Sunday – Leominster – Thin high cloud lays in bands across the pre-dawn sky. It is far cooler this morning. Down to the River Lugg whose water level is as low so as I have ever seen it. A bank of gravel has now appeared on the north-west side of Butts Bridge. It now seems that the Sunday market will not restart at Easter’s Court. Back round to the Millennium Park. A slight red flush is appearing of some of the cider apples but it will be at least six weeks until any are ready for collecting. The only bird calls are the constant cooing of Wood Pigeons. Into the churchyard where Rabbits race away into the undergrowth. Yelping and screaming Lesser Black-backed Gulls fly overhead. Jackdaws chatter on the Priory church roof.
Home – The paths around the garden are edged with Victorian rope edging tiles. One is laying flat onto the path and often trips me. So I dig out the space it has come from. The soil is full of roots, I guess from a large rose nearby. There is also some concrete of some sort which I suppose into which the tiles may have been set. Eventually I manage to get enough of a narrow trough to reseat the tile. I try to put another back into place but there appears to be a broken one in the way which will not move. However, I manage to replace a third one. A bowl of tomatoes are harvested along with potatoes, beetroot, a few carrots, runner and French beans. The peas are removed and the pods remaining on them produce a decent bowlful. The bed of greens are mulched with fresh compost to give them a boost.
Rocket the hen spends some time on the nest but fails to produce. However, Emerald is as regular as ever.
Monday – Titley – It is a fine, sunny morning with a blue sky and high, white, scattered clouds. A lay-by in the centre of the village lays next to a large stone house, the 18th century vicarage which was much altered in the 19st century with a 17th or 18th century timber-framed barn-like outbuilding attached. A stream runs through an old stone culvert under the road. Opposite a tractor is hedge-cutting. A well is by the roadside outside the old Priory. It was erected in 1864 by Louisa Elizabeth Lady Hastings. There appears to be an iron ladder into the will although it is full of water covered in duckweed.
The Domesday Book names the village as Titelege, from the Old English and meaning “woodland clearing of a man called Titta”. The church of St Peter probably served as the chapel of the alien priory of Titley, a cell of the Abbey of Tiron, the head of a reformed branch of the Benedictine order. The priory lay to the north and west of the church and nothing remains of it. A 16th century house stands on the site. The church was entirely re-built in 1865 by E Haycock Jnr and is fronted by the graveyard. Swifts scream overhead. A grave stone states in English and Hungarian:
From 16 November 1858 to 5 March 1991 This was the resting place of Lieutenant General Lázár Mészàros Supreme Commander of the Army and Minister of National Defence in the first Independent Hungarian Government in 1848-49. His remains were exhumed on 5 March 1991 and re-interred with military Honours in the Cathedral at Baja on 15 March 1991
The Government of the Hungarian Republic.
Next to this grave is that of Edward Harley who died in 1735. In the church are plaques recording the deaths of Charles Gwyer, killed in 1915 in the assault on Chunuk Bait, Gallipoli, aged 32, his brother Cyril, killed near St Leger, France in 1918, aged 32 and his son, Geoffrey, killed in Tunisia in 1943, aged 27. Other plaques record that 52 men of the village served in the Great War of which 12 did not return. Four were lost in the Second World War. On south wall of chancel are two wall tablets, commemorate John Greenly, died 1729 and William Greenly, died 1834. The Greenly’s occupied Titley Court to the south of the village. The east window was presented by William Greenly’s son in 1879 and the organ, with colourful pipes was installed around the same time.
Back down the road is the War Memorial in red sandstone surmounted by a Celtic cross. School Lane passes the old school and master’s house built in 1873. House Martins twitter as they fly past at speed. The lane joins Green Lane and curves round and past the modern village hall. The lane meets the main road again by the village pub, The Stagg, known as The Balance until 1833, became in 2001 the first pub in the United Kingdom to be awarded a Michelin Star. I chat with the hedge-cutter for a while, who has an old dog at his feet in the cab. Eywood Lane turns off a short distance away. Past a large stone estate farmhouse dated EBC GREENLY 1838. A Gatekeeper butterfly flits around the heads of Yarrow. Balance barns are a number of barn conversions. A late 19st century red brick lodge for the Eywood estate has a small brick shed with a chimney in the garden. Opposite is a meadow, lumpy from old clay pits, with a rise on which there is an overgrown orchard. Other fields are horse pastures. The next field has been ploughed and harrowed. A Common Buzzard flies off, harassed by a Swallow. Oaks stand in a long line across the field down to woodlands on the other side of the lane.
The lane descends gently past Titley Pool. It is one of a number of naturally formed lakes occupying hollows in the hills formed of debris from Ice Age glaciers. Cattle are in the shade of the trees by the water. A large old oak has fallen, its root disk some 15 feet high. Various squeaks come from the bushes. Then the tapping indicates a Blackcap. Wood Pigeons coo, a Raven cronks high overhead, a Ringlet butterfly lifts up from the lane. The large harrowed field continues, its top lined by a conifer plantation, Beech Wood. A female Bullfinch flashes across the lane. A cupola is the large Eywood stables can be seen through the trees. Eywood House, was built 1705, enlarged 1806-07 by Sir Robert Smirke, rebuilt and re-fronted between 1898 and 1908. It was the seat of the Harleys, earls of Oxford and Mortimer. The family were widely connected, and Byron was a visitor in late 1812. Lancelot “Capability” Brown visited Eywood in August 1775 but there is no evidence that he worked at, or advised on the gardens. When the sixth and last Earl died in 1853 the estate passed, with Brampton Bryan, to his eldest sister Lady Langdale. On her death in 1872 it passed to another sister, Lady Charlotte Bacon. Later it was sold to second Lord Ormathwaite. The Gwyers purchased Eywood in 1892, and held it until 1950. It then passed to Mr Vowells before the house was demolished and the estate broken up in 1954.
Back to the Stagg and down the main road. Most the houses here are 20th century. Titley House has a converted timber-framed barn.
Tuesday – Home – Yesterday evening dark, angry clouds crossed the sky but no much-needed rain fell. The sky is still overcast this morning and there is a short hint of rain but it comes to nothing. The area of the lawn we have left to create a wild flower meadow is mowed. One man went to mow, but no dog called Spot! It is hard work. It is firstly strimmed then mowed. There is a large amount of what could be good quality hay. Much of it goes into the chicken run, the rest into the compost bins. The area is then scarified. Tomatoes and courgettes are prolific. The Marjorie Pippin plum is heavy with ripening fruit – indeed one branch has broken under the weight of plums. The Gladstone apples are finished and the other trees are not yet ready. Blueberries are ready but they are all small. Brassicas – kale, winter cabbage and pak choi have germinated and are now growing, although the germination was patchy and the pak choi in particular will need digging out and spacing better. The pond is cleared of duckweed again.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Grey clouds are overhead on a muggy morning. Driving down A49 when suddenly a Weasel rushes across the road, its little legs whirring like a clockwork toy. Along the track at Bodenham lakes. A large patch of Ladies Mantle is in flower. Himalayan Balsam is spreading through the undergrowth unfortunately. The wild clematis, Traveller’s Joy or Old Man’s Beard, is also in flower. Sloes are turning dark blue; they are not numerous but large and juicy looking. A Green Woodpecker flies up yaffling noisily from the track at the end of the lake.
Out onto the meadow. A dead Mole lays by the path. Blackberries are ripening rapidly now. A Waisted Beegrabber, Physocephala rufipes is on a thistle head. Its larvae are endoparasites of bumble bees of the genus Bombus. Straggly stems of Red Bartsia have spread over a wide area in the west end of the meadow. Agrimony is still flowering. The hide has been closed because of the lockdown. The cider orchard has been mown and large rolls of hay lay scattered across it. Dessert apples are ripening and I gather a few but they are a bit sharp still.
Home – It is always slightly strange that a row of seeds germinate unevenly, so there is a bunch of good seedlings all together and then none for most of the rest of the row. As mentioned yesterday, this has happened to some pak choi and kale. So they are gently dug out and redistributed down the row. The soil they are going into is bone dry so they are watered well.
Friday – Llananno-Moelfe City – Although there is some cloud in the sky, it is warm and getting warmer. I park in a lay-by on the A483 at Pont Pugh, in Llananno. A slope to the west drops down to the Afon Ithon. Rosebay Willowherb and Meadowsweet flower on the verge. A lane climbs to the east past old quarries, although not that old as the faces are still sharp. Oaks cover the hillside, planted in maybe the mid 20th century. The wood is older, once called Penlan Wood, now Church Wood. In a valley to the north-west is a sheep pasture. A Common Buzzard sails overhead. Another