Ramblings

December 2017


Sunday – Leominster – A grey, damp morning. Down the street. A Wood Pigeon coos from a television aerial. Above the River Lugg, Jackdaws chack and a Mistle Thrush rasps. The water level in the river is rising week by week. Blue Tits chirp in the bushes on the river bank. There is still a large number of police and government agency vehicles in the compound. Great Tits are calling with a single note rather than their normal two tone call. The market remains fairly small with a lot of Christmas stock now. Cheaton Brook flows crystal clear into the Lugg.

Home – I finally get around to patching up the compost bins which have a lot of rotten planks. Two of the plastic bins are emptied into the newly mended wooden bin. Unfortunately this disturbs three hibernating frogs. I catch a couple and put them into the wooden bin and hope they will be able to find a safe spot. The third moves too quickly off into the dead sunflower forest. I must remember to do any transference of compost earlier in the autumn in future. In the evening the only full Supermoon of the year is high in the sky, shining brightly. This moon is usually called the Cold Moon.

Friday – Stoke Prior – A thin layer of snow is on the roofs but little on the ground. However, my plans to head west are put on hold as there is a threat of further falls today. Instead I head east out of town. Blue Tits search the bare branches of trees in the street. Local buildings’ names are always at risk of being lost as changes occur. On the corner of Duke’s Passage (constructed so the Duke of Norfolk could walk straight to church from his house opposite) is a former pub that in the mid 1970s was known as Fatty’s. Futher down the street are Jenkin’s Buildings, a name not displayed or used now as far as I know. A Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon call from roof tops. Half a dozen Starlings alight on a television aerial. Yellow clouds are moving in from the west. Up the old road and over the railway. The surface is slick with ice. A train rushes under the bridge, not stopping at the station beyond. From the top of the bridge the fields leading up to the Mortimer Forest can be seen to have a coating of snow but not the trees. Down and then across the A49. There is barely a single haw berry is to be seen, the winter thrushes have stripped the Hawthorns. The River Lugg flows quietly under Eaton Bridge. Off along the Stoke Prior lane. The clouds are passing to the south, now obscuring the sun. Past Eaton Farm which has an 18th century farmhouse, although the core of the building is almost certainly older. A large timber-framed barn and stone barns and dairy are all converted into dwellings. Eaton Barn is a project involving market gardening for people with learning difficulties. Towards the river is Eaton Hall, a mid 19th century frontage on what is thought to be a 14th century hall. A Common Buzzard sails high above being harassed by three corvids. JayThe Pound is a stone and brick house with a long garden wall. From a gate, a herd of cattle feed around a bale of hay in a field on the Lugg flood plain. Far beyond the hills of the Radnor Forest are white with snow. The moon is still high in the sky. The sun glares off the wet road making it impossible to see any distance ahead.

Past Wheelbarrow Castle. A Jay flies into an Oak then off across the fields. There is just the faintest breeze here but a Carrion Crow flying north is being pushed eastwards and has to flap hard to maintain its northwards track. Into the village of Stoke Prior. Past an imposing Georgian house in grey stone, then several black-and-whites and some modern homes. Next the Lamb Inn, which appears to have closed the Post Office, which is just a small attachment to the residence that formerly housed it, and Monkerton House. The house has a brick extension to the rear which raised and extended the roof. At the crossroads I turn up the lane to Humber. The Old School House stands beside the embankment which carried the Leominster and Bromyard railway. Clouds are thickening. A fine cream brick house, Old Hall Farm stands opposite the site is a new development, although just the ground clearance has been undertaken so far. The road climbs past well spaced houses of varying ages.

At the top is the hill is Hill Top Farm. Straight across and in to the junction of the Risbury road, a Roman road running south through Stretton Grandison, Newent and on to Gloucester. Its northwards route is less clear. It can be traced through Stockton and along the ridge of Stockton Ride then possibly headed for the large fort at Leintwardine. Northwards towards the Humber Woodland burial ground. At Blackwardine Crossroads a lane runs down to Humber. It was at these crossroads on 30th June 1921 that a 65 year old Alfred Watkins looked towards Croft Ambrey and formed the concept of Ley Lines. The Blackwardine Ley ran, according to Watkins, from an initial point on top of Croft Ambrey, down Croft lane, through the Broad, north of Leominster, and on to Blackwardine crossroads. From here it went over Risbury Camp all the way to the Roman station on the high ground of Homend Bank at Stretton Grandison.

Fairview, a house at Blackwardine boarding kennels has windows that meet on the corners of the building which must let a splendid amount of light into the rooms. The road passes Blackwardine where the railway crossed the road. A Romano-British village lay to the east. It is thought another Roman road ran north-east from here, through Hatfield and on to the Roman fort north of Tedstone Wafer. A black tank stands on breeze blocks with Bemand Bros, (of The Great House, a farm at the bottom of the hill) painted on each side. This stands on a cinder track which held the railway although it seems rather steep. At the crossroads the regular thump of a pile driver comes from across the fields where a new fence is being built. The Paddocks, formerly Woodbine Villa is a good solid house built in 1861. Broadstone is a farmhouse and probably older. The last building before the main Worcester road, the A44, is The Drum, thought to be named because of an inn called The Trumpet that once stood on the crossroads ahead.

Across the main road into the Stockton road, still the route of the Roman road. Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinches are in the hedgerows and Starlings in the fields. The sun is shining now but there is a bitter wind from the north. The lane drops down to Stretford Brook. A former forge stands on one side of the road and on the other is the entrance to Stretford Bury, a farm once part of the lands of Leominster Priory. A large flock of Fieldfares are feeding on fallen apples in an orchard. Across the Leominster-Pudleston road. Over Holly Brook and up past Colaba Lodge. Patty’s Cross is a 17th century cottage. It was formerly listed as Polly’s Cross, but this may have been a misprint. A lone Long-tailed Tit appears to have lost its companions. A Nuthatch is in the hedgerow. Past the Hamnish junction and in to Widgeon Hill. There are old Marl Pits in this area. Marl is a mixture of limestone and clay used as a fertiliser. It probably comes from an outcrop of Bishop’s Frome Limestone Member – Silicate-conglomerate, Calcite-cemented (calcrete), a sedimentary bedrock formed approximately 359 to 444 million years ago in the Devonian and Silurian Periods. The road now drops down to the Stockton Cross junction on the A49, crossing Whittley Brook, which is almost dry and Cogwell Brook. I choose the noisy road over the muddy fields and return to Leominster.

Snow

Sunday

Fruit Cage

Across to the Grange. There is already a snowman in the middle. A couple of children have turned up with sledges. The trees look wonderful, limned in white. There are a few dog walkers out but it is quiet. Back through the town. The chickens have still not emerged so I put their mash in the hen house.

Coal tit

Monday – Home – It stopped snowing finally late yesterday evening. There is about six to nine inches of snow on the ground. Out to the chicken run. The weight of snow has pretty much destroyed the netting over the top of the run. The same applies to the fruit cage. Both will require new nets in the spring. The hens are still refusing to emerge so I put some water in the hen house with the food they have not eaten from yesterday. Boiling water is poured into the bird bath. It really needs cleaning out properly as leaves have begun to decompose in the bowl, but that will have to wait. The seed feeder is filled again. Blue Tits soon start to visit the seed feeder but only a Coal Tit is on the peanuts. Th sun shines brilliantly through the trees and the sky is clear blue. There is slight thaw during the afternoon and icicles start to descend from the edge of roofs as soon as the sun moves away.

Wednesday – Leominster – Across a very treacherous car park covered in wet ice. No attempt has been made to clear it. The Grange has patches where the snow has cleared and Redwings and Blackbirds are in them searching for morsels. A Nuthatch calls loudly from the Wellingtonias by the old cricket pavilion. Over to the Community Centre which is housed in the former Leominster Junior School to check the Civic Society post slot. Richard, the manager (and Town Crier), tells me the first and pretty much only place cleared was the bus station, done yesterday despite no buses running. I slip and slide through the Bridge Street car park. I was planning a longer walk but I do not like having to walk so gingerly and certainly am not keen on slipping over, so I work my way back through the town and home.

Home – The snow has caused a lot of damage to shrubs in the garden. One appears to have collapsed completely. The hens are now coming out of the hen house and lurking under it. Numerous Blackbirds are in the garden along with Robins, Wrens, Blue, Coal and Great Tits. Yesterday several Redwings were seeking grubs in the borders and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew off.

Rain falls in the evening clearing away more of the snow. Then the skies clear and in a brief watch from a window I see half a dozen meteors of the Geminid shower. This shower is caused by the earth passing through the trail of dusty debris shed by a rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.

Friday – Shrewsbury – The thinnest arc of the moon lies to the south in a pale dawn sky. From the train I can see most of the snow has melted away now. Ice covers about three quarters of the large pond by Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms. I notice that on Church Stretton station is a plaque that records the height above sea level as 613 feet, the longitude and latitude and the fact that true noon is eleven minutes and twelve seconds after Greenwich. The sun is just peeping over the Stretton Hills, bathing them in gold.

Gate

From Shrewsbury station I head up towards the city centre and then through the gate house by the former church of St Nicholas. The gatehouse was built around 1610 as an entrance to the Council House residence of the Lord President of the Council of the Marches. Charles I started here in 1642, James II in 1687. Back and on up the main Street and into Windsor Place. This passes between the back of St Mary’s church and Watergate House, the former Nurses Home. Past The Parade, the former Royal Salop Infirmary, now a shopping centre and St Mary’s church hall. Round to Wyle Cop and down to English Bridge. The River Severn looks high with melt water, the edge of the Abbey Gardens on the far side are flooded. There are many fragments of old buildings in the gardens because the site was a stone yard belonging to John Carline, a local builder and architect. Opposite the abbey, which is covered in scaffolding, is Abbey railway station, or at least, the site thereof. The station opened on 13th August 1866 as the temporary end of the Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway (always known locally as The Potts). It struggled to make money and closed on 22nd June 1880. The station reopened on 13th April 1911 with a rebuilt line now known as the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway. It finally closed to all passengers (except specials) on 6th November 1933. The Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway was taken over by the War Department at the outbreak of World War II, and the station reopened for military personnel in 1941. The Royal Engineers reconstructed the railway and built a top secret storage explosives depot at Kinnerley. The site was not declassified until the 1950s. The entire railway was closed by the military in 1960. The Shropshire Way runs down the former platform. Beyond is Rea Brook whose level is also high. Into Rea Brook Nature Reserve whose main occupants are Wood Pigeons. Blue Tits are chirping and a Blackbird flies by. A Wren bursts into a brief song. The path joins another arm of the Shropshire and Montgoneryshire Light Railway line. A large bough had been ripped off a conifer by the weight of snow.

Brook

The trail leaves the railway line and pass under a modern road and two large pipes. Across an icy meadow and under another road. These roads are part of the inner ring road, often built on old railway lines. The trail is now following the brook again, which meanders. Long-tailed Tits search bank side willows. The brook is flowing rapidly and swirls its way through a constriction. Both water and path pass under a far older bridge which carried the GWR Severn Valley Branch railway over. The railway is now a trail back to the city centre but I carry on along the Rea trail. The path is partially blocked by fallen branches. Over the brook via an iron footbridge. Below, a playground and football pitch are still covered in snow. Sutton Corn Mill and forge stood here before the site was cleared in the 1960s. The brook now rushes through the old weir. Across the brook, new houses are being built. Across another footbridge, through more fallen boughs and then a detour around a flooded section of the path. The trail is now running around the edge of Meole Brace golf course. My legs are tiring as, although the distance covered is not great, the muscles are under constant tension walking on treacherous ice and mud.

Under the inner ring road again. A drake Goosander speeds downstream on the current. Under another railway bridge, this time the South Wales to Manchester line that I used earlier. The tail is still between the brook and golf course. A Common Buzzard sails overhead. Magpies watch from tree tops. Houses opposite, a mixture of Victorian and 20th century, have gardens dropping down to the brook. Over Rea Brook again but by a four-lane road bridge this time. It seems this bridge was built in 1933 when an earlier bridge designed by Thomas Stanton from an outline sketch by Thomas Telford and built with ironwork by William Hazeldine and masonry by John Simpson, was demolished. Up Roman Road, one of a number of Roman roads that cross Shrewsbury, some well known, others far less documented. Into Upper Road. In the middle of modern housing is an Alms house. Upper Road continues with mid 20th century housing one side and the back of a Victorian terrace the other. The terrace is on Hereford Road, which Upper Road joins. Now the Victorian houses, much larger villas, are on the west side and would have had fine views over where the golf course now stands. But their view is now obscured by 20th century housing. Over a railway line, the Cambrian Line connecting Shrewsbury with Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. This section was formerly the Shrewsbury and Welshpool Railway, opening in 1862. Into Belle Vue Road. A Methodist Chapel was established for railway workers in the 1879. A pebble pavement incorporating a wheel and Doves of Peace lies outside. The Belle Vue tavern is mock Elizabethan. The Hermitage and associated buildings are hard to date. It is thought a hermitage was founded here by Reginer, hermit of St Mary Magdalene on land granted on 5th June 1356 by Edward III. A Mr McMath set up a tea garden here in 1773. Morfe RiverHouse is a large ashlar faced building from around 1860, built by Samuel Pountney Smith as a pair with Kinnersley House as speculations. Opposite is the Apostolic church in a small hall on the site of the local cemetery. Nearby Besford Lodge is dated 1883. It was the lodge house to Besford House, which was built originally as a private residence in 1893. In 1911 it was set up a boys’ home, as a way of getting children out of the workhouses, although it had a rather unsavoury reputation. Two buildings look like pubs, one is the Masonic Arms but the other is dwellings and is not recorded as a hostelry on the old maps.

Holy Trinity church with St Julian Belle Vue is a large red brick building built in 1867-8 by E Haycock Jnr. Sadly it is closed so I am unable to see a fine set of William Morris windows. The road continues towards the centre and is a delight with a large variety of architecture. The road bends by the Boars Head. Either side of the road is lined with Victorian terraces, one dated 1882. Carline Crescent is a large neo-classical development on Carline Fields beside the River Severn. They were built in the 1980s as sheltered accommodation. A bridge crosses Rea Brook shortly before its confluence with the Severn. At Coleham Head, the road reaches the English Bridge. Some of the riverside walk is under water. A news report in the afternoon states that the flood defences had been activated. Route

Sunday – Nunney, Somerset – Through the village to Nunney Catch to get a newspaper. It is a damp and grey morning. The air full of sound. Robins and Dunnocks singing, church bells ringing the hour, Jackdaws chacking and House Sparrows chirping. A Blue Tit flies to and fro. Three Mallard speed overhead. Two Wood Pigeons sit hunched on overhead wires, a Rook caws from another and in yet another is a chattering Starling. The Theobald Arms, a Georgian public house with a mid 19th century frontage, at Nunney Catch is looking ever more derelict. At the petrol station, the car wash is now a Greggs.

After a late breakfast, Peter and I take his dogs out. We drop down to Penny’s Mill and over the footbridge across Nunney Brook and up the old steps to large fields. Bare Field Maples stand in the fields on the lines of old field divisions. The weather is foul with fine drizzle. There are signs of badgers digging out mole hills and tunnels. We cross the large, wet, empty fields and walk around back to the steps. Home to warmth.

In the evening we venture out into constant drizzle to Carols in the Castle. There is a good turnout despite the foul weather.

Friday – The Cotswolds – Last night was the solstice. Now the days get longer and we can look forward to spring, eventually. The snow has gone, just a memory now. It is mild and grey. We head south. The sun is a pale disk through the mist. Spectral trees stand in the hidden fields. It thickens and the sun disappears leaving everywhere grey. The mist slowly lifts as we cross the Cotswolds. The roads are nowhere as busy as the Jeremiahs on the news threatened.

Saturday – Saltdean-Brighton – Down Lustrells Avenue to the church. Herring Gulls stalk the grass verges. Plenty of juvenile gulls are around being argumentative and noisy. Saltdean Vale leads to the playground and early 19th century flint barn. On across the green towards the lido, built in 1938, designed by RWH Jones. Excited young boys are changing for a game of football. The lido houses the community hall and library. Down around the lido to the subway under the coast road and out into the undercliff walk. The top of the beach is covered in vegetation, then the broad expanse of pebbles down to the sea. It is cool and damp. The sea is grey and flat. A large windfarm is on the horizon. Oystercatchers call. A line of large rocks runs down to the sea which along with the groynes controls the longshore drift. The tide is low and dark rocks are exposed. The rocks are white chalk but completely covered in dark seaweeds. There are Rock Doves, or at least their semi feral descendants, and Fulmer Petrels on the cliffs, the latter Blackrocksquabbling over a prime site in a cleft. Further on, Jackdaws are also arguing over sites up on the near sheer cliff face. A rock topped by a Rock Dove rests on a ledge. By it is another dove and a Starling. The two are facing each other off until eventually the dove decides to chase off the Startling, which merely runs around the back of the rock to the other side of the ledge, all a bit Brian Rix. A large space where the cliffs bend is occupied by a games pitch. A Curlew flies past.

The walk arrives at Rottingdean. A Meadow Pipit searches the ground outside a café. Past the terraces and stage below the White Horse. The black backed Oystercatchers are hard to see against the dark weed covered rocks but their piping is clear. Past Ovingdean Gap. A Great Black-backed Gull sits at the end of a groyne and a Curlew and Cormorant fly past. Various concrete constructions help retain the cliffs and in places nets on steel beams protect against falling rocks. On the rocks below are a few crumbling stanchions which used to carry the original Volks railway to Rottingdean. The towers of Brighton hotels have disappeared into the mist. At Roedean steps descend from beside the entrance to the school. A steel door has replaced the gate that was there when we used to carry buckets of seawater up to the school for the sea-life aquarium.

The undercliff walk enters Brighton Marina. In the boatyard, boats are on frames, some rotting away. Yachts are preparing to cast off and go through the sea lock. The Marina Village has several styles, some slightly Italianate, maybe to pretend it is Venice, others mock Georgian and even some rustic nautical look in barge boards. It is noticeable that on a dull morning there is not a single light on in any of the apartments.

Raised Beach

Behind the Marina is one of the best examples of a raised beach in northern Europe. The white chalk cliffs with their lines of black flint, all laid down 85 million years ago suddenly change to a sandy coloured cliff. This is buried cliff which lies at right angles to the modern one and contains rounded flint pebbles. It was laid down in a warm period 250 million years ago and has been raised some 8 metres above sea level by movement of the earth’s crust. This beach runs westwards as far as Portsmouth. Above the beach are Ice Age deposits, one of light-coloured chalky rubble from cliff falls and another of darker sediments washed down from the Whitehawk Valley. At the top are dark depressions formed by melting permafrost at the end of the last cold period around 11,700 years ago.

Up out of the marina at Dukes Mound, past the Garden Temple built around 1835, now under a canopy of concrete of the road above. It was designed by William Kendall, the architect who laid out Madeira Drive and the Esplanade. Up to the Marine Parade at the foot of Lewes Crescent. Below is the end station of Volks Railway, all shut down for the winter. Cranes tower above a new block at the hospital which lies behind the terraces squares and places of Georgian and early Victorian splendour on the seafront. It is good to see many are in fine condition.

Up to St George’s Road. A long queue has formed outside the butchers. It is a vibrant shopping area. St John the Baptist, in Bristol Road is a classical-style building, funded by Maria Fitzherbert, companion of King George IV, and completed in 1835. On down St James Street to the Old Steine. Rough sleepers are on the pavement; hopefully they will find somewhere for Christmas day! From here I catch the bus back to Saltdean and then off to Surrey for Christmas day. Route

Thursday – Leominster – Somehow we have missed the heavy snow that has affected much of the country. This morning is frosty, the sky turning deep blue is the pre-dawn light. I take Freddie, the Westie, over to the Grange. A satellite passes over, the first I have seen for a long time. It is a Cosmos rocket, one of two that pass almost at the same time.

Friday – King’s Thorn-Aconbury – North along the lane out of King’s Thorn Dragontowards the A49. A bitter north-westerly wind is blowing strongly. Remnants of snow linger in the edges and corners of fields. The western hills are a mottled white. Past Skippitt Wood. Down the hill, across the main road is Prospect House, apparently now called The Prospect, a mid 18th century house, stuccoed in early 19th century. Mount Skippett, according to the house sign, Skippitt according to the map, is a large probably late Victorian house. A silent Jay crosses a field. Above the field to the east is Aconbury hill-fort. A barn conversion stands on the junction of the lane and A49. A long tree trunk has been carved into a dragon. The end of the lane is flooded. Along the main road which is busy. There is a bus stop but no attempt had been made to create a footpath to it in any direction. A short distance Fungidown the road a lane heads eastwards towards Aconbury. Pullastone Farm stands on the junction although it is just a dwelling now. On along the lane past King’s Pitts, a large farm owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. Much grunting and oinking comes from a large barn. Water flows down the lane. It starts to rain and a vivid rainbow arcs across the sky, so much for the weather forecast of rain clearing to the east.

Held Wood covers the slope of Aconbury Hill. Now on the other side is the lane is William’s Wood. Ring-necked Pheasants feed in the green shoots of a spring cereal crop. Muddy slides Angeldown the banks from the field shows the route of badgers. At The Cotts, large dark chocolate hens watch my passing. The lane drops down a hill to Aconbury village. A large pond lies at the foot of the hill. Sulphur Tuft fungi, Hypholoma fasciculare, are growing on a fallen trunk. St Ann’s Well, a holy spring lies here somewhere, but the paths are dangerously slippery with slick mud so I do not search far. The map shows it lies in the head of a small valley which runs up into the muddy field. The village is mainly Aconbury Court, which seems to be largely equine, and the church of St John the Baptist, which is disused and locked.

This was the church of convent of Austin or Augustinian nuns or canonesses until 1536, then the parish church. The priory was founded by Margery, wife of William de Lacy and the church built Churcharound 1230-40. It is now redundant and used as store. The building is still mainly 13th century with 14th and 15th century alterations. It was restored in 1863 by Sir G G Scott. The 15th century wooden porch has central arch braces on which there are a pair of richly carved angels with shields and deeply folded stylised drapery. On the south wall are blocked doorways and corbels which indicate the demolished conventual buildings.

The lane meets the Hereford to Hoarwithy road where it crosses Tar’s Brook, coloured pale chocolate-red and plunging down a weir. Tar’s Brook may be the stream referred to in the Book of Llandaf, (an early 12th century cartulary compiled at the cathedral of Llandaf, to prove the diocese’s territorial claims) as Taratir. Nether Wood rises above the road. Jackdaws play in the wind above the trees. Flocks of Wood Pigeons fly over. The rain returns with a hint of sleet. The road rises along the edge of Wallbrook Wood. Strap and Buckler Ferns grow in the woods. A lane heads westwards towards King’s Thorn. Past Pikes Wood. A cottage, Pies Nest, stands alone. The latest outbreak of rain ceases and there are bursts of sunshine. Lower House is probably 17th century out earlier at its core. More properties are probably 18th century. Priory Stone is a long building whose name suggests materials came from the old priory at Aconbury in the valley below Barrack Hill. The lane is now on Barrack Hill. Modern properties follow. The Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1834 and rebuilt in 1858. The road runs around the side of the village which mainly lays in a valley of Wriggle Brook, which flows into the Wye at Hoarwithy. The houses are mixture of modern and older stone properties. The lane rises and joins the road where I parked. Route The sudden northerly spike is a GPS hiccough.

Sunday – Leominster – A grey, damp and mild end to the year. It rained heavily overnight and Storm Dylan (jokes about Blowin’ in the Wind already madeā€¦) is supposed to lash the north. Collared Doves chase from aerial to aerial, cooing excitedly. Jackdaws sit and watch. A Robin sings by the railway bridge. The water level in the River Lugg is higher than for many months, hardly surprising given the snow and rain of late. A large Ash branch had grounded midstream beside Butts bridge. A few tendrils of Mistletoe remain attached. Fresh molehills have risen on Easters Meadow. A Wren darts along the fence by the car park. A Blackbird calls an alarm. As usual there are a substantial number of police vehicles awaiting auction. There is no market now until the spring. Down by the auction sheds there are Health Service vehicles, many just three years old. A Cormorant flies downstream. By Mill Street railway crossing a Dunnock sings whilst another hops through a shrub searching for food. A small flock of House Sparrows search the path in Paradise Walk. The Kenwater is flowing swiftly.

Home – Yesterday I planted out a couple of trays of Pak Choi and a few Choi Sum. They should have gone out weeks ago. This morning’s task is to reduce the mass of twiggy branches broken by the snow to small, baggable pieces to take to the recycling centre. It is a slow job. Then several Hazel branches are similarly treated, although these leave long, useful poles. A Mistle Thrush rasps from the top of the great Horse Chestnut. A whooping Nuthatch runs along its branches. Our local resident Robin is singing loudly whilst watching to see if I unearth anything edible. As soon as I move away, he (I assume he as he is singing) drops down to check where I have been working. A flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls drifts over the town.

Each year I end the Ramblings on a note of gloom and despair. The world seems bleaker and more brutal yet I sound a note of hope. However, hope is in short supply. I am more fatalistic maybe. We are now even closer to the point where climate change on a devastating scale is inevitable. Commentators repeatedly declare how the planet can be saved but it does not need saving, the planet will endure for millions of years to come. Many species are going extinct but in the aeons to come others will replace them. Animals and plants have no concept of extinction, it is only humans who have the awareness of loss and if we are unwilling to do anything about it, well that is that. I just look forward to another year, another walk, another crop and the world will get better, or not.