BROCKHAMPTON - Walks Down Memory Lane
(Nearest post code WR6 5TB)
The Brockhampton Estate has changed so much since Julie started working for the National Trust here in February.
In the early days our walks were wet and muddy and despite having four-paw drive, Bruno and I would slither and slide all over the place.
Any visitors to the property only had to look at our somewhat disreputable mud-caked appearance to know exactly what the walks had in store for them. At that time, the estate woodland looked like a ‘sea of devastation’. So many trees had been hewn and abandoned. The ground beneath them was bare and the paths were heavily rutted by caterpillar tracks produced as a result of the heavy machinery which had been used to create four brand new trails.
Now, four months on, things are very different!
The red walk at the top of the estate is one that Bruno and I know very well, and it is a firm favourite with all of the local dogs and their humans too. The ground is usually dry to both paws and shoes and there are fantastic views in all directions. We usually share our walk with the ewes and lambs that live here, and some of them seem determined to prevent any car driving onto the estate. The lambs just lie down on the driveway and refuse to budge. I would just love to chase them off but that is definitely a no-no!!
When the new yellow and green walks were first opened, they seemed quite alien to what we were used to. In places the surface of the path had been dressed with pale grey chippings and these felt a bit sharp and uncomfortable to our paws. Indeed, the paths did not seem to gel with the surrounding shrubs and trees at all. There was still so much timber just lying around and no sign of any wildflowers.
But now, miraculously, the woods have sprung into life again and, as the weeks have passed, a succession of wildflowers have carpeted the bare earth – first the snowdrops, the bluebells and the lilac lady’s smock, then wood anemones with drifts of frothy white wild garlic. A variety of bright green ferns have emerged and unfurled their fronds towards the light whilst delicately scented honeysuckle meanders its way through the undergrowth.
The once hard surfaced paths are mellowing all of the time as plants push their way through to the surface. Everything is softer and our morning walk leads us through tunnels of green light, and deer regularly cross our path. The surfaced sections are still hot to our paws, so we like to dabble them in the deliciously cold water in the brook.
Our walks are no longer muddy. The paths are still as steep as ever and prone to be slippery after rain, but we take it all in our stride.
Bruno and I particularly like walking down to the Lawn Pool which is part of the yellow walk.
Sometimes there are young cattle grazing in the fields above it and this can be a little bit scary if they are too close to the gate. Bruno particularly likes to shout at them but luckily, they normally take no notice of us and if they show any interest , we just walk that little bit faster with Julie holding on to our leads for dear life!!
The yellow walk is still being worked on because it skirts around the Lawn Pool – a lake created by the Irish landscape gardener, Thomas Leggett in the eighteenth century and positioned so that it could be seen from the big house. Since those days the trees have grown up around it and the lake overflows after heavy rain and this has weakened the dam. The local badgers haven’t been much help either having chosen to build their sett with a lakeside view and so putting even more pressure on the dam.
However, all of these problems are now being tackled, the trees have been removed to restore the view, new drainage channels have been constructed to prevent overflow, the badgers have been encouraged to move home and a new reinforced dam has been constructed with a pathway across. We can’t wait to use it!
The main new walk that has been constructed is the blue Orchard walk and this walk is popular because it is easily accessible to absolutely everyone from the very old to the very young.
It is a lovely walk that leads through the old damson orchards and then winds through newly planted fruit trees and burgeoning wildflower meadows. Usually there are groups of lively black Hebridean sheep grazing here and, quite disconcertingly, they just seem to love to try to round us up. It is so exciting that Bruno finds it impossible to stay quiet and the noisier he is the livelier are the sheep. He definitely needs his Sheep Safe training if not for his sake, for the sake of my poor nerves.
Once, there were large numbers of orchards in Herefordshire but over the last century, many have been lost as land use has changed. Three years ago, the ‘re imagining Brockhampton’s orchards’ project’ was begun – the aim of which was to restore Brockhampton’s lost orchards. Since then, over 700 trees have been planted including trees native to our hedgerows together with many old varieties of apple, damson, pear and plum.
At the heart of the main orchard is an unusual five-chambered enclosure which explains the origin of the humble eating apple from its origins in Kazakhstan to the present-day Herefordshire cider apple. From the air, this enclosure looks like the core of an apple and lots of new young fruit trees have been planted in each of the five lobes.
The enclosure around the young trees is meant to protect them from being eaten by the sheep but three very naughty lambs keep on ‘breaking in’ and feasting on the fresh green growth. These serial offenders have had to be ousted several times!!
Further along the walk, there are many other small round themed enclosures – some of which contain animal sculptured benches and there are lots of things for little humans to do as well. Out of all of the sculptures, I think that Bruno and I like the foxes best, but our favourite part of the walk is the Herefordshire Bull – a wooden boat that was once used to transport the fruit along the river. We just love climbing aboard and posing on deck. I bet all of the humans love it too.