Monday – Leintwardine – Two Red Kites are over fields beside the road from Bromfield. There is a dead pheasant in the road but I cannot stop in the vicinity to see if the raptors find it. The village is on the site of Bravonium, a Roman settlement. I set off up Watling Street, probably the best known Roman road in the country. The remains of the hurricanes that have devastated the Caribbean are moving through bringing high winds. A butterfly is flying high up the street being buffeted this way and that. There are several former shops here including the grocers and post office but The Swan, a late 16th century pub, is still a going concern. The weather is deteriorating, not as forecast! Opposite the primary school is a graveyard. A red marble war memorial stands in the yard. It is obvious that an s has been added to Great War and 1939-1945 squeezed in. The Rectory is a relatively modern house standing in the grounds is the old Rectory. A lane runs off the Roman road. A house has a small plaque stating, The Harp, but this name does not appear on maps until the late 20th century. Although obscured by hedges, walls and banks, the old Rectory is clearly a much larger house than the present one. Into the hamlet of Kinton. I mistakenly follow the worn track but this is a dead end at a house. The correct route is up a green track. Past a collection of old commercial vehicles and back onto the lane. It passes through steep, high banks. A Robin sings whilst another ticks in warning.
Over the main road from Bromfield. A lane runs parallel to the road. Past an old quarry. It is sizeable and a substantial amount of stone had been removed. There seems to be another on the opposite side of the lane. The map shows there are numerous old quarries around this area. The geology is a complex of faulted Silurian limestones, mudstones and siltstones. A Chiffchaff calls. Past Todding, a former farm. Fungi grow on the bank, possibly Hebeloma family, which contains the Poison Pie. A Common Buzzard flies past mewing. Numerous young Pheasants scatter. A Red Kite is overhead. Wassell Barn had been converted. The evidence of quarrying continues. The wind is growing stronger and the sky darker. Past a modern cottage, a ruined one then Mocktree Farmhouse. A lane runs downhill from the farmhouse and across the main road and then up the other side of the valley, a hill called Weaver standing at 293 metres. Over the crest of the ridge. A covey of Red-legged Partridge scatter.
The tracks get complicated. Off onto a footpath which arrives at a field of maize. Rabbits dash across. The public footpath has been recently pushed through the maize. Onto another track. A Pheasant with Oriental markings dashes across and into the thick forest of stalks. Woodhead is a cluster of dwellings probably centred on a former farm. A track passes through fields. To the south is the River Teme running through a line of woods and Downton Gorge. Sheep graze in a field pink with Red Clover. The track divides at Ball Gates. Leintwardine lays below down Church Hill. A Raven glides over on the blustery wind. A cluster of barns is in a sea of Stinging Nettles. The path enters fields as it drops down towards the village. Growing in the grass are Golden Waxcaps, Hygrocybe chlorophana and the delightfully named Dog Sick Slime Mould, Mucilago crustacea. An Ash tree had a considerable girth, indicating it is several hundred years old. It stands on the edge of a quarry. It is badly infected with Southern Bracket, Ganoderma australe, fungi. The path drops more steeply past more old trees, Maples, Hazel and more Ash. An old Oak is some way down the hillside. The path now drops very steeply down an old orchard. Just a few old barren apple trees stand among new saplings. The path joins a road at a junction. Lower Whitton Cottage stands on one side, younger but still mid-Victorian cottages stand on another. The latter were probably farm workers dwellings. Along Rosemary Lane, past the sewage works. Into the village. School children are being given a bicycling lesson.
Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – A cool morning with a strong wind. Grey clouds are moving eastwards leaving patches of blue. There are at least eighty Cormorants in the trees, many of them juveniles. A Mute Swan has the five cygnets to the east of the island whilst another is at the western end. A couple of pair of Canada Geese and a few Mallard are on the spit out from the island. A Grey Heron skulks on a low branch over the far side is the water. The scrape is empty of life. A woman tells me a pair of Otters have been on the south side of the lake. A Carrion Crow lands and stalks the scrape, turning the occasional stone. A second joins it and goes to the edge of the water and starts turning over debris that the wind has blown onto the mud. An occasional rippling baa comes from the Cormorants. A Moorhen swims through the Mallard and Canada Geese who have been joined by the Mute Swan from the western end. A Common Buzzard soars over on the wind. The Carrion Crows are reasonably successful at finding worms and other invertebrates under the stones and in the grass. The Grey Heron flies across to the island and makes an ungainly landing on a Willow. Cormorants make a circuit of the lake before flying towards the island just a few feet above the water then soaring upwards at the last moment to drop onto a branch. One makes several attempts before finding a satisfactory perch. Four Common Buzzards fly out from Dinmore and circle the land to the west of the lake. Apples in the cider orchard are beginning to fall in large numbers and those in the dessert apple orchard are nearly all ripe. Some delicious pears have fallen but nearly all are too badly bruised.
Friday – Craven Arms-Ludlow – The sky was lit last night by the brilliant harvest moon. This morning is cool, almost a frost. Out of Craven Arms station. Down Brook Road to the main road west out of town, Clun Road. The houses here are individual, none of the boring repetitive designs so beloved is by modern developers. The houses become confined to the north side of the road. Opposite are fields. At the top of a small hill, Tumpy Hill, is a tumulus, recorded as a Bronze Age Round Barrow. My route turns south down Park Lane, part of Watling Street, and on the Shropshire Way. A bridge carries the Heart of Wales line over the lane. Robins sing and Blue Tits squeak. Some cottages look like permanent holiday village caravans. An estate house is dated 1889 with a swirl of letters in a monogram. The lane starts to climb. Sallow Coppice is a sizeable woodland. Sallow is another name for the willow which seems odd as this dry hillside would not seem a suitable place for willows. Indeed the wood is Oak, Sycamore, Field Maple, Hawthorn and Hazel. Past some modern houses or modernised as there were buildings here in the mid Victorian era. The Coppice is now mainly Ash with some Holly. An overgrown track runs down from the wood, it has not been used for many years. On the other side of the road, a public footpath is inaccessible, blocked by a Stinging Nettle bed.
The lane runs on and begins to drop at Highfield Farm, a modern construction as there is no sign of it on the 1980 map. View Wood and Stoke Wood cloak the hills to the south. The ridge the lane passes over consists of Wenlock Limestone. The lane drops down onto a wide area of Lower Ludlow Shales Group of the Silurian with Devensian till overlaying it. Carrion Crows and Ravens call. A house I have passed before, Clapping Wicket, lies across the fields under the hill of View Wood. Red beads of Bryony berries adorn the hedgerows.
The route comes to a crossroads at New House, probably part of Weo Farm. The Roman Road carries on ahead, left is Broome and Aston-on-Clun, right is Onibury and then Ludlow. I decide to head for Ludlow. The lane rises. Large Oaks hang over the road dropping acorns. Grey Squirrels chunter in the branches. An exposed face of Lower Ludlow Shales lies beside the lane. The climb grows steeper with regular less steep platforms, presumably to allow horses drawing carts up here a space for a breather. The hill crests at Viewedge Farm. A barn is undergoing conversion. A small dovecote stands behind the farm buildings. I suspect it is not that old. Past an old quarry to View or Weo Edge. The Herefordshire hills are almost hidden in haze. Blackbirds mutter from nearby woodland. Yellowhammers, Blue Tits and House Sparrows move through the bushes. A Robin sings in a Hawthorn. A Wren searches another Hawthorn for grubs. A sign states View Edge Quarry is a SSSI. The quarries were extensive and there were a number of lime kilns here. The limestone is from the Aymestry Limestone Formation of the Silurian. There are small birds in the hedgerow, Dunnocks, Linnets and possibly other species but they are scattered by loud, gobbling, panicking Pheasants. Titterstone Clee is now ahead with its pimple of an air traffic control dome.
The lane is now dropping down to the River Onny valley. Plastic pipes stick out of the ground in a field. They have protective fence around them. A little further on is Aldon Waste Recycling Centre, Now Closed. I assume rubbish had been dumped in the fields and the tubes are gas vents. To the west is a deep wooded valley, Springhead Gutter. To the east are the escarpments of hills heading north-east including Wenlock Edge. Flounders Folly stands in the edge in one hill. Further north is Caer Caradoc and the South Shropshire Hills. Further south, the Clee Hills. Ahead is Bringewood and the Mortimer Forest. A bridleway takes the Shropshire Way back to Stokesay Castle. I continue into Aldon. The hamlet is mainly two large farms, Upper and Lower Aldon Farms, the latter with a listed 19th century farmhouse and a number of cottages. Another farmhouse stands near the junction. It has a fairly modern stone built barn with a corrugated iron barrel roof. A turning heads towards Aldon Court which stands above Aldon Gutter. The house is hidden by high hedges. On down the lane. Many fields have been ploughed, some already have next year’s oilseed rape crop growing. Past Stokesay Croft, a 20th century house. On down to Stepaside.
Over the River Onny at Onibury Bridge. There are a pair of Mallard upstream and a Dipper flies off downstream. Into the village of Onibury. The pub says it is open but is not. So off down Back Lane. The lane is quiet. A pair of white butterflies flit around the roadside hedgerow. A Red Admiral sails past. A Money Spider wanders over my coat sleeve. These are spiders of the Linyphiidae Family of which there are 250 species in the UK, a third of all British spiders. They often land on clothes in summer (said to bring fortune and good luck) because they travel through the air on strands of silk, picked up by the wind. Small pink geraniums, Hedgerow Cranesbills, grow in a patch on the verge. A Red Kite appears over the fields beside the quarry. The lane reaches the race course. The old disused Bromfield station stands by the signal box. Through the race course and under the railway to the A49. Crossing the busy road is not easy! Off along the footpaths to the Burway and into Ludlow. Route
Sunday – Leominster – A bright morning with a blinding sun shining directly into my eyes as I head down the to the market. The water level in the River Lugg is higher than it has been for what seems a long time. The spit of gravel which had almost reached midstream has submerged again. Ivy is flowering and smells strongly. The trees are changing quickly now. The market is much the same as it has been since the end of the holiday season. Round to the River Kenwater. Here there is a tree completely cloaked in Ivy, so it looks like a tower of Ivy. A Dunnock and a Robin are singing. Magpies chack harshly.
Home – I have two more loads of cider apples to scrat and press. When I have finished I have seventeen gallons fermenting – that will have to be enough for this year. The hens have scraped a dusting bowl for themselves under the hen house. Speckley emerges and shakes out a cloud of dust. They are still laying but in reduced amounts. I have drilled a hole in an old large flowerpot saucer and fitted it over the pole that holds the peanut feeder. This has thwarted the Grey Squirrel that was regularly feasting on the birds’ nuts. It made several runs up the pole then stopping and staring at the saucer blocking its path to the feeder. It now seems to have stomped off in high dudgeon – hopefully!
Monday – Ford Abbey – Overnight rain had left everywhere wet. The grey clouds lie south eastwards rippling across the sky, lit by the sun. Here the clouds are broken with patches of blue. Down Etnam Street and along the Worcester Road. Over the old road bridge and down to the A44/A49 junction. As usual there are Robins in song. Carrion Crows caw harshly. By the bridge the GWR style signal drops and the Carmarthen train passes under. The signal returns to stop with a crash. Within seconds the Manchester train arrives from the opposite direction. The white cattle are in the Lammas meadow. Across the A44 and over Eaton Bridge. I decide to try and head up the Worcester Road despite the lack of any pedestrian way. A tractor pulling a wagon piled high with cider apples passes leaving a scent of fermenting apple juice. The walk to the main road is relatively easy and at the top of the hill, I turn off down Tick Bridge Lane. The soil across the hilltop is brown-red, St Maughans Formation from the Devonian. White Dead Nettles and a few Cow Parsley are the only flowering plants now. Tickbridge Farmhouse is a large modern bungalow. Tick Bridge is a stone edifice over either Stretford or Cheaton Brook, the name changes around about here. A lane modern dwelling is followed by an industrial building, seemingly empty. The sun is now warm.
The lane crosses the Stretford road. Past Hennor Lodge. A large house, Holly Brook, lies across the fields. A Skylark is singing from on high. Brock Hall is a large Ivy covered house with conical roofs over the bay windows. Hennor Court is a brick built Georgian farmhouse. Opposite the entrance to Hennor is an old orchard, the trees laden with apples. Of the lane down a bridleway, part of the Three Rivers Ride. A large walled garden belongs to Hennor, which is on the far side. Home Farm farmhouse is a large rambling building, partly timber-framed. It was previously two 17th century cottages modified in the 19th century. A Red Admiral flies past. Down the fields to Stretford Brook, although eastwards the name changes again, now to Whyle Brook. By the footbridge is a white china wire separator upon which is a strange looking bug. It is rhombic in shape, this its name, the Rhombic Leatherbug, Syromastus rhombeus. Over a footbridge and up a field to The Batches, another fine farmhouse. A track leads out onto the lane to Bache. The lane climbs to join the Leominster to Hatfield lane. The land dogs down from the lane to Whyle Brook across green fields, the closest being shoots of a cereal crop. A Common Buzzard passes. Alderwood Farm is a large collection of barns and some bungalows. In the valley to the south are Docklow Pools,a fishing complex. An old railway bridge stands beside Lower Docklow. It carries the road to Docklow. A troop of Giant Funnel, Leucopaxillus giganticus fungi grow in the grass.
Ford Abbey stands below a road junction. No evidence that there was an abbey here. It was probably called abbey to denote its possession by Reading Abbey, mother-house of Leominster Priory. The OS map records the site of a chapel but there are no remains evident. There is a mediaeval farmhouse partly rebuilt around 1600 with further 17th century extensions. There is also evidence of a moat. Many buildings are modern. It has been a hotel but is now a private residence. A thick hedge ensures no-one can see anything. On the hillside above is Uphampton hill-fort, inaccessible but ploughed out and now partly wooded anyway. There is little evidence there was actually a hill-fort here. It seems possible that one was started but abandoned. Back up the lane and towards Pudleston. The sky is clouding over. Fungi grows in leaf litter by a gate. They may be more Giant Funnel, Leucopaxillus giganticus, these being immature. A large tractor fitted with what I think is a complicated seed drill passes through a gate. The driver and I have a chat about walking and keeping fit! Pudleston Court, a country house built in 1846-47 by Brearley of Liverpool for Elias Chadwick, lies across the fields. On down the road are the large gates to Pudleston Court with lodges named Adam and Eve. There is the scent of a very aromatic bonfire in the air.
Into Pudleston. Into St Peter’s church which I have visited before. Up the lane to Whyle. A couple of dozen Jackdaws fly over. A Dunnock watches from a Willow. A large white bull watches over his herd of cows. The lane climbs a small hill past School Wood. From the top the Clee Hills lay to the north-east with the radar ball on Titterstone Clee shining white. Rosedale Court stands in woods across the valley. The lane drops down to Whyle, a village built around a rectangle of roads. Past Whyle Farm who sell lamb at our local farmers market. Some of their fields are in the middle rectangle. Down Bell Lane past the old Forge. Off along the road from the north-west corner of the village. Parasol Mushrooms grow in a ditch. They make good eating but I have failed again to put a bag in my haversack. The lane drops down to Whyle mill. Old looking stone walls sit on top of a concrete bridge over the Whyle Brook. Further on the lane is gated. A loud buzzing comes from a cloud of flies on horse droppings. Through a small copse of trees, Oaks, Field Maple and Hazels. The gated lane meets the lane I was on earlier from The Batches. It is close to Bache (often written Bach) hill-fort. The hill-fort consists of an irregularly shaped enclosure covering some 6¼ acres surrounded by a double rampart with a medial ditch. The outer rampart is much smaller than the inner and in many places has been destroyed; along almost the whole of the west side there is now no ditch, its place being taken by a slight berm running along the one deep scarp. On the north-west side there is a very wide ditch and an entrance. Further entrances are on the south and north ends of the camp, although the southern one is considered to be modern.
Down to a house, The Walls, an old name for hill-forts. The Herefordshire Trail now crosses fields beside the ramparts of the hill fort. A Jay flies across the valley. The trail climbs a field of tussocks. Over a stile and around under the ramparts of the hill fort. Two Green Woodpeckers fly off from the long grass. The squeaks of a flock of Long-tailed Tits comes from the numerous Hazels. A Nuthatch calls. The wind is rising. Goldfinches fly up from fluffy Thistle heads. The path then drops down to an apparently unnamed brook. Dog Sick Slime Mould, Mucilago crustacea, is in the grass. By the brook is an apple tree but the small green apples are mouth-puckeringly sour. Across the brook and up the hill on the other side of the valley. Some very large red stones are in a strip of trees between the fields, clearly dug out of the soil and dumped there. Up the hillside. More than a dozen Long-tailed Tits explode from a tiny Hawthorn bush. Up to to the wonderful Upper Bache dovecote. The track runs around the dawn buildings then starts to descend Gorsty Hill. It joins the Lower Bache road that leads back towards Stockton. Large numbers of corvids, mainly Jackdaws and Carrion Crows are moving across the landscape. Up Stanley Bank and down again to the Stockton Cross to Stretford road. Across the road into a large pasture and then along beside Cheaton Brook. Over the brook and along a field to Hay Lane and back into Leominster. Route
Wednesday – Clent Hills – The Clent Hills lie between Kidderminster and Birmingham, near West Hagley. Once part of a Mercian forest, Clent appears in the Domesday Book as Klinter, and may be derived from the old Scandinavian word klint for a cliff. The main parts are managed by the National Trust. The morning is grey with thick cloud cover and a strong, near gale wind. I start at High Harcourt farm on St Kenelm Pass. Off down Chapel Lane. The lane is lined by Sycamores and Hazel. A Nuthatch calls. Into the large graveyard of St Kenelm’s church.
Legend has it that St Kenelm was a member of the royal family of Mercia, a boy king and martyr, who was murdered here in 821 by a relative despite receiving a prophecy warning him of the danger. His body, after being concealed, was discovered by miraculous intervention, and transported by the monks of Winchcombe where it became a major shrine. Kenelm (Cynehelm) was son of Coenwulf of Mercia who was a distant relative of Offa and took the throne after Offa’s son died. Cynehelm disappears from the record around 811 when he was probably about 25 years old.
Old Yews stand beside the tower. This is made of soft grey sandstone and the ornamentations, gargoyles and grotesques, niches and window pediments are all worn. The nave and chancel are in red sandstone, which had been graffitied for several centuries. The building is 12th century, altered in the 14th century, added to in the 15th century and restored in 1846. The tower is 15th century on a 12th century base. A large 15th century wooden porch leads to a Norman door of circa 1150 with a tympanum of Christ with angels in the Hereford School style.
Back up Chapel Lane. A flock of Redwings flies over, the first of the season. Overhead also is a Jay with what looks like an acorn in its bill. At High Harcourt farm I turn down Walton Hill Road. Into the woods and up Walton Hill. The woods are not old, Oak, Sycamore, Silver Birch, all probably less than a century old, many are much younger. A large slug, one of the Arion species slides slowly up the path. Some Silver Birches have been felled and their ring count indicates they are twenty years old. The path zig-zags top the to of the hill, where there is a triangulation point at a height of 1,037 feet. To the north and north-east is the continuous conurbation of Birmingham. Two banks form the Cross Dyke, by legend a fortification thrown up by the Britons against the Romans. Sadly it is much more likely to have been an old hollow way passing beside a cattle inclosure. The views are spectacular. South are the Malverns; east, the Cotswolds; south-west, the Woolhope Dome; west, the Clee Hills. Here the Clent Hills are made of the Clent Formation, sandstone and mudstone from the Permian period, 271-299 million years ago. Just beyond there used to be a spot where water gathered creating a small pool called Moab’s Wash Pot.
A track heads southwards and starts to descend. Down to the hamlet of Walton Pool. Houses on the hillsides are modern with older cottages down near the pool. The pool is not large and is home to white geese which start honking loudly before coming to see if I am good for anything edible. I disappoint them. Another smaller pool lay below the first. Skeins of geese fly over, too quiet I think for Canada’s. A footpath from the ponds leads to Walton Pool Lane. A thick Holly hedge hides Clent Hall, a house of around 1685; refronted and altered around 1800 and altered again in the mid to late 19th century. It was the home of the Waldron family until 1750 when it passed to the Durant family. The garden was laid out around 1875 by Sir Joseph Hooker, a director of Kew Gardens and colleague of Charles Darwin. Into the village of Clent.
The infant’s school was built by the Durant family is Clent Hall in 1863 and closed in 1974. It is now a dwelling. It was built in yellow brick and retains the school bell in a cupola. The school house stands next door, also in yellow brick and built by the Durants. Opposite is the church of St Leonard. The church is open but a service is about to start so my visit is brief. The 12th century church probably consisted of just a chancel and nave, to which a south aisle was added around 1170. The north aisle was added in 1837, but it was rebuilt along with the nave, chancel and south aisle in 1864/65 by Kirk and Parry. Many fittings are modern. There is a peal of eight bells, two of 1902 by Taylor of Loughborough. The old bells are inscribed as follows: 1: M John Waldron de Field, Mr Wm Cole, Zeph Creswell 1718; 2: Cantate Domino Canticum Novum. 1681; 3: Henricus Bagley mee fecit 1681; 4: Henry Bagley made me 1681; 5: Henry Bagley made me 1681; 6: John Perry vicar, John Cresswell John Waldron Churchwardens, John Amphlett Esquire and on the lip of the bell John Gopp, Abraham Hill, Richard Wight, Joseph Waldron, Thomas Waldron, Richard Hill. Richard Bagley made mee 1743.
Opposite the church is a rather out of place building, thirties? Of even greater incongruity is that it is an Indian restaurant! Opposite and again hidden behind high hedges is the old Vicarage. Vine Lane heads out is the village towards St Kenelms Pass. A bridleway rises into the Country Park through Gappelter Common and Gaplow Grove. A path climbs steeply through Deep Wood. A fallen tree has to be clambered over. A spider with a sac of eggs scurries through the leaf litter. The path gets steeper. Out into a broad track which climbs far less steeply. On one side of the track is a conifer plantation. There are some conifers on the other side but more deciduous trees. Out of the woodland and up through open lane which had been mowed leaving large brown patches where Bracken was growing. The track rises above the trees to reveal the magnificent views again, except in the west where a wide band of rain is heading this way. There are a good number of people walking up here.
Across towards West Hagley is Wychbury Obelisk on Wychbury Hill constructed by Lord Lyttelton of Hagley Hall on Wychbury Hill in 1758. In the foreground, down the hill is The Tower, part of a folly castle designed for Lord Lyttelton by Sanderson Miller. Up to the summit where there are the Four Stones, also a Lord Lyttelton folly, and a toposcope. A track leads back to St Kenelms Pass. Into a Beech wood. There is much graffiti carved into the tree trunks but few dates. One about eight feet up is 1953. I am so busy looking at trees that I take the wrong path but it is only a slight detour along Hagley Wood and Chapel lanes. Route
Thursday – Home – Half way down our garden there is a mound holding a number of trees – a large Ash, a Yew, several Elder and Flowering Black Currant and several shrubs. Some of the Flowering Black Currant has died and I now need to remove the dead branches. It takes a while to cut through the various branches so they can be removed without damaging the live parts of the tree. It takes far longer to cut up the tangle of removed branches to take to the recycling centre where they can deal with this quantity of wood. Our compost bins are wholly inadequate for that sort of job. The noise of the saw and the piling up of the branches next to the chicken run causes the hens to go into a complete tizzy. After a short time they retreat into the hen house and refuse to come out. The garden Robin regularly comes down onto lower branches of the Yew to see what is going on – is there anything edible being exposed? Down the street there are a number of Carrion Crows hidden in the garden trees. They are making a considerable noise. There is also a Raven honking nearby. The garden is entering winter. The beans are finished although there is a considerable number drying on the stalks. The Borlotti beans sadly were planted too late and have produced little. The callaloo is still producing shoots and leaves. The leeks are reaching a decent size. The tomatoes are finished. There are still some large marrows on the courgettes. Spring greens remain small and some are being attacked. The sprouting broccoli is producing a few heads. The summer sprouting have not been particularly productive but the winter sprouting are still growing larger and larger. A lot of Herefordshire Russets are on the tree and still not falling.
Saturday – Brighton – Kay and I are in the city anticipating the arrival of a grandchild, who seems determined not to come forth any time soon, despite being some days past her due date. After visiting the parents-to-be we head towards the city centre. Down Waldegrave Road lined by Victorian terraces built between 1880 and 1898. A neolithic long barrow found in this road was used as hardcore during the building of Balfour Road and workmen were regularly disturbed by the concentrations of human remains poking through their foundations. Nearly every house is painted white. Window shutters are clearly the in replacement for curtains. A Tesla car is parked at the roadside, the first I have every seen. These cost some $90,000 in the USA so goodness knows what one costs here. Having said that, there are also Mercedes Benz cars costing at least that amount and Bentleys costing rather more. The street is lined with Silver Birches, 10-11 years old. Along Beaconsfield Villas. Several of the shops are the same as the last time I was here, some years back, seems unusual as shops here seem to change overnight. Into Preston Circus. The Duke of York’s cinema is still a popular film centre. It was opened on 22nd September 1910, designed by CE Clayton for Mrs Violet Melnotte-Wyatt. The Duke of York’s is one of the oldest surviving, and largely unaltered, purpose-built cinemas in Britain. The fire station is, surprisingly still in the same place it had been for 79 years. Barclays Bank is apparently an Eagle Lab... Sadly the green grocer that has been there for years has gone. The Hare and Hounds is clearly a hipsters pub these days but still has a decent beer. It does have some wonderful lights which are sawn off beer casks.
Along the London Road. The western side is made up of villas and Georgian terraces with shops extending out from the ground floor. We try to remember which shops were here back in our Brighton days. On the eastern side there is a single villa amongst the shop fronts. It is a terraced house, though designed as detached. It was built as St Batholomews Vicarage in 1822-30 with later additions and probably designed by Amon Wilds and Charles Augustine Busby. London Road Methodist church, erected in 1894 and designed by James Weir of London, originally in red brick, is closed and boarded up. The market has changed considerably, I remember the old market being demolished and this one being built, although I had left the town when that happened. Indeed I can just about remember when that market was built with concrete stalls replacing old wooden ones, including the stall which allowed for PG Tips cards, which came free in in packets of tea, to be swapped so you could complete the collection. Once there was a double row of fresh fish stalls, now there is just one. We cannot remember what the large Art Deco building was, Kay thinks it was Woolworths but I recall them being down by Cheapside, next to the old Sainsbury’s where one has to queue at the different sections – butter, cheese, cooked meats etc. It turns out we are both right. Woolworth’s opened a store on the corner of Cheapside in October 1927. In 1965 it moved to new premises, formerly Roslings departmental store which is the Art Deco building almost opposite the old Co-op building and the Cheapside building was taken over by Sainsbury’s. Opposite was Bellmans which stood wool, drapery, linen etc. Kay points out the remains of the façade of Marks and Spencer.
St Peter’s church tower, which is houses the main entrance, is covered in scaffolding which is a relief as it was condemned as dangerous leading to the church being closed. Posters indicate the services have gone happy clappy. The church is Victorian Perpendicular Gothic. The nave, aisles and west tower, designed by Sir Charles Barry, date to 1824-8 and are in Portland Stone. The nave and aisles lengthened by one bay and a new chancel, vestry and south-east chapel added in 1898-1906 by George Somers Clarke the Younger and JT Micklethwaite. They were built in Sussex Sandstone. A memorial hall to north was added 1927. Into Trafalgar Street and The Great Eastern. The woman behind the bar seems pretty unimpressed when I comment that at decimalisation (1971) this pub still had beer for less than 2/6, probably the cheapest in town. On up Trafalgar Street. The plumbing shop has gone although that may have been some years ago. The whole street is full of trendy ships and cafés. One of the first Asian shops in town now just sells chilli products. The Lord Nelson is still a Harvey’s house, thank goodness!
Sunday – Brighton – Up Ditchling Road. The shops around the area where the Lewes railway line runs under the road have mainly closed down or been converted into dwellings. The Roundhill pub has closed. Into Springfield Road. The Springfield pub is now called Open House for some reason. Through the grid of Victorian terraced streets. Florence Road Baptist church in the Early English design by George Baines was built in 1894-5. The building is faced in flint with red brick dressings. It seems to be happy clappy now. I pass a house I where I used to live. I could have bought it for £18000 but could not afford it; a neighbouring property is on the market for over £600000 now. Down St Andrews Road. A row of garages still stands running off from the street, which is surprising because the garages on the opposite side have gone to be replaced with half a dozen modern well designed houses. Stanford Avenue Methodist Church, built in 1897-8 in Early English Style by E.J. Hamilton, is still in business. There is a small community garden at the end of Cleveland Road. Blakers Park remains much as I remember it from 50 years ago. The land was donated to Brighton by Mr. Alderman J.G. Blaker in 1893 for the free use and enjoyment of the inhabitants and visitors for the purposes of recreation. He also donated £1,000 for the building of the clock tower and for any money left over to go towards the maintenance of the Park. The fine clock tower, which was opened on 15th September 1896, is still functioning. The tower is a square ornamented structure of steel and cast iron, fifty feet high, finished in bronze with dials measuring 5 foot in diameter. The designers and constructors of the clock and tower were Gillett & Johnston of Croydon.The Cleveland Arms is still operating. It has a Phoenix Brewery lamp. The Phoenix was owned by Tamplins which was Brighton’s biggest brewery. I can still remember the smell of brewing drifting across the town. Its days ended when it was taken over by the dreaded Watney’s.
The Preston Park Tavern is also still a pub, although very different from when I frequented it. The licensee was George Pearn who, it is said, for a long time held out against having any beer except mild and bitter. The brewery eventually forced him to have lager and a Guinness pumps. He used to serve a wonderfully basic ploughman’s lunch – a lump of bread, lump of butter, a large lump of cheese and a big dollop of Branstons. When he retired he gave me the collection of Giles’ Cartoon Annuals he had on a shelf. The pub was said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who was murdered nearby and brought to the pub, as was the custom so the coroner could certify the death. Along Beaconsfield Villas where the larger villas have inevitably been converted into flats. Many are good examples of late Victorian ostentation in architecture. Into Preston Drove. With the possible exception of the pharmacy none of the traditional shops that were here are in existence now. Florists, café, osteopath, organic food centre, pizza, fish and chips and Indian takeaways and an off-licence have replaced them. The Park View pub and St Mary’s Catholic church are still here. Past Preston Park sports ground where I was once bored by a US Forces baseball match. Into Bavant Road, originally Queen Mary Villas. A nursery is housed in the former Preston Telephone Exchange. A Sparrowhawk circles overhead attracting the attention of a pair of Jackdaws. Another property where I used to live is now five instead of four flats. We used to pass the lease on to one another as we moved on for the cost of the solicitor’s bill, which was not very much and, for some reason, £10 for the cooker. I hate to think what a lease here would cost now. A service is in progress in St John the Evangelist’s church. The church was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and built by the Crawley-based building firm of James Longley in 1901/2.
Into Preston village. The car sales room of Caffyns is now a Sainsbury’s Local. The bowling green still seems to be in use although all the paths are becoming covered in grass. The two pubs, the Crown and Anchor and the Brewery Tap are still operating. Up North Road. A modern block of apartments is boarded up! There are a couple of 18th or early 19th century cottages with hipped roofs and flint walls. Opposite is a terrace of 18th century cottages with flint walls that have been rendered. The old forge is now a home. Clermont church was designed by Brighton-based architect John George Gibbins in 1877 and became the Clermont United Reformed Church. It looks like it is part of the Brighton Academy for Performing Arts. On to Preston Park station. The London Brighton and South Coast Railway opened a new station named Preston, in 1869 to serve the growing parish of Preston. In 1879, the station was enlarged and remodelled during the construction of the Cliftonville Curve spur line from the main line to Hove and the West Sussex coast line. It was renamed Preston Park although the Park did not exist until 1883. It gained notoriety in 1881 when the railway murderer Percy Lefroy Mapleton alighted at the station after having killed Isaac Frederick Gold and dumped his body in Balcombe tunnel. Outside the station is a shop, The Brighton Clockworks, Est 1893, sadly now closed.
There is a change of plan and I head into the city to meet Kay. Down to London road. A Great Spotted Woodpecker is chipping in trees in Clermont Road. I pass Preston Park where there are runners and football matches. One league match with full kit and a scratch game with tabards. Two English Elm trees are in the Coronation Garden at the north end of the park. Dating from 1613 they are considered to be the oldest Elms in the world. The tennis courts are busy. There is a pleasant wild flower meadow. In a flower bed is a statue of a running shoe – a tribute to Brighton Olympian Steve Ovett. Sadly I notice the art nouveau lamps that stood at the entrance to the park are gone.
Tuesday – Home – A storm hit the country yesterday. Many places saw a red sun and yellow sky as Saharan sand was whipped up into the maelstrom above us. I was travelling and although the sky was angry and dark when I passed by Swindon, by the time I reached Herefordshire the sun was shining brightly. However, the wind was building and overnight a gale raged outside. This morning I discovered the wind had torn off the top of the dead apple tree in the garden. It had landed on the path and one of the rhubarb patches, causing no real damage, the rhubarb was just dying back anyway. I sawed the branches up this afternoon causing great distress to the hens again, who after a lot of running around crowing loudly, retreated to the hen house.
The rest of the Herefordshire Russets have been gathered in. I cut a cabbage for dinner but little of it was in a fit state to eat, the slugs, snails and other beasties had done their worst. But the chickens were happy to have the remains. Just about all the fruit has finished now. There are still plenty of Bramley and just a few Howgate Wonder apples.
Wednesday – Home – The closing down of the garden for winter continues. The remaining tomato plants are removed from the greenhouse. There are still flowers on the peppers which may produce fruit so it is worth leaving them for now. Out come the courgette plants with their large marrows, which are beginning to be attacked by slugs. Also removed are the peas which have not done well this year. A large number of beans are still on the stalks, hopefully drying. The leeks are weeded. A collar made from a plant pot saucer is fitted to the bird seed feeder and that is filled for the first time this autumn. The collar on the peanuts has worked well in keeping the Grey Squirrels away.
Friday – Clun Valley – From Clun Bridge, south on the Knighton road, past cottages which are mainly 19th century although some are earlier, some of which were once shops such as cobblers and drapers. Past St George’s church by which stands a vast late 17th century vicarage. The morning is cold, damp and grey. Newer properties are built back from the road. West down the lane to Anchor. The housing is modern, a mixture of former council and private houses. The former all have small plaques depicting the English Rose. A Red Kite soars past. The lane rises between fields. Below Clun castle stands on its considerable motte. A lovely old stone and corrugated iron barn has fallen into disrepair whilst opposite ugly modern barns have replaced it. The road winds along the hillside into the tiny hamlet of Llwyn. A small farmhouse lies up in the steep, wooded slope. A modern house is further on, mainly hidden. A long, white painted cottage stands by the lane. Opposite an old track, looking seldom used, runs down into the valley below. A large stone house, The Llwyn, looks out over the valley. A double row of solar panels crosses a field below; sadly they are powering a poultry unit. The hillsides are divided into irregular fields mainly containing sheep. The geology is various Silurian sedimentary formations. The lane is climbing an area of hillocks created by glaciation in the Devensian. Blackbirds chunter and Blue Tits squeak in the hedgerows. Past a farm where some unhappy looking sheep and packed tightly into a compound. A flock of House Sparrows flies into a Holly and Hawthorn thicket. The Holly has a fine crop of red berries. The clouds are breaking up and the sun emerges. Linnets sit atop the hedgerow.
The lane reaches a crossroads. The lane ahead continues down now to Skyborry, which lays across the River Teme from Knighton. I head north-west, still towards Anchor, although that is over eight miles away. Ravens croak across the hills. The lane climbs Weston Hill. A toadstool grows on the verge. It has a white, viscous cap. I search through the guides later and it seems it may be a Snowy Meadow Cap or is that a Snowy Wax Cap. Never mind, the better way is to use Latin names is it not? I find at least three different scientific names and I am still not sure if they all refer to the same species. The centre of the lane is spotted red with fallen Haws. Another troop of fungi, possibly Clitcybe family but life is too short to try and confirm this! A field of what I suppose is oil seed rape already has some yellow flowers. A Common Buzzard Swiss across the road. The hill finally peaks at 413 metres. A Skylark is singing. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies into a tree that contains an old corvid nest. At Springhill Farm I join the Offa’s Dyke path and head north. The dyke approaches the path from the south-west standing about ten feet high. As the path descends the hill, the dyke drops down to ground level using a deep, small valley as the defensive barrier. A small modern quarry had been dug into the hillside to provide hard core for the track. The rocks are dark grey Cefn Einon Formation from the Silurian. A cottage, Scotlands, stands below in the little valley. Add the little valley flattens out, the dyke and ditch become more clearly man-made. The track now crosses the dyke to the Welsh side. A Robin sings. The little valley becomes very deep again with a stream tinkling through it. Through a herd of cattle and calves. A calf stands all alone some distance down the hill. I reach a farmyard and see the farmer and mention this calf. He says he is heading that direction so he will check it out.
The path reaches the road at Old Spoad. This farmhouse was possibly a hunting lodge in the 14th or 15th century with later alterations and additions. The path crosses the road and crosses the Clun valley. An ancient Ash stands by a stile. Its base has split and the core rotted away leaving two trunks and these have been pollarded and new growth is springing out. Across a footbridge over the Clun. Bryndrinog, an early 17th century farmhouse stands above the river. It is undergoing restoration. Up a steep slope from the river. The dyke is now some fifteen feet high. The path reaches a lane that leads west to Newcastle on Clun. I head towards the village. Wellfield is a large house dating from around 1840. Another large house, Fron End stands next to a track that climbs a hill. A fine drizzle commences. The path turns up a steep hill. At the top is Fron Camp hill-fort. It is a small site with a rampart and ditch. Parts of the rampart have been ploughed out. The entrance is in the south-west side but behind a barbed wire fence and under dense Bracken. It is believed to have been an Iron Age or possibly Romano-British family homestead. A neolithic scraper and a Bronze Age spindle have been found on the site. A large Horse Mushroom, Agaricus arvensis, is on the ramparts. There are also some more of what I think are Snowy Waxcaps, Hygrocybe virginea.
Back down the track. Opposite Fron End is the church is St John the Evangelist. It was built in 1848, by Edward Haycock of Shrewsbury. It has a wide nave and a short chancel giving a Georgian look to the building. A finely carved screen in the perpendicular style was installed in 1906. The east window depicts the Good Shepherd with St Peter and St John the Evangelist by the Evan Brothers and dated 1862. A small glass fronted box is on the north wall. It contains what looks like a short quill pen. Under the quill is an inscription which states Returned to Newcastle church by the Ven. E.J. Newill, Archdeacon of Dorking, for the Centenary of the Consecration 1948. There is further script above the quill but it has faded to illegibility. Above is a clock presented in celebration of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Outside is a lychgate dated 1880 with a flared pyramidal roof suggesting the Arts and Crafts style.
With time advancing and the weather deteriorating, I decide not to go on to Newcastle but to head back eastwards along the lane, past Offa’s Dyke. The lane is a typical back road, with high hedges. It enters Whitcott Keysett. Abandoned cars clutter the roadside on the edge is the village. There are two old road signs. The village appears to be a collection of farms although it is difficult to work out how many. A Victorian post box is in a barn wall. One farm is a fine long house. A Georgian house stands down a lane. It is a mid 18th century former farmhouse. A brook runs through the village with a ford leading to another farmhouse. There are a few modern dwellings. The same old road signs are on the exit from the village. On along the lane until the Shropshire Way which leads back into Clun. I have followed this route in the past. The path runs along between coppiced Hazels and Blackthorns. Sloes lie scattered in the path. The River Unk runs alongside the path now. The Clun castle ruins come into view. As I approach the footbridge over the river, a Kingfisher flashes across the field in dazzling chestnut and turquoise. The path comes into the village. As it joins the road, a wall is covered with sickly scented Ivy and the air is full of bees. Route
Monday – Winkworth Arboretum – We visit this National Trust property in Surrey. The arboretum was developed when Wilfrid Fox, a well-respected doctor with a great passion for horticulture purchased 130 acres of woodland next to his farmhouse in the Thorncombe Valley in 1937. Most of the area was covered in scrub woodland, with several plantations of Larch and Douglas fir, so Dr Fox began his work to enhance the valley’s autumn colours by planting Maples, Oaks and Liquidambars on the upper edge of the slope. At the beginning of the Second World war, Fox, at the age of 64, drove ambulances to France. On his return, the Ministry of Supply ordered the Larches at the southerly end of Rowe’s Flashe Lake to be felled for the war effort. This resulted in a bowl-shaped area of cleared slope. Dr Fox saw the huge potential of this area, and focused his planting on this bowl. He had only one employee so he and family members undertook much of the work. He was a particular expert on the trees of the Sorbus genus, including Rowan, Whitebeam and Service, and in 1943 planted more than 50 Sorbus species on the slope now known as Sorbus Hill. He donated some 65 acres in 1952, and added another 35 acres in 1957. A management committee ran the arboretum, with Dr Fox as its chairman, and National Trust and RHS members on the committee. He died in 1962.
It has recently been raining so everywhere is wet. Drops fall constantly from the trees, often a considerable shower when the breeze stirs the leaves. The Acers are beginning to turn into their glorious autumnal colours, so many shades of red, yellow and orange. We decide not to go right down to the lake in the bowl but simply wander through the woodland. A memorial to Dr Fox is in a glade. A number of seats have carvings of animals and birds on them. The seat near the memorial has several carvings of foxes.
Haslemere – We stop briefly in this Surrey town. It was recorded in 1221 as a Godalming tithing. The name describes hazel trees standing beside a mere. The arrival of the railway in the 1850s resulted in Haslemere developing as a commuter town for London and, to a lesser extent, Portsmouth. During the building of the railway, the first of the two murders of Surrey Police Officers occurred in Haslemere High Street, on the night of 28/29 July 1855, when Inspector William Donaldson was beaten to death by drunken navvies. The only other murder of a Surrey Police officer was in Caterham some 120 years later. The murder of Inspector Donaldson is recorded on the walls of the Town Hall, a building of 1814 on an island at the end of the High Street. The High Street contains a good number of 17th and 18th century buildings. Petworth Road also contains a lot of 18th century houses, often with earlier cores. The shops in the town are varied with a decent choice, butchers, bakers and candlestick retailers if not makers! Like most places there are a fair number of charity shops and a supermarket, although this is the more upmarket Waitrose. There are also several 18th century hotels.
Tuesday – Grayswood – We stay overnight in this village just over a mile north of Haslemere. Grayswood derives from Gerardes wood. It was a small hamlet, some 14 households in 1841, 26 and a pub by 1891. The road was opened as a turnpike in 1763. A house called Hawks Stoop was the Wheatsheaf Inn, but a new pub of the same name was built in the early 20th century. There was no church and parishioners had to go to Whitley or Haslemere. In 1894, Alfred Hugh Harman (1841-1913), a pioneer of photography and founder of Ilford Limited, moved to Grayswood and in 1900 he offered to finance a church in Grayswood on land given by Lord Derby, on condition that a parish was created. The new ecclesiastical parish of Grayswood was formed from parts of the parishes of Witley, Chiddingfold, Haslemere and Thursley in 1901.
The church of All Saints was built in 1901/2. The architect was Axel Arman Haag from Gotland who lived locally. He was trained as a naval architect. When he died the Society of Berserkers and Vikings had a memorial stone erected in the churchyard. The church is a 13th century style with elements of the Arts and Crafts. It is built of Bargate stone with Ham Hill stone dressings. The spire and lychgate are faced in cedar. The clock was made by Smiths of Derby. Inside there is a stone chancel arch. The nave has a boarded wagon roof divided into panels by moulded arch braces on moulded stone corbels with similar roofs to north transept and chancel. The chancel has a marble reredos with sculpted demi-figures in square niches and a painted frieze of demi-figures on either side across the east wall. Above the frieze are painted figures of Moses and David on a linen canvas, possibly by Carl Almquist. The grilles to radiators and pipework in the chancel are gilded in the Art Nouveau style. A painted wooden sculpture of the Adoration of the Magi is on the chancel wall. Stained glass includes east and north windows by Carl Almquist and a west window by Kempe.
Wednesday – Storrington – We stayed overnight in this West Sussex village. For the commuter belt, it seems a little rundown and shabby. Certainly, our hotel was although it is undergoing a major refurbishment. The name Storrington possibly comes from the Saxon meaning Stork Place. We walk round to the church of St Mary. There is likely to have been a Saxon church here. The Normans built one here, now the north aisle of the present building. The church was reconfigured in 1750 when the present nave and chancel were built by the Norman church which became the north aisle. The south aisle was added in 1876. There is a service under way so we leave. Opposite is a car park and new buildings. This was the site of the kitchen garden of the Dominican Convent of St Joseph. A door in the Moorish style and a gateway led to the garden.
Friday – Pontypool-Cwmbrân – A truly autumnal morning. Mist lies across the fields, thickening along the courses of the rivers. Fields and wood are lot by a golden light from the rising sun. Although there are clouds in the sky in Herefordshire, by Pontypool the sky is almost completely clear save for aircraft vapour trails. A Magpie chatters in the yellow leaves of a Silver Birch. A flock of Wood Pigeons fly over, wings flashing in the sun.
Up the slope out of the station and over the New Inn bypass. Up The Highway and onto Usk Road. Down to the park gates then over the Afon Lwyd. Up the rise and under the A472. Traffic is heavy. Water pours down a small ravine beside the road. Across a large roundabout and up Cwm-ynys-Cou towards Cymynyscoy, another township. The difference in spelling seems to be the former is the old Anglised version. Past Viaduct Court, a collection of blocks of flats mid 20th century and beginning to look tatty. The viaduct was a complex where a tramway from the quarries further up the hill passed the Monmouthshire Railway (Eastern Valleys Section), now all gone. The bus stop is labelled The Tump which was the name given to a popular pub, The Prince of Wales, now demolished. There are more blocks of flats with a Victorian semi-detached house in the middle. To the north is Cwm Fields, a large 20th century housing estate. Older properties are scattered around. A lane leads off to Cwmyynyscoy quarries. The tramway crossed the road here. Cwmynyscoy Hall is a small Victorian building. Philips Terrace are older properties ending with Unicorn Inn, present on the 1881 OS map. On up the hill is another pub, The Wheatsheaf, now an Indian restaurant. A path leads to a Nature Reserve. Former dolomite quarries, closed in 1978, have been reclaimed by nature. The road turns into Penyrheol Road, into an area of the same name, which means Mountain Road, which is an ancient route and possibly an old drovers road.
The lane climbs steeply. Herb Robert is still in flower, little specks of pink at the base of the hedgerows. To the north is Talyn Calch, a hill standing at 459 metres, bathed in golden sunshine. Large old quarry faces look out across Upper Race, which stands at the open end of Cwm Leucu or Cwm Licky. The name Race comes from the Welsh, Rhas, which refers to the method of using water to scour the landscape to expose the ore seams below. Past The Mount, a house from 1600, rendered in pebble-dash. An extension to the back dates to the 18th century. To the north now, much closer, is an area of open commonland. It seems a typical open hillside that has been this way for ever, but in the 19th century the whole area was a complex of quarries producing ironstone and collieries producing coal. Railway lines, coking plants, iron works and brick works populated the hills. Cwm Lickey Collieries were opened by 1865 and worked by Ebbw Vale Iron Co amongst others until around 1907. They were abandoned in 1949 and filled in 1964. A Peregrine flies over. Over a cattle grid. Hill Farm lies in the moor. Behind the whole valley from Blaenavon to Newport is filled with housing. Linnets twitter on telephone wires.
The road bends its way through Penyrheol. The Lamb Inn looks empty and deserted. An old GR postbox in the wall had been replaced by an ER one on a pole. A barking Raven passes over. Sheep wander down the lane and into the hamlet. The wide verge is covered in hummocks caused by ants’ nests. Mynydd Twyn-glas hill is topped by a mast, its slopes scarred by quarrying. There are a fair number of homes in this lane, most Victorian although much changed. A Great Spotted Woodpecker calls from a grove of trees, stunted by the exposure up here on the hillside. Three Fieldfares fly over. Capel Llwyd, a late 17th century farmhouse has an early 19th century barn which has been converted. Mountain Air is a former public house. Ahead is Mynydd Maen, a long ridge despoiled by a line of pylons. The lane crosses another cattle grid as it leaves the common. At Mountain Farm the lane begins to descend. A Nuthatch scurries about the trunk and branches of a tree whilst a Blue Tit dangles from the leaves. A Mistle Thrush watches from another tree whilst a Redwing flies past. On down past Yew Tree Farm. Golden trees shine in the sun across the hillside. A Jay flies from tree top to tree top. A little stream runs down from the hillside and disappears under the lane. Well Cottages are just a few tumbled down walls.
The lane reaches Upper Cwmbran. Glyn Brân is an early 17th century farmhouse altered in the 18th century, with the date, 1774 on one roof truss. The Siloam Baptist church is dated 1838, with a vestry attached built in 1904 and extended in 1988. It was probably built for the influx of workers to the newly opened Porthmawr Colliery or Clay Level. A tall red marble monument is dedicated to John Jones of Newburgh, Ohio, America who died on a visit to this county in 1870. Below the chapel, a rushing stream disappears into a tunnel under the road. Up the hill is Blaen Bran community woodland. The stream is tumbling down waterfalls. As before, this whole area was an industrial site with Porthmawr, also known as Cwm Brân Colliery up the hill and large brickworks and tramways. Two levels were sunk in the 1830s and the Main Slope opened in 1854. The mine also produced clay for the nearby brickworks. The mine ceased production in 1927. A lane rises past a service reservoir and modern houses. A couple of terraces of 19th century workers’ homes stands around The Square. Opposite is Upper Cwmbran Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel, built in 1840 and rebuilt in 1865.
Back down the hill a short way then off along Belle Vue Lane. The lane rises, passing houses then a woodland of twisted and gnarled Beeches. To the east of the lane the land is Devonian sandstone. Here and to the west the land is Carboniferous limestone formations and the South Wales Lower Coal Measures. A small valley and a house lie to the west, Gelli-gravog. A track descends eastwards. Three are a large amount of boulders of quartz conglomerate, known as Pudding Stones, on the track sides. These were markers for pilgrims using this route. This route is part of the extensive Cistercian way across Wales. This section is a mediaeval route from Llantarnam Abbey to the Marian Shrine at Penrhys in the Rhondda Valley. The Hollow Lane was a boundary for the land given to Llantarnam in 1179 by the Welsh Lord of Caerleon, Hywel ap Lorwerth. The roots of Beech trees have been sheared off as the modern track was constructed and now stand rotting with various fungi. Far below lies Cwmbran. Beyond in the mist is the Bristol Channel and beyond that, the Quantocks in Somerset. A short stretch of stone wall starts then stops then continues buried in Brambles and Bracken.
The Hollow Lane reaches Craig Road. The track continues down the hillside. Sadly as it approaches the town, it becomes scattered with rubbish. The track enters Thornhill. A tree lined track continues through the modern estate. Qawwali music comes from one of the flats. The track continues. Just before it reaches a main road there are two more quartz conglomerate stones set into the ground. The road now leads to the town centre. On the edge of the town centre houses begin again. The terraces are Victorian, small homes for the iron workers. Glencoed House had been altered considerably but may well have been a foreman’s or manager’s house. Another wooded footpath leaves the busy roads and heads into the centre. It crosses the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and arrives at the shopping mall. Route