Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – A sudden change of weather. The sky is blue, the sun shines but it is cold! A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls repeatedly from the lakeside woods. A Mute Swan and cygnet are on the lake. There are some Mallard quacking but the sun reflects off the surface of the water blinding me. A few Canada Geese preen in the bay. The hillside are a glorious display of autumn colour. A Common Buzzard flies asking the edge of the wood calling. The scrape is empty. A flotilla of over forty Cormorants lifts from the lake and fly off eastwards. A Grey Heron flies over with a squawk. A couple of Mallard, Moorhens and a drake Shoveler are by the island. A few Cormorant remain in the trees. It is unusually quiet. The corpse of a Canada Goose is on the scrape, ripped open by, I assume, Carrion Crows or maybe Ravens and Common Buzzards. The Cormorant flock have reappeared a across the lake. A lone Cormorant fetches up onto the scrape. It shines in the sunlight as water drips off its feathers. All the Cormorants and Canada Geese, which are normally here in large numbers are an indication of how the distribution of species changes. Normally in the past, Cormorants bred on coasts and wintered there. Numbers were limited by human persecution and pesticide pollution reducing breeding success. Over recent years there has been a considerable increase in inland breeding and it has been established that this is because of the expansion of the range of the continental sub-species, Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis, partly because the limiting factors have been removed by protection and the reduction in pesticides and the growth of artificially stocked fisheries providing ample quantities of food. Canada Geese are an introduced species from the New World and like the Cormorant, the increase in suitable wetland habitats has led to a substantial population growth. They also have hardly any predators. Great and Blue Tits are active is the Alder plantation.
Home – Clearing the garden for winter continues. Today I clear the greenhouse. All the tomato and pepper plants are composted. I take an armful up to the compost bins and on my return a Robin has flown into the greenhouse to see what there is to eat. It panics as I enter, flapping against the glass at the closed end, so I have to flush it back down towards the door and out. I start weeding and pull up a clump and expose a frog which jumps at one of the windows in its attempts to escape. I place a large flower pot at an angle for it to hide under. When I return again from the bins it is escaping across the greenhouse to hide under the staging. The sun is still bright but it is now cooling fast. Kay has cleared the asparagus bed, not much of a bed as only two plants have taken. But she clears the whole bed and we will put in some more in the spring. The purple-sprouting broccoli now stands about four feet high. We have never had them this size before and just hope they crop well.
Thursday – Bodenham Arboretum – This site is to the north of Kidderminster. It is very popular as the packed car park bears witness. The site is mainly centred on a large lake and several smaller pools around the edge. It covers some 54 acres and was started in 1973. Many trees have lost their leaves which surprises us as large woods near us such as Dinmore are still pretty much full leaved. However, there are enough autumn colours, especially Acers to brighten the rather dull and grey day. The rich leaf mould under the trees proves to be ideal for fungi. Honey Fungus, Armillaria Mellae is frequent on stumps, Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma fasciculare also on stumps and others probably belonging to the Lactarius and Russula families although I am beginning to think life is too short to try and work out exactly which ones! On a hillside is a circular construction made of sandbags called the Fernery. It contains a pond and some sizeable ferns. We wander around past numerous specimen trees and back to the visitors centre. We fancy a cup of tea but the restaurant proves too crowded. Web Site
Sunday – Leominster – The first serious frost of the winter. The roofs are white and windscreens frozen. The River Lugg is even lower than before. A Ring-necked Pheasant explodes from the undergrowth by Butts Bridge making me jump. The fields are white and gold in the rising sun. The market remains small with a noticeable increase in Christmas tat. A couple of large wooden tongs that were once used to remove washing from hot water amuse me – I have not seen them for years. There are clouds to the north, south and west but overhead and to the east the sky is blue as a thrush’s egg. A large coach from Ellesmere draws into Bridge Street car park to pick up passengers for Chester and Liverpool, day trip or holiday?
Malvern – We travel over to the Three Counties Showground to visit an antiques fair. It is one of the smaller fairs with a better class of collectable. Unfortunately, my heart is being annoying and I do not feel well enough to enjoy looking at the wide range of items on sale. We almost buy a little needle box but the lid hinge has been broken, apparently this morning according to the stall holder, and it has a small plaque depicting Niagara Falls, which makes it pretty irrelevant. However, we do find a pretty small glass vase by the Cowdy glassworks in Newent. Later in the day it begins to rain, the first for some time.
Monday – Little Hereford-Brimfield – A few clouds are gathering in what was, first thing, a clear blue sky. Another frost but less hard than yesterday. I park by the bridge over the River Teme in Little Hereford and set off along Lynch Lane. An orchard of cider trees stands over the hedge. The trees are tall and spreading, unlike many modern orchards where much more compact stock is used. Past the Berrington junction. Another orchard old older trees hosts a large flock of winter thrushes who fly this way and that, calling their distinctive chatter. A drive leads off to a large Georgian farmhouse. Past Lynch Farm. Off down Haynall Lane. A Mistle Thrush flies over. Lambda Court looks modern but may have an older core. Behind Homeland Yard is a field of goats. Across the fields Titterstone Clee stands dark and sharp. Beyond, Brown Clee is less clear as cloud touches its summit. A vast tarmacked yard is empty, its use unclear, (although I later learn that a local auctioneers hold farm machinery sales here). The lane drops gently towards Brimfield Cross. A large sports club lays behind high hedges. A lane turns towards Brimfield. Into the village past Manor Cottage. Manor House is undergoing renovation. The old Post Office is a domestic residence. The Roebuck pub, a 17th century inn, remodelled in the late 18th century, is still a going concern and had the village shop attached. The village hall contains the Post office, open one day a week. The buildings in the village site how Brimfield had grown over many years although the number is modern houses indicates more rapid expansion over recent times. The lane through the change approaches the A49 passing Pritchett Almshouses of 1903. A lane leads to the church. A chattering flock of winter thrushes flies over.
St Michaels church dates from the 13th century but was partially rebuilt in 1834, restored in 1884 and largely rebuilt in 1904-8. It is a rather plain interior. The pulpit is 19th century and a lectern is in the Arts and Crafts style. The font is 13th century. In an alcove on the southern side is a window by Jim Budd Stained Glass representing Noah releasing the dove, made in 2002 to celebrate the Millennium. The tower is 13th century which was raised in the 16th century with a timber-framed belfry. Brimfield Court stands nearby. It was recorded in 1885 as a substantial brick residence and may have been Jacobean or Caroline in date. However, it burnt to the ground a few days before it was due to be auctioned in 1925. A house has been rebuilt here. Greenfinches stand at the top of Hawthorns which are laden with berries.
A footpath crosses the main road and a lane runs past Parrowfield to Wyson, a small village enlarged substantially by 20th century housing. The lane meets Wyson Lane where a couple of 17th century houses stand. Over Brimfield Brook by bridge HCC 1136. The Primitive Methodist chapel was enlarged in 1845. Wyson Lane leads back under the A49. There are mainly later 20th century houses with a few older properties and a terrace of late Victorian cottages just before the main road. The road enters Brimfield by the old forge. Over Brimfield Brook again by bridge HCC 79. The coping stones have been carved with graffiti over many years. The oldest date I can discern is 1949 but a lot of the carving is too eroded to read. At least one stone has been reset the other way around. Brimfield Hall, now extensively modernised, once occupied by the Salwey family of Richards Castle, is opposite Manor house. It was hidden when I first passed by a long barn. It once had extensive gardens and orchards but these have been truncated by the A49 bypass. This by-pass dates from 1981 and before traffic had to wind its way through the narrow streets of the village.
I retrace my steps to Little Hereford. Passing Lynch Farm again there are birds everywhere. A large flock of Redwings and Fieldfares, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, a substantial number going on the intensity of the twittering, Blue Tits and a Yellowhammer. Darker clouds are beginning to fill the sky. Route
Thursday – Bury – We head north through rain and rainbows. The motorways are heavy with traffic. We stop off in Bury to visit the famous market. There are acres of shopping centres. The outdoor market is not open today but the indoor one is open most days. Several stalls sell famous Bury black puddings along with items simply do not see in the south such as cow heel and of course tripe. There is a fine Italian deli. We buy a splendid pork pie and a bag of home-made cough sweets! The rain pounds down but fortunately intermittently.
Out of Bury and north through former mill towns. We cross the hills of the