Gap in the map

Three weeks after my last visit I was back on Bredon Hill with the Radical Ramblers, a long-standing and extremely congenial group of left-wing walkers led by Alan (Lord) Haworth.  

Nine of us met at Ashton under Hill on the west side of Bredon Hill.  Most of the RRs came by train to Evesham and then bus.  There was an open garden day and plant sale so the village was buzzing.  We set off straight onto a footpath leading north-west towards the top, in a steady climb with lovely views east.

1 On way up

The Cotswold ridge to the east

We came to a point where two bridleways diverge (GR SO 985384).  One heads straight on, purposefully in a north-west direction to Greathill Barn (visible as a group of trees).  The other turns north and then north-west around the edge.  The path straight ahead is not waymarked at this point.

2 misleading waymark A504

Bridleway 504 not waymarked, only the bridleway round the edge

In fact, it was completely blocked with wheat.

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Bridleway 504 obstructed. It runs to the clump of trees at Greathill Barn and beyond

After about half a mile, the definitive route ends at the parish boundary between Ashton under Hill and Conderton to the west, and resumes two fields further on when it enters Overbury parish (B-A on the map).

Bredon Hill OL map marked

Outdoor Leisure map with break in the definitive route between A and B

That tells me that in the early 1950s there was a hostile landowner in Conderton who ensured that the path was not recorded (perhaps he or she was a member of the parish council, or an employer of some of the members?).  That is speculation of course, but the route must be researched before the definitive map cut off on 1 January 2026 or it could be lost for ever.

Meanwhile, I have reported the cropped half-mile of bridleway to Worcestershire County Council: although the path appears to be a dead end that is no reason to allow it to be obstructed.  Even a walk to Greathill Barn and back would be worthwhile.

We carried on up the side of the hill

5 climbing up Bredon

Climbing the hill

and soon a view of Castle Hill, the mound of the mediaeval castle at Elmley Castle opened out below us to the north-west.

6 Elmley Castle mounf

The mound of Elmley Castle is in the middle of the picture

As we climbed higher the views got better.

7 Elmley Castle village

View north west

Close to the top there was an old countryside stewardship scheme sign indicating that the landowner was once paid to allow access on Bredon Hill.  The scheme has long expired but fortunately there is still access (though it was not mapped as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, a sad and rather odd omission).

8 CSS sign

Outdated countryside stewardship scheme sign

As we walked on towards the top I heard, then saw, a male redstart: always a delight.

The view from the top was better than it was three weeks ago.  We could see the Malverns, Clee Hill, May Hill and Skirrid (or was it Sugar Loaf?).

9 on top

On top

10 tower

Kemerton Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had lunch out of the wind, leaning against a wall, and I read A E Housman’s Summer Time on Bredon to the group.  Alan told us later (or may be at the time too) that this was his 410th Marilyn (peak with a prominence above 150 metres).  He is an intrepid walker.

After lunch we headed down to Kemerton, taking the route past the ruins of Sundial Farm.

11 Sundial Farm

Sundial Farm

As we walked down the lane to the village we could see Gloucester cathedral ahead.

12 back to Kemerton

The lane to Kemerton

Some of our party went to The Crown in Kemerton and others, including me, caught the bus back to Ashton; it is an hourly service and very good for local use and for walkers.

13 Kemerton

The bus has replaced the landaus, waggonettes and hunters advertised in Kemerton

The sun was out and the open garden event was in full swing.

14 Ashton open garden

Open garden

16 Bredon Holt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought plants from the stall,

15 plant stall

Plant stall

 

ate ice cream and chatted to parish councillor Claire Vincent, one of the leading lights of the village.  There is a great sense of community here (see the newsletter for instance).

I ended with a visit to the church (tower begun in the thirteenth century), outside which stands a fifteenth-century cross, the top of which has been replaced by a sundial.

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Church

17 cross

Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My two walks on Bredon were very different but equally enjoyable, and there are still other routes to explore.

 

 

 

 

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Three nightjar-highlights

Last night I went on the annual nightjar count at Barossa and Poors Allotment, north of Camberley in Surrey.  The survey is organised by the Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) on behalf of Natural England.

We gathered at the start at 8pm and Ben Habgood from SWT explained what we were to do and how to record the nightjars on the map so as to give maximum clarity.

Then he split us into groups.  I walked with Rob and Jane, whom I accompanied on the first visit last year, and Florence for whom it was a first visit.  Our patch was close to where we had started, and we were given a suggested circular route, which we completed three times between 8.30 and 11.00.

2 pylons

The pylons crossing the site are useful for orientation

We started in broad daylight.  It was a perfect evening, sunny with only a slight wind.  We followed a path alongside heathland, then through a wood, under the row of pylons which crosses the site and onto a hill.  Below us the belted galloways were doing their useful conservation grazing.  Then we continued through a wood and along a track on the edge of the heath, back to the start.

4 belties

Belties at work

On the first round we heard many song thrushes.  We did not see any heathland birds; however, I had seen a young stonechat on my brief walk before we gathered.

As we started on the second round I saw a woodcock roding, at about 9.22 pm.

5 woodcock country

Woodcock country

When we reached the hill for a second time we paused there.  We heard our first nightjar churring, at about 9.40 and another at 9.45.  Were they the same bird?  We thought not.  Between the two churrings, at 9.44, we had the first highlight of the evening, a male nightjar circled overhead, calling; even in the dim light we could see his wingspots.

3 hilltop

The view from the hill (about 40 minutes before we saw the nightjar from here)

We left the hill and heard, then saw (at 9.50), another nightjar churring; this may have been the one we saw on the hill.  That was our second highlight.

We walked back along the track and enjoyed our third highlight: a nightjar perched on a branch illuminated by the night sky (10pm).  He churred for some minutes and then flew off.  Rob captured this on video which you can watch here.

6 nightjar

Nightjar on branch

 

7 nightjar close up

Close up

We did another round and collected one or two more churrings, ending at the car park at 11pm.

We reported our results to Ben who will do some coordination and number crunching to produce the complete picture, sorting out overlapping reports from people in neighbouring sites.

We look forward to hearing if this year was better than last.  It certainly felt good to us.

 

Posted in Birds, Natural England | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Walbury wander

My friends from Exeter University days, Mary Alexander and Drusilla Belfield, and I like to walk together twice a year.  We generally choose somewhere between our homes at Bodicote (Oxfordshire), Winchester (Hampshire) and Turville (Bucks).  Drusilla had seen Christopher Somerville’s eight-mile walk from Walbury Hill in West Berkshire in The Times, and so we did this on 19 May.  Chris helpfully puts the walks on his website for those of us who do not subscribe to The Times.

1 start

The view from the car park

We started from the Walbury Hill car-park, south of Inkpen, in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Soon we crossed a stile into a field which was broken and dangerous.  I reported it to West Berkshire Council on 27 May, and on 4 June received a reply that it had been repaired and was in the queue to be replaced with a kissing-gate.  What service!

2 stile

Stile: repaired already

The path took us down the field and onto a hollow way leading to the hamlet of Combe.

3 Hollow way to Combe

Hollow way to Combe

Here I saw a seat in memory of Mary Louise Brewster.

4 Brewster bench

Memorial seat

This rang a bell and I later confirmed that she was indeed the wife of former American ambassador (1977-81) Kingman Brewster; she lived in Combe after he died.  (I drove with them both across Dartmoor on the glorious autumn day of 26 September 1980: I was running the Devon American Fortnight festival, and they were visiting it.  We had a delightful trip and I felt I had known them for ever.)

We bore left from Combe across a field of wheat with an exemplary, wide path cut through it.

5 exemplary path

Exemplary path

Beyond is a strip of access land, Sugglestone Hill, where we stopped for lunch with an expansive view.

8 view from Shugglestone

View from Sugglestone Hill

We climbed to the highest point of the walk and then down to join the Test Way following a long valley.

9 Test Way

The Test Way

At the head of this we bore right up a steep hill.

10 Sheepless hill

Steep hill

We stopped by Combe Wood on the right and I ventured in, to listen first to a blackcap singing and then a treeful of tree creepers (click on the links for my videos).

12 Combe Wood, treecreepers here

Combe Wood

The path took us back to the ridge of Walbury Hill and we could look south to where we had walked.

13 View east

View of part of our walk. The exemplary path is visible on the right

We followed the byway back to the car park, passing the Iron Age fort on our left.  Unfortunately this is not access land but part of a field.  It could do with more recognition and opportunities for people to explore it.

14 Walbury Hill no access

Iron age hill fort: no legal access

We arrived back at the car park after an extremely enjoyable and varied walk.

15 End of walk

Drusilla and Mary near the end of the walk. The dog Janet is behind the stile

Posted in Access, AONB, Birds, Public paths, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shortage of sunshine

The Guardian had a story on 27 May about how we are suffering from lack of sunlight.  The geneticist Steve Jones told the Hay literary festival about the problems of spending too much time indoors, and extolled the health benefits of sunlight.  Vybarr Cregan-Reid expanded on this in an article on the same day.

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Chiswick Gardens, London Borough of Hounslow

 

I wrote a letter from the Open Spaces Society, which was published on 31 May:

Urban planning should take account of sunlight (For the sake of our health, we need to kick the indoor habit, 27 May), but the appeal court thinks otherwise. It recently ruled that land at Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire could not be registered as a town or village green because it lay within an area scheduled for development. The future inhabitants will thus be denied the right to open-air recreation close to their homes on land safeguarded for that purpose. Developers should be required to create permanent new green spaces and paths, and the government should enable local authorities properly to manage and improve their parks and green spaces. From a purely financial point of view this makes sense, by cutting the costs to the NHS of an unhealthy population.

Vowley View, Richard Gosnell

Barbeque on the land which the appeal court rejected as a green at Vowley View, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. Photo: Richard Gosnell

My friend Maxwell Ayamba, from the Sheffield Environmental Movement (at whose launch I spoke in 2016) send me his thoughts on this.  They give an additional perspective.

Max

Max Ayamba with the Sheffield Star’s Pride in Sheffield Award 2018

Well done Kate, it’s always been a hidden issue—unspoken, yet we don’t need to be told how important the sun is to the survival of life forms on earth.  I have always argued that this is especially so in the case of people who are from tropical climates: black people are tropical beings not temperate and therefore require more Vitamin D which involves being exposed to more sunshine.  Unfortunately, these people are the worst affected due to lack of access to good-quality green spaces. 

We know that people from these communities suffer from vitamin D deficiency.  Yet nothing is being done to support them to have the opportunity to go outdoors.  It is costing the NHS huge sums of money as prescription is regarded as the only solution to problems, but that is no solution. 

Charities such as the Sheffield Environmental Movement, which work with people from these communities to raise awareness and access to the outdoors, should be supported with government funding to contribute to addressing this problem, but those smaller charities that are doing good things with people at the grassroots are overlooked, with funding being given to bigger environmental organisations and charities that have no knowledge on to engage with people from these communities.  If you want to know more should visit www.semcharity.org.uk.

Max Ayamba's walking group

Max Ayamba’s walking group on Edale station, 26 April 2015

The message is clear.  We need open spaces for our survival.

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Swooping sand martins

It was a long time since I had seen the sand martins at Cadover Bridge on the River Plym on south-west Dartmoor.  So, when I had a short gap between the previously-described walk over Sheepstor and the Dartmoor Preservation Association AGM at Yelverton on 25 May, I popped over there for a look.

Cadover Bridge was heaving with people and dogs. I eschewed the main car-park and took the dead-end road towards Trowlesworthy, which used to be the through road to Lee Moor before the china clay pits engulfed it.  I stopped in the small car park on the left and walked down to the river bank.  I found a quiet spot to sit.

Plym at Cadover

By the Plym, Cadover Bridge is to the left

Despite a noisy barbeque nearby, and plenty of people not far off, the sand martins swooped past, elegantly catching insects.

Barbeque at Cadover

Barbeque by the Plym

There were fewer martins than I used to see, but they are still there.  I also saw a reed bunting in the gorse.

I was glad to add sand martins to this year’s bird sightings.

Posted in Birds, Dartmoor | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An alien cross

The walk in the morning of the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) AGM on 25 May was from the scout hut, near Sheepstor village, to the top of Sheeps Tor. 

We swung in a semicircle around Yellowmead, with a persistent willow warbler singing from the top of a gorse bush.

View
The view from the tor was magnificent.  While the china clay works are visible to the south-west, one can also see Shaugh Moor, the ridge we saved from waste dumping in 1975 and again in 2001, rising above the tips.  To the north is Sharpitor (owned by the Dartmoor Preservation Association) with the pointed Lether Tor in front, and further away Great Mis Tor and North Hessary Tor.  Against the horizon of the Cramber Tor ridge are Down and Combeshead Tors with  Eylesbarrow and the Plym valley beyond.

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The view to Shaugh Moor on the horizon which was saved from becoming a gigantic china clay waste tip

 

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The walkers reach the summit with Down Tor and Combeshead Tor beyond

 

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Sharpitor, Lether Tor, Great Mis Tor and North Hessary Tor

But I was not pleased to find a large wooden cross jammed into the northern rocks of the tor.

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The cross on Sheeps Tor

This was put up by the West Dartmoor Mission Community for a gathering there on Good Friday.  That was more than five weeks ago and it ought to have been removed immediately after the event.

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The cross from below, dominating the skyline

It is shouty, intrusive and offensive; very different from the elegant, historic, granite crosses which mark the tracks over the moor.

Ter Hill cropped

Ter Hill cross with the Swincombe valley beyond

I have written to the Dartmoor National Park Authority, as has the DPA, to call for its removal.

On the way back we stopped to look at Bronze Age huts

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Bronze Age hut circle

and the splendid Yellowmead Bronze Age stone circle; it comprises four concentric rings.

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Stone circle consisting of four concentric rings

There are stone rows leading away from (or towards) it.  The archaeological landscape here is terrific.

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Start of a double stone row

It was a lovely prelude to the AGM in the afternoon—but I shall pursue that alien cross.

Postscript: on 10 June, following correspondence from Phil Hutt, chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, the Dartmoor National Park Authority ranger confirmed that the cross had been removed.

Posted in Dartmoor, walking, wild country | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Success at Common Wood

I visited Common Wood, my common near Horndon on western Dartmoor, on the sunny evening of 25 May with my friend Hil Marshall.  We were delighted to see at least three Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterflies on the slope above the leat.  This is one of the species for which we have been managing the land.

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Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary on hazel tree. Photo: Hil Marshall

One of them looked as though it was newly-hatched as its hind wings were not yet fully pumped up—so that means they are breeding there.

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Possibly newly-hatched Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. Photo: Hil Marshall

These are the first sightings since Jenny Plackett of Butterfly Conservation reported that she had seen six Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries on the bracken slope on 2 June 2016, reported here.

The upper slope is looking good after all the excellent work by the Dartmoor Preservation Association conservation volunteers, and we are seeing results.

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The open slope of Common Wood seen from the road across the valley

 

 

 

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