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Category: Herefordshire

Butterflies and Flowers

Butterflies and Flowers

Butterflies? Flowers? February? It’s not as silly as it sounds. It all started this morning with a bright sun in a cloudless sky – it was going to be a beautiful day so we just had to go somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be Croft Castle.

We wanted to try and find some snowdrops which were supposed to be found in Pokehouse Wood. Don’t ask me where that name comes from because I don’t know and I’m not about to start guessing but the wood is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate. If one parks at Croft Castle then it’s going to be a five and a half mile return walk to Pokehouse Wood which we didn’t really want to do so we, naturally, cheated. On the way to Croft Castle we pass through the small village of Amestrey which, surprisingly, is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate so we didn’t pass through, we stopped and parked.

We used a public footpath to reach the edge of Croft Castle Estate where we found a sign, by some steep steeps, which told us that we had arrived at Pokehouse Wood. Up the steps we went and eventually arrived at a wide path where we turned right. Walking along the path, which we noticed was going downhill very slowly, we kept a lookout for Snowdrops. Not a sign. Not a tiny speck of white to be seen anywhere. But then we found these. Not a lot admittedly but it is a start.

As the path was going downhill we eventually arrived at river level, you can see the river below us in the image above, onto another path where we turned right.

Then things started to get interesting.

So, finally, we did find a few. We also noticed that the Snowdrop flowers were beginning to die back so we were lucky that we hadn’t left it another week as we may then have been disappointed.

We also spotted this solitary Primrose.

The path we were on seemed to be heading back towards our starting point so we decided to risk it and continued on this path. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the bottom of the steps we had climed previously so we needn’t have climbed them in the first place. Bummer!

On our way back along the public footpath we stopped to have a look at this tree.

Now that is a tree that you couldn’t easily miss. That tiny person at the bottom is Amanda trying to identify it. She eventually decided that it was a Wellingtonia. Wellingtonias are native to California in America and that is where they grow to their maximum height. They do also grow in other parts of America but not to such a height. However they do also like it here in Britain; growing not to such a height as they grow in California but higher than they grow in other parts of America.

We drove round to the car park in Croft Castle then walked to the restaurant where we had some much appreciated sustenance.

Our next plan was to walk around the upper reaches of Fishpoool Valley so we set off and came across another interesting tree.

This is known as the Candelabra Oak which Amanda estimates can’t be far short of 1000 years old. So you should be able to work out that it is an Oak and I don’t want any dimwits asking “Barry, why is it called the Candelabra Oak” as it should be fairly obvious. We started down the wooded path into Fishpool Valley.

Some way further down we saw, across on the other side, the Grotto which we had heard about but hadn’t seen so we went across to have a look.

It has to be said that we were not awe struck. Apparently some of it is now missing but what and where I don’t know. The second photograph above shows the Grotto on the left with Amanda sitting a little way in front. Walking on we came across our third flower of the day – a wild daffodil.

From the look of the area there should be a lot more of those in bloom in a few more weeks. We’ll have to come back and see. Back to our walk. The path went on – and on – and on.

It may be long but we were enjoying it. At this time of year with no leaves on the trees and a low sun the atmosphere was ethereal.

Our final picture, before we climbed out of Fishpool Valley and went back to our car, is of one of the ponds. The surface of the water was completely still and acted like a mirror showing some amazing reflections.

We also saw some butterflies – a Brimstone, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell so it must be Spring. That was the end of our day but we hope to be back for more daffodils – weather permitting.

The wet foot waterfall.

The wet foot waterfall.

When Marie, our friend from the U.S., came over on her annual trip to this country in early May I forgot to blog about it so when we revisited one of our previous venues today I decided to combine both visits into one post.

We revisited Hampton Court. If you are thinking of Hampton Court Palace in London then I should point out that it wasn’t that Hampton Court but if you are thinking of Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire then, yes, it was that one.

We first visited Hampton Court Castle at the beginning of May this year and we were accompanied by Marie who was on her annual Great Britain trip. This time, in the middle of August, we were on our own.

This is the front of Hampton Court Castle and it is not a real castle but a stately home. It was, however, built in the 15th century.

Visitors see the house by guided tour only at set times. When we went here with Marie we didn’t go into the house but just toured the gardens.

This next picture, as you may guess, is the Library.

However, what you may not guess is that the part of the bookcase facing us in the corner is a secret door.

The section immediately to the left of the corner is the secret door. What gives it away is the little door handle on the right-hand edge just below centre and the fact that the ‘books’ are an amazingly good fit.

This next picture was on our first trip with Marie and you can see Amanda and Marie discussing what mischief they can get up to. This part of the Walled Garden is the first area reached after passing through the entrance.

The next two pictures show the Dutch Garden. The first picture is in early May when Marie was here, you can see both Amanda and Marie in the picture, and the second picture is on our recent trip in the middle of August when the potted plants have developed and was also taken slightly later in the day.

In another part of the garden, but still water related, are the Island Pavilions. The next picture shows one of the two pavilions seen from inside the other. The picture following shows the source of the water where the water bubbles up in the centre.

We next found ourselves in the Sunken Garden with its pool and waterfall. The path, from which the next photograph is taken, loops round to our left and up to the level of the wooden fence. The dark space behind the fence is the entrance to a large tunnel which goes underground to under the base of the Gothic Tower at the centre of the Yew Maze.

Having arrived at that wooden fence the aforementioned tunnel, shown in the second picture, is on our immediate left. On our first visit with Marie we groped our way through the completely dark passage to the far end but this time I used the torch facility on my smartphone and the photograph was taken using flash.

I don’t know how but we completely missed the other passage. Looking at the picture above the photograph of the tunnel you will see a small, narrow, dark opening at the end of the fence. That narrow passage drops a little, care required, and goes behind the waterfall as shown in the picture below.

There is quite a bit of splashing from the waterfall and I didn’t want to get my expensive camera wet so moving smartly was the order of the day. Unfortunately in the dim light I missed seeing the small puddle on the far side of the waterfall which turned out to be deeper than the thickness of the soles on my sandals. Result – one wet foot.

We did eventually arrive at the base of the Gothic Tower and climbed to the top.

The view from the top is quite good showing the ‘castle’ the island pavilions and a general overview of the walled garden.

Directly below us was the Yew Maze.

There was plenty of colour, although in our May visit a lot of the plants had yet to grow and in our August visit some of the borders were looking tired, and this gives a small sample of some of the flowers.

There is a lot to see here at different times of year so perhaps we may come again.

Dally in the Valley

Dally in the Valley

This is a companion post (sequel) to March through the Arch which was our first visit to Croft Castle and this visit being our second. In case anyone doesn't know what 'Dally' means it means to walk slowly.

This time, although we revisited the Walled Garden, our prime objective was to walk through Fishpool Valley. Before we walked to Fishpool Valley the Walled Garden called.

The garden looked as delightful as ever.

There were plenty of flowers about with some visitors goggling at the view. cool

We couldn't have missed seeing this Dogwood in full bloom if we'd tried. What a sight!

It was now time for Fishpool Valley.

So – what is Fishpool Valley? It is described thus "Fishpool Valley was landscaped in the late eighteenth-century in the ‘Picturesque’ style. This was the movement to create a more natural landscape, using the principles of intricacy, roughness, variety and surprise. It features a chain of dams and pools, as well as architectural features such as an icehouse, grotto, pumphouse and limekiln. The careful planting of Oak, Ash, Willow, Poplar and evergreen species suggested the ‘bold roughness of nature’. Carriage rides and other walks were designed to follow the contours of the landscape, providing dramatic views across a wild, but beautiful, contrived scene."

However, because of lack of maintenance, the whole place is in a sorry state but the National Trust is starting a project to restore it to its original state.

 We started our walk from one end of Fishpool Valley and the first point of interest was a pond.

It did look a little unkempt and in need of some TLC but somebody liked it. There were literally clouds of damsel flies over the water; some brilliant blue and some red. For those of you that don't know damsel flies are part of the dragonfly family. They were obviously very happy here. We walked on.

We soon reached another pond and, if you look carefully, you should see a little stone building near the centre of the picture. That is the Pumphouse.

We peeked through the metal grill to see inside and were surprised to see some old machinery in the form of a waterwheel and some gearing.

These pools are fed by springs and the water is very clear. The Pumphouse was used to pump some of this water up to the house.

Walking ever onward we came across this stretch of path with some nice, very tall, trees which we thought were probably Douglas Firs.

Finally we reached the farthest point of our walk – the Lime Kiln. It is now in a ruinous state with the eastern tunnel in a reasonable condition but the opposite western tunnel has collapsed. The central chargehole is brick-lined but cannot be seen at present. I can see why they would have sited a kiln here as there is a small limestone cliff just behind it to provide the material to heat in the kiln and the resultant lime would have been used on the fields as a fertiliser.

We discovered after returning to the castle that there were the remains of a grotto further on which we missed. Oh well, next time then.

On the walk back from Fishpool Valley, which was a different route from our outward journey, we walked through some wood pasture featuring some impressive trees. When we saw the tree in the picture below Amanda said 'Ooh that's a lovely old Oak. I must go and have a look'. When she got nearer she suddenly stopped and said 'Oh it isn't an Oak it's a Chestnut. It is certainly a massive tree.

A little further on we saw this very large Purple Beech which is the same species as a Copper Beech but a different variety where the leaves are purple coloured rather than copper. Another very fine tree.

Well, once again, we come to the end of another little trip. We will probably go back.

Nature’s Kaleidoscope

Nature’s Kaleidoscope

If you don't like gardens, flowers or bright colours look away now!

This is Hergest Croft Gardens in Kington, Herefordshire. These are mostly Rhododendrons and Azaleas so you'd have to go at the right time of year to see these in blossom but wouldn't it be worth it? It certainly was to us.

There are many other plants, including rare trees, in this garden of over 70 acres and not only that but there are numerous lovely views.

This garden is only a short drive from us and we enjoyed our visit very much. So much so that Amanda decided to buy an annual ticket so that she can go again whenever she likes.

P.S. I have a confession to make. We did this trip about two months ago and I created this post soon after that but then forgot to upload it – Oops! I have now corrected that error. Sorry it's so late. blush

Black and White Villages and an Arrow – Part 2.

Black and White Villages and an Arrow – Part 2.

We drove the 2.5 miles from Pembridge to Eardisland and, as in Pembridge, we crossed the River Arrow again although, this time, it was on the far side of the village for us. The bridge dates from around 1800.

Once again there is a free visitors car park on the main road through the village almost opposite the Dovecote and there were plenty of spaces but, unlike Pembridge, no public toilets. The Dovecote, dating from the late 17th/early 18th century is shown below and is open to the public. It functions as an information and exhibition centre for the village offering interesting historical displays and information on the area alongside a shop selling local produce. There is no entry charge.

Moving to the right of the Dovecote we can see the side of the Manor House with a front view below.

The Manor House dates from the 17th century with what appears to a a geogian extension added to the front. Turning to our left, away from the side view of the Manor House, we look back past the Dovecote towards another road bridge.

If we go into the Dovecote we see at the back of the interior a small staircase and going to the bottom of the stairs and looking up will show a small part of what we could see if we went upstairs.

Arriving upstairs we can see the whole point of the place; a huge number of nesting places for the doves and I understand that they numbered well over 600 although there are no doves there now.

Amanda is trying to asses, from the depth of water, what would happen if she fell in. In the background is the 17th century Millstream Cottage and the water is, naturally enough, the mill stream.

Dating from the early 13th century is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. Some parts such as the Chancel and South Porch were built in the 14th century. The original Tower, of probable 15th Century origin, collapsed in 1728 and was replaced by the present one in 1760. The whole church was restored in 1864.

Eardisland turned out to be very pretty little village and well worth a visit. Unlike the church we haven't been restored so we will now have to return home for a rest.


Black & White Villages and an Arrow – Part 1.

Black & White Villages and an Arrow – Part 1.

There is an area in Herefordshire known as the Black and White Villages and there is also a Black and White Villages Trail which is meant for motoring not walking. We last visited about 12 years ago on a day trip from Ludlow and the results from that are already on the web site. That previous visit was before the blog was started so there is no blog entry for it. This time it was a 30 minute drive from home so we were able to have a much more leisurely look round especially as we were re-visiting only two of the villages.

Both villages, Pembridge and Eardisland, are situated on the River Arrow.

Part 1.

We started in Pembridge and we had to cross the River Arrow to get into the village and this is the bridge we used. It is not very old having been built in the 19th century but is attractive nevertheless.

There is a small, free, car park with access down the roadway next to the King's House in East Street and there was plenty of room. There is a small sign, easily missed, pointing to it from the main road and there are also public toilets in the car park which had disabled facilities and were nice and clean.

The entrance to the public car park can be seen on the right. The King's House is a restaurant, not open on a Monday when we were there of course, and dates from the 15th century. This building is a sign of things to come. This next picture is in East Street looking towards West Street and showing the front corner of the King's House on the right. You should be able to see a number of black & white timber-framed buildings.

I think we'll need to do a bit of exploring don't you?

How's that for a start? The building on the right is the New Inn so called because it was new when it was built in the 17th century. Can you think of a better reason?

A market charter was granted to Pembridge in 1239 and just behind the New Inn is the early 16th century Market Hall.

Standing in the Market Square it doesn't look like a hall as it isn't enclosed but that's because the upper storey was removed at an unknown date. Pity really as it would have looked pretty impressive with an upper storey.

Although these villages are known as the black and white villages, with good reason, not all of the buildings are black and white. This next picture shows a row of black and white buildings broken by one cream washed, jettied building.

The picture above shows a timber-framed building with red brick infill and the one to its right, an early 15th century hall house known as West End Farm, has a pinkish cream wash on the walls. This was one of the earliest domestic buildings in Pembridge. The multitude of other timber-framed buildings in Pembridge date to the 15th century.

The church here is also unusual in that it has a separate bell tower which dates from the 13th century. The current church dates from the 13th century with alterations in the 14th century century.

The bell tower has to be seen to be believed. The main timbers are enormous and from the look of them they are whole trees squared off.

The church also has some very interesting interior features. There are mason's marks in the picture below – can you spot them?

There are also some medievel wall paintings. One on the wall behind the organ and one on the wall of the nave. Not in the best of condition but they are visible in spite of being around 600 years old.

Just outside the church door is a delightful view across the churchyard to the village and the hills beyond.

That is the end of part one covering Pembridge. Part two will be Eardisland.


March through the Arch

March through the Arch

This is the arch that we are about to march through.

It was a lovely day and this is only a 40 minute drive from home so, having parked the car, here we are. We march through the arch and after a short while we turn and look back at the arch from the inside.

There's a nice flower border alongside the path and we can see that the arch is nothing more than a gateway in a wall between two towers. Admittedly the wall and towers have battlements; so is it a castle? Well, yes and no.

A little further along the path and we stop to admire this Laburnham tree and we notice some buildings ahead.

A little further along the path we round a bend and here we are.

This is Croft Castle near the village of Yarpole in Herefordshire. It may have 'castle' in its name but it's no longer a castle but a country mansion in the style of a castle. A castle was built on this site by the Croft family in the 11th centuiry but it has been considerably altered since. The outside walls date from the 15th century and there are four round towers at each corner which, although castle-like, are too slender to act as defensive structures. It is now owned by the National Trust.

There are 1500 acres of parkland. That is quite a lot of land and we didn't have time to explore it but we can always go back.

Next to the house is the Chapel of St. Michael, dating from the 13th century, which contains the tomb of Richard Croft[6] and his wife Eleanor .

We wandered round the outside until we were almost back where we started and then discovered the walled garden. It's not really that obvious and it would be a great loss to have missed it. For a walled garden it is huge. We can't remember the exact size but it must be around four acres. How something that size can feel tucked away I don't know; but it does.

There is topiary.

There is also a very large greenhouse.

And not content with those features there is a small vineyard.

An astonishing walled garden but now it's time to have a look inside methinks.

These are three of the main rooms.

I particularly liked this table where the top is comprised of pebbles sliced through and polished. Very geological and very attractive. I want one.

We really enjoyed that trip and will probably go again.