January 2014

Mill Stream

Wednesday – Bearwood – The rain continues to fall but I optimistically think it may stop by the time I get to Bearwood to carry one of my Winter Thrush Surveys. Fields south of Monkland are vast sheets of water. The roads are dangerous with many sections covered with up to several inches of water. Someone did not take enough care on the section between the Eardisland junction and Pembridge as a new looking white car is on its side down a bank in a roadside wood. A little further on a vast flock of winter thrushes explode from orchards; Fieldfares flying up out of the trees, Redwings shooting out of the hedgerow and across the road causing me to brake in case I hit one. Off down the lane to Luntley. I had not noticed before that the 1888 OS map calls the hamlet Barewood. Further investigation shows that this name was still being used on the maps a century later, so it is only in the last 20 years or so that the name was changed to Bearwood. Of course, my earlier optimism was badly misplaced and it continues to rain heavily. Water is flowing down the lane and rushing into ditches. Down to Longwood where the road is flooded. Tippet’s Brook is burnt ochre in colour as it rushes past. I am soaked and decide this is a waste of time. I have seen a few Wood Pigeons and heard some Rooks and Carrion Crows but nothing else. Back through Pembridge and on to Eardisland. Both the mill stream and the River Arrow are very high and flowing fast but neither have burst their banks yet. Into Leominster and a quick visit to the fields by the A49 south of the town. These are wide lakes with gulls, Mallard and Mute Swans bobbing on the wind swept ripples.

Thursday – Luntley – At last the rain moves away, albeit temporarily. A blue sky with few cirrus clouds and a sharp breeze. At last a chance to carry out the Winter Thrush Survey. From Luntley Court dovecote, off along the Tibhall road. Flocks of finches fly along the hedgerows. The lanes are still awash with water and ditches, at least the ones that are not blocked, are rushing brown torrents. At Tibhall Farm a lorry and trailer is unloading animal feed into a great hopper by a barn. RainbowTractors are moving silage and the smell spreads far and wide! A Pied Wagtail watches. A dog barks furiously at Maddy, although its tail is wagging equally furiously. Maddy disdainfully ignores it.

Back to Luntley and round to Longwood, previously known as Longwood Bar at the end of the 19th century, Longwood’s Bar from the early 20th century until the 1970s when the place is just called Longwood. I have commented before on the local names, wherein Bearwood came from Bearu meaning grove or wood and the source of barrow, so it would seem with the alternative spelling of bar means this place was Longwood’s grove. In the cottage garden are Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, House Sparrows and even a pair of Carrion Crows but despite the scattering of apples, no winter thrushes. A Common Pheasant is calling from a garden in the southern edge of Bearwood. A moment later a Common Buzzard lifts off and is immediately set upon by a passing Jackdaw. Back towards Luntley. Past an old cottage called The White House. Its paddock is flooded. A quick shower of rain brings a rainbow stretching across the sky. Back to Pembridge where a Fieldfare sits in an apple tree! On the way back past Monkland, the flooding is even more extensive than yesterday.

Friday – Shobdon – Rain pours down as I park in Shobdon to attempt this area’s Winter Thrush Survey. However, the sky looks lighter in the west and the clouds are being blown quickly by a powerful, gusty wind. The rain ceases and we head off along a wet road. Great banks of cloud to the east, the recently passed downpour and to the west, the next storm. Rooks are very active, a large flock swirls across the fields and more in a tree. A few Fieldfare pass over. The scent of wood smoke from a stove drifts down from the chimney of the cottage near the bottom of Belgate Lane. At Belgate Farm, a dog is sitting on his kennel but leaps off in a frenzy of barking as Maddy swishes by. He is chained and eventually yelps in frustration. The farmer is moving bales of hay and silage. Up beyond the old gravel pit there is a decent sized flock of Fieldfare and Redwings in a field. Small numbers of winter thrushes have been flying over but this is the first, and only, flock. Flocks of Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits are moving between hedgerows and Hawthorns. A pair of Mallard feed on the pond near the farm. Back in Shobden, half a dozen Tufted Duck wing into Pearl Lake.

Monday – Croft – It has stopped raining, briefly. The paths are awash with wet mud. Kicking Maddy’s ball is a thankless task as it is dragged to a half swiftly by the cloying leaf mulch. A Robin sings, Blue Tits chatter and the sound of running water is a constant. Drops of water sparkle like diamonds on every branch and twig. The fish pools are full and water flows down the overflow channels. Over the dam by the pumping house and up the Beech wood. It looks like a mistake as the steep slope is saturated but the climb is not too bad. A Blackbird and a Great Tit have joined in the songs. The sun sings weakly from low in the southern sky. Birch Polypore fungi lay on the ground where they have been washed off the trunks of the Silver Birches. Boughs creak in the wind which is rising. It is still mild. There seems to have been little new damage the trees by the Christmas and New Year gales. Kicking the ball off down the slope is fun as Maddy’s anticipation as to its path is often thrown astray by a ricochet off a tree trunk. Down at the end of the valley streams are bubbling down the hillsides. Luminous clouds gather. Sheep are in the bracken in the Bircher Common valley. A squawking Jay flies over. Up to Whiteway Head. An old Hawthorn has a fine crop of Oyster Mushrooms. The Mortimer Trail along the top of Leinthall Common is a quagmire. It is a slow climb up into Croft Ambrey. Below, Wigmore Moor is widely flooded. Down through the woods. The sky gets darker and the wind rises even more, it seems rain is imminent, but then the sun lights up the whole land. The Spanish Chestnut field is very wet despite being a gentle slope. Maddy goes for her cleansing swim after a little persuasion.

Oyster Mushrooms

Tuesday – Leominster – The wet and windy weather continues. It is very muddy everywhere and fields are flooded but this does not compare to many parts of the country. The sea front at Aberystwyth where we walked last year has suffered considerable damage; boats motor up roads in the Somerset Levels passing over the tops of cars; the large shingle flood defence at Newgale in Pembrokeshire is now piled across the main road; Tewkesbury is an island again; the sirens have sounded on Chesil Beach calling for immediate evacuation and hundreds of acres of farmland are under water. There is a short break in the rain as Maddy chases her ball across a sodden Grange. The ball just thuds into the mud and lays there but she does not seem to mind. Robins and Blackbirds are singing. The Kenwater is flowing fast and deep, its colour a grey-brown as it carries limestone mud whilst Cheaton Brook is red with the mud of Old Red Sandstone. By late afternoon it is raining heavily again.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lakes – Acres of pasturage south of Leominster is under water. South of Dinmore Hill the land gleams like polished pewter as the River Lugg spreads over a vast area. At Bodenham, the lake has overflowed next to the boat yard and just the top of the bench is above water. Most of the slipway pontoon has vanished and a pair of Canada Geese stand on the remaining exposed section. Round to the hide through a swampy meadow. Something sings a warbler-like sing but only a FloodsGreat Spotted Woodpecker is visible. The scrape has, of course disappeared, the water being above the level of the reed bed. Most of the Canada Geese have retreated into the wood on the island where some relatively dry land still remains. Wigeon are scattered across the lake in loose flocks. A couple of Cormorants stand on the pontoon drying their wings and a couple more in the trees. There have been reports of Whooper and Berwick Swans at Wellington Gravel pits but they do not seen to venture here. The same applies to Shovelers which I do not think I have ever recorded here. A decent number of Teal are at the western end, circling each other and squabbling with occasional fights breaking out. A few Mallard are in this area too. A Common Buzzard sits in a tree, or at least I think that is what it is, it is in the limit of my binoculars and it is one of those times I regret being too lazy to bring my scope. A Green Woodpecker flies up from the pasture beyond the hide and into the woods. A pair of Magpies flies along the edge of Westfield Wood and the songs and calls of Robins, Song Thrush and Jays comes from the tree on the hillside. Although all the leaves have fallen now, some trees are still decorated by Ivy, Mistletoe and Old Man’s Beard. Back over the bridge over the River Lugg which is a broad area of flood water. A flock of Lapwings pass over, a rather rare sight around here for some reason. The road is deeply flooded in the way back to Bodenham, a rather nerve-wracking drive.

Friday – Leominster – Somehow Maddy has split a claw on her front right paw and it was obviously very painful. So a limping dog went to the vet yesterday afternoon who cut off the offending nail which obviously was also very painful for the poor animal. This morning she is still limping but less so and is quite annoyed when I refuse to throw her ball for her. The morning freighter from Port Talbot is held by a red signal outside Leominster station and seems to show impatience with a couple of loud blasts on its horn. This is repeated and seems to wake up the signalman, the lights turn green and the diesel growls and lumbers forward into the dark. Resurs-DK No. 1, a commercial earth observation satellite launched by the Russian company TsSKB in 2006 passes over.

Hereford – Off to Hereford by train without Maddy which seems strange but it would be better to let her paw rest for the day. Flooding to the east of the railway and road continues down to the end of the golf course at Ford. After Dinmore the water is pretty much continuous until Holmer. Goosander swim near the impassable Marden road. From Hereford station I walk through the city centre to the old bridge. There is a fine bronze relief map of the city in the new western end precinct of the cathedral. The River Wye is still high and swirling but the level has dropped considerably since Victorian Villa, Broomy Hillpictures appeared in the press of King George’s Fields under water. Up Bridge Street where I notice an Art Deco building, very angular with a black fa├žade at the base with cream upper floors finely delineated in green. Across Victoria Street to Barton Road. St Nicholas’ church in the corner has locked studded doors. On the opposite side of the road is Greyfriars Avenue. Here, close to the river stood a Franciscan Friary, founded by Sir William Pembrugge about 1228. It stood outside the city walls. Owen Tudor, beheaded in Hereford after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461, was buried here as was Sir Richard Pembridge, who died in 1375. After dissolution in 1538, the tomb of Sir Richard Pembridge was moved to the nave of Hereford Cathedral. In 1540 the remaining premises were leased out, together with associated land, and then in 1545 the premises were granted to Mr James Boyle in whose family it continued until early in the 17th century. The remaining buildings were probably removed in the Civil War to prevent attacking troops using them as cover. Barton Road has a mixture of buildings, from Georgian to modern. Barton Hall is an old meeting house, dating from 1858. Turnpike House is 18th century, rendered over a timber frame which may be earlier.

The road passes over the old railway line of the Hereford, Abergavenny and Newport Branch of the GWR, now a cycle route. A Japanese Mahonia (mahonia japonica) is in flower, bright yellow spikes. A male Blackcap ticks loudly from a branch. Along Broomy Hill where there are some vast Victorian houses and Barton Lodge, a fine Victorian villa. The old waterworks are now a museum but oddly only open in Tuesdays. Opposite the rugby pitches are flooded. back along the road past another lovely Victorian villa whose windows have open bays with enriched columns and pilasters. Behind is Broomy Hill water tower built in 1883. The lane enters Breinton. To the south is the Wye and beyond the hills of Aconbury and Dinedor, both topped by Iron Age hill-forts. It has been suggested the river formed the boundary between the territories of the Dubunni tribe to the south and the Cornovii to the north and it is easy to see how the forts could have guarded the territory of the Dubunni. (It is worth mentioning that this is pretty speculative. I have commented before on this tribal division when sources indicated that north of the Wye was occupied by the Dubunni and these camps by the Silures. Still other sources suggest it is not possible to distinguish between Cornovii and White CrossDubunni settlements.)

Belmont Abbey stands on a hill over the river. Fieldfares call from a large orchards at Hereford Community Farm at Warham Court. A Great Spotted Woodpecker displaces Great, Blue and Coal Tits on a peanut feeder. Greenbank is an ancient field consisting of Lower Cow Pasture and Brick-Kiln Meadow on the banks of the Wye owned in the Middle Ages by the Bishop of Hereford. To the north is Warham House, built in the 1700s and altered substantially in mid 19th century by Francis Richard Haggitt, who changed his name to Wegg-Prosser and established the Benedictine community at Belmont Abbey. A Jay is chattering near the gateway to Warham House, far different calls to its normal harsh squawk. The lane passes field and large orchards and comes to Lower Breinton. A cluster of buildings consist of Breinton Grange (formally the rectory built by the du Buisson family), school and St Michael’s Church, unfortunately locked. The church dates from 1200 but was substantially rebuilt by F.R. Kempson between 1866 and 1870. In the churchyard is Canon Gorton’s grave. Gorton, a canon of Manchester Cathedral and Rector of Morecombe, was a friend of Elgar. There is also the grave of Dr Henry Graves Bull (1818-1885) founder of the British Mycological Society. He was also a founding member of the local Woolhope Field Naturalist’s Club and a friend of Charles Bulmer, the cider maker. An orchard of eating apples stands next to the church and at least one windfall is still very edible. Beyond the churchyard are earthworks that are probably the mound of a castle from around 1150 but abandoned in the 13th century. More lumps and bumps to the north indicate the site of a mediaeval village. Lanes lead through more orchards, pastures and even past a field of rows and rows of small conifers. The sun shines watery but the grey clouds are not bringing rain yet. Greenfinches watch from a Silver Birch as Breinton Lane meets the main road, the A438 to Brecon, at Swainshill and I turn towards King’s Acre and the city.

King’s Acre consists of a very long stretch of mid-20th century semis with some bungalows and detached houses and the Houseodd older property, a huge Wyevale garden centre and a couple of car dealerships. This is classic ribbon development along what looks like a Roman road but is not. The road enters the city where the housing contains more early 20th century properties. The road comes to Whitecross, where the tall cross stands on a roundabout. The cross was built by Bishop Charlton about 1362 to mark a market place that was set up on waste ground outside the city on the Hay road because people were too afraid to go into the town because of plague. It was extensively restored in 1864. A pint of Strongbow in an indifferent pub and in towards the city centre. A row of villas is dated 1864. The houses on this road seem to be of various periods but any date on them are all the same 1864. It is interesting that large villas and rather older, meaner looking cottages were all built within 12 months. One has a fine blue ironwork noted by Pevsner. Past Holy Trinity church built in 1885. Oddly the dated houses now are later. 1870s and 1880s except for a delightful row of almshouses dated 1849 with a plaque declaring the foundation stone was laid by the honourable Lady Emily Foley of Stoke Edith Park. A larger group of sixty almshouses stands set back from Whitecross Road. The site was the Lazarus Hospital known as the Sick Man’s Hospital. Endowments date from 1595. Next is Price’s almshouses, founded in 1665 for twelve aged men, a bequest by one William Price, a citizen and merchant of London. His will, of November 3rd 1604, states that... being sick in body but perfect of memory do make and declare this, my present will....that out of moneys coming from the sale of said messuages, lands, tenements, etc., they shall procure and purchase sufficient corportion and licence of mortmain for the erection and establishing of an almshouse. They were not completed until 1665 and consisted of ten dwellings, a chapel and a short wing at each end containing additional cottages. A detour down Ryelands Street, a street of late Victorian houses and the entrance to Hereford Cider Museum. The street brings me back to Breinton Road. Up beside the old railway brings me to a massive Sainsburys which I did not know existed. It stands on the site of Barton Station which closed in 1893 and was demolished in 1913 although the goods yards were used until 1979. On the western side of the site stood Bulmers Cider Mill, started by Percy Bulmer in 1889 after he moved his operation from Maylord Street in the city centre. The entrance to the mill is now the museum entrance. Apples were brought into the mill by rail (as well as horse and cart) and cider taken out the same way. Back into Whitecross Road and past the Victoria Eye Hospital, but now apartments. Through the city. One of the East European delis has closed but two new ones have opened. Weatherspoons have six local ciders on draught, oh dear.

Sunday – Leominster – Frost has finally hardened the ground. A Song Thrush pours forth its liquid notes before dawn. After breakfast I head down the road and over the railway. The River Lugg is still high. Under road bridge is several inches of clinging mud where the river has overflowed and deposited. High clouds are lit by the sun which is yet to emerge over Eaton Hill. Paddocks near Eaton Bridge are flooded. Eighteen Pied Wagtails scurry around the ice. Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Bullfinches flit along the river side Hawthorns. Up to Widgeon Meadow and up into Eaton Hill. At the top of the drovers steps and north a little is a new name board declaring the field beyond as Pinsbly Wood Pasture, Private. Along the top of the hill where rabbits and Grey Squirrels dash across the part. Down to Easters Meadow. The sun has now risen and is melting the frost on the trees and drops fall pitter-patter onto the frozen leaf litter below. The Minster bells ring out.


Monday – Mortimer Forest – The sun shines brightly in a mainly blue sky although the hills are topped with cloud. A Robin sings and a Blue Tit squeaks. Up to the Iron Age enclosure which had been cleared a few years ago but is rapidly disappearing under hundreds of Silver Birch saplings between three and eight feet tall. The paths are inevitably squelchy with wet mud and saturated leaf mould. Along the long track towards pond. Mist rises like smoke from the conifer plantation. Up the path to High Vinnalls. Horses have made a muddy path into a quagmire. High Vinnalls is shrouded in mist. There has been little to see in regards of wildlife for some time now, just a few squeaks come from the trees. Down out of the clouds into sodden woods. Drops of water sparkle on twigs and branches. The sky is beginning to cloud over.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lakes – Another grey and damp morning. The flood waters are falling but the lake on the field south of Leominster is still large enough for a small herd of a Mute Swans. The level of the River Lugg at Bodenham has fallen slightly as has that of the lake. A Song Thrush sings strongly in the lake side trees. Wigeon are scattered across the lake, well over one hundred, mainly sleeping. The Canada Geese are still inside the island copse. Mallard, Teal and Goldeneye are also present. A couple of Cormorant stand on the pontoon and a pair of Mute Swans glide into view. Coots bob up down as they dive for food.

Friday – Leominster – A few stars peep through the clouds. A Tawny Owl calls despite the lightening sky. Snowdrops are flowering in the churchyard. At home several male Blackbirds are fighting in the Yew tree. At home, the fallen Elders, honeysuckle and rose have been cleared now (over 30 bags of cut up branches, stems etc.) and the House Sparrows have got used to the new landscape and wait for me to fill the seed feeder.

Ludlow – Out of the station and up to Gravel Hill. Past houses with odd names – The Rumbles, The Cedars (without a Cedar in sight). Into St Julian’s Road and then Livesey Road which divides about a tree which has what looks like a stone built tomb at its base. This is St Julian’s Well. The well head is made of rubble with dressed coping stones and quoins, probably 18th century although, of course, the well is much older. The history of the wells of Ludlow is not easy to follow. Thomas Wright in his book The Histories and Antiquities of Ludlow published in 1826 refers to the far famed well of St Julian in Ludford. This site is not in Ludford and indeed he refers to the Hospital which would have been St Giles on the south side of Ludford Bridge. Notes by Laurens Otter state that wells have been Wellattributed to St Julian (Mother Julian of Norfolk) or St Juliana of Nicodema. Up to the main road and into Whitbread Road and a housing estate. The former council estate becomes a modern private build. A footpath, which takes a bit of finding runs down to the Rocks Green roundabout in the A49.

Rocks Green is a small hamlet with a pub, The Nelson Inn which has a fine old barn at the back. Next door is Nelson Cottage which looks Georgian at least. Otherwise nearly all other properties seem to be 20th century. A new road heads north through a housing association estate of timber clad houses built a few years ago. At the bottom of the road a lorry unloads wood chips into a building which contains two 150kW woodfuel burners pro