Just after the first lockdown began, my neighbour and friend "Al" said - do you fancy going for a walk? Al was furloughed like most people. We had been forced to cancel all our work. We were both at our respective homes. So we plotted a route around the nearby villages, just walking the public footpaths. Well, what a surprise, we both really enjoyed it. The weather was beautiful and the Teme Valley is just fabulous. So we decided that we would try and walk every week. Now a year on, and we have walked and walked and walked! We chatter non stop for the duration of each walk. I guess this has been some real therapy to prevent the "lockdown blues". There are so many footpaths around here, it would be quite challenging to describe them, so this is just a general natter about our walking.
This blog is also a little bit of indulgence, by way of photography. Simply an excuse to show off more of my photos.
I love this shot. Its just up the track from our house, on the way up to Menithwood. This was a late April afternoon, with the sun at the perfect angle to lightup this part of the track and the beautiful colour of the new leaves. I like gateways, they are an opening, an opportunity for something new! This bridleway leads from our house up the hill to Menithwood. There are great views out over the Teme towards Broadheath and beyond. This particular spot is also great for summer sunsets.
This was just the right place at the right time. We were walking towards Lindridge this time, following the footpath between Link Woods and Lower Frith Common. I took several shots, and by luck, just got this lamb bouncing around. One of our walking objectives was to follow the canal. This canal went from just outside our house, via Lindridge, to Broombank and to Newnham Bridge and then on to Leominster. Its quite difficult to follow just here as it has been ploughed up. In some places there is almost no trace of it at all. Its not been used for 200 years and a lot of the land and materials have been repurposed. There are places, however, where it is very obvious, perhaps most notably from Broombank to Newnham Bridge.
A much more modern industry here is Oldfields Cider. Unfortunately we have not been able to frequent the premises because of the pandemic. Sadly the apple orchards below have been grubbed up, just after I shot this image. They were a thing of beauty, but for whatever reason they are gone.
Half a mile or so further on from the cider orchards is the Hatch. A fascinating place with some really interesting buildings ( and they do take away curry occasionally). These pools and the ornate bridge, are "stocking" pools to maintain the water level in the canal. Also, just here at the Hatch, was the entrance to the Southnet tunnel. Unfortunately the tunnel collapsed not long after it was built. So this first part of the canal was never really used. This interesting bridge can be seen from the Frith Common road, just up the hill from the Nags Head. It is on a public footpath, so anyone can walk over it. There is a little gate to stop the ducks getting too close to the road. Just in the background of this shot is some massive Gunnera Manicata!
A little way further on towards Newnham Bridge is Featherbed lane, and there much to my surprise is a farm called "Brickfields" where the clay to make the "bridge of a million bricks" was dug. I am not sure where the bricks were fired though. We had set off to walk towards this bridge, with a somewhat questionable forecast. Just near Woodston Manor, these black clouds threatened us. We did actually have to put a coat on, but not for long. I thought that this oak tree looked absolutely amazing against the sky.
A short climb from the Hatch and the Frith Common road there is a sort of ridge of higher farmland. We have walked here many times. This photo was taken on a very hot day in the summer. I was fascinated by the sheep, basking in the shade of this fine oak tree. The views from this ridge are quite impressive. To the west Penybegwn or Hay Bluff can be seen about 50 miles or so away and the ridge south towards Abergavenny, to the north there is Titterstone Clee, to the east Dudley and the Clent Hills, and to the south the Malverns and Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham. I love a good view. I like to just sit and work out where each little landmark is. I find that quite meditative and deeply satifying!
Its a great pleasure to wonder along these paths looking at these amazing views, listening to the birds, sheep, chainsaws, and all the other noises. Very noticeably, there was very little aircraft noise and no contrails!
This is Al, trying to explain to Nula which way we were heading. Explaining anything to a Labrador is challenging at the best of times. However, rather curiously, Nula was always finding the correct way across the fields. She would be waiting at the style, way before we caught up with her. And when a few weeks later we were back at the same place she knew exactly where to go. I have spent a great deal of time and energy training her to be very well behaved. She is very trustworthy to walk with, as long as you are not a squirrel!
This spot is just south of Clows Top, which is the highest point for quite a few miles, and again fabulous views.
Not far from here is Soddington Hall on the way to Mamble. These poppies were just doing their thing in the field. I think that they are so pretty. A few yards further on from here we encountered a very large Grass snake!
South from here is Great Witley with its amazing clock tower. So we set off with the intention of walking to Hillside via the clock tower. It was quite a bit further than we had imagined. However, it was a fabulous day out. We went via the Elms Hotel and across the fields to the tower. Its HUGE! Its built on the site of a battle between Owain Glyn Dwr, who was camped at Woodbury hill, and King Henry's, who's men were camped on Abberley Hill, where we were headed for lunch! These two then proceeded to have a "skirmish", over 20,000 soldiers having a battle, in 1405. I had no idea until that day that any of this had happened. A big bit of history so close by! The clock tower itself was built in 1883 and is 161 feet high. It had 21 bells when it was built and could play 42 tunes. Now it only has five bells, it does seem to be quiet at the moment though! I love that this tower can be seen from so far away. Its a proper iconic landmark
The mud and endless wet was temporarily halted by a cold spell, as we get close to the end of the third lockdown. We have had proper winter with real snow and ice, it even got down to -7c a couple of nights. Walsgrove Hill is just in the background of this image, with Woodbury hill just behind it. These silver birch, resplendent in the afternoon sun are just above Yeldon. Yeldon was built as a tunnel keepers cottage for the canal. But the canal did not make past our house, southwards, so the tunnel was never built.
The pandemic has been an utterly tragic event for so many people for the whole year and is ongoing. Although it looks like the vaccines will finally bring it to an end. In this sleepy little corner of Worcestershire, it has largely left us alone. I have seen a good number of very poorly patients though. Al and I have walked our way around the Teme Valley for nearly a year and loved it. We are so privileged to live in such a beautiful area, and to be able to walk and enjoy it all.