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  • Julie Muller

Return to Work at Brockhampton

nearest post code (WR6 5TB)

A red welsh sheepdog sits on the frosty parkland on National Trust's Brockhampton Estate
Bruno gazes across the parkland on the National Trust's Brockhampton Estate

It was a stunning but frosty cold day when Shep and I returned to work at the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate. For the last two weeks Julie has been battling with Covid and we had all been forced to self-isolate.

It was good to be back today, and we were excited at the prospect of new walks to explore and new people to meet.

We have a certain pattern to our days.

Generally, we walk on the estate before work and then, we spend the morning relaxing in the back of the car and meeting and greeting the visitors when they arrive.

It is amazing how many of them just want to give us a fuss. I love it. in fact, if humans don’t fuss us , I shout at them. However, my bark is so weak that everyone thinks that I sound like a cockerel, and they laugh at me – how rude!!

Our half-hours’ lunch break usually involves a walk around the blue orchard walk and then, we settle down to another few hours of human and canine interaction. At the end of the working day ,we finish off walking on the red walk at the top of the estate.

So, we actually walk three out of the four estate walks every time we come into work .

The fourth, woodland walk isn’t quite ready yet because there has had to be so much forestry work carried out because of Ash Die Back disease and the ravages of all of those winter storms.

This morning before work, Julie parked the car at the top of the estate by the church – she had forgotten the code for the gate- ha-ha. But from here you can access two walks – the red walk which give humans spectacular views across Herefordshire – and beyond – and the yellow walk (which can also be accessed from the lower part of the estate).

Of course, we decided to take the longer yellow parkland walk today.

It was beautiful start to the day. The frost gave the grassy slopes a lovely silvery grey sheen. The sun illuminated our misty white breaths as we trotted along. The ground was cold but firm to our paws. We were aware of the sheep bleating somewhere near to us, but the lie of the land meant that we couldn’t see them , so Julie kept us very close.

Two sheep dogs lie down on a frosty meadow on NT Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire
Shep and Bruno rest on the Red Walk on Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire

The path took us down to the lawn pool which was created as part of a landscape design by Thomas Legette, a landscape architect who followed the same basic formula as the better-known Launcelot Capability Brown. Here several moorhens hastily scrambled into the rushes as we approached, their feet leaving trails of ripples in their wake.

We skirted two sides of the pond before climbing out on to the parkland again and now we could see the sheep contentedly grazing on the slopes above us, their lambs bleating close by but not yet awake enough to leave their mothers’ side.

We stayed very close to Julie as we crossed the parkland. The warmth of the sun was beginning to thaw the grass and shining beads of water gathered and dripped from their tips.

Leaving the meadow, we entered the woodland, and we made our way back up the hill towards the car. The air was heavy with birdsong.

The walk had taken just over an hour.

We got back into the car and headed down to the Visitor Reception at Lower Brockhampton to start the day.

Two sheep dogs lie beneath a damson tree - frothy with white blossom
Shep and Bruno relax in Brockhampton Estate's damson orchards

At lunchtime we embarked on the relatively easy-going blue walk. To reach it we walked through the old damson orchard and, at this time of the year the trees are covered in frothy white blossom, alive with the buzz of insects. A wooden gate led us into the newly planted orchard. Many of the new trees are contained within a wooden enclosure which is shaped like a fruit basket. The walk weaves its way through a field , now uniformly green, but in the coming months will turn into a riot of brightly coloured wildflowers. These wildflowers will provide an additional source of nectar for the insects needed to pollinate the fruit trees.

Two sheepdogs lie down in damson orchard
Shep and Bruno lie in the damson orchard on National Trust Brockhampton Estate

By the end of the day, we were really tired so the red walk at the top of the estate was simply perfect. This red walk hugs the perimeter of the top two fields and gives spectacular uninterrupted views in all directions - often lit up by soft golden sunsets but not tonight.

The clouds seemed to be gathering and the sheep were huddling together in one corner of the field so we shortened our walk so as not to disturb them.

We got into the car – tired but happy – just the green walk to get under our belt now!

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