Ramblings

May 2013


Steps

Friday – Ryelands and Eaton Hill – The hoods and sheaths of the Cuckoo Pint are appearing, the flowering parts that give rise to the name of Lords and Ladies. Blackthorn blossom covers branches thick with lichens. Robins, Wrens, Skylarks, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sing. The big field above Hereford Road has been sown with clover. Ivington, Westhope, Birley and Burton Hills are looking soft and green in the morning air. Down to St Botulph’s Green and along Southern Avenue. Large continental articulated lorries are delivering tyres. Rows of tractors and harvesters stand outside John Deere. Along to the old railway bridge. The old oil lamp fitting on the signal has been replaced with a plastic one, however the signal is still mechanically operated. Trains pass, one to the far reaches of Wales, the other to Manchester. I kick Maddy’s ball which bounces and is then knocked by her high into the air and over the parapet of the bridge – lost. On to the old road crossing where the A44 and A49 cross, now replaced by the big roundabout and a new bridge. Daffodils and tulips flower beside the moss covered remains of the pavement. On over Eaton Bridge. The River Lugg flows slowly and muddy. There is a new gate into Eaton Hill, which is a relief as the old stile was very rickety and difficult for my old legs. Maddy is still expecting her ball and explaining she has lost it has no effect. Undergrowth has been cleared from the hillside and towards the top another short flight of stone slab steps has been uncovered. A Garden Warbler sings from a thicket. Along the top of the ridge. The big field looks like it has been lightly ploughed but many maize stalks remain. Widgeon Farm lies over the fields. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are plentiful along here. The sky has clouded over cut it remains pleasant. Up by the mobile phone mast is a field usually occupied by cattle but empty today. If Merewald did have a hall up on Eaton Hill in the 7th century it must surely have stood here. Although not a noticeable summit, it does have a wide and panoramic view of the area. A Yellowhammer sings in the far hedge. A murder of Ravens sails out over the fields. Down to Easters Meadows and back over the railway.

Sunday – High Offley, Staffordshire – Our annual pilgrimage to The Anchor Inn on the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal for a Bank Holiday meet with the Barnsley Buglers. The camp site is far more crowded than in previous years. After a night of snoring from every direction, Maddy and I head west along the tow path. There are large dried-up ponds in a number of fields but I wonder if they are not remnants from last year’s seemingly constant rain. One in the distance looks more Maddypermanent with a couple of feral geese and a Shelduck. Carrion Crows and Rooks are moving constantly across the wide open vista. Skylarks sing from a grey sky. For some reason, a digger has been parked on one of the bridges over the canal. A pair of Reed Buntings chase through small Willows. On past Winding Hole where a crane stands on the dockside. A company making canal boat hoods and covers occupies the premises. A caravan site at Batchacre Park seems to be mainly taken over by pens of chickens, geese and guinea fowl. On to the old Cadbury’s wharf at Knighton. On the opposite side of the canal is a steep bank with a sewage works at the bottom. The west-side hillside keeps rising to another caravan site – a bit close to the sewage for my liking! This hillside is blue with Bluebells. On a short way through a wooded cutting where Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs call. On the way back, a Common Buzzard perches on a fence post.

Sunset

Shropshire Union Canal – After a late breakfast, we set off in the canal boat following the route I walked this morning. The sun has put in an appearance and it is a glorious afternoon. Yellowhammers call from the hedges. Mallard either swim past the boat or rise up and fly off. Plants with black, feathering flowers, probably sedges, grow along the edge of the canal. On the more wooded sections are Primroses, delicate Wood Anemones, Forget-me-nots and the inevitable and numerous Dandelions. Wild Cherries blossom profusely along the banks. The Wrekin stand in the distance, a great hump of a hill on the horizon. The long cutting from Cheswardine Road Bridge, under High Bridge to The Hollings is not the easiest of sailing. It is narrow with ledges under the water by the banks. We only meet one other boat. There are a number of landslips and recent repairs are in evidence. We turn at Tyrley Wharf and stop on the way back for the traditional enormous curry. Dave has excelled himself with a delicious lamb curry and chicken koftas in an achari sauce. Both Grey Herons and Cormorants are trying to fish on the canal and are disturbed by our passing. A Whitethroat stands on the tow-path hedge. In the evening a glorious gold and purple sunset adorns the western sky.

High Bridge

Bank Holiday Monday – High Offley – The Tawny Owl stopped hooting around the time that the first Blackbird started singing. I dropped off to sleep again and then awoke shortly after 5 o’clock to a cacophonous chorus. I take Maddy for a short walk eastwards up the canal. The white Rolls Royce I have seen in the woods for some years now has been replaced by a black model. We turn back at the bridge carrying the A519, with the telegraph pole in its circular centre. This is another High Bridge and it and the wing walls were built 1832-3, for the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal Company, as the canal was called then, by Thomas Telford, principal engineer; William Provis, consulting engineer and contractor; and Alexander Easton, resident engineer. A strainer arch was inserted into the bridge in the mid 19th century onto which a telegraph pole (allegedly the shortest pole in the country) was placed in 1861 by the United Kingdom Telegraph Company. It is Grade II listed.

Tuesday – Croft – The sun shines down from a clear blue sky. Bird song rings around the woods. A Wren stands on a stub of an Elder, tail erect. Wild Arum hoods abound. Bluebells still have not come into flower and the Ransoms are still quite small. The woods are greening fast though. The Oak and Gravethe Ash seem to be opening simultaneously this year, who knows what that means on terms of the old rhyme. The ground is bone dry but rain is forecast for later in the week but I grow more sceptical of weather forecasts these days – too many unusual atmospheric conditions due to global warming makes accurate forecasting ever more difficult. Still, sitting here on a mossy log with the birds singing and the sun filtering through the trees is good enough for now. I suddenly realise a Wood Warbler is singing his spinning coin song nearby. It is always good to hear this less common little bird. Up to Sir James Croft’s grave. The daffodils and narcissi are beginning to fade. Across the way, on the edge of the wood, where the conifer plantation has been cleared female Redstart is using a moss-covered stump as a launch pad for chasing insects. Out in the clearing the Bluebells are coming into flower and one is being visited by a Black-veined White butterfly. The clearing of the conifers has left an open woodland off ancient Oaks and mature but much younger trees which are clearly popular with Blackcaps, Chaffinches and tits. Down the Spanish Chestnut field. The Spanish Chestnuts are some way behind the Horse variety in leaf production. Maddy is unhappy that cows are congregated around the gate to the lower field but scurries past when I tell her to go on.

Home – Tomatoes are planted out in troughs, some in front of the summer house, others in the greenhouse. A Woodlouse Spider, Dysdera crocata, crawls out of the compost, bright orange legs and a pale brown abdomen. I have brought the chillies down from the bathroom and put them in the greenhouse. They will be planted out in the greenhouse bed in the next couple of days. Swifts, first of the year, are flying high overhead, screaming.

Stockton – Sitting on a corner where a track bends as it crosses the hill above Stockton. The field here is yellow with oilseed rape. A Song Thrush sits atop an Oak in the hedge across the field. A smaller bird sits next to it but is just a silhouette. Jackdaws rise to escort a Common Buzzard away. I am here to undertake a survey for the BTO and Game and Wildlife Trust on Woodcocks. It is a 75 minute snapshot across sunset. A little later the Song Thrush has departed and its perch is being attacked by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The sun sets at 8.45 and the light begins to fade. The birdsong also fades away leaving the alarm calls of Blackbirds and constant baaing of sheep. The church bells toll, or rather clank out 9 o’clock. Not a sign of a Woodcock. By 9.30 it is getting quite dark. The Blackbirds have given up but a few Song Thrushes persist with bursts of song and Carrion Crows still argue. The first Tawny Owl hoots in the distance. As it darkens and quietens, the noise of traffic on the A49 becomes more obtrusive. A pair of Mallard fly over, quacking quietly. By 9.45 stars are appearing and the birds have fallen silent. A pleasant interlude, but no Woodcocks.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – Rain fell heavily during the night, much welcomed by the garden. Dark clouds linger this morning with occasional bursts of sunshine. A blustery breeze has sprung up. The air is fresh and clean. Bird calls greet my arrival, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff and the ever present Canada Geese. Along the track to the boat houses where Blackcap and Willow Warbler join the choir. Through the Alder saplings where the air, out of the wind, is stiller and full of gnats. There is little on the water, a few Mallard and Tufted Duck along with the Canada Geese. A single Cormorant sits on the pontoon. There is little growth in the reed beds, worrying as Reed Warblers will be nesting soon. A magnificent cock Ring-necked Pheasant struts in front of the hide. Rain falls heavily, casting a grey curtain over the view. A family of Canada Geese, two adults and six goslings sail into view. Yet again there are no hirundines. Some of the trees in the orchards are in blossom, particularly the perry pears and early apples such as Irish Peach.

Friday – Hereford-Bartestree – A grey morning. Out of the station and past what was the Rockfield store, now being demolished for a new road which the council have the disillusioned idea will help solve the city’s traffic problems. A large mobile crane with dinosaur jaws is tearing lumps out of the roof. Up Aylestone Hill. Drives into the grounds of large houses now lead into executive housing estates. Some of the large Victorian and 20th century piles remain, others have been replaced by modern houses or, on the brow of the hill, a Nuffield hospital. Down the northern side of the hill. A detour into Victoria Park (according to the OS map, signs call it Aylestone Park) where Chiffchaffs call and apple trees blossom. A mound gives views over the area. The path rejoins the road through a pair of gates, one Royal Airforce, the Lugg Meadowsother with the shield of Hereford. The gates were originally at RAF Hereford at Credenhill, now the SAS depot. They were removed and stored at Bodenham Lake then installed here in April 2006.

The road joins the Roman road and I head west a short distance to where the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal, overgrown and rubbish filled passes under the road by the Burcott. A canal restoration group are hoping to restore the canal back to working condition, a large project looking at this small section. Back east past a mound with a topiary hedge that reads Please visit again and Welcome to Hereford on the other side. Along the main road a short distance and then off shortly before Lugg Bridge and Mills, onto a bridleway across the fields through Lugg Meadows, mediaeval water-meadows. Pale violet Cuckoo Flowers and yellow Dandelions are dotted across the lush grass. The path reaches the banks of the Lugg. A Sedge Warbler scratches out his song. A stone stands on the bank, HNT1994, Hereford Nature Trust. A Great Tit and Blackcap sing. The sun breaks through the clouds. The river burbles and the leaves rustle in the wind. Past a second, similarly marked stone and a large patch of Butterbur leaves. It seems strange to be standing in these extensive meadows, by a river, less than two miles from the city centre. The path joins A438. Across the Lower Lodgefields to the east, wooded Backbury Hill rises up to be topped by an Iron Age hill-fort. Lugwardine Court is closer by overlooking the Lugg flood plain. A bridge crosses the river as the road enters Lugwardine.

Lower Lodge, standing just beyond the bridge, has a polygonal end; it was the former lodge house to Lugwardine Court. This large house, now part of St Mary’s High School was built in 1770 and bought in 1865 by the Croft family of Croft Castle. Some pleasant villas and Victorian houses stand along the road but with much infilling by later dwellings. One cottage has a long garden wall running parallel with the road and having large buttresses looking decidedly mediaeval. The church is locked. Northwards from the church is the chapel and opposite should be an old moat but little can be discerned. Follow the main road into Bartestree, another dormitory. A lot of modern development including a hideous gated community, however I find a pub but it is closed! No shops in sight so head back towards Hereford. Before the river is another pub according to the map. It is closed down. Back along the road to Hereford. Flowers bloom beside the pavement – White Dead Nettle, Hedge Mustard, Herb Robert and the ever present Dandelions. A Common Buzzard dances in the wind over the meadow. I reach The Cock of Tupsley and my heart sinks, it is a food pub. However, they also serve a very good pint of Brakspear’s Oxford Gold! And a bowl of water for a very thirsty dog.

Thursday – Croft – The sun shines on a woodland of fresh greenery and singing birds. Chiffchaffs, Song Thrushes, Robins and Blue Tits. Wild garlic is now growing thickly in a large patch beside the track, the flowers are just about to open. I pick a few leaves for dinner and some for the hens. Up towards the grave of Sir James Croft. Blackcaps, Wood Warblers and Wrens are singing. Bluebells are beginning to form an azure mist through the woods but they are still only partially open, very late. The mossy log that provided a dry seat last week is now a damp, wrung out sponge. The Wood Warbler is flitting through high branches up the slope and slowly moves deeper into the woods before returning and starting his circuit again. Up to the fields where the Spanish Chestnuts coming into leaf. Skylarks soar high overhead.

Friday – Ludlow – Into St Leonard’s burial ground, opened in 1824 when the churchyard at St Lawrence’s was full. The site was formally part of six burgage plots owned by Laurence de Ludlow, Lord of Stokesay Castle. He founded a Carmelite convent here. It was suppressed in 1536. A house was built on part of the site by Thomas Blashfield, a clothier, but was deserted within a few years and remained so until the opening of the cemetery. A chapel was built in 1871 to a design by Gilbert Scott. It is now a firm of printers. From the back end of the cemetery, a lane, Linney, leads down to a path which crosses the River Corve beside a weir. Across the field is Boiling Well, a depression of concrete and mud, not very impressive. Robert Charles Hope, in his Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England Including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains and Springs, published in 1893 relates at tales he was told in 1881:

Boiling Well

The path leads to Bromfield Road, the main road from the town to the by-pass. Turn up Burway Lane which is lines with large houses. One is a fine early 20th century house in the art deco style with fine herring-bone brick work. Two houses have Mallard standing on the roof ridges. Several more of the houses are of art deco design but the lane has been in-filled with later 20th century houses of far less architectural interest. Past the cricket ground and on past more uninteresting houses. The lane is running parallel to Lower Whitcliffe. OakOn past the High School and Burway Farm. The continues northwards. Greater Stitchwort and Red Dead Nettle flower white and pink respectively at the base of the hedge. A large, low-flying military transport plane scares up a flock of Rooks and Carrion Crows. House Martins fly over, a Blue Tit searches a small tree and the sings of Great Tit and Whitethroat ring out. A couple of beehives stand by a hedge. Past another farm and onto a footpath along the side of a ploughed field next to the busy A49. Comfrey flowers beside the path. A Sparrowhawk flies past harried by a Carrion Crow. Skylarks rise into the sky in song. The field seems to be more stones than soil; rounded alluvial pebbles. The path turns towards the road. Behind across the fields the roof of Oakley Park peeks out from fine, mature trees. The path meets the A49 by the race course. A path travels northwards parallel to the road behind a hedge. Beyond, a Hereford bound train passes and shortly after a north bound freight train clatters rhythmically past.

The path joins the Ludlow Castleroad at Bromfield and crosses the River Onney. Past the Clive public house and off down the lane towards Oakley Park, home of Clive of India. The history of this area was related more fully here. Past Bromfield Manor, the church of St Mary the Virgin and the fine gatehouse. Swifts chase over the estate offices. Work on the weir across the River Teme has been completed. The lane passes an old overgrown pond which has a fine display of Marsh Marigolds. A Garden Warbler sings nearby along with a couple of Wrens, a Chiffchaff and a Blackbird. Through the hamlet of Priors Halton. The lane heads towards Ludlow through fields dotted with old Oaks, stag-horns silhouetted on the skyline, others bright yellow-green with fresh leaves, some with thick twisted stems of old Ivy rising up their trunks. Goldfinches twitter in their branches. Our trusty hunting hound pounces at something in the grass, clearly cannot find anything, then cannot find her ball! The lane round a bend and the castle lays directly ahead. The lane emerges at Dinham Bridge. Over the bridge and past Dinham mill. In the early 14th century, the Castle Mills produced flour for the de Laci family, then for Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. In 1331 there were two wheels driving the stones. In the Victorian era, the mills drove an iron and brass foundry and a saw mill. By the 1920s the wheels produced electricity and still do today. Shortly a path runs up around the base of the castle. The sheer walls tower above. The path enters the square. The market is busy. Indeed the whole town is crowded. Down to the station to meet Kay, we are having a liquid lunch!

Sunday – Home – The beans are now planted out. I thought they were going into the ground late because of the recent cold weather, but looking back it seems about the same time as usual. I have a couple of rows of climbing French beans, a couple of Runner beans and a lot of dwarf French beans. The peas and Broad beans are late though, the former were climbing the sticks by now last year and the latter were in flower. This year’s peas are still quite small and there is only a few flower buds showing on the beans. Courgettes and pumpkins have been moved to the cold frame to harden off before they too are planted out.

Monday – Bodenham Lake – The sun is trying to break through an overcast sky. House Sparrows Apple Blossomchatter incessantly around the barn by the car park. A Song Thrush sings. Flowers bloom along the track side – Ground Ivy, Red Campion, White Dead Nettle, Buttercups, Herb Robert and considerable numbers of Wild Strawberries. Teasel leaves are growing rapidly. Swifts hawk for insects overhead. Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff sing in the lakeside Alders. If it were not for the cackling Canada Geese, the lake would be very quiet. A few drake Mallard are bottoms-up in the shallows in front of the hide. A Cormorant fishes. A Coot bobs in the reed bed which is finally sending up new shoots. A Cormorant is on a nest high in the trees on the island. A herd of ten Mute Swans appears from behind the island and glide across the waters. A second Cormorant is near the nesting bird but it is the fishing one that flies up to join it. A Coot is in the nest in the scrape reed bed. Three Tufted Duck wing in, grunting quietly. The wooded hillsides are now gentle mounds of mottled green. The number of Swifts overhead increase. The apple blossom is of mixed quantity; very little on a number of trees, especially Kingston Black and Blanc Mollet, both of which are virtually flowerless, whilst Dabinett is covered with blossom. The same applies to the dessert apple orchard although maybe a larger number have a good amount of flowers.

Clouds

Tuesday – Bala – Staying on the campsite at Pen-y-bont farm just beyond the north end of Bala Lake. We walk into the town past the lake. Reed Warblers call from the extensive reed bed. A pair of Redshank fly over piping. The town is typical of any market town these days – too Lake Balamany charity shops, too many young people on the street almost certainly without jobs but some businesses hanging on. The chapel stands up a side street with a large statue of Revd Thomas Charles, founder of the British and Foreign Bible Society. A local story goes that in 1804 a lady by the name of Mary Jones walked bare foot from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant to Bala to collect a Bible – a journey of over 50 miles there and back. Thomas Charles had none left and took pity on Mary and gave her his own. The layout of the town is based on three parallel streets, Stryt Fawr, the main street where the market was held and Arenig Street and Plasey Street were attached to the old Tomen, the Norman castle. The town market was established by Roger de Mortimer in 1310. We return again in the evening. The Reed Warblers are still singing and have been joined by a Sedge Warbler. Closer to town where there are more trees and hedges there are Chaffinches, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. The sun is still shining but a cool wind is getting stronger. On the way back to the camp-site, there are lenticular clouds in the sky, flat layers of rounded clouds piled on top of one another. Large transport airplanes roar down the lake.

Wednesday – Bala – Up a path through mixed woodland, Ffridd Fach-ddeiliog, above the campsite. It was a noisy night, firstly Rooks upset by an owl, then the owl, a Tawny began hooting but I dropped off to sleep only to be awakened at 1.30am by a heavy transport aircraft on night maneuvers, seemingly a few feet above the tent. The dawn chorus started in earnest around 4.00am. The woods are still full of singing, Chaffinches dominate but also Wrens and Robins. There are plenty of jet black and chocolate brown slugs on the path as it climbs up through a conifer plantation. Our of the woods onto a hillside of rocky knolls. Across Lake Bala, the hills are bathed in sunshine our Mountainscloud. Across open moorland with wonderful views of the hills on the far aside of the lake. Meadow Pipits and Willow Warblers sing. The path drops into a plantation of saplings. The path joins a lane at Cefn-ddwygraig. The lane serves several small dwellings across the hills. A Chaffinch sings on top of a small Larch. Suddenly a Cuckoo calls, my first of the year and based on previous recent years probably my one and only. A footpath leaves the tarmacked road and crosses rough grassland, Ffrîdd Uchaf, following a drainage stream heading down towards Ffrîdd Goed. Maddy is a real problem when it comes to stiles, she utterly refuses to jump up over them, preferring to find a way under a fence or stand looking pathetic. The real problem comes when there is a good stock fence, she cannot get under I have to lift her over. In the case here it is a tricky stile and I can only drop her over but instead of jumping down she just falls onto some large rocks and lays there whimpering. I, of course, go into panic mode. I clamber over and lift her up. She sits hunched backed and looking very sorry for herself. I call her on and she totters a few steps then sits down and holds her paw out. I check it and all her other limbs but cannot find any obvious injury. She follows down the hillside very gingerly. We pass a house, Graienyn where a lot of Mallard are in the surrounding fields. A peacock stands in the garden and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flies up into the woods. We reach another stile and this time I have to carry Maddy over, not the easiest of tasks as I am none too steady on stiles myself. I do notice she seems to move quite smartly to retrieve her ball that was dropped! Across a golf course and down to the road along lake side. Marsh Marigolds shine golden in dank woods by the water.

Engine

Bala-Llanuwchllyn – The Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) runs between these stations, a distance of 4½ miles. It is a narrow gauge track and the little carriages are pulled by Hunslet engines built in Leeds. Our engine is Maid Marian, built in 1903, the youngest of the four Hunslets which formerly worked at the Dinorwic quarry. A fifth has been purchased which was originally from the Penrhyn slate quarry and has been in the USA until last year. The engine is immaculate, pristine paintwork and gleaming brass pipes. Although the engine is called Maid Marian, many parts of it are from an engine called King of the Scarlets built in 1889. The works at the quarry would swap parts regularly as they overhauled the locomotives. The track is part of the old GWR Ruabon to Barmouth line, the same line that the Llangollen heritage railway uses. The line was opened in 1868 and closed as part of the implementation of the Beeching Report in 1965. The little train chugs along the edge of the lake at maybe ten miles hours. There are a couple of halts along the way, Pentrepiod and Llangower. Beyond the lake, the mountains, Arenig Fawr, Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy rise to 2,800 feet. The station of Llanuwchllyn is the headquarters of the railway with its works and a station with a very pleasant café and lots of memorabilia.

Bala – We head into town. A drake Goosander is swimming down the lake. In Plasey Street is the Aran, the town workhouse, unusually built in the middle of the town but was unpopular and used as a military barracks by 1869. A motte and bailey called Tomen Ronw, Gronw’s Mound, 13th century in garden of farmhouse. It was built to guard the point where the River Dee emerges from Lake Bala.

Thursday – Bala – Rain drummed on the tent during the night but thus morning sees a bright sun in a still rather cloudy sky and a bitter north wind is still blowing hard. Along a levee beside the River Dee which flows out of Lake Bala. The levee turns where the River Tryweryn meets the Dee. A Bridgelarge scale water management system of Sluices and weirs has been constructed. The path turns round the perimeter of the industrial estate and up to the Llangollen road which crosses the river over a fine bridge. On the edge of the industrial estate stands a lonely railway semaphore signal, pretty much all that remains of the railway. To the north lies Ffrydan Road. Up on the hill is the Bala Theological College (Calvinist Methodist), founded in 1837, an imposing grey stone building. There is a pleasant row of houses, some with brightly painted wooden timbers in the old Ffrydan Road. The parish church stands in a graveyard of slate gravestones, with the occasional marble one. Through the town, past the statue of Thomas Edward Ellis MP (1859-1899) to the top corner of Lake Bala. The lake is home to the Gwyniad (Coregonus pennantii), a whitefish that became trapped in the lake at the end of the last Ice Age. The stocks are now threatened by poorer water quality and the introduction of the Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua) in the 1980s which eats the eggs and fry of the Gwyniad. Eggs of the Gwyniad have been introduced to nearby Llyn Arenig Fawr as a conservation measure. Sand Martins swoop over the reed beds. Frequent showers afflict us. Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Great Tits sing.

Sky

Saturday – Leominster – It is hard to think this is almost the end of May, the weather has been more like March. Yesterday started grey and cool, then the wind strengthened and by mid-afternoon we were treated to a vicious downpour of hail. In the evening the sky turned battleship grey, purple and brass. This morning the wind has dropped and the sun rises. A small tree outside the great Norman west door of the Minster has been blown over, despite being staked. Maddy is still suffering with her hips, they are clearly still very sore and she chases her ball very carefully, certainly not at her usual full stretch.

Home – The courgettes and pumpkins are planted out. It is still not really warm but they are looking a bit squashed in their pots. Some of the broad beans need staking and the potatoes are earthed up. The onions are still looking rather feeble, this may be the last year I bother with them. The garlic is looking far more vigorous. French and runner beans all seem to have taken well. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are coming on quickly but the peppers seem a bit slow. By early afternoon the sun is shining brightly. There is no sign that any of the frog-spawn hatched, which is a pity. The Water-plantain is in flower in the pond. The perry pears seem to have set a decent amount of fruit. The apples are still all in flower, but the greengage and dessert pear both look fruitless. It looks like there may be some plums developing and the cherry has a lot of nascent fruit. By late afternoon the cloud is building again and the sun disappears for long periods. Wood Pigeons flap around noisily. A Great Tit disappears into the Ivy on one of the ancient pear trees.

Sunday – Leominster – The sun blazes in the eastern sky. It looks like it will be a hot day, one of the few this year! Maddy chases her ball but without great enthusiasm. A pale breasted Common Buzzard sits in a broken tree on the edge of the churchyard. The apple trees are in full blossom now, hopefully today will bring out plenty of pollinators. Off down to the market. It is very busy and the largest of the year so far. I often think that participants in programmes like Put BuzzardYour Money Where Your Mouth Is where antiques experts try to make a profit out of items bought at different types of fairs or auctions would really struggle to find anything here. However, today I think a profit could be made. There is a German Lava vase for £3 which would easily make five times that amount in a shop or auction. There are plenty of other items, none we would actually want in our house but they would make a profit. Back over to the Millennium Wood. The path perimeters have been mown and the site is in a better state than usual. Clouds of gnats hover over the river.

Home – The rhubarb crop has been bountiful and continues thus. Yesterday a load was cooked, several large bags of it frozen and this morning four jars of Rhubarb and Vanilla jam has been made. There is more to pick but I think I will give it a week or two. The cucumber plants in the greenhouse are tied up. They are still very small, I hope they take. The first strawberries are ripening in pots in the greenhouse. The main crop in the fruit cage are growing through a membrane put down to try and control the grass that grows everywhere. The strawberry plants look a bit weak and small although there are some flowers, but it will not be a bumper crop this year. The currant bushes are looking more hopeful with plenty of flowers.

Bluebells

Tuesday – Mortimer Forest – The woods gleam like newly polished green glass as the rain falls steadily. Robins, Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches and Willow Warblers sing whilst Wood Pigeons call, although in fairness, are the pigeons coos any less of a song that the Chiffchaffs two notes? Up to Climbing Jack Common which is a glowing sapphire and emerald jewel with its drifts of Bluebells in the verdant grass. Wraith like mists glide through the tree tops. Willow Warblers, Skylarks and Yellowhammers sing. Maddy is moving much more freely now. Along the track from High Vinnalls. It is not raining here. Ferns have unfolded in greens, yellows and browns. As the paths descend the rain increases! Piles of logs lay beside the track, evidence of recent felling. There is water in the ponds, in recent years they were almost dry at this time of year. One notices the absence of Cuckoos, no sign of any which is very sad. Bright lime green Wood Spurge flowers beside the track and is one of the first flowers to colonise the newly felled areas.