A lost world

In the foothills of the Black Mountains, at the far western edge of Herefordshire, lies a remote valley. It feels a place where time stands still. A tumbling brook runs through the valley bottom, rushing steeply down from the moorland plateau over ancient sandstone. In a secluded ravine, sheltered by ash, rowan and silver birch, the brook falls over a drop a few metres high. Hiking down to the hidden waterfall provides a feeling of entering a lost world - a land before time.

The arrival of autumn

Late September, as mild days merge with chilly nights, has provided a few misty early mornings in Herefordshire. Together with the shortening daylight hours, this inevitably gives a feeling that autumn has arrived, as the verdant greens of summer begin to fade.

On Garway Hill

A walk up to the World War II Radio Tracking Station on the top of Garway Hill is one of finest in Herefordshire. On the way up, you pass by a permanent pond known as the Black Pool. The ponies that roam the hillside all year round can often be found drinking (or even bathing) at the pond. On this sunny afternoon, these three white ponies were gathered at the pool’s edge, with the rolling countryside of Herefordshire in the distance beyond.

A swathe of willowherb

Sometimes you visit somewhere close to home and wonder why on earth you don’t go more regularly. This was exactly how I felt after a recent family walk at Credenhill Park Wood, owned and managed by the Woodland Trust. Despite being just a short drive from home, it is not somewhere we have ventured for several years.

On a sunny day in late June, the warm glades in the woods were busy with butterflies of many different species. Red admirals, Commas, Small tortoiseshells and Large whites fluttered by and - most spectacularly of all - stunning orange Silver-washed fritillaries danced through the treetops and down over our heads.

Emerging from the woods and onto the top of the Iron Age hillfort in the centre of the site, we were greeted with the amazing spectacle of a seemingly endless swathe of flowering Rosebay willowherb, stretching away into the distance. The pink flowers framed every view between the trees to the low-lying farmland and distant hills beyond.

We will definitely be returning soon.

High in the Black Mountains

The farthest western reaches of Herefordshire, where the Black Mountains rise to Offa’s Dyke, provide dramatic walks and panoramic views. They also provide a suitable home to alpine floral species not found elsewhere locally and for whom these hills are towards the southern and eastern boundary of their range in the UK.

One such plant is Mossy saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides), which carpets the grassy crevices among the high rocky scree towards the end of May in a fabulous, breathtaking display.

This year it seemed to bloom in profusion as never before. The delicate beauty of its white flowers and russet stems, all swaying in unison in the fresh breeze, was a joy to behold.

A yellow landscape

The landscape of Herefordshire suddenly seems to be yellow. From fields of oilseed rape, to the flaming gorse on the upland hills, to the profusion of buttercups in the meadows and churchyards - yellow seems to be everywhere.

The flowering gorse in particular seems vibrant and widespread this year. Walking amongst it is an uplifting and fragrant experience.

I find it impossible to resist the temptation to photograph these moments, when springs feels at its peak and the prospect of summer looms large.

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