Wednesday – St Michaels-Lower Berrington – The weather maintains its cool, damp greyness. The old vicarage is, of course, a very large house Victorian with pleasant black chevrons under the eaves and black brick stringing. Sunnycroft, an early 19th century cottage on the site of an older house, has Gothick style metal casements of three pointed lights beneath a square head; the central lights have square panes and the outer lights have diamond panes with latticed glazing bars. The heads of the lights have traceried glazing bars. A lane heads north west from St Michael’s school and church. The lane is lined with enlarged 18th and 19th century cottages and modern housing. Building works are being undertaken at the village hall, first built in 1928 but now completely rebuilt. The housing ends with several good-looking Victorian buildings.
Past an orchard with a mixture of old apple trees and some newly planted ones. Just beyond is the village cemetery with graves dating back to the early 1950s. The porch is dated 2000. The lane passes open fields. A leafless Blackthorn still has a good number of sloe berries on it. House Sparrows and Dunnocks hop along the hedgerow. Camping shepherd’s huts are in the remains of an orchard. Berrington Green consists of a number of late 18th and 19th century houses and modern ones. Behind one of the modern houses is a life-size rearing stallion in steel. Footpath heads down the hill. A corrugated iron and wooden barn sits beside a small lake created by the damming of Cadmore Brook. A large modern hotel and a restaurant overlooks the lake. Several dozen Mallard swim out of the reed beds across the water and a family of Mute Swans disappears out of the end of the lake.
Back up the hill to the lane. The blades of an old artesian well can be seen on the other side of the gentle ridge the lane proceeds along. Coral pink berries of spindle brighten a grey hedge. The Oaks is a large Victorian farmhouse. In the small paddock beside the house are large oval tanks rusting nicely. Through Upper Berrington which consists of Upper Town Farm, with a 17th century farmhouse considerably altered in succeeding centuries, and a few houses. Down the hill to Lower Berrington where there is a large array of plastic greenhouses. On the other side of the road are rows and rows of plant supports. This is a large scale tree grower and nursery. On the hillside dropping down to the River Teme is Berrington Court, an early 18th century farmhouse, altered in the mid 19th century.
Back up to a junction where Berrington Road heads towards Tenbury. My plan had been to walk through to the town and back out to St Michael’s Common however my ankle is already beginning to ache annoyingly so I decide to be sensible and simply head straight back to St Michael’s. Through Berrington Green. The scent of wood smoke is in the air and I can see a bonfire a good half a mile away on the edge of the common. Through St Michael’s village. House Sparrows chatter, Blue Tits squeak and a Pied Wagtail on a rooftop pipes loudly as it flies off. Route
Friday – Ledbury – Everywhere is still wet and the sky still grey but at least the greyness is broken into lighter and darker patches rather than the uniform pewter sheet of the past few days. Towards the station from Homend. Onto the Ledbury Town Trail which starts beside the railway bridge outside the station. The path rises up the steep railway embankment but diverts on to the old Ledbury to Gloucester line. This railway was built on a section of the Hereford to Gloucester canal. In 1863 the Great Western Railway leased the Gloucester section of the canal to build the railway lines. It was originally a double track line but was made single track in 1914. It is believed the rails were melted down to be used in the war effort. The line closed to passengers in 1959 and completely closed in 1962. The mainline heads towards the great viaduct outside the town and between the embankments is a timber yard. Over Skew Bridge, one of the most skewed bridges in the country, which crosses the main Hereford Road. The line sweep gently southwards. A rather bitter wind is blowing.
An old brick lined pit lies near the edge of the track, probably an old drainage inspection hatch. Steps regularly rise from either side of the high embankment which is above the second floor level of the houses below. A Robin searches leaf mould and a pair of Dunnocks fly through the undergrowth. The old track has been gently descending and now the land rises to meet it. Over a narrow metal foot bridge crossing Orchard Lane and past Ledbury recreation ground. A silver half-dome shelter with rainbow interior faces the skateboard park. Into Queens Walk through a small park. The walk was created in 1984/5 on the site of Town Halt station. An ornamental Rowen is covered with pale pink berries.
Over Bridge Street. Any sign of the bridge is now hidden behind a mass of brambles. A brick wall holds up a steep embankment, again covered in brambles. It is being visited by a good number of Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits. A Blackbird drinks from a puddle. Under a bridge carrying Woodleigh Road. Cast iron supports sit on on blocks of old red sandstone. Across Oatleys Meadows to the Little Marcle Road. Across the road is a wall that is the remains of a bridge which carried the line which now is lost in a new housing estate. I turn towards the town centre.
Road passes the number of 20th century houses and then the old smithy. Now the houses are mainly 19th century. Into New Street. A car dealership is in a 1930s art deco showroom, not a particularly good example. The road heads towards the town centre lined by some Victorian semi-detached and much larger houses of that period along with a good number of 20th century dwellings. The Catholic church of the Most Holy Trinity was dedicated in 1976. An earlier church was to the east in the Southend. It was built in 1926. Outside the church on the road front is a large Burma teak crucifixion which came from the old church. As the road approaches to town centre the houses become older with rows of Georgian properties. Alviston House has a garage entrance with a sign over reading “Hopkins Coach Builder”. It is early 19th century. Closer to the crossroads in the town centre the houses are timber-framed, 16th and 17th century. The Old Talbot Inn is dated to 1596. Opposite The Steppes is of the same age.
Along the high street which is busy now that some restrictions due to Covid-19 pandemic have been lifted. Into Homend. The Methodist church of 1849 is boarded up. It was re-fronted in 1884. Next to it is a row of cottages dated around 1860. Opposite the old cottage hospital was erected in 1891 funded by Michael Biddulph MP of Ledbury Park in commemoration of the coming of age of his eldest son. It closed in 2002 and is now studios for local businesses and affordable apartments.
Sunday – Leominster – Another grey morning feeling colder because of the damp. A Great Spotted Woodpecker chips in next door’s garden. Off down the street. Over the railway and onto Butts Bridge. The River Lugg is flowing steadily. Blackbirds pluck haws from a tall, spindly Hawthorn. The staccato alarm of a Wren comes from the undergrowth; above a slower tick is emitted by a Robin. Blue Tits chatter. Back to the White Lion where Jackdaws chack whilst peering down the chimney pots. The shrubbery, mainly Elders, has been cut down alongside the railway. Two Cormorants fly north up the route of the River Lugg. After a short time one returns, circling before flying south.
Into the Millennium Orchard a few Lady’s Finger and Dabinett apples cling to the branches of the trees. I may be cynical but I am always slightly surprised that the Great Western Railway company boundary marker of 1913 is still in place in the Millennium Park. Into the churchyard where new lanterns have been placed on the grave of Seweryn Dziewicki. Graves along the edge of the church are sadly mostly now illegible.
Home – We purchased a new apple tree to replace the fallen Howgate Wonder. It is a Christmas Pippin, a late apple that keeps beyond Christmas. The broken stone rope edging is replaced where it was dislodged when the Howgate Wonder fell and the tarmac is sort of replaced, it is too broken to really fit. Then the new tree is planted.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The sky is its customary grey and the temperature a little above freezing. This does not put off the birds – House Sparrows chirping on the car park barn, Robins singing from various directions and a Pheasant croaking from Westfield Wood. This chorus is joined by the loud yelping of a skein of Canada Geese flying in. An egret is on one of the new islands. It looks large but there is nothing near to compare it to. As far as I can see its feet are black which indicates it is a Great White Egret. Two pairs of Goosander are on another island until one drake chases the other away. There are well over 100 Canada Geese here and more are flying in. A few Mallard and Coot are also present. An electric turquoise flash comes from round a bush as a Kingfisher, the first I have seen here for a long time, disappears down the lake.
Good numbers of Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings fly around the hedge between the orchard and meadow. Fresh molehills are all over the orchard. Along the road from the lake is a small stream flowing down the hillside out of Westfield Wood and over a large lump. This lump is tufa forming, a stone much used by the Normans as it is initially easy to carve but becomes much more durable. On the way back from a quick visit to Hereford, a Red Kite is hawking over the edge of a field by the road south of Dinmore Hill.
Thursday – Leominster – The winter drags on grey and wet. Onto the railway bridge. Below the station is empty apart from a couple of railway workers inspecting the platform. Down from the bridge and past the water measurement building. A vague path leads through the trees, past piles of rubbish and comes to a heavy-duty fence that cuts off the area between here and the bridge near Mill Street. A sign on the fence states, “Carillion”, the name of a now failed construction company. Beyond the fence is a dense, impenetrable thicket. Back to Butts Bridge. The River Lugg flowing steadily, its water clear but reflecting the greyness of the sky. A Blue Tit chatters in the nearby trees. A Blackbird chuckles a half-hearted alarm. There are now a couple of passengers on the southbound platform. However it is a Manchester bound train that pulls in with just one passenger dismounting. The two carriage train pulls out, passing under the bridge and sending up a warm gust of diesel fumes.
Into the Millennium Orchard. Most of the Dabinett apples have now fallen and are being feasted upon by half a dozen Blackbirds. Into the churchyard. Small birds probably finches and Blue Tits dart between the darknesses of the great evergreens. A Nuthatch calls. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers chase through the trees between the graveyard and the lawn in front of the great east window, site of the old east end of the church which was destroyed by fire in 1539. At the other end of the minster, scaffolders are still erecting a great construction across the roof of the tower. Along Church Street passing a small girl dressed as a golden star.
Friday – Kyre – A thin mist lays across the land. At Kyre the sun has risen above the eastwards receding depression which brought more rain overnight. The manor of Kyre Wyard was sold in 1575 by Lord Compton to Edward Pytts, an officer of the Court of Common Pleas. It stayed in the Pytts family for over 250 years. In 1752 it was inherited by Edmund Pytts, MP for Worcester 1753-61 and sheriff 1771 and his brother Jonathan (died 1807), to whom he made over the property some time before he died in 1781. In 1832, on the death of Jonathan’s widow the property passed to his second cousin William Lacon Childe of Kinlet (Shrops), MP. On his death in 1880 Kyre passed to his fifth son, the Revd Edward Baldwyn-Childe (died 1898). In the 1930s, following the death of Mrs Baldwyn-Childe, Kyre was purchased by the Earl of Clarendon, subsequently passing to Birmingham Council and later to the Spastics Society (1965), before returning in 1993 to private ownership. The house is a mediaeval west wing with an 18th century front to the south of seven bays and two-and-a-half storeys. The house sits in an extensive park with lakes. A deer park was created at Kyre by grant of 1275. In the 16th century and later it was famous for its oaks and may have been as extensive as 500 acres before a reduction by the late 18th century to 180 acres. It was still that size in the late 19th century when there was still a herd of Fallow Deer.
From the car park an avenue of Silver Birches runs down the slope to woodland. This approach to the house was constructed in 1880-90. Steps descend to a sunken lawn, apparently once used for archery, with a dovecote of around 1600 at the end. Inside the dovecote are two crossbeams at the base is the conical roof. On each leg of the beams is a Peacock, four in all. This explains the large feeders and water dispenser beside the lawn. A large barn of 1618 has good architectural features and has been converted.
To the south of the house is the church of St Mary, the medieval parish church of Kyre Magna. The church is 12th century, with early 14th century and circa 1700 additions. It was restored around 1833. It has a three-bay nave with west porch, and south chapel, two-bay chancel built at an angle to the nave inclining to the north. A wooden tower has a copper clad spire. A covered passageway runs from the house to the church door. The church is locked although a notice contains a QR code which will download a “prayer app” although another notice admits the internet signal is poor and the app probably will not download! Beyond the church is a large abandoned building, formerly stables converted into flats in the 20th century. Across the road is a substantial walled garden, some 140 by 55 metres, built around 1753 by Edmund Pytts, now mainly lawn. A short distance down a track beside the garden wall is a small cemetery. The graves start in the mid 20th century. The track leads to Laundry Cottages.
Back to the car park. A track leads to the garden but I decide to save this until next year when I can visit with Kay. Nuthatches are noisy in the trees. A Pied Wagtail flies over.
Edwyn Ralph – Through the small village of Edwyn Ralph and into the car park of Ralph Court. A herd of Llamas watches from a nearby field. Back to the main road, past Old Cross farmhouse, an early 17th century building, then a short distance on to a small lane which heads north west in the direction of Hampton Charles. Past New Cross farm, a dairy farm, with a greatly extended farmhouse. Hedgerows are still garlanded with strings of scarlet Black Bryony berries and vermillion hips. A pair of newly built houses stand at the edge of a field. The lane descends to cross a small brook then rises past the Hortons with a large stone farmhouse. The lane turns and turns again and after a short distance a narrower lane leads off towards Wall Hills. A broken vane-less artesian well stands in a field. The lane rises slowly and a vista opens up to the west with the little church at Thornbury down among a trio of Wellingtonias. A Kestrel flies across the field and alights atop a telegraph pole.
The lane levels out and ahead are the impressively high ramparts of Wall Hills, Iron Age hill-fort. It is a large univallate hill-fort covering about 9 hectares. There are four entrances, two at the south and two at north end. One close to road on the south has in-turned rampart on eastern side. Little archaeological work seems to have been carried out but two cannon balls have been recovered from the site. The hill-fort is on private property that is no access to it. Standing beside it. it is clear that the hill-fort has exceptionally good views of the surrounding countryside.
Back to Ralph Court, a Rectory built in 1850 for Revd Arthur Lucton Childe and designed by architect Abraham Perkins from Worcester. It is in the Neo-Tudor style and cost £1,370. There is a “Winter Wonderland” attraction taking place at the moment. On down the lane. Pound farmhouse has an interesting round tower on the corner but the building looks relatively modern. Opposite is a pond across which a Moorhen scurries. The lane arrives at the church of St Michael.
Outside the gate is a lamp erected to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on 12th May 1937. Next to the church is the mediaeval site of Edvin Ralph. What stood here is a matter of debate. It was considered to be a mediaeval ring work circular moated site with an inner bank but then was reassessed as a motte and bailey. It is possible that it was actually a motte established close to a settlement which had already been noted in Domesday but maybe was unfinished or abandoned in favour of the large manorial site. Field names have been recorded including Moat Garden, Church Meadow, Orchard Mount Orchard, Church Orchard, Townsend Meadow, Townsend Croft and Church Croft. As can be seen it was clear that a number of orchards stood around the settlement. The village was known as Edvin Ralph, having been held by Ralph (one assumes, Ralph de Yddefen Rauf, patron of the church in 1367). The estate was held by the Croft family from 1399 to 1653 and the Pytts from 1613 to 1701. The name of the parish as Edwyn Ralph seems to date back over a century but this part of the village was still “Edvin” on maps until the early 1950s.
The chancel and nave of the church of St Michael and All Saints date to 1170, and the west tower dates to the early 13th century. It was restored in 1862 and 1885. The south door is a mixture of 12th and 13th century work. Windows from 1320 and a piscina from the same era are in the chancel. There is also a small window believed to date to the 12th century. There are a pair of 14th century tomb recesses over which are stone heads, but the effigies have been transferred to the tower recess where there are seven monuments. The earliest monument dates to about 1290 and depicts a knight in armour and his wife. The knight’s feet rest on a lion, and he wears a shield showing the arms of Zeddefen. A nearby effigy shows a slightly later knight with two wives. A further 14th century effigy shows a very small lady, or perhaps a child. Near this is a much worn grave slab, dated to 1325, to Maud de Edefin (Zeddefen). This is a “pardon monument”, so named because it invites readers to receive a pardon if they pray for the deceased. The inscription on the slab:
Here lies the Lady Maud; she was the wife of Sir Thomas de Edefin. To whomsoever shall say a Pater and an Ave for the soul of Maud de Edefin the Lord Bishop of Worcester will allow thirty days of pardon, and the Lord Bishop of Hereford will allow sixty days of pardon.
Nearby is a bier with large iron wheels and a broken bell of 1587. The bell was cast by John Baker of Hereford. It is believed to have been broken in the 1960s. A harmonium in the chancel has turned wooden pillars and intricate fretwork. A framed “Death Penny” of Private AJ Powell of Pound Farm is on the chancel wall. KyreEdwyn Ralph
Monday – Leominster – More rain fell overnight and the morning is still interrupted by showers. Although the sun lights the houses facing the southern sky, great grey piles of clouds are moving in from the south west. A fresh breeze blows from the south and a rainbow arcs across the sky to the north. Over the railway bridge. Gnats dance in the air in front of me. On to Butts Bridge. A croaking Raven flies past followed by a group of noisy Jackdaws. The water level in the River Lugg has risen minimally. I descend from the bridge and take a muddy path across Easters Meadow to Mosaic Bridge.
A path runs through Easters Wood. A white stag horn fungus, Candle Snuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylo, grows on tree stumps. Another stump has a bracket fungus, Varicoloured Bracket, Coriolus versicolor, around it whilst yet another is covered with Velvet Shank, Oudemansiella radicata, which has a slimy, shining pellicle. Underfoot the mud is sticky and slippery. A Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue and Great Tits move through the trees seeking food. A Mistle Thrush and several Redwings fly over. Along beside the horse paddocks. A Green Woodpecker calls from one of the ancient trees in the paddocks.
The Lugg flows brown and steady under Eaton Bridge. Up Widgeon Meadow and then up the drovers steps on to Eaton Hill. A Red Kite is flying slowly over the southern field. A flock of finches flies past. The hedge has been recently flailed. Down from Eaton Hill to Comfortd barns. What I had assumed were going to be offices of some sort are clearly dwellings. Across the A49. Cheaton Brook is flowing fast and red. Over the railway crossing in Mill Street, which closes after I pass and a Manchester train passes. Many of the units on this route are still in the old turquoise Arriva livery, whilst some are in the newer Transport for Wales grey and red. However, the franchise seems to have failed and is now being managed by the Welsh Government so I guess livery is not their major concern at the moment. I head round to Paradise Walk. The crossing closes again and a short train which I can barely see through the trees passes. It is pulled by a growling diesel and seems to consist of very few wagons.
Tuesday – Home – The Willow that was removed last year has sent up a couple of dozen new shoots over the spring and summer, so I remove them. They provide a large bundle of poles some six to eight feet in length and another bundle of small sticks. I have no doubt the stump will send up more next year which means there should be a regular supply of coppiced poles. The Hazel which was coppiced at the same time has a good number of whippy shoots rising eight feet into the air. I think I will let them thicken up next year then coppice them again for poles. It is getting colder.
Sunday – Leominster – There are patches of blue sky overhead whilst all around the horizon voluminous banks of cloud, blocking the sun. It is mild for this time of year. Everywhere is wet. On to the railway bridge. A Song Thrush is singing lustily from the riverside woods. On to Butts Bridge. A Mistle Thrush rasps in the trees overhead. The water level in the River Lugg has risen considerably and the milky brown coloured water is swirling rapidly as it heads south. A Great Spotted Woodpecker chips in the trees on the south east side of the station.
Back over the railway and along to the Millennium Orchard. Ten gulls fly in a loose flock southwards. Most of the apples have now fallen. A Fieldfare chatters in the fruit trees. A Carrion Crow displays, flapping its half-opened wings and cawing loudly. This sets off Jackdaws and a Magpie, all calling and flying around. Into the Peace Garden where the River Kenwater flows past high and rapid. Into the churchyard the Polish grave has been painted grey which seems somewhat strange. The Minster bells toll the hour then the call to prayer rings out. Sonorous organ music comes from within.
Home – In the early evening the sky clears and a crescent moon hangs in the southern sky. To the south west, low in the sky are Jupiter and Saturn, moving into conjunction. I have to stand against the east wall of the garden by the fruit cage to see them and only Jupiter is visible with the naked eye. Through the binoculars, both planets are just a short distance apart, Saturn almost directly above Jupiter. Tomorrow, they will be at their closest but whether the sky remains clear is chancy!
Monday – Home – The Winter Solstice. It is still gloomy and barely light at 9 o’clock in the morning. The last of the dead tomato plants are removed from the greenhouse and all the pots of dead herbs are removed, all to the compost bins. Jackdaws are active. It is impossible to work out their movements – one group fly over and disappear to the north, a pair fly in and land on the roof, another pair are in the Ash tree. The peanut feeder is emptied in a couple of days but for some reason the seed feeder is far slower to empty and the fat ball is hardly touched.
As expected, the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn is hidden behind clouds that are sending rain down upon us. This conjunction happens every 400 years so I will probably not be seeing the next. What was not expected was a pale blue egg from the Russet Blue hen – the first for around six months or more. Hopefully this will be a regular occurrence now.
Wednesday – Leominster – Down the road and over the railway to the River Lugg the water of which remains, coloured and flowing swiftly. It is raining fairly lightly at the moment. The temperature has remained mild. A Song Thrush is singing somewhere down the river bank. One started singing shortly after 4 o’clock this morning somewhere behind the house. Back and round past the White Lion. It is a great shame that this lovely timber-framed building is obscured by a large brick extension on the side facing the road. On to Millennium Park. It is dank but there are still Great Tits chirping at one another. The fallen cider apples all have large gashes pecked into them by the winter thrushes.
Down The Priory where an apple tree has retained its crop. Blackbirds are calling alarms from both sides of the narrow lane but strangely none of them are actually in the apple tree. House Sparrows and Blue Tits are in the hedges. Onto the footbridge over the River Kenwater which is flowing, like the Lugg fast, high and coloured. Into Bridge Street car park. Several cars are in the Covid test station. Through the town where there are long queues outside the food shops.
Christmas Day, Friday – Home – Dawn eventually arrives with a light frost. The temperature is barely above freezing. A Grey Squirrel is digging a hole in the lawn. Two Wood Pigeons depart and two Collared Doves arrive, flying into the Ash tree with their gentle warbling call. Higher in the tree is a pair of Jackdaws. A Song Thrush flies off. The chicken coop door is frozen shut but the run remains muddy and mushy. Their water is frozen too. A Robin nearby has a worm.
I take out some hot water to defrost the bird bath. The Song Thrush has returned and is singing sweetly. A Collared Dove returns to the Ash but, for some reason, is chased away by a Blackbird.
The day remains sunny and cool. In the early evening bands of copper and grey clouds drift across the sky.
Boxing Day, Saturday – Leominster – We head down to the River Lugg. Across the country, yet again there are floods, the Great Ouse has inundated parts of Bedford, but here the Lugg has remained at the same level. A Mistle Thrush is singing nearby. Round to the Millennium Park. Most of the apples have gone now but there are enough to keep half a dozen or more Blackbirds content. Across the churchyard and into the Grange. It is mid-morning and dog walkers are out in force.
Home – The day grows darker and windier and by nightfall Storm Bella has moved in. Past midnight the trees roar and rain lashes the window panes. The storm passes in the early hours.
Monday – Woonton – There is extensive flooding around Monkland, parts of Monty Don’s television garden will be under water. A very deep depression has been moving south. The atmospheric pressure was 960mB last night, the lowest we have noted in recent years.
On to Woonton which lies on the road from Sarnesfield to Kington. There is a scattering of snow which lays on the grass. The old forge is a fine stone house with extensive outbuildings, now all residences. Over the junction is the former Friends Meeting House constructed in 1888, also a residence now. Behind it is Woonton airstrip, a grass airfield. The sky is a uniform pewter grey and it is cold. Up a lane out of Woonton to Woonton Farm. A pair of houses stand beside a small green. One is a timber-framed house from the late 17th or early 18th century with a timber-frame barn. The other is probably late 19th century. A Common Buzzard, Carrion Crows and a Fieldfare fly up from a field. Woonton farmhouse is a large building, also probably early 17th or early 18th century. Back down the lane to the village. It starts to rain.
Blythe House, formerly White Rails, is probably a Victorian rebuild around a far older core, standing next to Little Woonton Farm which has a strange house, like a chapel or school, having a buttress on one wall. This is rather confusing as the maps show Little Woonton Farm is now where Wennetune House stands. The building here was indeed the Mission church. Opposite is a fine rambling timber-framed cottage, Crispin Cottage, again early 17th or early 18th century. On the southern edge of the village is a short terrace of Victorian houses that once contained the Post Office. The rain is now sleet. Wennetune House is probably early 20th century. Wennetune was a spelling of Woonton used in the Domesday Book. Prior to the Conquest the village was part of the King’s land and after 1066 it was held by Gerald under Roger de Lacy. Old Buck House is a former pub, The Buck Inn, with an AA yellow sign. Back at the junction, a cast iron cross stands in a far older circular stone base.
I head for Kington but by Lyonshall it is snowing heavily so I decide to return home. Flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares fly between the large orchards beside the road.
Tuesday – Leominster – Overnight there was a thin scatter of snow which froze and is now thawing leaving the pavements extremely slippery. The sky is overcast again and there is the possibility of yet more snow. Along on the Worcester Road. The new houses on the old waterworks site have been completed and some are already occupied. Gingerly up the old road onto the railway bridge. The surface is covered in wet ice. Fortunately there is enough leaf mould and vegetation to give grip underfoot. A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls from a tree beside the Worcester Road.
Through the old section of the A44. A small flock of Jacob sheep are in in the field over the hedge. They are large chocolate and cream creatures, many with powerful horns. On to Eaton Bridge, the water level in the River Lugg has risen considerably. Up Wigeon Meadow. Blackbirds are calling alarms from the thickets of Hawthorns. Every tree has been stripped of its haws. There is the constant pitter-patter of thawing ice. Up the drovers steps to the top of the hill. Progress is slow as the mud is extremely slippery. Along the hilltop past the solar farm which is probably not producing that much electricity today as the sky is darkening. A cock Ring-necked Pheasant explodes up in front of me and flies off along the hilltop. Snow is lying on the distant hills, albeit thinly.
Down the farm track to the A49. The road is busy with traffic. Cheaton Brook is flowing high, rapidly and a bright red brown colour. Cross the OK Diner car park to the bridge by the confluence of Ridgemoor Brook and the River Lugg. It has started to rain so I turn back. Round Paradise Walk and over a swiftly flowing River Kenwater. The rain is growing heavier.
Wednesday – Home – Territorial disputes have already begun in the garden. Two cock Blackbirds are fighting, flying into the air, feet outstretched at each other from the garden wall. The ground is white with frost. Temperature is barely above freezing but the sun is bright in the sky.
Bodenham Lakes – Fields south of Leominster are under water again. A pair of Mute Swans and three Canada Geese glide across the vast expanse. A short distance after Hampton Court, a Common Buzzard flies up from the road carrying what looks like a Weasel. The ditches have been recently dug out again along the lane to Bodenham so the flooding is minimal.
At Bodenham Lake a pair of Wood Pigeons scuffle in the car park. House Sparrows chatter from the barn roof. Blue and Long-tailed Tits move through the trees. The water level in the lake is up to the level of the track so the picnic table at the sailing bay lookout is standing in water. The new islands have almost completely disappeared. Mute Swans fly in and a lone drake Tufted Duck swims across the water. Further to the west there are four drake Goldeneyes and several Mallard. A female Blackbird sits underneath the brambles its feathers fluffed up making it into a ball. A Wren sings briefly as it flies into the trees. Robin is also singing nearby. The near silence is broken as a skein of Canada Geese fly in, barking loudly. Wood Pigeons fly along the edge of Westfield Wood and a Magpie flies out and across the fields. A Green Woodpecker yaffles in the trees. A Red Kite flies high overhead. There is a depressing lack of wildfowl on the lake. The hide is still locked. The orchards have numerous molehills scattered across them. Just a few winter thrushes are in the apple trees.
New Year’s Eve, Thursday – Craven Arms – As the latest lockdown starts we decide to have a quick outdoor visit to the Discovery Centre. It has snowed here, thawed somewhat and frozen making the paths a combination of crunch and slip. We follow the path round to the large pond which is largely frozen. There is little wildlife in evidence with the exception of Robins which seem to pop up everywhere observing our passage. Dry, brown heads of Teasel and grasses are shining white with frost. Back to near the centre and then down the lane and across the River Onney by the old iron footbridge. The river level is high and the water is flowing fast, a grey brown colour. Across a field to the Much Wenlock road. From the road bridge, we look down on the Onney again.
Good Riddance, But Now What?
Come, children, gather round my knee;
Something is about to be.
Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark! It’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.
A Dipper is on a shingle bank in mid-stream but departs in a whirr to the far bank and disappears under the overhanging undergrowth. Back into the town and to the Discovery Centre and back home.
Thus, another year comes to an end but this one has been like no other in over a century. The world brought almost to its knees by one of the tiniest of living creatures (and the word “living” here is a matter of dispute), a coronavirus. Now we are living in the hope that the vaccines will enable us to return to some sort of normality. Whether that matters in the long run as we still seem hell bent on destroying the natural world and, inevitably, us along with it. And on a more local level, our country has to face the inevitable bad consequences of leaving the European Union.