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A Fortifying Walk

A Fortifying Walk

The weather is still fine, is forecast to be hot, and our new sense of freedom is still active so we decided on another trip. We went the half mile down to the railway station into England and set off on the Clun road. Clun is a small market town, in Shropshire, about 7 miles from us but the ancient river bridge, which carries this road over the river, is closed for a week to enable repairs to be made so we must cross the river by alternative means.

When we reach Clun we turn off the main road onto a narrow winding lane which brings us to this.

Yes it’s a ford. Who needs a bridge?

We carry on to the car park at Bury Ditches a few miles on and start our walk. We started this trip immediately after breakfast and as it was only a half-day trip we hoped to beat the heat. That turned out to be a dismal failure.

We are doing this walk in two parts.

We are first walking along a wide track which is more or less level to see if we can spot any Wood White butterflies. There are only a few colonies in Britain one of which is supposed to be in this area. I don’t know how far we walked but we did eventually spot a small butterfly we couldn’t identify. It was somewhere between the size of a Common Blue and a Small White but the colour appeared to be a very pale blue. There is no butterfly in this country that matches that description so was it a Wood White? It came from in front of us and went past so we turned and followed it. It was flying at about walking pace and the damn thing wouldn’t stop so that we could get a good look.

At this point we gave up and walked back to the car park and we still don’t know if we’ve seen a Wood White or not.

So now we started up the path which goes up to the Bury Ditches Hill Fort. It was getting hotter by the minute and the path had patches of sun and shade which meant that we could stop in the shade for a rest which we did frequently. The path has a moderately steep gradient all the way up, which didn’t help, and there were a number of wild flowers along the edges of which these are some.

St. John’s Wort
Hedge Woundwort
Meadow Vetchling

On the way up I took these two photographs from exactly the same viewpoint but you should be able to see that they appear to be quite different in appearance.

This is the HDR feature on my smartphone’s camera. HDR, if you don’t know, stands for High Density Range and it improves photographs like this significantly. Not long ago the only way to produce the HDR effect was to put the camera on a tripod and take 3 seperate photographs, one exposed for highlights, one exposed for mid-tones and one exposed for shadows which then had to be ‘blended’ in a post photograph operation using a computer. With many current smartphones that have that feature if HDR is set ‘on’ the phone’s camera will take 3 photographs almost instantaneously and automatically blend them. Simple!

Continuing our climb we eventually reached the top but the climb, in this heat, had been VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. This hill fort is very large and, from here, one can go up onto one of the banks to the left, straight on into the central area or off to the right up onto another of the banks. We took the easy way by going straight on.

We soon found that this is Foxglove Central. They were everywhere and the distant views were pretty impressive too.

Foxgloves as far as the eye can see – well almost.

This next view was from the top of one of the banks.

We finally reached this little structure. It’s not in the centre of the open internal area but it may be on the highest point as there is an engraved plate on the top which shows all the surrounding landscape features.

We felt by now that we’d had enough of the heat and so we headed back down to the car park. At least going down the path was a lot easier than climbing up and, having reached the car, we went home.

FORE!

FORE!

Let’s make this clear. We are not golfers and we do not play golf. This ‘Golf Ball’ is not really a golf ball and is somewhat larger than a golf ball.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was going to be a lovely day and, as we are in Wales, we should not travel more than about 3 miles under lockdown rules. However in England there are now no such travel restrictions so we drove a half mile to our station which is in England and were then free to travel as far as we like.

So we drove for about 45 minutes to Titterstone Clee Hill near Ludlow.

That is an impressive hill wouldn’t you say? We intend going to the very top but we are, of course, going to cheat.

Titterstone Clee Hill used to be quarried, although the quarries closed in the early twentieth century, and that means that there is an access road almost to the top. The view below is from the level of the car park looking back along the road the way that we came.

This is the car parking area looking towards one of the old quarry faces which is slowly being taken over by nature and doesn’t look anything like as raw as when it was a working quarry.

Time to start up to the top. We climb a moderately steep path and soon come across this view of another quarry face, again softened by nature, with two very strange devices looking rather like giant golf balls showing over the quarry edge.

These devices are radar domes. The largest is part of the National Air Traffic Services radar network and covers one of 30 overlapping regions of UK airspace. This one on Titterstone Clee monitors all aircraft within a 100-mile radius and the smaller of the two is a Meteorological Office weather radar which is part of a network of 16 radars across the country used to detect rain. I usually just put my hand out of the window.

As we climbed higher we passed these tiny flowers which turned out to be Thyme so it was nice to know that we had plenty of Thyme.

Continuing upward we reached a point where we could see one of the old quarries below us. This is the opposite view from the one I took from the car park looking into this old quarry. That fairly obvious light area on the left is the car park, with our car showing on the left, and just to right of centre those little dark blocks are the remains of some of the old quarry buildings.

The path that we are following is actually part of the Shropshire Way and the post in the picture below is a waymarker post for that path.

The shropshire Way long distance footpath covers some 200 miles crossing, as well as Titterstone Clee Hill, the Stiperstones and many other Shropshire towns and villages going as far north as Whitchurch.

We finally reached our furthest point which was the trigonometry point and Amanda tried to hide behind it without much success.

The hill in the distance, to the left of the trigonometry point, is Brown Clee Hill which is the highest hill in Shropshire and is a little higher than Titterstone Clee. The second picture is a closer view of Brown Clee.

This next picture shows the relationship of the trigonometry point and the radar domes.

The views from this height, about 1700 feet, are stupendous and not only that but they were accompanied by the sounds of Skylarks above us.

We started back down and passed these foxgloves on the way.

Have reached the car park we decided to have a look around the old derelict buidings. There was one on the left with two large cavities underneath and one, with legs, just above Amanda’s head. The building with the cavities underneath was used for loading railway trucks with quarried stone.

In one of the buildings there was some ‘Street Art’ (Graffiti). It certainly shows some artistic talent but I do wonder if any of the people that do this put it to good use. I have no idea what the symbolism means.

Finally we found something we had hoped to find – the Titterstone Incline. This was part of the narrow gauge (3 ft) railway used for transporting quarried stone which carried the stone from up here in the quarry downhill to the nearest road or railway.

All in all a very interesting trip. We had been here once before in 2005 when we stayed in Ludlow but we missed a lot of the interesting bits on Titterstone Clee Hill then. We have now rectified that.

A Knighton walk – what a rush!

A Knighton walk – what a rush!

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.

Here is a wild flower warning!

Here is a wild flower warning!

We have had a long period of warm sunny days in the recent past but that ended yesterday when it was dry but cloudy. Today it is raining. The plants will be grateful for that – but I won’t.

However I did a local (what else in the current situation) walk yesterday and saw some wild flowers which we didn’t see on our last walk in Kinsley Wood. This walk was along by the River Teme.

There were a number of locations along this path where there were some nice displays of Bluebells. I admit that I posted bluebell pictures on the last walk but never mind – I love bluebells.

I kept seeing Wild Violets and Primroses along this path so in the end I succumbed and took some photographs.

The next flower that I saw fairly frequently was Greater Stitchwort.

Followed by Red Campion. Mostly on the verges when I was walking back along the lane.

That was a nice walk (what else is there to do at the moment anyway?) of about four miles. Where can I go next without breaking the rules?

I have discovered something interesting (to me) this morning. One of the other things I love, apart from Bluebells, is Limestone Pavements. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.

The most spectacular limestone pavements are to be found in Yorkshire and Westmorland (Cumbria) and I knew that there was a very small piece on the Great Orme in North Wales, which I haven’t yet seen, but what I didn’t know was that there is, apparently, some in the Brecon Beacons area. When this is all over I intend to go and find some.

Until then – what?

A walk in the woods.

A walk in the woods.

Another nice sunny day today so we went for a walk in Kinsley Wood. We noticed many Bluebell plants around but only some in flower with a lot not even showing buds. There were some, however, that were in bloom.

A little further on we found some Coltsfoot with quite a lot of them in flower.

Then just a little further we found a patch of Coltsfoot both flowering and gone to seed with heads a bit like dandelions but instead of being spherical they were flat.

The next wild flower to be found was Yellow Pimpernel, like little five pointed stars, which is to be found in damp woodlands. Yep! Kinsley Wood can be DAMP.

There is also a plant called “Scarlet Pimpernel” which is bright red but tends to appear a little later and is an arable weed. A little further along the path we came across this Broom. This is a yellow flowered shrub a bit like Gorse but Broom doesn’t have spines. It does, however smell like Vanilla.

There is some bedrock exposed in a few places which is rather thinly bedded like most of the rock around here and, consequently, is rather friable. It is Silurian in age, when there were a lot of trilobites around, but I don’t think any have ever been found in this area.

We were now approaching the point at which we started and were now in the coniferous part. This wood is mixed deciduous and coniferous and some of the coniferous trees are rather tall.

One strange thing about this wood is that, in four years, we have yet to see any birds in it.

Still, it was a nice walk and we were back home in time for lunch.

Covid-19 Lockdown: Day 736

Covid-19 Lockdown: Day 736

Needless to say we haven’t travelled anywhere that isn’t local but that doesn’t mean life is in stasis.

One thing that has changed since my last post is that all the surplus water has gone and, in particular, the mud has dried so that one does not sink in up to the ankles in sloshy, sticky mud. There is no water running along Kinsley Road. Spring has finally sprung.

There is a lot of Butterbur growing on the banks of our brook as you can see here. This is on our property.

Our Magnolia Tree is in full bloom.

We have been going out for the occasional walk down by the River Teme and there were some sheep on the other side, some of them with little lambs. This is one of the sheep having a drink. Forget the saying that sheep will drink only from still water because that water was moving quite quickly.

A little further on and the large shingle bank with the river passing both sides used not to be there. There are large lumps of the bank, still with grass on them, laying in the river.

Lesser Celendine is out in force at the moment.

and there is also some Blackthorn blossom. It’s not Hawthorn – too early for that.

On the way back along Kinsley Road I saw a number of other flowers both wild and cultivated,

Suddenly, after a few warm sunny days, there seem to be lots of butterflies around. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orang Tips, Small White, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Comma.

I had thought of giving you a tour around our garden.

But that is as far as I took it because I couldn’t hold the camera steady enough. I need a gimbal. Who wants to see our garden anyway?

1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

We had to go to Swansea recently and decided to add a couple of extra days for amusing ourselves. We had rented a flat for this stay overlooking Swansea Bay and this was the view from our balcony. It’s a pity it was cloudy.

The weather on the third (last) day was better.

The morning of the second day was when our trip began to get interesting. We drove to Rhossili Bay at the end of the Gower Peninsula. The weather was cloudy but dry which was not good for photography but there was little we could do about it.

Having parked the car we walked to the cliff top and we couldn’t really miss seeing Rhossili Bay could we?

We started walking roughly west along the cliff top (that’s left out of the picture above) but not too near the edge you understand. These cliffs are fairly high and the rocks are steeply bedded. It is very unlikely that one of those figures in the picture below is likely to be me.

As we walked along, on our left away from the sea, there were some meadows which were covered in Dog Daisies but, looking a little closer, one could see that there were a variety of wild flowers growing in among the daisies. Lovely!

A little further along we had our first sighting of Worms Head which is accessible only at low tide and for a limited time so if you get it wrong you’ll be spending the night there.

There were a lot of wild flowers around, which attracted butterflies, and I managed to sneak up on this Painted Lady without frightening it away.

When we reached the coastguard lookout station overlooking Worms Head there was a path which wound down to beach level so, of course, we had to follow it. We did end up on the shore and had a different view of Worms Head. I suppose I should call it the shore rather than the beach as it is all rock here – not a sign of sand.

We huffed and puffed our way back up the path and thence back to our car. We arrived back at our flat in the late afternoon and, being so near the beach, we decided to go and have a look at the sea.

As you can see we had to fight our way through the holidaymakers packed onto the beach but we did manage to make our way down the beach towards the sea. On the way we passed a number of bands of shells which included Oyster shells and I thought that they looked rather attractive so I picked some up. We finally arrived at the waters edge and I found myself carrying about 12 Oyster shells. Those shells are now at home and all I need is to think of something to do with them. The following photograph is a sample.

Just to prove that we finally reached the sea.

That tower is the Meridian Tower and we had dinner there in the evening in the Grape and Olive restaurant on the top, 29th, floor. This is supposed to be the highest building in wales.

The following morning dawned fine and sunny – well it would wouldn’t it because today is the day we go home. However we may be going home but we are planning a few visits on the way and our first stop was Neath a short 15 minute drive from Swansea.

Here we are by the Tennant Canal in Neath. But, wait, what is that peeking over the trees at us? It’s Neath Abbey of course; yet another ruined abbey, one of many that litter this country, under the stewardship of CADW.

Founded in 1130 this is not a small place and along with Llanthony Priory and Tintern Abbey, the ruins of Neath Abbey are the most important and impressive monastic remains in south-east Wales.

There was some restoration in progress when we were there and a large part of the abbey was covered in scaffolding so I didn’t photograph any of that.

Just as we were about to leave Amanda spotted a swarm of bees on one of the walls.

Having had a good look around we set off for our next destination which, again, was only a short drive away.

This is Aberdulais Falls owned by the National Trust and, although the falls are very picturesque, it is more that just a waterfall.

This narrow gorge at the mouth of the Dulais River outside Neath has been at the heart of the Welsh industrial story, thanks to its bountiful supplies of coal, timber and, of course, water.

It all started with copper-smelting which gave way to ironworking, the milling of textiles and grain and, most significant of all, the manufacture of 19th century tinplate. It is a truly picturesque scene now and it is difficult to imagine the heat, dust, noise and dirt that must have dominated the scene back then.

There is a very large waterwheel which can often be seen running but they had had to stop it before we got there, naturally, because a blackbird had decided to set up its nest in the wheel.

The waterwheel can be seen in context with the remains of some of the old furnaces and the smoke stack.

This is the highest (up river) of the falls and was quite spectacular even though it hasn’t been particularly wet lately and just below it are the next waterfalls.

There is a tea room and toilets here which is rather handy so we made use of both and left for our next destination which, you may have guessed, was just a short drive away. This was the village of Melincourt and we parked in the sign-posted car park (free) and followed the sign-posted path for about 15 minutes. This is what we came to see.

The path up follows the stream valley and makes a pleasant walk to the falls but, having seen the falls, it was time to walk back to the car and proceed to our final destination. This time it was more than a short drive so lets get on with it.

After driving along a narrow lane, one cars width, for what seemed like forever we finally spotted the National Trust car park. Although this is owned by the National Trust entry is not controlled and one can come and go as one pleases. We parked and started off down the path which turned out to be nowhere as near straight-forward as the previous destination.

The path was steep and one eventually arrives a a point where it seems to level off and gives one hope that this must be near the bottom – but no. We had to climb a bit and then descend again and the route included these steps and a bridge.

That’s Amanda down there on the bridge – wait for me!

We did get there in the end.

This is Henrhyd Waterfall and that tiny figure on the ledge behind the water is Amanda.

This was our last call of the day so it was time to go home but first we have to go back UP that path. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be and we arrived at the car without having to crawl the last few yards.

We were still south of Brecon so we still had an hour and fifteen minutes to drive home. We got there. Until next time.