Thursday, 7 October 2010

On Bredon Hill

Today is National Poetry Day 2010, so in honour my blog post makes slight allusion to Housman and Hopkins.

I went into Evesham Tourist Information to get hold of an OS Map and copies of walks on Bredon Hill. While there, I pottered into the Almonry Heritage Centre, which among many other items is full of 'tools of the trade'. Two titbits sprang out at me: the area is famous for its asparagus; and pot hampers were labelled with the letters "PPPP", which variously stand for Pershore Produce Properly Packed, or (according to the packers) Pershore People Poorly Paid.

Then I drove over to Ashton under Hill to do my chosen walk of 5 miles / 3 hours. The parish church is, unusually, dedicated to St Barbara, the patron saint of military engineers, artillery, miners and others who work with explosives, and mathematicians (hooray!). The only other such dedication I've seen was in Brittany. There were the remains of harvest offerings of hops and apples in the porch, and plenteous yew berries in the churchyard. I now think the red berries I saw in Pebworth were probably yew and guelder rose (drupes).

The first bit of hill was a bit of a shock; my last Dartmoor walk was about six weeks ago, and I felt very unfit. After a short climb, I sat in the shade of an oak, having evicted a ladybird from a convenient root, and gazed down on the church and across at a windhover on the thermals. On the plateau of Little Hill, there was a heavily-pollarded beech among a small group of trees. It had managed to put forth some new growth, but didn't look happy. The air was quite still as I climbed further, through fields enclosed by dry stone walls and profuse and fructiferous hawthorn, and a few gnarled elders still bearing some sprays of berries on leafless branches.

Up on Great Hill, the noise of a tractor ploughing broke the stillness, but the views were superb. The Malverns were just visible to the west over further contours. To the east the fields of Vale of Evesham, to the south Oxenton and Langley Hills, and aloft fields of cumulus with a very clear cloud base, with smears of cumulus and contrails directly overhead. As I stopped to look round, another kestrel flew across me to seek rodents in the wall below, and then I turned and spotted a horseshoe cemented into the wall behind me, hung with a heart-shaped metal tag stamped 'Spartan General 1964-1997'.

There was a small wood beside the path on this rise, mostly ash and beech, mixed with hawthorn and a few pine. The wind got up a little, and rustled the autumn leaves. My route turned right and downhill into the wood, where the ashes soared as they competed for light, and struggling sycamores lined the path with tar spots on their leaves. A brilliant yellow beech stood on the corner as the path exited the wood.

But then I managed to miss a path off to the right. By the time I'd realised, I'd gone downhill some way, so didn't want to retrace my steps and worked out another route. I didn't have my compass with me, so had a go at finding north using my analogue watch and the sun, which was somewhat imprecise! So I had to concentrate on map reading rather than Noticing Things. My route took me east of Ashton Wood instead of west. Although a bit of a longer way round, it looked as though it involved many fewer contours.

The last part of the path lay along the edge of a large ploughed field heaving with dozens of pheasant. Some instinct made them seek cover, so they all moved to my edge of the field, and then had to fly off with much panicked beating of wings. And then I was back on the village road.

1 comment:

  1. Also, the Burnt Norton of TS Eliot's quartet is very close to Broad Marston.