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!
Before I get on to the account of today’s travels there is one thing I forgot to include in yesterday’s post.
When we were walking along Spruce Ride in the Forest of Dean we saw lots of dead Dor beetles (Dung beetles) and there must have been hundreds of them littering the ground. They don’t have a very long life span and these have probably died naturally but it seemed strange that we couldn’t see any live ones.
Then we started to see an occasional live beetle so there were some live ones about. I found one, alive but on its back, so I picked it up.
So, on to today.
We woke to another sunny day and, having had a tasty breakfast, drove off to our next destination and parked. One of the reasons that we came here was that I first drove here 65 years ago. Then it was a case of parking in a convenient space (not that many cars about then) and walking a short distance but now there is a huge car park (pay and display) together with a cafe. There is then a footpath from the car park which goes over the road on this footbridge.
The path then continues for a short distance to this viewpoint.
So what are they, and us, looking at? It’s this, the famous view from Symonds Yat Rock showing a U-bend in the River Wye. All of this so far is in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire but that view is across the border into Herefordshire so we are virtually standing on the border here.
My goodness, how everything has changed since my last visit except the view – at least that is still the same. The whole area has the atmosphere of a famous, bustling, tourist attraction, which I suppose it is now, but back then it was no such thing.
Making our way back to the car park we made a slight detour to see a different view in a different direction but it is still the River Wye.
Having had our fill of the view we went back, near the hotel, to look at another two lakes in the forest known as Cannop Ponds. This next picture is of the southern-most lake and the second picture is the northern-most lake. We walked from the far end of the southern lake to the join between the two lakes.
The first lake was much quieter with very few people but the second lake was quite busy and that could be because there is a large car park there.
After a pleasant walk we drove back to the hotel, parked and then had some lunch in the Orangery Restaurant. That decided us to try this restaurant for dinner tonight.
After lunch we walked to the Cyril Hart Aboretum which borders the hotel. I haven’t been a great fan of arboreta until I visited this one and that changed my mind.
On the way to the arboretum we went across this small area where the turf had been badly damaged and were wondering what might have caused this. We reasoned that it was probably caused by wild boar, which roam the forest, digging with their tusks in search of food.
The arboretum is certainly picturesque and is full of interest. One aspect that notices is the variety of leaf colour from the different trees.
There are some very large trees here and if you want big leaves then we can do big leaves.
Those leaves are HUGE and they are on a Norway Maple. This next view I thought was rather picturesque too and showed some of the larger trees.
This attractive and colourful little tree is a Spindle Tree.
We spent quite a time here, particularly as Amanda likes trees, and then went back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. As I said earlier we planned to eat in the Orangery Restaurant which is a lovely light and bright room with a menu which is quite different from the Verderers Restaurant we ate in yesterday.
The menu was different enough that it included these. Amanda is sitting opposite me and this sundae is big enough to hide her and her sundae. YUM!
Our travelling this year has been severely curtailed because of Covid-19 so no surprises there. When Covid-19 first appeared and the country went into lockdown we were able to only walk locally. Then restrictions on driving eased a little, although we weren’t able to travel far, but eventually those restrictions were also eased to the point that we considered going away for a few days. So when a few days of sunny weather were forecast we decided to bite the bullet and off we went.
We booked accommodation in the Forest of Dean and set off in the sunshine.
Our first port of call was Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire just a short way from our final destination. I had been to Ross-on-Wye about 65 years ago and could remember nothing at all about it so it was like a first visit.
This next picture shows a general view of the town taken from the banks of the River Wye with the famous church spire showing well above the rest of the buildings. There is, of course, a riverside walk here.
When we arrived we parked in a car park in Edde Cross Street then walked back to the junction with High Street . A short distance along High Street brought us to the Old Market Hall at the top of Broad Street. This was built around 1650, and replaced what was probably an earlier wooden building, and markets are still held in it today. It does look rather impressive.
Having had a good look around the Market Place we walked the short distance to the church and, at 205 feet, that is what I call a spire! Although the spire was rebuilt in 1721 the church itself was built in 1316 and is one of the largest churches in Herefordshire.
The attractive interior is certainly spacious and features a number of monuments.
Outside in the churchyard is the Plague Cross which was erected to mark the graves where the three hundred or more townsfolk were buried by night and without coffins during an outbreak of the plague in 1637.
To one side of the church is a small, but beautiful, public park called ‘The Prospect’ which includes some fine trees and also provides an impressive view looking down over the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.
After looking around the church we wanted some lunch so, going back to the Market Square to look round, we found a nice little cafe at the top of Broad Street quite close to the Old Market Hall.
There is a small outside sitting area, seen in the picture below, but we ate inside. We had a small but satisfying, and very tasty, lunch.
After lunch we spotted a few more items of interest on our way back to the car. A rather quaint alley, some old almshouses and a very ancient timber-framed building now used as an antiques shop.
After leaving Ross-on-Wye we drove the 8 miles to our hotel which was not in any town or village but in the middle of the Forest of Dean.
Having registered we moved in to our room, unpacked and went outside to explore the forest .
I took this photograph of the Speech House Hotel before we started walking.
There was a path nearby called Spruce Ride so we started with that and noticed on the map that it went past a lake and decided to walk as far as the lake and back. The forest off to the side of the track looked very pleasant.
We spotted a little stream where the water was very brown. This area, surprisingly, had a lot of mines in the past, some of which were for iron, so it’s not surprising to find water coloured by the iron ore in the ground.
It didn’t take very long to reach the lake which looked very picturesque in the sunshine and it was lovely and quiet.
We were on the lookout for things other than trees and lakes and eventually came across a number of interesting fungi.
On our way back we saw this tree which was covered in moss. Not something one sees every day. A ‘Moss Tree’ perhaps.
The marker on the map below shows our path to the lake and the light area by the junction is the Speech House Hotel. You can zoom in and out using the plus and minus icons.
After returning to the hotel it was time to freshen up and go down to dinner. We had a choice of restaurant and this evening we chose the more formal dining room which, I have to say, was rather nice.
We started off, before ordering our meal, with cocktails. Amanda had an Espresso Martini which was coffee flavoured, which she rather liked, and mine was a Passion Fruit Cocktail. If Amanda’s head looks a little odd it’s the ultra wide angle lens I used to take this photograph.
Our meal turned out to be very nice and afterwards we retired for the night.
Ross -on-Wye was a lovely little town and we do like the Forest of Dean. So there endeth our first day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
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.
This morning we set off to find a footpath. Yes I know, there are dozens around here but we were looking for a particular path. We had seen it on the map but had never walked it so, perhaps, now was the time.
It started in Presteigne Road so we walked over there then started up the road, phone in hand so I could see our progress and position on the map, until our position showed as being at the start of the path. There is housing along here and we could not see an obvious path. There was a small wooden gate which looked like the entrance to someone’s garden but nothing else. We went up to the gate and could see in the relatively lush undergrowth that there was a small plate on the gatepost with a footpath sign on it. It would have been very easy to miss.
Once through the gate it was very obviously a footpath which eventually leds us to another similar gate. Through the gate brought us to open ground and we could see the Victorian Valve House right in front of us.
This was built as part of the aqueduct which runs from the Elan Valley reservoirs to Birmingham to provide a water supply. We knew that if we walked up the hill to the top corner of the hill we could get on to another footpath that we had used before but in the reverse direction.
Unfortunately for us this hill is very steep and some of us needed a rest. Still, it gave me the opportunity to take a photograph of the view.
When we reached the top we joined the other path which took us back home through the wooded area of Frydd Hill.
It was a short trip but it did satisfy our curiosity regarding the Valve House path.
We now decided that it was time to explore that second road. We weren’t going to a particular destination but purely to see what that road was like (Have you ever had a premonition that you are about to make a mistake?).
We headed off, on a warm sunny day, towards Beulah. Yes, I know, you’ve never heard of it. Well it’s a small village about 8 miles south-west of Newbridge-on-Wye in Powys. This is where the mountain road starts and having turned on to it, and before we’d left Beulah, we spotted a nice little church which we had to explore. The original path into the churchyard went over this cute little bridge but the current path bypasses the bridge.
And this is the little church. It is not very old, having been built in 1867, but it is very attractive.
Having had a quick look round ( what else can you do with a church that small?) we set off again along the road. This road is just one car’s width and does have passing places but you can bet that you won’t be near one when you meet a car coming the other way.
The first part of this road is mainly wooded but eventually after a gentle climb of some miles we came out into the open. We continue to head upwards through that valley round to the left.
We carried on to the village of Abergwesyn where we’d heard there was a ruined church. We couldn’t find the ruined church, if it still exists, but we did find the old churchyard with a mega Yew tree.
We carried on and soon went into another wooded section of the road with an unprotected steep slope on one side. No barrier to stop you driving off the edge and you do have to drive relatively near the edge because the road is so narrow.
I was quite pleased when that was over. Next we reached the Devil’s Staircase – a steep bit of read with some hairpin bends. The name is more worrying than the actual road and we successfully negotiated that section without problems. We reached another open area and we are still climbing but the views were getting better.
The road was beginning to get interesting now. It was bending in three dimensions and they tended to be sharp bends. When the bend was in the vertical plane the road beyond the top of the hill couldn’t be seen until the car was beginning to tip down the other side so one couldn’t see which way the road was going to go and there was always the possibility of a car coming the other way. Travelling was slow and if there was a short stretch where one could attain 20 MPH then that would be considered very fortunate. The same applied to bends in the horizontal plane – it meant driving really quite slowly. Don’t pick an argument with a rock – you won’t win.
Having reached the top we took a 7 mile detour to have a look at a reservoir we had heard about, Llyn Brianne, and it turned out to be a worthwhile detour. But it certainly increased our bend count.
Our road was now going downhill again but the bends didn’t get any better.
We finally reached the end of the road in a small town called Tregaron which was a relief from the bends – but not for long. We now had to return home which meant travelling the same route in the opposite direction. I was really looking forward to doing all those bends again.
I can tell you that by the time we reached Beulah again I was rather tired and we still had an hour to go to reach home. However we did reach home without incident and I don’t intend doing that journey again in a hurry!
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.