Friday – Home – A strange week. A persistent sore throat was reported on the Covid-19 reporting site and I was told to take a swab test. This proved negative for the virus but I still feel vaguely unwell. I consider a walk today but first my knee is painful when I visit the Friday Market then my ankle starts hurting. I give up in disgust at my feebleness.
In the afternoon I plant out some Cavolo Nero seedlings. A row of beetroot is thinned and the thinnings’ leaves are frozen. A trough of leeks that was in the greenhouse is planted out in a bed to grow on before being moved into their final position, which currently is the potato bed. The leek nursery bed held three Pentland Javelin potato plants. They were rather poor and yielded only half a dozen potatoes. The weather has been changeable all week and rain arrives by the end of the afternoon.
Sunday – Leominster – The sun shines brightly but it may be only temporary as voluminous grey clouds move across the sky. A gale buffeted the trees throughout the night and although it has subsided it is still a blustery wind this morning. A few chirping House Sparrows are the only birds to be heard down the street. A Wood Pigeon calls from behind the White Lion pub which has opened again following the partial lifting of the lockdown. The River Lugg is still flowing steadily but shallowly, its waters clear, leaving large gravel banks exposed. A Blackcap sings in riverside trees. Tall pale tan grasses cover Easters Meadow. Stands of Dock rise up, rusty red. The Sunday car boot sale is yet to reopen. A single Swift flies high in the sky. A Wren bursts into song.
Back round to the Millennium Park. Meadow Cranesbill and Black Knapweed stand high around the cider apple trees most of which carry a good crop. Into the churchyard. One grave is still attended to and a fresh bunch of flowers has been placed on it. Others are a mass of White Stonecrop. The minster has reopened its doors after the lockdown.
Home – We have a morning of hacking and slashing in the garden. A rose on our rose bower has failed to produce any flowers again this year and is clearly suffering badly from mildew or some similar disease, so we decide to remove it completely, although it is a huge old rose so the stump will have to remain in the ground. It is chopped up and put into a hippo bag. Nearby is a lilac bush which has for some years been fighting to get out of the dense growth of a Leylandii. However the Leylandii was removed last year and now the poor lilac is just a mass of stalks with leaves starting 8 to 9 feet in the air. So it is cut back to about 3 feet high; we are sure that it will re-sprout. Some of it is also chopped up and put into the hippo bag but the bag is now quite heavy enough so the rest will have to wait. Kay is cutting back a lovely bush rose which is grown completely out of control behind the chicken run. It makes getting to the hatch to remove eggs (although no longer in the plural) quite difficult. It is a very vigorous rose and will regrow quickly. The Sunday clipping of the vine is undertaken and the leaves fed to the chickens. The first courgettes are appearing.
Monday – Richards Castle – Off along Woodhouse Lane past All Saints’ Church at Richards Castle. The sky is covered in grey cloud and there is still a blustery wind. A Chiffchaff calls. A Wood Pigeon stands on the cross on the apex of the church. The east side of the road is lined with large modern houses. Another Chiffchaff calls from a large Oak which is probably over 200 years old. Honeysuckle flowers in the hedgerow. Meadowsweet has come into flower on the verge. To the west of large empty fields of grass. A Yellowhammer sings from a hedgerow crossing this field. Another large old Oak stands beside the road about 100 yards from the other and I can see yet another a short distance onwards, probably about 150 yards. The hedgerow between them consists of Beech, Holly, Elder, Ash, Field Rose and Hawthorn. This would indicate a hedge that is over 500 years old. A Swallow is passing low over the top of the hedge.
Across a field of maize to the east is the village hall of Richards Castle, a mock timber-framed building of 1929. Beyond are the tall masts of Orleton listening station. A 14 spot Ladybird is motionless on a Stinging Nettle leaf. A Meadow Brown butterfly flits along the hedgerow. From above comes a song of a Skylark. Past the Manor House, a large mid 20th century building. The garden is adorned with specimen trees – Copper Beeches, Pines, Limes and Laburnum. A brick and concrete water tank stands on the edge of a field. Below is Lower House Farm with a timber-framed farmhouse and beyond is the village of Richards Castle. House Martin jinks across the field.
The lane runs along the interface of the Whitcliff formation and the Downton Castle formation of mudstones, both Silurian. The lane comes to a crossroads at Rock. On the junction is the 17th century Rock Cottage. The lane to the right leads to the old St Batholomews church and castle in the old centre of the village. I head in the opposite direction, east down towards the newer part. Upper House is a former farm. Lower House Farm house is 17th century. Greater Bindweed inveigles its way through the hedgerow and verge plants. Its white trumpet flowers are attracting hoverflies. A fine 17th century dovecote stands by the similarly aged Cider Mill of Court House Farm, although it is mostly hidden by hedges. Court House early 17th century, refitted in the late 17th or early 18th century, with a late 18th century extension. Opposite is Court Cottage, also 17th century.
The lane passes through an area of 20th and 21st century housing. The lane, Castle Road joins the Ludlow Road beside the Castle Inn. The inn has a fine black and yellow AA sign marking the distance between Ludlow and Leominster and stating London is 138 miles. Another pub, Salwey Arms, was on the other side of the road, but it is not clear which building housed it. Nearby is Westbrook house and on the far side of the main road several timber-framed cottages. The Tan House is dated to the 15th century. The inventory of John Higgins, Tanner in 1726 valued his total goods at £379 of which £231 represented his stock in trade of leather. Tan Brook flows beside the road.
A short distance northwards is the junction with Park Lane. A timber-framed house stands a little was along Park Lane. This is Pool House, a 16th century house. It is believed it is on the site of the medieval hospital of St John the Baptist and St Mary Magdalene, Blethlowe. In 1447 there was a grant to John Launsell, chaplain, of the wardenship of the hospital called Poolehouse in Bethlowe, a writ of 1407 refers to the advowson of the free chapel called ‘ye Polehousse’ ... belonging to the castle and manor of Richards Castle. In 1397 there is a grant to John Hale, clerk of the Kings Chapel, of wardenship of the Hospital of St John and St Mary Magdalene, Blethlowe. In 1330 and 1340/1 there are references to the chapel of Blethelawe and Blythelowe, co. Salop respectively. In 1334 and 1350 there are other references to the Hospital of St John the Baptist of Blythelowe but in 1221 Court Records refer only to the Hospital of Richards Castle. The township of Blethlowe was situated round and south of the Castle Inn on the B4361. This township was probably started in the 14th century as hospitals were seldom situated near to villages or towns.
Past the village hall community centre. Next to it is old school with a plaque starting erected 1875. Surprisingly the footpath does not continue to the church. An overgrown gate leads to a path that proceeds to the church. Each side of the path there is fine cast iron fence with a chain. Several seemingly abandoned ants’ nests lay beside the path. The path arrives at a large arch under the church tower. Steps rising to church door have been covered in plastic sheeting to protect them from roosting birds, and indeed there are several nests of Swallows or House Martins in the rafters. Around the other side of the church is the modern porch entrance where a sheet of cardboard protects the floor against the droppings from a nest above, this one looking like House Sparrow.
Friday – Pilleth – The weather has been wet for several days, now this morning there is a blustery wind and sunshine. There are still plenty of cloud but it is dry. Out of the village of Whitton, Llanddewi yn Hwytyn, heading west along Penybont Road. The white church of St Mary’s at Pilleth stands ahead on the hill Owain Glyndŵr and his general, Rhys Gethin, destroyed an English force commanded by Edmund Mortimer. Trees either side of the road were planted at the Millennium. Fields gently slope down on the southern side to the River Lugg, to the north-east the hill rises across sheep pastures. Birdsong is intermittent, an occasional Whitethroat from the roadside hedge and partial song with the Yellowhammer from across the fields.
Through Pilleth Court, a farm where all the buildings have been converted into residences. A rough lane heads east before turning north. A flock of Wood Pigeons flies up from a harvested field. The lane climbs past for ancient Oaks. As the track turns northwards it emergences in the open fields. Below is Nant-y-Groes Hall, a late 18th or early 19st century house, previously site of the home of Doctor John Dee, celebrated mathematician, alchemist, cryptographer, spy and astrologer to Elizabeth I. Flowers beside the lane are nearly all yellow – various members of the Dandelion family and Birdsfoot Trefoil. The land falls away to east down into Cwm Blewyn. Across the field to the west is Crugyn Plantation. Swallows flit past. An Ash tree has a fine canopy but its wide trunk is a hollow and broken mass. There is a large tump on the top of the hill to the west but nothing is marked on the map. A Jay (Sgrech y coed – Screecher of the Woods) squawks in the woods at the bottom of the cwm. House Martins have joined the Swallows across the hilltop, sweeping low over the fields where sheep are disturbing insects. Tiny white stars of Lesser Stitchwort grow on the bank beside the lane.
Through Cwm Blewyn farm which looks abandoned. Common Buzzards mew as they rise from a small wood. Past a farm where an old Collie “welcomes” me. A field is being mown. Linnets, a Stonechat and Meadow Pipits fly along the swathe of Bracken beside the track. The track turns to the north-west. The collie monitoring my progress up to the path junction decides I am off his territory and returns to the farmhouse. At a gate tied tightly closed I speak to her another walker. He tells me this is the right way which is helpful as my GPS is thus wrong. A Meadow Brown is visiting Foxgloves. Past a pond and through a pedestrian gate.
I now discover my GPS is right and my human advisor was wrong and I am now heading down towards Monaghty between Craig and Black Hills. The path descends steeply to a conifer plantation. The track is exposed Ludlow mudstone laid down in the Silurian, approximately 419 to 423 million years ago. A bee visits Wood Sage flowers. Below are ruins of Upper Craig. A Nuthatch calls high in the trees. The path leaves the plantation and crosses a large meadowthen out onto an open hillside. A bleached sheep skull lays on the path. The track starts to descend into the Lugg valley. A Chiffchaff calls from trees below and a Raven cronks and it passes over. Thyme flowers in the steep banks where layers of rock are exposed.
The track enters a woodland of young and more mature Oaks, Sweet Chestnuts, Birches, Hazels and Wild Cherries. The track ends on the Penybont Road. In a short distance is the junction of the A488. Across from the junction is Monaughty. This large and impressive house was built on the site of a grange to Abbey Cwmhir, home of the Price family, High Sheriffs and MPs in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was reordered in 1838 and was one of the earliest stone houses in Radnorshire. A relatively small stair tower is timber-framed to the top but the rest of the hall and two large wings are in stone. The house was extensively altered in the 19st century but most of these alterations have now been removed and the house restored. The house has a large formal garden.
Back up the road to Whitton. Green elderberries are appearing in the hedges. The road passes Forest View Wood. Two towering Wellingtonia stand on the back below Forest View. On past the woods weather is another Wellingtonia and several large Yews. Carrion Crows fly over with ragged wings. Pilleth cottage has been much extended. Down towards the River Lugg are the earthworks of Castel Foel-allt, almost certainly just a wooden defensive castle. The stream out of Nant-y-groes, which flows down Cwm Blewyn, is almost dry. Route
Sunday – Leominster – Feathery horsetail clouds are high in an azure sky. Gangs of Swifts sweep across the rooftops, screaming loudly. Along the path to railway bridge. A single Agrimony grows among the Stinging Nettles. The water level in the River Lugg remains low. Back round into Pinsley Mill. The swathes of Rosebay Willowherb beside the railway are now in full blossom. A Blackcap is still singing in the thicket in the Millennium Park. I gather some Meadow Cranesbill seed heads to dry and add to our little patch of meadow in the garden. Across Pinsley Mead to the River Kenwater where the level is low and the flow sluggish.
The churchyard is cool and quiet. A Rabbit bounces away into the trees and a Wren bursts into song. A Little Japanese Umbrella fungus, Coprinus plicatilis, rises from the grass. Above it is a Hazel with a good crop of cobnuts.
Home – The gooseberries on the bush near the pond have all been gathered in. Little has been done to this bush over the years but it is now growing out over the path so I prune it, just a little. The gooseberry bush that was cut right down in January has plenty of new growth, but of course no gooseberries. This bush is given a prune and hopefully there will be a crop next year, although it will probably be the usual losing fight with the birds. In the afternoon there is a small cropping for dinner – carrots, peas, the first French beans and potatoes. A House Sparrow has a fine time in the bird bath sending up spray into the air.
Monday – Home – A dull muggy day with rain threatening. A female Speckled Bush Cricket, Leptophyes punctatissima, is standing motionless on a dahlia. Young Blue Tits feed on peanuts. The Blackbirds clearly have had a successful second, or maybe even third, brood. A young fledgling stands on the path just looking at me. It eventually decides to fly off into the laurel. Many of the Gladstone apples have now fallen, most with bird damage and quite small, so they are put straight into the compost. A few larger specimens are taken in for eating. Oakleaf lettuces are growing slowly which is a pity as all the other varieties have bolted. A wire mesh is put up for a third sowing of peas which are a couple of inches high now. A branch is being used as a stick for a climbing courgette which has now risen to about four feet. The bush courgettes are beginning to produce fruit but this one and the Chicago squash are both just producing long runners and male flowers. Rain is in the air.
Tuesday – Leominster – Grey clouds cover the sky and rain is in the air. Over the railway to Butts Bridge over the River Lugg. An Ash sapling is bent under the weight of Black Bryony which has crawled all over it. The Black Bryony has come from a mass which is covering a bush whose identity is completely hidden. A man is working at the water station, checking water quality I assume. Under the A49 through Mosaic Bridge. Plant life along the rivers edge is profuse – Great Willowherb, Burdock leaves, one of the Bistorts and, unfortunately, Himalayan Balsam. A Chiffchaff calls strongly.
The path beyond Easter’s Wood, past the horse paddocks, is overgrown and the grass is saturated soon getting my trousers into a similar condition. In a sheltered spot on the river Water Boatman scull across the surface whilst small black flies dart here and there over them. Some tree felling has taken place along the path. A Green Woodpecker calls from Eaton Hill across the field. The winged fruits of a Sycamore hand thickly from a tree beside Eaton Bridge.
Along the old route of the A44. Some blackberries have already ripened whilst others are still in flower. Across the road and up towards the old railway bridge. A Buddleia is a blaze of purple but without a single insect visiting the mass of flowers. Rabbits are on the muddy track beneath the bridge. Evening Primrose is dotted around along sides of this track. The Milford Haven train passes under. The home signal crashes back to stop. Ragwort on the bridge is being devoured by the tiger-striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth. Jackdaws gather at top of a dead tree. The wind is increasing in strength.
Home – A patch of early potatoes has been cleared, with a small and disappointing crop. The ground is raked and then a row each of kale, winter cabbage and pak choi are sown. A tray of Holy Basil is potted up; it has a delightful lemony scent. The wild area is then “weeded” in an attempt to control Stinging Nettles, Brambles and Black Bryony.
Friday – Craven Arms – At Onibury the traffic is held at the level crossing as the Flying Banana, a yellow track testing train, passes. I try to park in the car park attached to Stokesay Castle, but it is closed. So I use the lay-by on the main road.
The sun shines in almost clear blue sky. I set off across the A49 and into the Onny Meadows. Beside the path is a seven foot high Hogweed now in seed, spiked heads of Burdock Great Willowherb and Ragwort. On the other side of the path are Stinging Nettles and an eight foot high Teasel. Grasses in the meadows are turning pale brown. The green explosion of Spring is over and many plants are now looking to set seed and fruits. A sign by the River Onny warns “Danger Deep Water” but today the river is only inches deep. The meadow has a variety of grasses which I attempt to identify. I think there are Smaller Cat’s-tail, Cock’s Foot and a Meadow Grass. Chiffchaffs call and a Sedge Warbler sings in the woodlands that surround a merely damp streambed. A metallic deep turquoise, black-winged Beautiful Demoiselle flies from flower to flower. A Common Blue butterfly rests on a leaf. A Small White feeds on Black Knapweed. Across a meadow and past a large withy bed.
The path winds round to the visitors’ centre and then out past the Stokesay Arms to Newton. A lane passes older persons’ bungalows. Opposite is the old Rectory, late 16th or early 17th century. A brick house of 1877 is followed by a pair of 17th century timber-framed cottages. At the end of the lane is another late 16th or early 17th century timber-framed house and a track back to the river. A metal footbridge crosses the river into a sheep pasture. An odd looking Carrion Crow has a brown tinge rather than the blue-black of normal crows and also has large areas of white on its wings. A Red Kite circles overhead. As the path approaches the Much Wenlock road sheep can be heard from the slaughterhouse on the far side of the river. Although I have been eating meat for over a decade now I still feel very uncomfortable about these animals about to be slaughtered. A Gatekeeper butterfly suns itself in the roadside hedgerow.
Into Halford. An unfinished new build was, I seem to recall, under construction last time I passed this way last year. Toadflax flowers on the verge. Past the big farmhouses and the church of St Thomas. On along the lane past Church Farm where all the barns have been converted into residences. A Comma butterfly feeds on yarrow. Past the school house. Off onto a path across a rough meadow. A footbridge crosses the River Onny. The footpath ends at the A49 beside a large, late Victorian house. A drinking trough stands by the road installed by the “Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association”.
Across the Shrewsbury Road to Long Lane opposite. A Goldfinch sings from wires. Past a couple of houses, one timber-framed, the other a good looking Victorian house and across the railway line. The former Crossing Keepers cottage stands on the other side. Sky is clouding over rapidly. Past Craven Arms Business Park and south into Watling Street, the Roman road. Large articulated animal carrier from Oxford turns in to what the sign says is a Play Farm. The lane rises past modern housing estates, some still being constructed on either side of it. A footpath crosses a couple of fields down to Clun Road. The stiles are pretty much at the limit of what I can manage these days.
Back to the centre of Craven Arms. Sadly the Craven Arms Hotel is boarded up. Its future has looked uncertain for some years now and I suppose the Covid-19 outbreak was the last straw. Route
Home – Kay sees another Red Kite passing over. They are becoming ever more regular now.
Saturday – Home – A large amount of apples have fallen from the Gladstone tree, mainly onto the netting over the chicken run. The weight in the net has pulled the sides of the run to such and extent that the door jams. I tip them out through a small area that has become detached and into a container. There really are too many to just dump into the compost, which I have been doing so far. Instead I decide to juice them. It is a long operation because all the equipment has been unused for over 18 months and all needs a thorough wash first. Then the apples are reduced to pulp using a blade attached to an electric drill. There are apples soft to begin with, so this makes a very soft pulp. This is less than ideal as the juice is thick and mud coloured with sediment. Filtering helps only slightly, but it is hardly a major issue. A gallon is pressed and then heated to just below boiling for half an hour to sterilise it. It is then bottled. A large plastic bottle goes into the freezer and the rest into beer bottles in the fridge.
We have a first decent amount of tomatoes with our dinner. They are dressed with basil leaves and a little olive oil and are utterly delicious.
Sunday – Leominster – Rain fell heavily overnight but the morning is bright with sun blazing up the street. Into the Millennium Park. A Chiffchaff calls and a Magpie is churring excitedly. A breeze brings a coolness to the air. Large Elders have heavy crops of ripening berries. A cock crows from the smallholding across the river. Speckled Wood butterflies dance in the sunbeams. In the Peace Garden is a single Nettle-leaved Bellflower among the Great Willowherbs. The River Kenwater is very shallow.
Into the churchyard. A Song Thrush sings and Wood Pigeons call. Little purple-red apples have appeared on a crab apple.
Home – The broad beans are removed. There has been a fair crop this year but only enough to provide a few meals and none for the freezer. Another Kestrel potato plant is dug, again a fair but not prolific crop. Kay and I tie up a rose on the bower. It has grown well this year and has plenty of flowers. We need it to grow along the bower, it is all at one end at the moment, to compensate for the one we had to take out earlier. The recently sown carrots and peas are growing well and the kale and pak choi are just beginning to show but not the winter cabbage yet. Later a few dwarf French beans and a couple of large cabbage leaves are gathered for dinner.
Monday – Leominster – The sun makes periodic appearances from behind slow moving clouds. Through the town and up Green Lane. A Red Kite drifts over. Into Ginhall Lane. A chequered-bodied red-eyed Flesh Fly inspects a wooden gate post. Meadow Brown butterflies visit pink Creeping Thistle flowers. Across the fields lays the valley of the River Lugg rising to Croft. The woods drop down at Aymestrey then rise again west to Shobdon. On along the lane. Egg-shaped green cones are turning brown on a Cedar. Thick bunches of winged keys hang from a Sycamore. Pink Herb Robert and creamy White Dead-nettle flower on the verge. The hedgerow is laden with blackberries, some glossy black, others still in flower. Wild Arum stalks carry vermilion berries. A Speckled Wood rests on a Hazel leaf, a Small White on a Stinging Nettle.
Past the allotments, then a field of golden hay. Beyond is Cursneh Hill. A small straggle of Woody Nightshade lays among Stinging Nettles. A Greenbottle and a tiny hoverfly with legs fattened with yellow pollen are in the white heads of a Hogweed.
I venture into the old Barons Cross military site. Large blocks of mudstone surround the entrance to prevent vehicular access. The area is scrubland with the usual scrubland flowers – Ragwort with Cinnabar moth caterpillars, Tufted Vetch, White Campion, Yarrow, Teasel, Stinging Nettles and Creeping Thistles. Little remains of the former barracks and hospital. What looks like a brick water tank stands near the road. Towards the west end is a large mound of partly excavated soil. Nearby is a pile of what is probably asbestos roofing has been dumped.
Along Barons Cross Road past Buckfield estate. Buddleia flowers is being visited by butterflies and bees. A Red Admiral, a Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell all feed on the highly scented flowers. Scaffolding is being erected on the Barons Cross Inn. Several campervans are in the field behind the pub. An old Velocette Viper motorbike with its trademark fishtail exhaust chugs by. A part of the footpath is covered with the papery brown seed pod coverings of Lime trees.
Home – The patch of ground uncovered then the broad beans were removed yesterday is very weedy. I remove a large container’s worth. The ground needs some organic matter to break it up as it is still very heavy clay. Something has been munching the two largest cabbages so they are cut and taken indoors. Their conical centres are chopped, sliced and blanched giving three large plastic containers worth for the freezer. There is also enough left to make coleslaw tonight. The outer leaves are very coarse and I think they will go to the chickens. Rocket the hen is moving much better now and looks altogether much livelier, although no eggs!
Thursday – Dark clouds are scattered across the sky. Down to the Millennium Park. The boughs of the Lady’s Finger cider apple tree hand heavy with fruit. There is little bird song now. A Carrion Crow calls harshly and Wood Pigeons coo. Into the churchyard. Fresh wood chippings have been placed around the grave of Seweryn Dziewicki (1812-1862) took part in the famous attack on the Warsaw Arsenal on the November night, 1830, and then in the Polish-Russian war (1831). After the collapse of the uprising, he emigrated with thousands of his compatriots to the west of Europe. In Dijon, France, he joined the Masonic Lodge of the “Undivided Trinity”. With a group of Poles he also participated in unsuccessful revolutionary expeditions to Frankfurt (1833) and Savoy (1834), described, among others, by in the diaries of his friend Dziewicki – Jan Bartkowski.
In the spring of 1834 he was expelled to England, where he co-founded the Gromada Ludu Polski “Grudziąż” in Portsmouth (the first socialist peasant organization in Europe). The arrival of the November insurgents to Portsmouth initiated the history of Polish emigration to the British Isles, which continues to this day. He was also Dziewicki, until 1837, a member of the Polish Democratic Society, informally known as “the first Polish political party”. In 1849 he married an Englishwoman Jane Jones (1826-1902), he had several children with her, including Michał Dziewicki, later a lecturer at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He died under mysterious circumstances in the River Lugg in December 1862.
Friday – Kington – The sky is overcast by glowing grey clouds. It is humid. I set off from Hatton industrial estate on the outskirts of Kington. On the junction with the A40 is a small patch of ornamental shrubs but they have been completely overwhelmed by Brambles and Woody Nightshade. Onto the Presteigne road. Back Brook flows in a channel deep below the road. A short distance beyond the bridge is Barton Lane which start climbing into the hills. There are far fewer flowers on the verges now but Honeysuckle scents the air from the hedgerows over which Swallows sweep. Past a short terrace of cottages, Barton Row, almost certainly former farm workers dwellings. Several farm buildings have been converted into dwellings, another is a smaller farmhouse but further up the hill is the main house, a very large double building. This is Barton. Just up the road is the large spreading base of an Oak tree with a burrow heading into the core. A modern weathervane is outside the farmhouse has a vane with the date, 1872.
A lane in front of the farmhouse heads north-west. The track becomes grassed over. Fields either side of the track either sheep pastures or hay meadows already mown. Bank Farm farmhouse is a fine Georgian building looking out across the gentle slope down to the valley of the River Arrow. The track meets the Mortimer Trail. Common Buzzards mew overhead below House Martins and Swallows twitter as they dash to and fro for insects, probably still feeding young. China blue Harebells flower along the hedgerow. To the south-east is a row of 20th century houses. The trail continues up the hills past Bank Farm. Bees buzz around the entrance of a hive made of wooden boxes and breeze blocks.
An old quarry lies in the hillside, its stone exactly the same as that used for building Bank Farm. The trail crosses a badly worn public road and then turns up another. The remains of road markings can just be discerned on the junction. Past what looks like a ruined stone barn, but the presence of a chimney suggests it was a dwelling, (the old OS map confirms it was Hill House). Hazel trees have a good crop of green nuts. Flies are being very irritating buzzing around my head. A Violet Ground Beetle, often called a rain beetle which is, hopefully not a warning, crosses the road which continues to climb fairly steeply. Past Tinkers Wood. Through Hillgate farm and out onto open hillside.
The views to the south are magnificent. The top of Sugar Loaf can be seen in the south-west and the Clent Hills to the east. Across the large sheep pasture. To the west now is the full extent is the Black Mountains, Hay Bluff and Twmpa, Lord Hereford’s Knob and in the mist, the Brecon Beacons. The route turns north side an area of ground full of lumps and hollows and scattered Gorse. As the path reaches the top of the hill, the Clee Hills come into view on the eastern horizon. The trail crosses Offa’s Dike. To the north is the great cliff face of Nash Scar beneath which Hindwater Brook flows.
Around the end of Kennel Wood which consist mainly of conifers and across towards Knill Garraway. A tractor pulling a mower in a hay meadow is pouring its load into a trailer. Into Knill Garraway wood. Areas have been grubbed out leaving piles of dead wood scattered along tracks. Fortunately there are way markers which I can follow up steps and along a path. The path climbs along the hillside. Below is Knill Court and beyond a wooded hill hiding Burfa camp, an Iron Age settlement. Herrock Hill rises to the west and beyond are the hills of the Radnor forest. The path leads the felled area and enters mainly Oak and Beech woodland, with some Birch, Rowan, Sycamore and Hazel. This is Little Brampton Scar. Through head high Bracken. The path comes to stone wall coated in mosses. The old map indicates there were quarries here. The small white stars of Enchanter’s Nightshade rise above the undergrowth.
The trail crosses the top of a large pasture and enters the edge of Stocking Wood. Here I decide to turn south. There is a ruin of a fine looking house (at least the remaining chimney looks pretty good!) at Gorsty Dole surrounded by modern farm buildings. A very pale Common Buzzard glides past. There is no indication on the ground of a path but way markers indicate the correct direction. Past a circular plantation of trees probably 30 or 40 years old. This plantation is shown on the 1887 map, but there is no way these trees are 110 years old. The path drops down to Kennel Cottage, a fine large range of buildings, formerly called The Kennels. I assume these were to house the hunt’s hounds. I have to climb a gate to get to the track which continues south. The link to the track it still supposed to be a public road. This road continues down past Golden Bank, a much extended cottage. The lane continues down the hill between banks which are four to six feet high.
Through Rushock, a small hamlet. The houses are mainly modern apart from a very large farmhouse, of Rushock Farm. Past the modern houses seen earlier from near Bank Farm. They look like former council houses although it seems a strange place to build them. The lane reaches the Presteigne Road. Across the road and down and narrow lane. Flowers including some intensely dark pink Red Campion and Common Hemp-nettle. There are a few houses in the lane, the offices and stores of a construction company and a very large electrical substation. A Goldfinch sings sweetly from a Holly bush.
The lane now drops steeply down to a bridge over the River Arrow. A short distance on is a delightful cottage, then over the mill race to Bullock Mill. The mill was demolished in 1936. There is a barn conversion here. Back to the bridge and down to the River Arrow. A footpath runs west along its bank. A large weir constrains the river. The stone pillars used to carry the Leominster and Kington Railway. Opposite is Piers Grove Wood. The path follows the slightly raised causeway of the railway. Now a track the route passes Mill Farm. A large barn has lancet windows giving it an ecclesiastical look. On the far side of the river is an extensive patch of Butterbur leaves with one of the water umbellifers, probably Greater Water-parsnip, growing beneath it on the edge of the river. The route leaves the causeway and travels along side it for some reason.
Across a field. On the edge is a pleasant little allotment half vegetables and half flowers. The past comes out onto the Presteigne Road at Sunset Farmhouse, a couple of hundred yards up from Barton Lane. Route
Sunday – Brighton – Yesterday afternoon’s heavy rain has been replaced sunshine and fluffy white clouds. Along the Lewes Road south towards the seafront. St Peter’s church is still under scaffolding and hoardings. Shops along road have inevitably changed, some businesses having hip names but giving no indication of what they actually do. A tall block, still wrapped in plastic, is rising on the site of the old ABC cinema. Large apartment blocks have risen on the site of the old veg and fruit market. Sadly many of the fine bow fronted Georgian terraces here look tatty and dirty. Homeless persons’ tents are around the fountain on the Steine. The Royal Albion hotel has been redecorated outside and looks far better than it did last time I saw it.
East along Madeira Drive. A tower with a spiral staircase leads to a zip wire along a long stretch of beach. A large area behind the aquarium is in hoardings. Volks Electric Railway has a new station and visitor centre. The end of the zipwire is enclosed in rusty steel plates rather like a ship; it is I suppose, a nod to the SS Athina B which beached here in January 1980. A large section of Madeira Terrace is still closed and under repair. Royal Crescent with its black bricks contrasting with the majority of pastel or white buildings along Madeira Drive still looks immaculate. Rufford Court is a bow fronted house but has been disfigured by a dreadful modern steel and glass frontage. The Victorian elevator still seems could be in operation. It has a splendid copper domed roof with overlapping copper shingles looking like dragon scales and each corner is a dragon. At the top is a globe and weathervane surmounted by dolphins. On the beach are a children’s playground and a large elaborate crazy golf standing next to Volks railway workshop.
Away from the seafront and up Paston Place by the Bristol pub. On one corner of the junction with St George’s Road is the wonderful Bombay bar now a cabaret spot. The building was constructed in 1892 by Albert Abdullah David Sassoon who was born in Baghdad in 1818 to a prominent, Sephardic Jewish family. It was designed as an enlarged replica of the marble mausoleum in the courtyard of the Ohel David Synagogue at Poona where Sassoon’s father, David Sassoon, was buried. On the other corner is St George’s church. The church, designed by Charles Busby, who with Amon Wilds designed the Kemp Town estate, opened in 1826. A sign in the small garden in front of the main entrance, says “No unauthorised alcohol drug taking or anti-social behaviour”, which makes one wonder when this sort of behaviour is authorised. Across the road is Sussex House, formerly West House, which was the site of St Dunstans training centre from 1912 until 1995. Next to it is the Sussex House nursery in a vast, rather insipid concrete brutal style. On up Paston Place past what looks like an old chapel. It is St George’s Hall, built as a Gymnasium and fencing rooms in 1864 by Frederick Mahomed, the second son of Sake Dene Mahomed. At the top of the road is a large modern extension to the Eye hospital. Facing the end of the road is the main entrance the Royal Sussex County Hospital. It seems strange that advertisements for a fast food outlet point to the front entrance of a hospital. Eastwards, tall towers are being erected, extensions to the hospital. The outpatients department’s foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales on the 29th February 1896 in the company by The Right Honourable Earl of Sheffield, President, one assumes of the hospital. It is still being used as an outpatients although only open office hours during the week.
Upper Abbey Road is a steep hill with terraced houses towards the top. It enters Walpole Road. Opposite is St John’s College. Miss Jane Borradaile, opened St John’s as a seaside convalescent home in 1886 after campaigning for over 10 years to open a free institution for the care of the poor and needy from the East and South-East of London. She organised appeals to raise money for the project. In 1956, St John’s was transformed into a school for children with learning disabilities. Into Whitehawk Hill Road. The road continues to climb steeply. Past Walpole Road allotments and then St John the Baptist primary school. Behind the top of the new building for the hospital can be seen with a helipad on the roof.
The road ends and a track continues past more allotments. Past a large communications mast and out onto Whitehawk Hill by the end of the racecourse track. The track comes to Manor Hill. There are extensive views all around. Across the road is a site Whitehawk Iron Age hill-fort. Sadly little of it can be discerned now. It appears the Sunday market is going ahead on the racecourse. To the west are the South Downs with a string of hill-forts laying in the distance. Downland flowers are in the grasses – Yarrow, Greater and Black Knapweed, Dovesfoot Cranesbills, Wild Mignonette and Corn Marigold.
Along Freshfield Road to Elm Grove. Past the Brighton General Hospital which was built in 1866 as the town workhouse becoming a hospital in 1935. St Wilfrid’s Church is now apartments. Route
Oxfordshire – On our way home we stop at a lay-by off the M40 to stretch my aching back. The back of the lay-by is Bramble scrub covered in Greater Bindweed. Several of the bindweed flowers have black spot son their petals, something I have never seen before. Red Kites are common around here now and we see a large number through the Chilterns and out onto the Oxford plain.
Wednesday – Leominster – Yesterday it rained on and off for most of the day. This morning overhead is clear but heavy grey clouds are still around the horizons. Wood Pigeons are still calling constantly and Lesser Black-backed Gulls wail but there is no bird song at all. Into the Millennium Park. Jackdaws chack in the trees. Rooks are flying high, heading east. The Meadow Cranesbills and Black Knapweed are almost finished now. A pair of Sparrowhawks, one screaming, chase around the top of the trees in the churchyard.
Home – The first runner beans are cropped and a good amount of Dwarf French beans. A few climbing French beans are also appearing. Courgettes are also being produced in good numbers now. As usual, I just wish everything was as prolific as the weeds which I remove mainly by hand.