workshop, a large laundry, a tea warehouse and a seed merchant. Sub-branches operated in Howey and Dolau and in 1881 William Thomas opened The Central Wales Emporium in Llandrindod Wells. The Penybont business declined thereafter and finally closed in 1958. Leading to the river are two terraces of early 20th century housing. Beside the road is a large plaque stating, “Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Erected 1822, Rebuilt 1885”. Below is a small plaque declaring, “Demolished 1989”. A modern bridge crosses the River Ithon. Upstream is a weir.
To the south west of the river is Penybont Hall, hidden in the trees. The house was built around 1755 by John Price (founder of The Radnorshire Bank). This was enlarged by his son-in-law J Cheesement Severn in 1818 and in 1875 further enlarged and remodelled by his son J Percy Severn to designs of Henry Needham Sheffield of London. All but the west ranges were demolished during the 1940s by the then owner the 5th Baron Ormathwaite. A footpath, part of the Heart of Wales Trail, heads southwards. Into a sedgy rough meadow. A Nuthatch calls. The path passes two reed-filled small lakes, once a large single fish pond. Across a rough dam to open fields. To the south west are Llandegley Rocks, a long ridge. Red Kites circle a wood ahead. Another sits in a tall dead tree. A Raven cronks. Onto a road that leads to the wild country around Cefnllys near Llandrindod Wells. I return to Penybont. This is sheep country, every field in every direction has a flock in it.
Past a patch of woodland where Blue Tits and Blackbirds are in the trees. Modern houses are either side of the lane now. A number have wood exteriors. Behind the houses to the north was once a race track. Just before the lane reaches the A44, there are older properties including a blacksmith’s forge still in operation. Back over the river. The sun sparkles on the crystal clear rippling water.
Sunday – Leominster – Rain started falling before dawn and continues intermittently. Eaton Hill is misty. The water level in the River Lugg has fallen, exposing the shingle banks along the edge again. Yellow leaves float downstream. Back over the railway bridge. The western hills are completely hidden in mist. Through Pinsley Mill. A Buddleia bravely still flowers beside the railway track.
Through the Millennium Park and into Pinsley Mead. A Wood Pigeon stands at the top of a dead tree hunched against the rain. The water level in the River Kenwater has also fallen and the river flows slowly. The churchyard is quiet. In Church Street the only sound is cooing pigeons. From when I was young, the cooing of Wood Pigeons has been expressed as My Toe Bleeds,Taffy. However, I heard today Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate, said he said My Toe Hurts, Betty. The Minster bells start ringing.
Tuesday – Trent and Mersey Canal – The Buglers have met up and are on an extremely long canal boat, moored up overnight on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction. The Trent and Mersey Canal was completed in 1777 by James Brindley. There was heavy rainfall overnight and this is morning is grey. Beyond the lane that runs beside the canal is a large feeder lake, now Fradley Nature Reserve. There are just a few Mallard and some sleeping Canada geese on the lake. Beside the lane is an overflow pipe from the lake and water rushes out into a channel. A short along the canal is Keepers Lock which drops the canal down underneath a bridge. Another lock is a short distance away.
After breakfast, we set off through Keepers Lock and then Hunts Lock. A family of Mute Swans get rather too close to the boat and one cygnet has to move quickly to avoid getting caught between the boat and the edge of the canal. We continue in through the lock taking turns as boats come up and down. Through Bagnall lock.
At Alrewas we need to top up the water tank. Unfortunately part of the hose fixture is missing and the hose shoots off soaking poor Ken, of course to everyone’s great amusement. So it has to be held on and after 20 minutes plus we decide we have enough water for now. The canal, which is the River Trent, passes through several confluences with rivers and wetlands. It seems very surprising that every lake has very few wildfowl on it. A large Georgian house, the early 19th century Wychnor Farmhouse, with large stables and a smithies range and cottage stands across the busy A38 road from Wychnor II lock. A large flock of Long-tailed Tits fly over.
The canal now runs alongside the A38, making it a rather noisy passage. Large Bramble patches, Arrowhead, a water plant, very late flowering Meadowsweet, arching Briars heavy with vermilion hips and large patches of Butterbur are passed. Old Crack Willows have been cut or simply broken and regrown time and time again. Black-headed Gulls, adults’ black heads gone, glide acrobatically on the strengthening wind. Over seventy Starlings rest on electricity wires.
The canal is now on the outskirts of Burton-on-Trent. Through Shobnall, passing the large brewery site of Moulton-Coors; Hobgoblin, Wainwright, Marstons lorries parked up. On through the town, here the suburb of Horninglow, beside the A38 which is following the route of the Roman road, Ryknild Street. There are plenty of Mallard and Moorhens but so far just a single Grey Heron.
The canal continues with the A38 on one side and open fields on the other. The fields give way to an extensive area of old workings, now all flooded. A Kingfisher flashes away from us. A short aqueduct crosses the River Dove. The canal arrives at Willington where our boat experts execute a turn in a winding hole which is only slightly wider than the boat is long. So off to the pub.
Wednesday – Trent and Mersey Canal – An Atlantic front moved through overnight bringing heavy rain which continued after dawn. However, the sky is clearing by the time we set off back down the Trent and Mersey Canal. The temperature has dropped.
A pair of large dogs and a terrier have the run of a long section of bank and rush up and down barking furiously. All the tree leaves are looking tired and many are beginning to turn yellow. A canal side house has a large pear tree outside the front door with a very heavy crop. There is a fine bridge across the River Dove, which then passes under the canal. Beside the end of the aqueduct is a Second World War pill box. A short distance on is the remains of a bridge over the canal.
The day continues with sunshine and showers. Various yellow members of the thistle family are still in flower. Moorhens really are abundant as are Mallard of course. One is a cross-breed and has a ridiculous white tuft on the back of his head. A Mute Swan lands in the middle of a small flock of Mallard, scattering them in every direction. A Caddis Fly, no idea which one of the species, joins us for a white, wandering across the ceiling of the boat.
We stop at a water station to fill up. Yesterday Ken was soaked trying to hold the hose in the tap. Today, we have found the right fittings but just as I hold the hose in place over the tank, a rain storm hits.
We tie up in Alrewas. The tow path rises to Church Street then crosses Gaskell’s Bridge into Park Street and then into Post Office Street, they obviously like to designate the streets by their purpose. Model cottages are dated 1911 and have doors set at an angle in the wall between the front and an extended wing. The old Methodist church has a garage with an old Austin 7 in it. Opposite is the Crown pub. Sadly the pub has no beer, another victim of the Brexit inspired worker shortages. The road comes to a small village green on which is the War Memorial of 1921. A shop is closed down. Into the George and Dragon, a mid to late 18th century inn.
Thursday – Alrewas – The night was windy, often pushing the boat against the side of the canal. This morning it is cooler than it has been so far this autumn and the wind is still brisk, but the sun shines. Along the towpath to Church Street. Long-tailed Tits twitter as they seek food in Willow saplings. A wide bridge crosses a millstream which flows round from the River Trent to enter the canal shortly before the latter joins the Trent. There is a muddy track running from the bridge called Statfold Lane, which crossed a field, over the River Trent to end in the middle of the next field. On the opposite side of the road is Granfield House, the former vicarage.
Past some modern housing and into the churchyard. A pair of chest tombs of Henry Smith, died 1795 and Elizabeth Smith, died 1788, have been fenced off as being unsafe. A large number of flat grey gravestones stand all the way around the churchyard wall. A Mistle Thrush rasps as it flies over. A church has been recorded here since at least 822CE. The original building would have been wooden. Alrewas at the time was a flourishing settlement in the ownership of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia and it remained the property of King John until he granted it to Roger de Somerville to be followed by the Griffiths and later, the Turtons. The present church, built of blocks of red sandstone, was constructed in the 13th century, enlarged in the 14th and 16th centuries and restored in 1877. In 1891 the north aisle was built by Basil Champneys making the church symmetrical. An ornate porch dates from 1866. Unfortunately, the church does not open until later in the morning.
School children cross the churchyard heading towards the centre of the village. Out into Mill End Lane. A Georgian House with a 17th century barn faces the porch. Alongside the churchyard stands a long 17th century timber-framed, thatched building. A couple of modern buildings leads to the old school of 1855, now dwellings. The road has reached the canal again. Into Kings Bromley Road. A painting on a house:
Kents Bridge, rebuilt in 1984, crosses the canal. A narrow lane contains Alley Thatch, a 17th century timber-framed building and a converted Chapel and Sunday School.
On along Kings Bromley Road. A row of 17th century houses, one was the old Forge, is timber framed and the rest remodelled in the 18th century and faced in brick. One being a former shop. Past late Georgian or early Victorian houses with modern infill. This is now Main Street. The buildings here range over full gamut from late 17th century to modern. Essington House is 17th century in origin but largely rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries. A small square building is Lichfield Electricity Substation Number Six, almost certainly 1930s. Into Post Office Road where we were last night. The house with the Austin A7 was formerly a chapel erected in 1860. Opposite is a 17th century timber-framed house.
Trent and Mersey Canal – Back on the boat and off along the canal. Under Gallows Bridge which connects the churchyard to the town. A pair of Common Buzzards circle. Back to Fradley Junction. We have a break at The Swan, a canal-side inn, warehouses and cottages built around 1770. Along the Coventry Canal to the boat yard near Huddlesford. The area is covered in earthmoving equipment preparing for HS2 – the new high-speed train line. A taxi takes us for beer and Chinese food in Lichfield.
Thursday – Home – Since returning from our trip on the canal, we have been struck down by a vicious cold. I have also ruptured a calf muscle. So I am grounded. I collect two trays of Herefordshire Russet apples. Blackbirds have pecked at nearly all of the apples, often just one small blemish but enough to ruin the storage potential. I pick a few stalks of Ragged Jack kale for dinner. It has been mild over the last few days but heavy rain is now forecast and it starts before 5 o’clock.
Sunday – Leominster – Rain fell heavily throughout the night. Heavy grey clouds are moving eastwards leaving patchy blue sky. Jackdaws chack from chimney pots. The sides of the street are thick with leaves. The water level in the River Lugg has risen considerably since my last visit. The lowest measurement stick is now under water. The flow is rapid and a murky brown-grey colour. The sun emerges from behind the clouds and the wet leaves sparkle. Yellow Black Poplar leaves carpet Butts Bridge.
From the west another mass of thick grey cloud is heading this way. Into the Millennium Orchard. Dabinett and Genet Moyle apples are beginning to fall but the Ladies Fingers are still firmly attached to the tree. The water level in the River Kenwater has also risen, of course, and is flowing swiftly. A Magpie stalks across the lawn on the far side. Several Robins are in song. Great and Blue Tits move through the trees. Grey Squirrels search through the leaves. The first train of the day from South Wales rumbles northwards. An Evangelical Christian group is holding a service in the Forbury.