We went to Hergest Croft Gardens again recently to see how the autumn colours were progressing and to say that we were blown away, if I might use the vernacular, would be an understatement. The colours were astonishing!
Having looked around the main gardens we walked across ‘The Park’ to ‘Park Wood’, both of which are parts of the Hergest Croft Estate, and we went as far as the Pond. I’ll leave you to be the judge of these scenes.
And now we see Amanda in a blue jacket and red trousers with matching tree.
Having walked on the path around the pond, and its upper valley, we were walking back towards the Pond when we saw this.
We haven’t seen anything like it before. It was a series of trunks arranged in a circle around a central trunk and the trunk material looked to be the consistency of cucumber; nothing like wood. The growth at the top of each trunk was something like feathery leaves. The trunks have obviously been deliberately cut back as part of some sort of maintenance. I’m hoping that someone from Hergest Croft will see this and tell us what it is.
( Hergest Croft later told us that it is a Gunnera i.e. Giant Rhubarb.)
Personally I think that it is a Triffid.
We then left Park Wood and walked back across The Park, which looked lovely in the sunshine, towards the main garden.
Having got back to the main garden we saw, on the ground, a lot of large leaves from a nearby vine of some sort and I have deliberately included my boot to give an idea of scale.
Well that was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting visit. They haven’t seen the last of us yet!
A few years ago our friend Marie from the USA came over here and on one day we took her to Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms in Shropshire. We travelled by car and parked in the Stokesay Castle car park as that seemed to be the most obvious thing to do.
We recently decided to visit Stokesay Castle again but this time we were planning to park in the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Craven Arms and walk to Stokesay Castle. Marie will probably recognise the views of Stokesay Castle. The Discovery Centre is on the edge of Onny Meadows; a large area of very nice water meadows with numerous footpaths.
We parked and then set off from the Discovery Centre to find the path that would take us across to the other side of the River Onny. We probably would have missed it if it wasn’t for the fact that I had my smartphone in my hand which showed us our position on a map. At the point at which it showed that we had reached the start of the path there was a rather insignificant gap in the hedge and that was the path we wanted. We probably wouldn’t have recognised it otherwise.
We were now heading for the river and on the way we passed some rather nice timber framed cottages.
Then we soon arrived at the ‘White Bridge’ over the river.
I stopped on the bridge to take a photograph of the river so there are no prizes for guessing whose shadow that is.
On the other side of the river we started to climb whilst travelling parallel to the river. The path went through some nice landscapes until it was fairly high above the river and then began to drop slowly until we reached river level again.
The River Onny here is quite deep and so flows very slowly. The overall impression is that of a pond rather than a river and there were plenty of dragonflies about.
As we walked alongside the river I spotted this Reed Canary-Grass which I thought looked rather nice. It is, unsurprisingly, a waterside grass.
Where the river was very shallow at the edges we saw a lot of fry, possibly Minnow, in large shoals. Each fish was only about one inch long.
It didn’t take us very long to get to Stokesay Castle which was looking its usual splendid self. This is an English Heritage property and all visits currently have to be pre-booked because of the Covid-19 situation but entry was quite straight forward. Needless to say there are plenty of features to look at and it really is interesting. They do have a nice gift shop at the entrance and we left carrying three jars of assorted fruit preserves and a bottle of liqueur. I don’t know how that happened.
Having had a good look around we decided that it was time to leave and started to walk back to the Discovery Centre. We passed this recently harvested field and I couldn’t resist a photograph partly because those large hills on the horizon are actually clouds.
We returned on a different path which passed through this wooded area of mainly Ash trees which looked very nice in their silvery bark.
Onward through the meadows were these Tansey flowers which I haven’t seen for some time and this is probably the largest bunch that I’ve seen.
As we approached the Discovery Centre we passed through these wooden representations of Mammoth tusks. These are here because there is, in the Discovery Centre, a full sized replica of Woolly Mammoth remains which were found near Condover, Shrewsbury.
The Discovery Centre is a modern building with a low profile and a grass roof.
The interior is very pleasant with a large gift shop and a well stocked cafe where we had lunch including, of course, finishing up with ice cream ( a very good selection of flavours). This is the passageway to the cafe.
That was the end of another interesting and enjoyable little trip.
Now that some of the Covid-19 restrictions in Wales have been relaxed we can go somewhere else – anywhere – so we did just that.
We headed 60 miles due west and found ourselves in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. It took us about one hour and fortyfive minutes to do those 60 miles because most Welsh roads are anything but wide and straight. The last 10 miles was particularly wiggley but we got there.
We parked in a large car park on Park Avenue and were expecting to pay £1.70 for the day but all the pay machines were covered with large bags and there was no explanation so we ended up paying nothing.
We headed fo the sea front and soon after leaving the car park we walked past the Vale of Rheidol Railway Terminus which is a Heritage Steam Railway that runs to Devil’s Bridge. The last time we went to Devil’s Bridge we saw the other end of this line and took some photographs when a train arrived from Aberystwyth.
This time the terminus in Aberystwyth was closed with no signs of life anywhere so we continued past. Probably because of Covid-19. Pity really.
We headed for the harbour and were then planning to walk north along the sea front as far as the Funicular Railway at the far end of the bay. Where we parked was an obviously new area including a retail park but the buildings and streets suddenly changed when we reached the old part of the town.
This was one of the streets in the area of New Street and the hill in the distance could be Constitution Hill and the funicular railway runs up that.
It was a short walk further on to the harbour which includes the River Rheidol just before it runs into the sea. Both pictures are taken from the same viewpoint but in different directions.
A short walk from the harbour brought us to the sea front. This view is looking south and shows the wall at the entrance to the harbour.
Walking on South Marine Terrace along the sea front we passed these colourful houses and could see the castle in the distance.
Then an equally colourful plant bed.
A short way on we reached Aberystwyth Castle built by Edward I in 1289 but by 1343 the castle was in a bad state of repair. In 1649 Oliver Cromwell ordered the castle to be slighted, i.e. rendered unusable, hence its current condition.
We finally left the castle after having a really good look round and went back down to the sea front onto the New Promenade which was completed in the early 1900s.
On Constitution Hill in the distance, on the left of the next picture, there is a straight line visible running from the top to the bottom – this is the funicular railway of which more later.
In 1795 John Nash built the Old College buildings on the right, with George Jones as the architect, in Gothic style. It was later sold to the University of Wales who turned it into a college for higher education and it later became the University of Aberystwyth. It remained as the main part of the university until the 1960s when the university open a new campus near the National Library of Wales.
A short way on and we found two things – an ice cream kiosk and the pier. We had some ice cream, to help the local economy you understand, and had a look at the pier. It has to be said that this is the shortest seaside pier that we have ever seen. It does have amusements inside and a restaurant at the outer end which has a sun deck visible at the far end. We didn’t have time to visit the restaurant so we moved on.
When we reached this point along the sea front there was a turning off to the right which, having previously looked at the map, I knew led a short distance to the Tourist Information Centre. Having previous looked at some web sites which gave opening times I thought we’d pop in to see if there was anything we should visit that we might have missed. Needless to say it was closed with no signs of life. It was, however, a pleasant part of the town.
We went back to the seafront which has, as you can see, a rather fine beach. This beach runs all the way along the seafront promenade and has a greyish sand but sand nevertheless and there were plenty of people enjoying themselves.
We continued on towards the Funicular Railway passing some colourful, fine looking houses on the way.
We finally arrived at the bottom station of the funicular railway expecting it not to be running because of the current virus problems but it was so we decided to make use of it and take the easy way up.
We were asked to wear masks whilst on the ‘train’, which they supplied at a small charge, and the single fare was £7 for two.
We boarded the coach and, after a short time, it started to move. As with all funiculars there are two sets of rails and two coaches. When one coach is going up the other is coming down so that each coach acts as a counter-weight for the other.
This funicular is interesting in that the rails start up steeply then level off a little then go up an even steeper slope. When we reached the top I took a photograph from the station looking down.
You will be pleased to hear that there is a cafe at the top -we certainly were. They had a good selection of items on the menu including cake so we had to try some. We both had some cheesecake (very nice) and a cup of coffee each. The view from this level is really quite amazing.
The second picture was taken with a telephoto and is of the castle area with the war memorial on the right and parts of the castle showing on the left. You can also see the sundeck on the pier.
Once we had finished our cake and coffee we had to walk back down but just before we did that we had a look at the view north of Aberystwyth towards Clarach Bay. Beautiful.
This is the start of the footpath down but it isn’t that wide all the way.
We are almost at the bottom now.
On the way down we saw a number of wild flowers including Sea Campion, Thyme and Quaking Grass.
Finally back to sea level we now have to walk back to where we parked the car but we did pass through some more interesting parts of Aberystwyth.
We finally staggered back to the car and set off home but this time we are going home via the mountain road rather than the main road which brought us here.
We first go from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge where we join the mountain road.
The next picture, which is just before we reach Rhayader, will be of particular interest to our friend Marie because she has been there. It shows one of the reservoirs in the Elan Valley and we brought Marie this way on that little road in the bottom right corner.
We reached home without incident although Amanda was feeling a little travel sick by this time. It took her about an hour to recover.
Another sunny day – time for another walk. This time we are starting at Offa’s Dyke Centre and walking to just past Nether Skyborry and back on a circular route.
We started from the Offa’s Dyke Centre and this shows the park at the back of the Centre. We set off along the visible path which is actually part of the Offa’s Dyke Path.
Just as we entered the park we saw this rather fine Chestnut Tree in flower.
A little further along the path (still In the park) the grass on the left-hand side was covered in Buttercups and Daisies.
We soon reached the point at which the path divides, the left-hand path leads to a section of Offa’s Dyke, should you want to see that, but we wanted the right-hand fork which follows Offa’s Dyke Path down to the River Teme.
That right-hand path leads to the top of these steps so down we go.
The path levels off briefly, crossing a grassy area, and the bank on the left is the section of dyke mentioned earlier
The path then goes downhill again for a short while to where we turn left still following Offa’s Dyke Path.
We then leave the wooded section into the open where we walk alongside the River Teme for a short while. The hill in the distance is Panpunton Hill.
Leaving the riverside we cross the River Teme on this footbridge
and cross the railway line. There is very good visibility on this crossing as the line is straight for quite a good length and it is very easy to see a train if there is one.
On the other side of the railway line we go through a gate and continue on the path.
The signpost at this point is pointing along the Offa’s Dyle Path, back the way that we have come and off to the right to continue on Offa’s Dyke Path. We, however, are taking a different direction. You should be able to see a very small figure (another walker) in the centre of the picture which is where we are heading. On the left of that figure you may be able to see a patch bare of grass which is the path we are following.
The path continues slightly uphill past a trough and goes through the gate ahead. The gate is held closed by a chain which can be unclipped and, after passing through, do not forget to shut the gate and clip the chain back together.
This section of path passes through this meadow and heads for the far right corner of the field where there is another gate which is very similar to the one we have just passed through..
On the way we passed a number of Hawthorn Trees in blossom. There were also some Bluebells below right.
On the far side of the second field we pass close to the River Teme and start uphill again.
This uphill section is neither long nor steep.
We do, however, soon reach this point where the path appears to go through a tree. That is because the path does go through a tree. When we had a lot of rain earlier in the year it was enough to cause part of the bank on our left to collapse taking the tree with it so that the tree has ended up at an angle although it still appears to be growing. We had to detour around the tree on the right.
On the other side of the tree the path runs along the top of a cliff and you may be able to see that there is quite a drop down to the river. Bearing in mind that we have just seen evidence that this ground is unstable you can see why we were on edge in both senses of the word.
A short way on we saw a number of bright blue Speedwell flowers. Very pretty.
The path continues for some time at about this level. Do you get the impression that Amanda is trying to lose me?
Then we saw some rather attractive Red Campion flowers. There are a lot of wild flowers of various types along this route.
We reach a point where a small stream cuts across the path but what you can’t see is that the path this side is very steeply angled towards the stream but you’ll be sorry to hear that we both made it without getting our feet wet.
Shortly after we saw this splendid example of a coppiced tree and coppicing should not be confused with pollarding.
At this point amanda saw a strange old geezer suffering from OldBufferitis trying to get over a low, very simple stile and making a real meal of it. This is the start of a short section of path which we have named the Assalt Course as there are a number of obstacles to be negotiated.
Just the other side Amanda spotted this Jews Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) which I had missed comletely. The latin name translates to “Judas’s Ear” and is also known as Wood Ear or Jelly Ear.
The strange old geezer made a second appearance when we had to clamber over a fallen tree and made a miserable attempt at making it appear difficult.
There aren’t many choices with this one. Either you clamber over it or crawl under it. We chose the former.
Finally we reached this gate where we left the wooded part and emerged into the open. This gate has an interesting closing mechanism which I haven’t seen before. I won’t attempt to explain it but I managed to work it out so you should also be able to if you attempt the walk.
You may just be able to see a gate in the far hedge in the right half of the picture. It’s above and just left of the left-most sheep. That’s our current target.
On our way to the gate we passed quite close to one of the locals.
When we finally reached the gate we stopped to look back at the view. That hill on the left with the mast on the top is Garth Hill and we have walked on Garth Hill a number of times.
We left the field via a gate and emerged onto the road. The route we are going to take now is from that gate towards and behind the camera which is back towards Nether Skyborry and, thence, Knighton.
It was a bit of a puff going uphill to Nether Skyborry but we managed and the gate on the left had a nameplate on it which read ‘ Nether Skyborry’.
A little further along the road we had this rather nice view of Knighton.
Eventually we reached the point at which Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the road. This view is looking back the way we have come and the gate on the right gives access to Offa’s Dyke Path up Panpunton Hill. The gate on the left takes us back towards Knighton to the point at which, earlier on the route, we branched off the Offa’s Dyke Path.
There is a choice here of going through the gate back to Knighton which will mean the total length of the walk will be three miles or of continuing along the road to Knighton Station and then right along Station Road back into town which would mean a total length of four miles.
We went back home after a delightful walk with a lot of interesting features. We have done it before and we’ll probably do it again.
It was nice and sunny this morning with the forecast that it would cloud up around lunchtime so we decided on a little walk before that happened. It was cool with a cold wind but still pleasant enough.
We left our house and went via the secret path (I’m not telling you where that is because it’s secret) onto Larkey Lane and thence to Ffrydd Road where we turned right, away from the town. After a short walk we turned up the little lane that goes up to Knighton Golf Course but only for a few yards when we turned right along a public footpath through Great Ffrydd Wood.
That’s when we encountered the rush. Wood Rush in fact. All that ‘grass’ in the picture below isn’t – it’s all Wood Rush.
In the next two pictures you can see the flower heads lit up in the sun.
We followed the current path to a point where it doubles back the way we came but traverses diagonally uphill. At this point we hopped over a stile into a field to try and photograph the Victorian Elan Aqueduct which used to carry carry water from the Elan Valley in Wales to Birmingham. The aqueduct, built in 1896, is difficult to see because of so many surrounding trees and in these next views one of the arches is visible plus part of the horizontal stone structure.
We then went back on to the path through Great Ffrydd Wood and continued uphill. It is a pleasant but long and winding path through the wood and eventually leads back onto the Knighton Golf Course road which, incedentally,is a private road but is also a public right of way.
We finally emerged onto open ground above Knighton. The far hill in the top picture is Kinsley Wood and the open ground on the very left is Panpunton Hill.
The next view, from the same viewpoint is of the Teme Valley running toward Ludlow. The red tree at the foot of the slope appears in both pictures.
Finally a rather nice view of St. Edwards Church, Knighton. This is a Victorian Gothic rebuilding of an earlier church of which the medieval west tower is the only surviving part.
That was the end point of our little walk so we went home.
We have had a lot of rain here recently and we were very surprised to see that the weather forecast for Monday (yesterday) was that it would be sunny. We couldn’t miss this opportunity to do something that we had planned to do some while ago so we set off from Knighton for the little hamlet of Chapel Lawn in Shropshire about 6 miles from us.
As we leave Knighton and cross the River Teme we are now in Shropshire and after the long and arduous 10 minute journey (well, Ok, I like to exaggerate sometimes) we parked in the Village Hall car park and prepared to set off on our walk.
That walk is to be to the top of the hill in the photograph below. We don’t intend to go straight up the side as it’s just too steep so we’ll be going off to the the right and, eventually, back left to the top. It may be longer that way but the gradient is far more manageable.
Just off to the right of the car was the village sign which I though was nice enough to warrant a photograph.
You’ll remeber that earlier I said we had had a lot of rain and because of that we found ourselves walking along the lane which was awash with water.
We pressed on, however, and soon spotted something interesting in the form of some large fungi on the roadside verge which we have yet to try and identify. Perhaps it’s Fungus biggus. :-))
We started going uphill very shortly after leaving the car park and the views from the lane were starting to get impressive.
After walking about three quarters of a mile up the lane we found the start of the footpath and a short while after leaving the lane I stopped to take this photograph looking back along the footpath to the gate in the hedge.
About 15 minutes later I stopped to take another photograph looking back along the footpath because the moon was showing high above in the sky. You should be able to see it not far from the top of the picture.
There were, of course, the inevitable sheep about.
And we stopped soon after for this rather nice view of Chapel Lawn where we had started from. If you can spot the church then our car is parked immediately to its left. It now looks a long way down and we haven’t yet stopped going uphill.
Now this sign looks as though it has been there a very long time and it is pointing to the place we are going to – Caer Caradoc. It is a hill about 1300 feet high and it’s not just a hill but we’ll get to that later.
We spotted some more fungi along the way which isn’t surprising at this time of year and, again, we have yet to identify them.
Soon after, with much puffing and blowing, we reached our destination – the Caer Caradoc Hill Fort which turned out to be the most impressive hill fort we’ve seen so far. This photograph is taken at the eastern entrance and shows a well defined ditch with a bank on both sides.
The next picture shows Amanda going through this entrance and you may notice that although we have reached the fort we have not yet stopped going uphill. You can see that the bank beyond Amanda stops for the entrance opening and in the foreground is the drop into the ditch with the left-hand bank above it.
Just inside the fort we find yet another little fungus, about the size of a little fingernail, which Amanda is fairly sure is a Wax Cap.
We walked across the inside of the fort and I am relieved to say that we have reached the highest point at around 1300 feet. Whew!
We are now approaching the west entrance seen just in front of Amanda having moved further into the interior of the fort.
Oh no, not another one! Oh yes, I’m afraid so, yet another fungus which, so far, remains unidentified.
At the west entrance to the fort we find that the banks and ditches are much more well defined compared with the east entrance. These next two photographs show two of the three parallel banks and a ditch seen from the top of one of the banks plus another very well defined ditch.
The views from up here are phenomenal and, as the sun at this time of year is very low, you can see my shadow.
Amanda is at the bottom of one of the ditches and it gives a good idea of the scale of this place. The distance from the top of a bank to the bottom of the adjacent ditch is quite considerable. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to build something like this especially with the tools which were available at the time.
There were beautiful views in every direction and on a warm, dry summer’s day one could look for hours. We are now on our way back to the eastern entrance and you should be able to see the gap in the outer bank and the view beyond.
We made our way back to the lane and on the way down towards Chapel Lawn we saw these Hawthorn trees with a multitude of red berries.
That was a really enjoyable walk, if a little strenuous but one has to ask why did these iron age people go to such lengths to fortify their living enclosures? Who were they protecting themselves from? We probably may never know.
Incidentally there is another Caer Caradoc in Shropshire, near Church Stretton, but I gather that the Hill Fort on that one is not as good. Don’t get the two confused.
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.