Ramblings

December 2015


Fungi

Wednesday – Leominster – The rain of the past few days has stopped although this may be only a temporary dry spell. It has been mild but the westerly wind has a chill about it. Down to the bridge over the railway under which a diesel three car passenger train growls as it accelerates away from the station. A Robin sings and Wrens tick by the River Lugg which is even higher than of late, carrying water away from the Welsh hills. Flood warnings have been issued for the River Wye. A stump behind Brightwells has a fine growth of Many-zoned Polypore, Coriolus versicolor a very common bracket fungus. Round the riverside walk where the Kenwater is also flowing fast and muddy. Into town to see what shops have changed this week – they come and go at a surprising rate.

Friday – Knighton – Fine drizzle falls but soon stops. Grey clouds still threaten rain though. Through the abandoned industrial site and along the track above the River Teme. The river level is high and the grey water flows rapidly with choppy wavelets. There is a small footbridge that ran over a now dried up stream. It has now been marked and signed as the Welsh-English border crosses its middle. Robins flit through the hedges, one seems agitated by a Carrion Crow cawing in the tree above. Over the River by a footbridge beside the railway line and then on up Panpunton Hill. The path is steep and wet, all the soil has been washed away leaving bedrock and piles of leaves blocking like Lichenlittle dams. A Blackbird chucks gently. Corvids glide overhead and a pair of Common Buzzards hang in the wind, mewing, before wheeling away. This is the Offa’s Dyke Path. It leads out onto the open hillside and the grassy track becomes very slippery. Ravens fly over, barking. At the top of the climb the wind is stronger and the air wet. A faint rainbow hangs in the west. A few Crab Apples lie under a gnarled tree. More bent and twisted limbs are garnished with grey-green lichens.

Flooding

The path runs along along the hillside above the Teme valley. Behind is Knighton, ahead the viaduct over Knuclas and in between, near Skyborry Green the river has burst its banks and flooded the fields, although the map shows a number of watercourses and meanders here so the course of the river has always been variable here and flooding will occur easily. Ravens move slowly and effortlessly overhead. To the south low clouds roll across the Radnor Forest obscuring Black Mixen. Suddenly the valley disappears in a white cloud and the rain arrives. The strengthening wind makes donning my over trousers a nightmare. The sun makes brief appearances causing rainbows to fade in and out again in seconds. Kay mentioned yesterday when we were heading for Hay-on-Wye that the sheep have been washed white and they are indeed very clean and rather blow-dried. A section of the dyke is still visible here by a group of old, dying Larches. A number of the sheep are hobbling along with foot rot. On along the path. A train passes over the viaduct heading for mid Wales. Round the top of a deep cwm. The path is rather treacherous and starts to climb again up as hill.

Finally the top of Cwm-sanaham hill comes into view with a triangulation point. Now the view is all round panoramic, hills rolling away in all directions. Off down the hill again. The dyke is a lumpy mound about three feet high running down the hill. Yellow Parrot Wax Caps Hygrocybe psittacina flourish the closely cropped grass. A flock of over sixty Fieldfares cross the hill, dropping down onto the fields briefly before moving on. The path now narrows and drops steeply down to Brynorgan. Underfoot becomes more and more treacherous as the muddy slope steepens even further, every foot steps barely controlled slide. Gorse branches are dotted with chrome yellow patches of Yellow Brain Fungus Tremella mesenterica. Finally the white cottage of Brynorgan is reached. The track, which is still on the route of the dyke, joins a road where I leave the Offa’s Dyke Path and head for Selley Cross near Selley Hall, a large house in the hands of the Powell family during the 18th and 19th centuries. I am greeted noisily at the crossroads by three collies.

A lane heads for Skyborry Green. The name Skyborry is an anglicisation of the Welsh for barn, ysgubor. Down here out of the wind it is mild. Water runs runs down a ditch by the lane brfore spreading out across the tarmac, every ditch and stream is running high and fast. The lane runs on down towards the Teme valley through neatly trimmed hedgerows. The Hazel in the hedgerow is Funguscovered in nascent catkins. Across the fields stands a house at the foot of a slight valley set into the hillside, Cwm-sanahan, which I assume gave its name to the hill above. A pair of large Parasol Mushrooms, Lepiota procera, grow on the verge. Skyborry Green is little more than a large farm. Here the minor road that runs down the north side of the valley, leading to Nether Skyborry and on to Panpunton. A well-made wooden gate and an older blacksmithed one guard the old entrance to the fine house of Skyborry. Wellingtonias stand either side of the gates. This drive is clearly not used any more. Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Chaffinches flit between the hedgerows. Nether Skyborry is a fine early to mid 19th century house built around an earlier core. It was for many years the home of the actor, Richard Thorp. Weir Cottage is below the road towards the river. It appears to be a very large house, hardly a cottage! It was the home of Sir John Hunt, his wife Joy and their four daughters. A party was held here on 5th July 1953 when John Hunt returned from Nepal following the first successful climb to the summit of Everest. The driveway emerges some distance down the lane. A small George V post box, marked Letters Only is attached to a telegraph pole. At Panpunton the track crosses back over the railway and river and runs back into Knighton. Route

Cars

Sunday – Leominster – Storm Desmond has moved through inflicting flooding on Scotland and Cumbria. Here the winds have been violent but are now backing off. Yesterday, the felt roof of the Flying Dutchman café was laying in the pull-in in Victoria Street. A Great Spotted Woodpecker is on the peanut feeder in the garden. Beans A Blackbird has got itself trapped in the fruit cage, crashing wildly into the meshing. I open the door and leave it to eventually find its way out. Past the White Lion. Wood Pigeons explode out of trees in the pub garden with loud flapping of wings. The river levels seem pretty much the same as they have been for the past couple of weeks. Over to the market. There is still a long row of police cars in the auction compound – more than we see in Leominster in year! The market is small again. I purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. Cheaton Brook is high and muddy, the pale rust-brown water pouring out into the grey of the River Lugg.

Home – French beans have been drying in the summerhouse and we sit around the table and pod them. We have enough for a good number of meals.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – A brief visit. The sky is still tempestuous with dark grey clouds although the sun makes brief appearances. Severe flooding has occurred around Carlisle and the Lake District and yet again the Government make promises about strengthening flood defences, despite Treethere being many new defences which were topped by this latest storm, whilst continuing to ignore the simple facts that climatic change will make these sort of weather events more frequent and more fundamental changes need to be made, such as reforesting the vast open spaces denuded by sheep and taking measures to slow down the flow of water off these hills and down the rivers. Surprisingly, none of the usual fields south of the town have been flooded. A couple of Mute Swans and a flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls stands on green grass rather than float over the meadows. At Bodenham, a Grey heron flies across the lake with a prehistoric bark. Wigeon, Coot and Mallard are at the east end. Teal are sheltering on the bank. We do not venture down to the hide but from the bay a large flock of Canada Geese can be seen around the scrape. The trees in the cider orchard are bare. In the dessert apple orchard most fruit has gone now but a few apples remain including a deep red variety with a red blush to the flesh which is still crisp and juicy.

We pop into Wyevale garden centre. A Robin stands on a post under the outside awning singing very loudly. Inside the main building another Robin is singing but I cannot locate him. House Sparrows feed on spilt seed in one aisle, retreating to the roof when customers approach. Our next stop is the Dinmore Christmas tree farm. We usually buy a live tree and try to keep it going for a couple of years but they seem rather expensive this year and only Nordmanns are available and we prefer the old fashioned Spruces, so we settle for one of those as a cut tree. Kay works her magic and soon we have a glorious, traditional manifestation of Christmas!

Friday – Wenlock Edge – Grey Squirrels scatter as I enter Harton Hollow. The sky is also grey with clouds on the horizon. Off in a north-easterly direction along Wenlock Edge. To the east, across Hope Dale, Brown Clee rises topped with communication masts. Jackdaws chatter across the Dale. An old sign warns of the danger posed by quarries close to the path. A raptor calls, I have seen both Red Kites and Common Buzzards on the way here. A Ring-necked Pheasant croaks in the adjoining field. The path is coated in muddy leaf mould. A pair of pheasants explode out of the brambles right beside me, causing a near heart-attack! The path detours around a fallen tree, crossing an ancient boundary bank as it does so. Below, to the north-west, lies Ape Dale and in the distance Long Mynd. Across a lane then a deep holloway and on through the woods along the Edge. A tree has strange horizontal strips all up its trunk. Many Hazel trees have been coppiced although not for some years. Through Burwood Coppice and Harton Wood. The hamlet of Harton lies below. Rotting Honey Fungus droops on a trunk, Birch Polypore has killed another. A plantation of Birch and Ash is probably ten years old. A single, older Alder stands in the middle of the plantation. I note with amusement that my phone can receive 4g signals, very lucky if I can get 3g in Leominster. The trees are now a mixture of conifers, Oak, Beech, Silver Birch, Ash with the occasional Yew and Holly. Some trees are at least 100 years old other maybe planted this century. A disused holloway crosses the path and descends the steep slope into Ape Dale. A sharply defined deer slot in the mud indicates the animal has passed here recently. The rust coloured hillside of Caer Caradoc rises across the Dale. Past a junction of paths between Flat Coppice and Newhall Coppice.

The path now runs along the edge of field of sprouting cereal crops. A charm of Goldfinches rise from the path. Gunfire is constant across the valley. The edge of the field contains many more stones now, pieces of limestone often with fossil outlines of sea shells. A section of the Jack Mytton Way turns back and drops down into Ape Dale through Stars Coppice. It becomes an old, deep holloway. Progress is slow as there are numerous stones scattered across the track hidden by leaves. The track turns and becomes steeper as it is joined by another path, Jacob’s Ladder. The centre of the track had has been deeply gouged. This track was the road to Upper Millichope but by 1882 it was just a rough track. It emerges beside the Old Rectory, a Queen Anne building in the hamlet of Eaton under Heywood.

Armorials

St Edith’s church is 12th century, probably around 1115, but has been modified and renovated in 1650, 1743, 1793, 1845 and 1869 (this by W.J. GrotesqueHopkins). The nave and squat but sturdy tower are 12th century. The chancel roof has bosses carved with grotesques and foliage. A fine three-decker pulpit is dated 1672 on the sounding board. The font is Norman with a cover from 1872. In the north chancel wall is a tomb recess under a canopy decorated with ballflowers, containing the effigy of a civilian dating from the early 14th century. The glass is mainly mid-Victorian. On the north side of the chancel is a four-light window, unveiled 1938, in memory of Alan Bertram Hanbury-Sparrow and his son Brian (killed in World War I), featuring figures of St George and St Francis and his son’s regimental badge and Military Cross decoration, by A. K. Nicholson workshops. The three bells date from 1615, 1622 and 1869. In the 12th century Eaton replaced Ticklerton as the centre of the manor of Ticklerton, owned by Wenlock Abbey. In 1219 Henry III granted the right to hold a three day fair. Eaton Manor is a late 18th century brick farmhouse south-west of the church which may occupy the site of the mediaeval demesne farm.

A lane leads out of the hamlet over Eaton Brook. The lane passes the stanchions of the old railway bridge, the arch having been removed. The Wenlock Railway Company’s line from Buildwas to Craven Arms was opened across the parish in 1867. Darby Lane turns off to Wall. A few Fieldfares fly around skittishly. The cloud has lifted to a high, thin rippled layer and the sun shines weakly. The Rooflane runs between green fields. Blue plastic water pipes utilise overhanging tree branches to cross the road. A large flock of Rooks rises from the lane and disappears across the field. Blue Tits search branches for food. The sun is now quite bright as the lane crosses a brook and enters Wall-under-Heywood. A terrace of cottages dated 1862, Stone House dated 1800 and a few other older buildings are greatly outnumbered by 20th century houses. The pub is supposed to be open, but is not! Wall House is dated 1939 but looks far older. The lane to Rushbury is lined with modern dwellings. The village though has some more interesting buildings. A large motte lies to the north-east of the village. Domesday manor held by Odo of Bernieres from Roger de Lacy and the fortification may have been constructed by him. The lane zigzags through the village. The church of St Peter probably has Saxon origins rebuilt around 1200 but apart from a fine roof is very plain. It was restored in 1855-1856 by William Hill of Smethcott. Painted heraldic shields attached to the chancel roof were made in 1985, being copies of ones there in 1840 but lost by 1955. Like St Edith’s it has an impressive crenellated tower. The clock strikes one. The primary school next to the churchyard dates from 1820 although a schoolmaster was recorded as being in post in 1756.

The lane drops down and crosses Lakehouse Brook. It then rises again to cross the disused railway by Rushbury station. The lane keeps climbing Roman Bank onto Wenlock Edge at Black Wood. Up past a cottage of 1862 and Roman Bank reservoir to the track along the Edge. It is clouding over again and getting darker. The wind is strengthening. On along the Edge past the junction at which I descended to Eaton. Large stones in the track show that it was once paved. I pass the top of Jacob’s Ladder but the stile looks old and seldom used which is hardly surprising as the decent looks very risky. To the south, Flounders Tower is silhouetted against a glowing sky. The route app decided to stop working during the walk, so the route is in two parts. First Part, Second Part

Saturday – Leominster – Rain continues to fall. We head for Grange Court through Etnam Street car park. Car park charges have been suspended today and the place is full with cars waiting for a space, people spending money in the town, how it used to be before Herefordshire Council decided to impose charges and damage the local economy. A display of Victorian clothing is being held in the John Abel Room in Grange Court. These clothes are seldom exhibited and kept in controlled conditions so they are pristine and bright as the day they were made. Many of them seem to have been made to fit children, what damage did these women do their insides squeezing them into these tiny dresses?

The Victorian Fair is taking place in Corn Square and down Broad Street. There are good numbers of people out despite the weather. Leominster Morris are crashing their sticks and jingling their bells. We have a rather non-traditional Onion Bhaji Scotch egg each. A stall selling game and poultry has a relatively small goose for only £10 – the person next to me comments on what a bargain it is – I only hope it is not a Canada Goose! We are soon ensconced in The Grapes warming in front of the open fire with pints of Ludlow Gold.

Sunday – Leominster – And still it rains. The River Lugg is noticeably higher than last week and muddier as it flows rapidly. The market is reduced to half a dozen stalls, although I purchase a brand new sewing machine for only £50. Cheaton Brook is still more coloured than the Lugg, all that top soil being washed away. The Kenwater is also flowing rapidly. Despite the rain, Robins sing. In Broad Street, a Starling sits chortling and muttering on an overflow pipe emerging from a blank wall.

Home – I check the demi-johns and barrel of cider in the boiler cupboard. All those I taste have fermented out and are very dry. The barrel tastes pretty good although it will take quite some time to clear and for the flavour develop. One of the demi-johns is, to be honest, pretty foul, but hopefully this will also mature into something drinkable!

Monday – Croft – The woods are grey and dank although it has stopped raining. A Jay squawks across the Fish Pool Valley and a Raven barks overhead. Blue and Great Tits call only occasionally. The bubbling of flowing water rises from the valley below. Down the ride to the fish pools. A number of trees have been brought down by the autumn storms. The further on up the valley I go the mistier it becomes. The Gothic grotto looks like an adit to a lost mine. A Blackbird mutters, a Wren ticks and a Robin attempts a song but gives up. Now a Song Thrush does burst into song. Up the valley between Lyngham Vallet and Bircher Common. A Holly tree is festooned with bright crimson berries.

Holly

I decide to avoid the path along the top of Leinthall Common, it is usually muddy and after all this rain will be a quagmire. Along the forestry track to the top of the path that rises out of the valley and up to the great old Hornbeam where indeed the mud is deep. Goldcrests and Nuthatches call from the trees on the hillside. Growling machinery, presumably at the quarry across the Leinthall valley is hidden by mist. No views can seen, indeed one can barely see across the hill-fort. Work has been undertaken to clear a lot of the trees and undergrowth from the ramparts of the hill-fort. A notice board explains that the vegetation and bracken was beginning to affect the archaeology buried beneath and a covering of closely cropped grass is best for such structures. The path down from Croft Ambrey has inevitably been chewed up by vehicles coming up here to clear the ramparts and the track is now deep mud.

On down the now thin strip of conifer woodland, the vast amount having been felled to be replaced by deciduous open woodland. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies past. Sheep are in the Spanish Chestnut field. I think this may be the first time I have seen them in here, it is usually cattle. Their fleeces are soaked and hanging muddily down. The Spanish Chestnuts have suffered damage in the storms with old limbs collapsed and torn off. A sizeable flock of Redwings moves down the hedge. They are followed by Chaffinches. It is difficult to count either species as they emerge in dribs and drabs. Some more digging has been undertaken at the old quarry pond. Sheep are also in this field.

Thursday – Orleton-Ludlow – Dawn arrives eventually and the sky lightens but almost immediately darkens again as an unbroken mass of black cloud moves over from the west. However the expected rain does not materialise and bright patches appear in the fast moving cloud. I catch one of the few buses that still run north out of Leominster to Orleton and Ludlow. Off in the village of Orleton. Beside a pub once called The Maidenhead, now The Baker’s Arms, Green Lane heads up towards the hills. Past what was probably once a small council estate. A pair of trees in a field is full of burblings and twittering from a large flock of finches and Redwings. Past Broad Green Farm. The lane divides at Orleton Rise caravan park. A stream rushes down beside the road passing through little tunnels under the roads with two or three arches only a couple of feet high. On the hillside, Spout House has a half-hexagonal tower to the front. Spout Lodge stands beside a junction where Green Lane becomes Waterloo Lane. Woodcock Hill rises to the south with a large disused quarry in its flank. The lane rises between Churn Bank and Patrick’s Hill. It starts to rain and I shelter in a lean-to being used as a log store to struggle on with my over-trousers. Through a gate before Waterloo Farm and along a swamp track. The track comes to a junction where locked gates lead either to a lake or a track. Neither are shown on the map. I follow the track which crosses the brook which is running fast and deep. Crossing it is a challenge but I actually manage to avoid wet feet. More tracks up through Limekiln Coppice and finally I reach the lane. Past Stockin Farm which lies below in a valley to a T junction on Killhorse Lane. Right leads to The Goggin. Pheasants are croaking.

From The Goggin, a track, marked on the early 20th century maps as a thoroughfare, runs off towards the Mortimer Forest. The weather has been unseasonably warm and I am sweating profusely. Past a small disused quarry that has been used to dump rubbish , who comes all the way up here to dump? The track up the hill consists of steps of layered Wenlock Series Berrieslimestones and mudstones but as the path flattens out the water lays making it very wet and muddy. Onwards onto open fields. Below are the masts of Wooferton Wireless Transmitting Station. Beyond is the misty and wet looking Teme valley. Across to Hanway Common past Vallets. Three Mistle Thrushes fly past rasping. The rain continues although it is fairly light. The path between Hanway Common and the Forestry track in the Mortimer Forest is, as usual deep mud, very tiring as it sucks one’s boots.

Down the track that runs around beneath High Vinnalls. It is getting darker again. The rain becomes heavier and more persistent as the path reaches Peeler Pond. I have decided to take the road to the top of Mary Knoll Valley. Roadside bushes are bedecked with strings of vermilion jewels – ripe Bryony berries. There are numerous small quarries, not much more than pits, along the road. Builders must have just driven their carts across Whitcliffe Common on the Wigmore road and stopped at a suitable spot and hacked out the stone. I reach the view point across the valley towards the town of Ludlow. This is one of the classic views in the country, with the whole crowned by the tower of St Laurence’s church and the castle high above the River. Down the steep common to Dinham Bridge. It is very wet and slippery. The River Teme is rushing and bubbling over the weirs. Over the bridge and up through the town to The Church Inn and a much needed pint. Route

Sunday – Nunney – We have been in Surrey and now head to Somerset. A Red Kite is floating near the junction of the M3 and the A303, not far from Micheldever. It appears from the Hampshire Bird reports that Red Kites in this area are still notable. Vehicles are beginning to gather at Stonehenge for the solstice.

In the evening we firstly try and spot the International Space Station but it is appearing very low in the sky and only for a minute or so, and we are unsuccessful. Then off to Carols in the Castle where there is a carol service inside Nunney castle. The Radstock Band provide a fine accompaniment for our singing. It is slightly colder than of late but it is still relatively mild for mid-December.

Monday – Leominster – We return home on a grey morning. In the evening we have another carol service, this time in the Priory church. The choir enter from the Norman nave to a main nave lit only by candles. However, lights have to be turned back on so we can see our carol booklet. It is fitting to be singing about the deep midwinter on the Winter Solstice, despite the weather being more autumnal than winter.

Christmas Day, Friday – Home – The day dawns late, grey and damp. A fine drizzle falls as I change the chickens’ water and fill the bird feeder. Some colour lifts the greyness, Hellebores, also called The Christmas Rose, are in flower with delicate cream heads hanging down.There are also smaller hellebores with dusky violet flowers. Several Water Crowsfoot flower, pure white, on the pond. By late morning the skies brighten a little. More rain is forecast, which is not good news for Cumbria where some properties have been flooded three times over the past few weeks.

Until the early years of the 20th century there remained much resentment in Herefordshire about the change of the calendar from Julian to Gregorian in 1752 and some still insisted on celebrating the real Christmas now on 6th January. Several old customs were still followed at that time. It was considered unlucky to borrow fire in the 12 days of Christmas. It was not uncommon before matches became widespread to get some coals from a neighbour to get your own fire burning. It was thought that by paying for the coals by giving a small token such as a pin would avert this bad luck. It was also unlucky for a woman to enter a house on Christmas Day unless she slept there the night before. Again, this belief was widespread in country areas until the early years of the 20th century.

The Hunt

Boxing Day, Saturday – Leominster – The North Herefordshire Hunt trots down the street, scarlet jacketed huntsmen leading a pack of eager hounds. The crowd that comes out to see them seems less than previous years. It is seeming increasingly unlikely that the law of fox hunting will be repealed as a fair number of Tories are opposed to hunting, as are a majority of the British people. A Great Spotted Woodpecker is regularly visiting the peanut feeder. I have left a large number of apples on the ground and they are attracting a lot of Blackbirds. Robins are in song around the area.

Sunday – Leominster – The rain that was promised fell overnight but has not had the same effect here as over large areas of the north where there is extensive flooding. The River Calder has flooded all the old mill towns down the Calder Valley. The cricket pitch we have visited in Saltaire is under several feet of water. Places from Manchester to York are awash with families driven out of their homes. It seems clear the authorities have little idea what to do; their raising of flood defences in one area (many of which have been topped anyway) has simply moved the water onto somewhere else. Suggestions that just maybe large areas of upland need to be reforested and the sheep removed meet with silence. Do these people really think this is a one off event – hard to believe as it is now becoming annual.

I take Freddie, the westie, across the Grange and down the old playing field. The ground is soaked and water is lying on top of mud. There are large numbers of apples rotting under the trees in the Millennium Garden. Back through the churchyard which is as wet as I have ever seen it.

Waterfall

Tuesday – Radnor Forest – A large pale moon had hangs in the western sky. A few clouds drift across a powder blue sky. It is a short reprieve before the next storm from the Atlantic lashes us. Sheep call continuously from the fields, a Raven cronks up in the hills, Carrion Crows caw, a dog barks from the farm up the valley. A Magpie winks black and white as it flies across the still bright green fields. Black Brook bubbles loudly from the bottom of the valley. Robins sing. Mistle Thrushes rasp as they fly from one grey skeletal tree to another. Into Warren Wood and along the stream towards Water-Break-Its-Neck. Honey Fungus is still growing at the base of a tree despite it being the end of December. The waterfall is a spectacular, a white force plunging down the cliff. All around the cliffs tower, covered in rich green moss and ferns. Back down the stream which bubbles and gurgles as it flows over the layers of limestone. Trees are hanging with emerald mosses. Up through the Sweet Chestnut wood and out onto the hillside. The wind is stronger Quarryup here. More Robins sing. Carrion Crows fly over, cawing. The hillside is bathed in sunshine. A windmill spins furiously. Up into the Forestry Commission plantation. A large sett has been dug a short distance from the track in the thickly planted Spruces. There is no fresh diggings or bedding, so no way of telling if it is still in use. Beyond the marsh, a new track has been made extending the old one which finished by the dried up pool, Pwll y Gaseg. (Later I check Google Earth which shows the new track although it was then greened over and pretty much obscured.) A small quarry has been excavated to provide the chippings. It starts to rain.

Back up Lluestau’r Haul on the original track which has been cleaned up and widened with the residue dumped beside the track. There sun has returned but the wind is freshening. Clouds are hurrying across the sky. The track continues to climb as it heads north. Past another large turning area. On up what is another new piece of track, or at least newly covered with chippings. It turns east by a large bank of earth that blocks off the old, swampy track that leads out to the moors. The new track crosses the hill to another new and larger quarry. To the east is Fron hill. The track now drops southwards back towards Warren Wood. A sharp bend leads down to the old track above Davy Morgan’s Dingle. The vast slab of rock with its drill marks still lies on the edge of the drop to Black Brook far below. Further on down some of the hillside has been felled. Down to the dingle from the waterfall and on to the car park. The car parks are busy, a strange sight as I seldom see anyone hereabouts. Route

Leominster – The local delicatessen, Barber and Manuel, has a photograph on display from, I guess, the late 19th century. It shows the shop was then a post office. A purpose built post office was opened in Corn Square in 1908 and the shop became Richard Scudamore’s tailors, with a workshop above. The next tenants were Barber and Manuel who opened a greengrocers. The photograph also shows a door in the High Street at the side of what is now a chain shoe shop. It was a wonderfully ornate affair with a large floral plaque above it and what looks like a column of faces beside it. Sadly, it has all gone to be replaced by a plate glass window and a boring wooden fascia.

Wednesday – Leominster – Storm Frank (these names are becoming tiresome) has arrived. It is an weather bomb storm. A weather bomb is a phenomenon, also known as explosive cyclogenesis – an American label to describe a rapid fall in the central pressure of a storm system. The reading must drop 24 millibars (hPa) in 24 hours to be called a weather bomb. However, according to the weather maps it is delivering a glancing blow before heading off towards Iceland, but not before dumping much more water on Cumbria and Scotland. Here a gale is blowing, the trees waving violently.

Down Etnam Street and over the railway. The station is deserted. The River Lugg is running fast but not too high. It starts to rain. A troop off Long-tailed Tits tumble through bankside bushes. The wind roars in the trees. A Pied Wagtail feeds on the car park. Across the A49 by Brightwells and along the track across the fields towards Eaton Hill. A loose flock of gulls zigzag southwards, taking against the gale. A few Redwings rise from the rape crop. Up the hill track. Some strange calls are being emitted from the top of the hill and l move up quietly only to discover they are produced by some sort of bird scarer in the solar panel array across the hilltop. The rain has ceased. Along the path on to of Eaton Hill. From edge of the large field the view to the west opens up revealing extensive flooding both sides of the A49 and across the water-meadows towards Ivington. The red mud underfoot is like glass. Down beside the old drovers’ steps to the A44, the Worcester road and across Eaton Bridge. There are canoeists downstream, oddly not a common sight. A pedestrian walkway crosses the A49 at the old roundabout and up over the disused road bridge over the railway. A few retailers are open in the Worcester Road trading estate. It starts raining heavily and I am soaked by the time I reach home.

New Year’s Eve, Thursday – Leominster – The year ends in greyness. However, there is only a short spell of rain. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is back on the peanut feeder. Several Great and Blue Tits are on the lower branches of the Ash tree, watching and waiting. The Blue Tits also pay regular visits to the back of the house and next door investigating every nook and cranny for hibernating invertebrates.

Another year ends. Although my life is as good as it has ever been, I cannot but be depressed about the way the world is going. Religious fanaticism is still resulting in misery for thousands across the planet. As climate change causes more and more problems, more and more people will be driven to despair. And who will change this pitiful state of affairs? Certainly not our Government for the few. I wish I could say that next year may offer hope but somehow I doubt it.