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The Fungal Jungle

The Fungal Jungle

We have just been up into Kinsley Wood on the top of Panpunton Hill in Knighton to look for fungi. We found a number of different sorts some of which we think we have identified and some we haven’t. If you can identify any of them do please let me know.

1. Calocera viscosa – Orange Stagshorn (Coniferous)
2. Amanita musceria – Fly Agaric (Deciduous)
3. Helvella crispa (Deciduous)
4. Unknown (Cortinarius/Russula/Bolete ?)
5. Unknown
6. Unknown
7. Unknown
8. Unknown (Clitocybe ? – may be the same as 6)
9. Xylaria hypoxylon – Candle-snuff

These are pictures of Kinsley Wood where we found the fungi. Kinsley Wood is a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees which means a greater variety of fungi as some of them prefer deciduous and others prefer coniferous.

The Island in the Sky – Day 3

The Island in the Sky – Day 3

The weather forecast for today was cloudy but dry so I opened the curtains with a little trepidation, especially after yesterday, to find this.

If that’s the sort of cloudy they meant I’m all for it. Today we go home but not straight home. We plan to go to Lake Bala for a ride on the Lake Bala Railway and to do that we have to go over the Hellfire Pass. We first have to drive along the edge of the lake and passed these rather fine, large trees.

We did notice that there are a goodly number of these very tall, very straight trees in various places around the lake. Nice to see.

We reached the start of the backroad which leads us up to the Hellfire Pass and found that it was a typical Welsh backroad – one car’s width and rather bendy both laterally and vertically.

We were climbing along the side of a valley to our left which Amanda could get a good look at, I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road, and she said it looks really beautiful with a stream running along the bottom and, apparently, waterfalls every few yards.

We managed that road easily enough especially as we didn’t meet any other vehicles (makes life easier) and we eventually turned right on to the Hellfire Pass road. Very soon after a short climb this came into view. There are very, very few places where one could stop off road so, to take this photograph, I just stopped where I was in the road. Again there were no other vehicles and that view is rather dramatic.

We went on a short way to the point at which we could see around that left-hand bend in the valley and I had to stop in the road again for this view.

What a view!

Soon after this we reached the top of the pass where there was a car park – the only one we encountered since we left Lake Vyrnwy so I had to take some more photographs of the views. Incidentally this is the second highest pass in Wales. I mentioned in a previous blog post that we had been over the highest pass in Wales – the Gospel Pass. I wonder where the third highest is?

Now we started down the other side which proved interesting. At times there was level ground either side of the road and at times there wasn’t. There was a very steep slope on the left and there was sometimes a crash barrier and sometimes there was nothing. This, remember, is on a road which is just wide enough to take one car. We did make it down safely and made our way to the Lake Bala Railway terminus.

The train above, waiting in the station, was the one we caught but not before we had a good look around.

This is our rather cute little locomotive called ‘Winifred’. It apparently wasn’t the intended locomotive for today but had to be used because the other one developed a fault this morning.

You may notice that it does not have a cab, so no protection from the elements for the crew, and there isn’t exactly a lot of room on the footplate.

The seating in the carriage wasn’t exactly plush but comfortable enough for a short journey – 30 minutes each way.

This is ‘Maid Marion’ the locomotive that was going to be used today until she got the hump. At least the crew would have had some protection from the weather in that little cab.

This train rockets along at about 10 miles per hour so I was able to take this next photograph of Lake Bala on the move without being joggled about too much. Pretty ain’t it?

When we reached the far end of the line, and the lake, the locomotive had to be uncoupled and moved round the train to the other end which is what’s happening below.

It looks cosy on that small footplate and it’s a good job that it wasn’t raining hard – they don’t even have an umbrella.

I apologise for this next video. It stops prematurely because storage on the camera had filled up. Bother!

That was the end of our trip so it’s time to go home. That was a rather short trip but we didn’t have any idea what the area was like or what the hotel was like so it was a trial trip really. We did like the area and the hotel very much so we would certainly like to re-visit Lake Vyrnwy again, if we can. Until next time!

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.

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.

Galanthus Galore

Galanthus Galore

There were two firsts for us today; it was the first trip of the year and it was the first time that I had used my new camera. It wasn't warm but considering that it was February it wasn't anywhere near as cold as it could have been and the weather forecast was for sunny intervals which from my point of view was ideal. I didn't know whether what I wanted to photograph would look best in sunny or cloudy conditions so it looks as though I'd have the choice. Perfect!

We drove for an uneventful hour and ten minutes to the National Trust's Attingham Park just a few miles south-east of Shrewsbury. It was unfortunate that it was also half-term for the local schools so there were a LOT of parents with children. The National Trust staff told us that Attingham Park was the second in the list of most visited sites which we found surprising.

None of it, however, would affect why we were here.

The gardeners among you may recognise Galanthus as being the latin for Snowdrop, which they have here, and for those people who don't recognise the word 'Galore' it means 'in abundance'. They flower in February and this is what we came to photograph.

However not just those but THESE:

That's what I call a Snowdrop display.

After walking round the woods with the snowdrops we made our way over to the Walled Garden to see what that was like although we did not expect to see much at this time of year. Just before we entered the Walled Garden we saw this:

This is the Regency Bee House; a rather luxurious home for bee hives and one of only two such houses in the country. We went onward into the Walled Garden.

Very large but, as we suspected, there is virtually nothing in the way of plants yet; those pots on the left are covering Rhubarb plants in order to 'force' them i.e. make them grow taller than they otherwise would. There was also a separate walled area through an arch which was where the greenhouses were but again very little planting. We shall have to return in the summer.

We made our way out of the Walled Garden and decided it was time for lunch. The restaurant is in the Stables Courtyard area which still has some of the old stables which one can visit. You don't have to eat here unless, of course, you happen to be a horse.

There is also a shop and bookshop together with the inevitable toilets. We went into the Carriage House Cafe and liked the meals on offer and found ourselves a table. It has to be said that it was very busy with parents and children moving past nearly all of the time so if you want peace and quiet you'll be out of luck.

I chose a Fish Pie and Amanda had Sausage and Mash and they both turned out to be very tasty and of good quality. We would eat here again but perhaps we'd bring ear mufflers next time. laugh

After lunch we moved on to the house.

The Attingham Estate includes this mansion together with about 4000 acres of parkland including a Deer Park. We didn't visit the Deer Park this time but we did visit the house going in via the Entrance Hall.

The spaces between the pillars were originally open with the Grand Staircase beyond but John Nash, the architect, changed all that which explains why I thought it not as large or impressive as I'd imagined but I have to admit it's a bit better than ours. We don't for example have any trompe l'oeil panels in our hall but these are very good. The doorway off to the right takes us in to the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room does have a rather impressive ceiling.

This next room is known as the Boudoir. It is circular with 7 doors (we counted them) and it also has an impressive ceiling. It was created for the 1st Lady Berwick as her own intimate space.

Then into the Inner Library with its Regency bookcases. The walls of the Inner Library are painted red; a popular Regency colour choice associated with strength and masculinity.

Around 1805-1807 John Nash, the English architect, included this rather grand staircase in his redevelopment scheme at Attingham as having removed the main staircase he needed a replacment.

One certainly couldn't miss it.

We now went down to the semi-basement which was the domain of the servants. The next picture showns the Servants Hall where they had their meals.

The rules that servants had to observe, which came from Lord Berwick, included:

"No servant is to absent themselves from the house at anytime or from meals on any pretence whotsoever without especial permission of the Steward, Housekeeper, Lady Berwick or myself."

So they are not allowed to skip a meal without permission which brings us to the Kitchen. Quite a large room with a lovely fire which was very welcome at this time of year.

Finally the Bell Room. I thought this to be quite extraordinary when there are so many bells, to demand attention from the servants, that they needed a room to themselves. These bells went around the four sides of the room and were divided into sections of which this was the Ground Floor.

That brought us to the end of our little trip, so early in the year, and back home we went to wait for the next one.

If at first you don’t succeed …

If at first you don’t succeed …

Tuesday 12th September 2017

This is another late report from an outing we did about 5 weeks ago. Unlike the previous blog post this is not accidentally late. I just haven’t got around to writing it until now. In fact going on to the Blog to write this was when I spotted that my previous report hadn’t been posted.

One of the local things we had on our ‘to do’ list was Holloway Rocks. The map in the link will give you an idea of the situation.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=330695&Y=273615&A=Y&Z=120

It is a short way from Knighton, where we now live, and short enough that we could walk from home but didn’t. The roads around Stowe are only one car’s width so one has to park off-road. We drove to Stowe Church, shown on the map, where we were able to park our car. It’s a lovely little chuch in the middle of nowhere (Stowe has a population of 140).

We had tried this walk before, about a week ago, having set off from Stowe Church. We started off up the wrong path and having realised that we went back down again and then realised why we hadn’t taken the right path. There was a van parked on the beginning of the path and although there was room to walk past it the van had blocked it from our view. We set off again on the right path. In the past year my health has deteriorated such that, sometimes, I can’t walk far uphill without stopping to catch my breath which was what I was having to do here. I did push myself too hard and eventually had to sit down. After a while I began to feel faint and had to lie down. I did eventually recover but we decided to abandon that attempt.

… try, try again.

This time we started up the right path, which is fairly steep, with frequent stops for me to recover my breath and I didn’t push too hard this time. I managed to get through the wooded section but by the time we reached the open I had to stop for a breather especially as the path gets steeper here.

Looking back, in the next picture, the wooded part is visible and you can see that we have gained quite a lot of height; most of it previously in the car.

On that bank to the right were a lot of Hawkbit flowers.

Inexorably upward, stop, puff, repeat and we eventually arrived at an expected junction with another path together with a pond. The path we want continues upward on the other side of the pond curving off to the right.

Having reached the high point in the photograph above we look back in the next picture to see this view. The footpath we turned out of is on the left of this path just before this path splits into two and you can see the pond on the right. The town of Knighton is visible just above the very dark triangle on the left probably better seen In the larger picture.

We have now gained more height but we are by no means near the top yet but we do have a lovely view and the sky has cleared a little which makes it even better.

We are still climbing but we are now not too far from the top.

You can see the path levelling off now and you should also be able to see the path plunging downward as it curves to the left. We have just come up that bit and the town in the distance is, of course, Knighton.

Finally, after crossing two large fields (fairly flat), we reach the top with its Ordnance Survey trigonometry point with Amanda trying to stop it from falling over. The next picture gives an idea of the view with sheep in the foreground and those black blobs on the left are actually cows.

So where do the rocks in Holloway Rocks come in? There isn’t really much in the way of visible rocks although we passed an old quarry on the way up. Perhaps that’s where the name comes from. The hill we climbed is, unsurprisingly, Stowe Hill.

Well I managed to get there even though it took me about three times as long as it would have done a year ago. Measured over the ground it was probably less than a mile but pretty steep for most of the way. I don’t think that I would like to try walking it from home. That would be about 2 miles each way and although I’m fairly sure I could get there I couldn’t be certain that I could get back again which would be a little embarrassing.

So did I get back from this trip? Well, I’ll leave you to work that out.

‘Hello Dolley’ then ‘Up, Up and Away’

‘Hello Dolley’ then ‘Up, Up and Away’

This is where it all started:

It looks pretty inocuous doesn't it? The start of a path in a little place called Dolley Green. This is part of Offa's Dyke Path where it passes through Dolley Green on its way to Knighton. From here to Knighton is 5 miles which is what I'll be walking having been dropped off by Amanda.

I watched our car disappear into the distance and started up the path. The only sounds were those of the birds and along each side of the path were Red Campion (red), Bluebells (blue) and Greater Stitchwort (white) – lovely!

I new that I'd be going over some significant hills so the fact that the path angled gently upwards wasn't a surprise and the highest point was some way away so I wasn't expecting anything steep. The path was lined with trees so that I couldn't see any of the surrounding landscape until I came out into the open.

That small group of buildings to the right is where I started; not a big place. I still couldn't see anything ahead because of the rising ground until I came to the brow of the hill.

Now that isn't a bad view and look at all those buttercups. Then the path became a little steeper. I expected to see a lot of sheep and I wasn't disappointed. This one was curious enough to come and get a good look at me.

It didn't come very near and eventually decided that I was decidedly boring and moved away so I moved on too. A little further on I stopped to look back.

Dolley Green is still visible but you can see that I've gained more height. My little black friend is also still visible on the path. I carried on along the path and then it started to get steeper and steeper and I went up, up and up. Remember me saying that I wasn't expecting anything steep? Well I was wrong.

 Having gained significantly more height I took two more photographs. The first looking back and the second looking ahead.


I was glad to see that the slope reduced a bit but I was still climbing. The path is well waymarked with signs such as this, english on the right, welsh on the left although some features such as gates or styles show just the acorn symbol.

The acorn denotes that this path is a 'National Path' and, as this is the only national path around here, it shows that you are on Offa's Dyke Path. The 'National Paths' are long distance paths including ones such as the Pennine Way.

The views from up here were tremendous, as you might expect, and included the inevitable sheep. There are changes of direction on this path but they are well signed.

I have just come through that gate having turned a right-angle and you can see the 'National Path' symbol not to mention the view beyond. I must now have reached maximum elevation, thank goodness, and still the views are endless but that, of course, is one of the reasons for coming.


One thing you may have noticed and that is that there has been no sign of Offa's Dyke. That is about to change as I reach a part where the dyke is apparent. The dyke bank in the first picture should be visible with the ditch on the right and in the second picture the dyke is decorated with bluebells along its length.


I mentioned earlier about the acorn symbol and this is another example:

The acorn symbol is visible on the left-hand gatepost which tells you that you are on the right path. Just beyond is a lovely patch of Bluebells and the line of trees is actually growing on the dyke which is well formed along this length.

This next section shows the dyke very well as the bank is quite high and has a well formed ditch this side of it.

I am now approaching Knighton and I see that the rounded hump off to my left is in fact Garth Hill which is very near our house. The TV transmitter mast on the top is also just visible.

Soon after that I start down the wooded slope which will take back into Knighton. It's not very steep at first but I know, from looking at the closely packed contours on the map, that it's going to get steeper and it does.

I can now see the buildings in Knighton below me, through the trees, and the slope is steep enough that the ends of my toes are resting against the front of my boots which becomes uncomfortable after a while. However I am soon back down and it's a short walk home.

The GPS statistics for my walk are below but you may want to skip them.

Distance 5.45 miles
Total time 3 hours 10 minutes
Of that time I was actually moving for 2 hours 4 minutes
Average speed 2.62 MPH
Maximum altitude 1112 feet starting from an altitude of 314 feet
I was climbing for 1 hour 11 minutes and descending for 1 hour 37 minutes