Breinton Springs

I visited Breinton Springs in 2015 and blogged about it in Wye Walk – Part Three. I returned in May 2018 and have only just now decided to write about it. In 2012 the spring had been buried under a landslip following heavy rain. After my visit in 2015, but unrelated to it, the National Trust decided to rescue it.

Photo of Breinton Spring.

Breinton Spring obscured by a landslip 2015

They removed fallen and damaged trees, excavated soil which was then used to form a causeway and shore up the banks. Stones were gathered up and used to create a step near to the spring. The causeway was also formed from brash and cordwood log to allow for drainage and improve access. They also cleared away a lot of human rubbish. In my opinion the area is now much improved.

Photo of breinton springs

Breinton Springs restored 2018

It was a frosty morning in May when I visited, the meadow was full of diamante cobwebs. photo of cobweb with frost

Mist rose gently from the river.mist above river

The cattle were already well into their breakfast as the sun broke up the haze.

Ever get the feeling you are being watched?cow looking through hedge

The hamlet of Breinton is a short distance from the city of Hereford adjacent to the River Wye. The nearby orchard and St Michael’s church are on the site of an abandoned medieval village. The spring itself is surrounded by stonework indicating it’s importance at some of church silhouette

Near to the church are the remains of a moated mound which consisted of walls and a stone gateway dating from Norman times. It is thought that the Cathedral’s Chancellor was based there around 1150 AD before moving into the city in the 13th century. At this point it seems to have been used as a stock enclosure. A church was first built here around 1200 AD but was rebuilt between 1866 and 1870.orchard fenced

The area around Breinton is very rich agricultural land. Irrigation channels were dug across the meadows from the river and it was a popular drovers’ route for bringing livestock to Hereford. The river could be forded nearby and there were ponds for watering animals. The area is still rich with nurseries and orchards associated with Wyevale and Bulmers. Woodpeckers flourish in the orchards giving rise to the brand of Bulmers cider.orchard with sun rising

Buried in the churchyard is Dr Henry Graves Bull (1818 – 1885) founder of the British Mycological Society and the Woolhope Field Naturalist’s Club (WFNC). The area around Breinton is considered to be diverse in habitat and wildlife consisting of woodland, grassland, riverbank, orchards, hedgerows and different types of farmland. It was a favourite stamping ground for botanists from the  WFNC who discovered rare flowering plants, fungi and mosses here, presumably they actually trod carefully rather than stamping. photo of flowers and grasses

In 2012 over 200 different flowering plants were identified including rarities such as Shepherd’s Needle and Corn Buttercup.

Illustration of flower

Shepherds Needle – Scandix pecten-veneris Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé ”Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz” 1885, Permission granted under GFDL by Kurt Stueber

The hedgerows themselves consist of a diverse variety of shrubs and trees and create vital habitat and corridors for wildlife. Breinton provides a home for foxes, badgers, otters, squirrels, moles, hedgehogs, bats and birds such as kingfishers, skylarks, woodpeckers, yellowhammers and buzzards. The ponds host a variety of amphibians such as great crested newts and there is a rich diversity of insects including moths and butterflies.hawthorn tree on riverbank

A bat survey in 2013 identified six different bat species; soprano pipistrelle, common pipistrelle, myotis, long-eared and serotine bats.

This bucolic idyll also inspired Herefordian artist Brian Hatton (1887 – 1916). Ironically he suffered from hay fever as a child and was often packed off to Swansea for his health. He was killed during WWI in Egypt. His paintings captured the pastoral scenes around Breinton; sun soaked harvests and wildflower meadows the backdrops for his rural workers, gypsies and horses. You can learn more about his life and see more of his paintings here.

painting of corn stooks in the sunshine

Corn Stooks – Brian Hatton 1908

What springs from Breinton is a small pocket of history, evoking bygone days when the countryside was full of life rather than the chemically treated sterile monoculture we have become accustomed to.


Hereford in the Snow

Following on from my post about the poppy display at Hereford Cathedral in the snow, here are some more photos from my walk into Hereford City during the Mini Beast from the East’s blizzard.Photo of blossom in snow

I thought this blossom looked very pretty in the snow. At first I thought it might have been blackthorn, but there were no thorns and some green shoots were showing, so I expect it is some sort of cherry plum type thing.Photo of blossom in snow

Far more easy to identify is Holy Trinity church, a Grade II listed building dating from around 1870.Photo of Holy Trinity Church

In the grounds stands a memorial cross dedicated to the men of the parish who died in WWI and WWII. For more information on the memorial, the wording and the names inscribed see this website.Photo of war memorial in churchyard

Regular readers will be familiar with the Bulmers woodpecker. This is my only photograph of it in the snow.Photo of Bulmers woodpecker in snow

Next to it is the WWI memorial poppy bench.Photo of WWI poppy bench

Another opportunity to save my soul; Eignbrook church. It is another lovely building.Photo of Eignbrook church in snow

Now we reach the old medieval walls that used to encircle the City of Hereford. Not much of a deterrent to ingress these days, unlike our traffic system. Note the snow squished daffodils.Photo of part of old wall in snow

This part of the wall was the site of one of the entrances into Hereford and the area is still called Eign Gate.Photo of Eign Gate Hereford in snow

Now we come to the cathedral, it is currently hosting the WWI poppy display “Weeping Window” as mentioned in a previous post.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

Skipping along to the nearby Old Bridge, we get views of the River Wye ….Photo of River Wye from bridge

… and the other side of the cathedral.Photo of cathedral from bridge

Walking down by the river and sheltering under the New Bridge we have the Old Bridge and cathedral in one direction.Photo of old bridge and cathedral

Hunderton bridge emerges through the blizzard in the other direction.Photo of hunderton bridge in blizzard

Back at the cathedral, Sir Edward Elgar patiently waits for the pot holes to be repaired before it is safe to cycle home to Malvern.

Also left out in the cold is Bully, the sculpture of the iconic Hereford bull.Photo of hereford bull sculpture in snow

He is guarding the Old House. It strikes me that we Herefordians are not very imaginative when it comes to naming things! Photo of Old House in snow

Oh well, time to trudge back home for some hot chocolate.Photo of old house in snow

Early September Scenes

I have put together a few photographs that I took during the first part of September. First up; I was rather taken with the way these clouds were lit in the early morning.Photo of clouds

The River Wye was looking serene.Photo of the River Wye

The iron Hunderton railway bridge.Photo of Hunderton Bridge

Someone has grown some impressive sunflowers on their allotment.Photo of sunflowers

The snow berries, Symphoricarpos albus, are now forming. These are poisonous, but so irritating that they are invariably vomitted up before getting into the system. They are a member of the honeysuckle family and can be eaten by pheasants. Highly imaginative folk also thought they might be food for spirits and so they are also known as corpseberries.Photo of snow berries


View from the Bridge

I have previously shown you the view from under Greyfriars Bridge, the “new” bridge that crosses the River Wye in Hereford.Photo of the underside of Greyfriars Bridge

Perhaps the view from the top of the bridge is more interesting, especially as the sun is setting over the River Wye and the steps of the rowing club.Photo of sunset over River Wye

If we zoom in we can just make out, in the dimming light and grain, the Hunderton Railway Bridge. This is an iron bridge built originally in 1854, then rebuilt in 1912. It was part of the line between Hereford, Abergavenny and Newport. Closed during the Beeching railway cuts in the 1960s, it is now a cycle and foot path.Photo of Hunderton Railway Bridge

Let’s have another look at the sunset, after all who doesn’t love a sunset?Photo of sunset

Looking over the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is beautifully burnished by the setting sun.Photo of Hereford Cathedral at sunset

Funny looking tree though.Photo of bendy tree and Hereford Cathedral

Bimble on a Hot Afternoon

Tuesday 23rd August 2016 was a rare day in the UK. It was very hot and sunny. A walk to the River Wye was called for. Regular readers will be familiar with these bimbles from such classics as; Urban Bimble Part Three where we learned all about the duck pond, andPhoto of duck pond

the Castle Green, Photo of Castle Greenwith its squirrels, andPhoto of squirrel

Nelson’s Column, and

The clouds looked rather interesting so I thought I’d go black and white for a parting shot before we reached,Photo of Castle Green with Nelson's Column

The Victoria footbridge.Photo of the Victoria footbridge

I wonder what the gentleman is watching? Aha, swans.Photo of swans on river

I wonder if they will get a little closer.Photo of swans on river

Someone’s spaniel, doing what spaniels do.Photo of spaniel playing in river

Looking up from the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is peeking up above the greenery.Photo of Hereford Cathedral by river

A lonesome duck swims by some flowers.Photo of duck on river

Let’s check out the other ducks back on the other side of the duck pond. They look a bit hot and tired.Photo of ducks on duck pond

I think it is time for a rest under the cool shade of the weeping willow tree. I suspect this will be summer’s last hurrah before autumn sets in.Photo of weeping willow

View from the Bridge

Now that summer has arrived and the sun has made an appearance, I thought we should take another stroll down to the River Wye and admire the view from the Old Bridge. Don’t lean over too far!Photo of River Wye and arch of Old Bridge

The river banks are looking very green and bushy.Photo of River Wye in Hereford

On the left you can see Hereford Cathedral.Photo of Hereford Cathedral

Walking back into town there is an enticing little continental cafe with a rather natty advertising sign.Photo of bicycle decorated with flowers advertising a cafe

This is apparently also the site of Nell Gwynne’s old home. Hereford claims her as its own, but there seems to be no actual evidence for this. Nell was famously one of Charles II’s mistresses and bore him two sons. Photo of Nell Gwynne plaque

She seems to have started out rather unpromisingly as the daughter of a drunken “madame”. She managed to get herself into the orange selling trade at the London theatres before becoming an actress. It was quite a new fangled thing to have actresses in the seventeenth century; previously men had played all roles. This was where she caught the eye of the merry monarch, and they began an affair in 1668. Apparently the King’s dying wish was, “Let not poor Nelly starve,”. His brother, James II did indeed pay off Nell’s debts.

Portrait of Nell Gwynne

Portrait of Nell Gwynne – Peter Lely [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

She died three years after Charles, probably of syphilis, in 1687. She was renowned for her quick wit, Samuel Pepys referred to her as “pretty, witty Nell”. She is also credited with persuading the King to found the Chelsea Hospital for poor military veterans, now famous for the Chelsea Pensioners.

Photo of Chelsea Pensioners

Chelsea Pensioners – By Chelseapensioners (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Winter Wye

This is a return to our previous urban bimbles and Wye walks series. I thought we should see how our old haunts are faring during winter.Photo of cathedral and clouds

Starting at Hereford Cathedral, I set off just before sunset, this ensures that my photographs are blurry and indistinct! However, I’m sure that you are imaginative enough to grasp the sense of drama of an underlit cloud framing the dark majesty of the architecture.

Photo of Hereford Cathedral showing damage to pinnacleThe day after I strolled past the imposing presence of the Cathedral tower, the area had to be cordoned off. It seems that the strong winds that have been plaguing us recently have damaged one of the pinnacles on the tower. Upon checking my photos I found that indeed this is the case. The masonry work required to repair it will cost around £10,000.  I should think the Cathedral has kept stonemasons gainfully employed since it was built in 1079. Just think though, Rambling Ratz could have exited the Blogosphere rather like Father Brennan in “The Omen”, struck down by divine architecture!

Photo of Castle Green trees at sunsetStriding purposefully on to the Castle Green; the trees that wore such a stunning canopy of autumn leaves when last we visited, are now stark and bare. Squirrel dreys, or crow’s nests are exposed, silhouetted against the sunlit clouds. With any patch of green in the UK there are people kicking a ball around, whatever the weather.

Photo of Victoria footbridgeThe Victoria footbridge has a fair torrent of water swirling around its base. December 2015 was the wettest on record in the UK. The Wye regularly floods, there is so much rainfall in the Welsh mountains that funnels down into the Wye. Fortunately Hereford did not get the damaging and devastating floods that were endured by the North of England this winter.

As you can see from the debris the water did rise up to the flood sign and the footbridge was closed for a while. Whilst the Wye is pretty full, most of it is contained within its banks.

Photo of Hereford Cathedral by the River WyeThe sun sets on another bimble as the Cathedral keeps a watchful eye on the flow of the Wye.


Wye Walk – Part Three

Photo of River WyeWell, you have been ever so good! So as promised at the end of Wye Walk – Part Two, I shall take you for a short stroll up river.

This part of the river is by the hamlet of Breinton, this is from the old English, Bruntone, meaning “village near a flowing stream”. There is a spring here, hence the name Breinton Springs. You can walk here from the footpath by the Old Bridge mentioned in the previous post, or you can drive and park in the National Trust car park. This is situated next to St Michael’s Church, originally built in the 13th century, but restored in the 19th century. The undulating orchard next to it is thought to be the site of a buried medieval village.

Photo of Breinton Spring.The spring itself is a little underwhelming, having been buried under a landslip, but the views across the river of the apple orchards in spring are uplifting. The scent of apple blossom wafts in the gentle breeze as the swans gracefully glide down the river.Photo of swans on River Wye

This being Hereford, it is not long before you find yourself in a field of cattle languidly chewing the cud, staring back at you, full of curiosity amongst the buttercups.


The rather grand house in the distance is Belmont House. This is a 1790 grade II listed building, the former residence of Francis Wegg-Prosser. He is also responsible for the building of Belmont Abbey to house Benedictine monks in 1859. In recent years it has been a hotel and golf lodge, although I believe that it now lies empty.Photo of cows in field

Walking away from the river we come to Breinton Wood. This is a small strip of ancient woodland, full of bluebells at this time of the year.

As well as summing up all that Hereford is famous for; cattle and cider apples, Breinton has long been an important area for botanists. It is rich in wildlife from bats to badgers and swimming moles to great crested newts. The less shy animals on display are these horses in the orchard next to the church, I presume they are moved once the apples fruit! These old apple trees also have some interesting lichen growing on their branches.

Wye Walk – Part Two

Photo of Hereford cathedral by the River WyeAfter a ducktastic start to our damp bimble in Wye Walk – Part One, here we are trundling along the tree lined banks of the River Wye in Hereford City.

On our right is Hereford Cathedral, home to the chained library and Mappa Mundi. The skyline and river reflections are dominated by its medieval tower, 218 steps or 43 metres of it. A recent archeological dig in the Cathedral grounds has revealed a possible 9th – 10th century Saxon Palace along with the remains of Saxon burials. These include a Saxon child and a possible Norman knight; more details here.

Photo of Sculpture of Dan the BulldogI have already mentioned the links between the composer Edward Elgar and Hereford in Urban Bimble Part Two. He crops up again with this sculpture of a bulldog carved from a tree stump. The hound in question is Dan, pet of the cathedral organist George Sinclair, during Elgar’s time. Elgar’s 1899 composition, “Enigma Variations” consists of 14 parts, each inspired by someone he was attached to. Number Eleven is dedicated to Mr Sinclair and an episode whereby Dan the bulldog falls into the River Wye. Not renowned for being water dogs, Dan nevertheless manages to swim upstream and scramble back up onto the bank, whereby he gave a triumphant bark. George and Dan were apparently inseparable and Elgar was very fond of them both. You can listen to Elgar’s Enigma Variations here, the relevant one is XI GRS. As to what the “Enigma” actually was, we shall never know. How enigmatic!

Photo of the Old BridgeNow we come to an old bridge, creatively named “The Old Bridge”. The original crossing would have been a wooden one, a stone bridge was erected around 1100. This was rebuilt in 1490 and widened by the Victorians in 1826. Until 1782 it had a gatehouse, Hereford being a walled city. During the English Civil War, Hereford was on the side of the Royalists; that is the rich important people of Hereford were on the side of the Royalists, the ordinary peasants weren’t asked their opinion. In 1645 the Scottish army fighting on behalf of the Parliamentarians laid siege to Hereford. The Scots were under the command of Alexander Leslie, the Earl of Leven who complained about the state of photo of old bridgeHerefordshire roads, “… the Army is not able to march above eight miles a day, though they begin to march at the Sun rising, and continue till ten at night ..” – so not much change there then. The Scottish cannon managed to breach the wall, but the people of Hereford took stones from one of the arches of the bridge to repair the damage. This is why the rebuilt arch is different to the others, can you spot which one? The Scots eventually tired of the place and went home. The Parliamentarians won the war, although the monarchy was later re-established with diminished powers (this is why Prince Charles’ letters lobbying the UK Government are considered controversial today).Photo of the Old Bridge Part of the old wall still stands today with a Scottish cannon ball embedded in it. Hereford did eventually build a second transport crossing over the Wye in 1966, it is called … wait for it … The New Bridge. Actually it is officially called Greyfriars Bridge, but we yokels are easily confused. If we cross the road and continue along the little footpath, we get a nice view of the other side of the Old Bridge with the cathedral behind it. These two photos were taken on a sunnier day some years ago.

Well it has been a bit of a dank and dismal day, hence the poorly lit photographs. However, we are rewarded with a lovely sunset as we head for our favourite fish and chip shop on the way home. For my American readers, chips in the UK are nice, fat, greasy fries and an excellent way to replace any calories we may have lost while rambling. If you are very good I may take you for a short bimble up-river later.Photo of sunset Hereford

Wye Walk – Part One

Wye walk? Why indeed? The Wye is the name of the river that flows through Hereford City and this post follows on from Urban Bimble – Part Three.Photo of River Wye

The Wye begins its 134 mile journey in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon. It was on these wild, boggy slopes that Owain Glyndwr won his first victory against the English in 1401, during the Welsh Revolt. The river meanders down through Wales, into Hereford, back into Wales, past Tintern Abbey and Chepstow before ending at the Severn Estuary and flowing out into the Bristol Channel. Two parts of the Wye are Sites of Special Scientific Interest due to its importance as a wildlife channel, particularly for salmon, and the other habitats that it supports. It is popular with kayakers, anglers and walkers.

We shall be concentrating on the small part of the Wye that passes through Hereford City. We start our bimble at the Duck Pond; a rather murky pool full of debris, but popular with the ducks. Most of the ducks are the common dabbling duck known as the mallard. The name is probably from the old French malart, meaning wild drake. Most domestic ducks are descended from these. The female is a dull brown, so she can nest without being too obvious to predators, while the drake has a stunning shimmery green head and neck. The mallard drake has a reputation for being a rather unpleasant sexual predator, harrassing females and becoming notorious after a documented case of homosexual necrophilia, those of you who are not of a nervous disposition may read about it here.

For those of you wondering why ducks don’t get cold feet, it is all down to heat exchange. It has been calculated, by people cleverer than me, that mallards only lose 5% of their body heat through their feet. Heat will be exchanged more slowly if there is a smaller temperature difference between two objects. In a duck’s foot the warm arteries are close to the cold veins, so the warm arterial blood warms up the veins, whilst the arteries cool. This means that, overall, the blood in a duck’s foot is relatively cool – just warm enough to avoid frostbite, but cool enough to not be so different from the water temperature to lose much heat to it.

photo victoria footbridgeThese ducks are kept company by the inevitable flock of pigeons, grey squirrels and, on this occasion, a moorhen. These are similar to coots but with a distinctive red beak, they’re members of the Rail family and have lobed rather than webbed feet. They tend to feed around the edges of water.

Leaving the waterfowl to their fowl water, we head to the cleaner flow of the Wye itself. We cross over the Victoria footbridge, pausing for views up and down the river. The camera shake is down to the bridge moving as people walk across it, but I’m sure it is perfectly safe! Looking left the river disappears along its course, there are a couple of swans in the distance. A walk down river will often reward you with sightings of herons and kingfishers. Photo of River Wye

Towards the right there are views of Hereford Cathedral, discussed in Urban Bimble – Part Two. Photo of River Wye with cathedral

On the other side of the bridge are the King George V playing fields. George V reigned over the UK 1910 – 1936 and was the grandson of Queen Victoria, cousin to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany. The Russian Revolution and WWI were difficult times for the British royal family!

There are a large number of King George’s fields in the UK, after his death a committee was set up to find a suitable memorial. They arrived at this worthy aim: “To promote and to assist in the establishment throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of playing fields for the use and enjoyment of the people.” There were 471 playing fields in total, they must all display the heraldic panel and they can never be taken from us.

In the next exciting episode we shall stroll leisurely along the river and learn about how a soggy bulldog became a musical inspiration and meet an old bridge. Meanwhile I shall leave you with a snippet of William Wordsworth’s musings on the River Wye, from “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, you can read this and more Lyrical Ballads here:

If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

Painting of Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey by J. M. W. Turner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Urban Bimble – Part Three

My word, you are still here even after reading Part One and Part Two; then let us continue our brief scamper through Hereford City. We had just left Elgar musing at the cathedral and were feeding the ducks at what is left of the castle of Castle Green

Our bimble takes us to an area known as the Castle Green. Hereford Castle was one of the earliest castles to be built in England. It was commissioned by Ralph, Earl of Hereford, and was finished by 1052. In 1055 the Welsh trashed it. It had been rebuilt by 1067 under William FitzOsbern the Earl at the time. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that it was harassed by the gloriously named Eadric the Wild, an English “insurgent” against the Norman conquest and what self-respecting native wouldn’t be wild about such an occupation? It was generally battered about over the years as the English fought the Welsh led by Owain Glyndwr, and the English fought the English during the Civil War. It seems to have fallen into ruin by 1650. In 1746 the ruins were dismantled and the site became the Castle Green, with the remains of the moat becoming a duck of trees

These photographs were taken at the end of November 2013, so the trees are bedecked in their autumnal colours. The latest addition to the trees that line Castle Green is an oak sapling planted in March 2013. This sapling was grown from an acorn collected from the Trafalgar Oak Plantation in the Forest of Dean. This was planted shortly after Admiral Nelson’s death at the battle of Trafalgar. Nelson had urged the planting of more oaks as they were used to build warships.

In the centre of the Castle Green there is a monument to nelsons column Hereford It was erected in 1809 and should have had a statue of the great man himself on the top. However, due to a lack of money there is an urn instead. So Hereford was unable to compete with Trafalgar Square in London. We can never know if the greatest naval commander that ever lived would have been happy with an urn, but that is what he nelsons column hereford

Alongside the Castle Green runs the River Wye. This can be crossed by the Victoria Footbridge built in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is a good place to watch the trout, pike, ducks and occasionally victoria footbridge During severe floods the bridge sometimes is impassable.

There is a lot more to Hereford than is covered here. There are some very interesting buildings, a great deal of history and some very pleasant riverside walks. I hope that you have enjoyed this short trip through a small part of our Herefordian river wye