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DYMOCK Woods is the collective name for a group of 17 woods in what is sometimes known as the Golden Triangle.
This is an area of north Gloucestershire and south Herefordshire where wild daffodils still occur in some profusion, though they’re not nearly as numerous as they were in the days when special excursion trains brought visitors from London to view the flowers.
The railway was axed in the 1960s, but the daffodils still cling on, blooming in the woods, and along some hedgerows and field edges.
In places, especially in Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust nature reserves, the daffodils occur in spectacular numbers.
The daffodil parishes like to celebrate their heritage and Oxenhall is staging its annual daffodil weekend today and tomorrow, with guided walks from the parish hall, where daffodil teas will be served.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is running a similar event, with guided walks from Betty Daw’s Wood.
The trust has several nature reserves in the area, the smallest of which is Gwen and Vera’s Fields, which looks stunning when the daffodils are at their peak.
One of the two tiny fields is a remnant orchard and powerfully illustrates the high wildlife value of orchard grasslands, most of which have been destroyed in recent years.
The very rare autumn crocus flowers here too, though you’ll need to return in September to see that. Other features of interest include a stretch of the disused Hereford and Gloucester Canal, currently being restored by Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust.
It’s a daunting task but the trust has done some brilliant restoration work at Oxenhall Lock.
In 1796, a branch line was built from Oxenhall to a wharf between Hills House and Lower House (see map) where coal was mined.
It’s long gone now but traces of it remain by Brockmorehead Brook (see point five).
Start: Newent, on the B4215 south of Ledbury, grid ref SO721260. Length: Eight miles/13km. Maps: OS Explorer OL14, OS Landranger 149/162. Terrain: Pasture, woodland, orchard; a few slopes but nothing too demanding. Footpaths: Mostly excellent, though waymarking is absent or incorrect in places. Stiles: 19. Parking: Newent. Public transport: Train or Aston’s 417 to Ledbury then Stagecoach 132 to Newent, Mon-Sat; herefordbus.info or 0871 2002233. Refreshments: Newent. There’s also a shop at St Anne’s Vineyard (Wednesday to Sunday).
1 Leave Newent on Watery Lane, near the library and clinic. Turn first right on Holts Road and follow it to the B4221. Cross to Horsefair Lane and follow it for 400m to Horsefair Wharf where you can join a footpath (Geopark Way) on the right, which leads to the Hereford and Gloucester Canal. Join the towpath and follow it to Cold Harbour Bridge. Pass under the bridge, join the lane and ignore incorrect waymarking which suggests that the Geopark Way continues along the towpath. In fact, the towpath is only passable for a further 300m and the Geopark Way goes left along the lane.
2 Take a path on the left at a bend in the lane and follow the Geopark Way (correctly waymarked now) through fields and orchards to a farm. Pass between the house and a breezeblock building to find access to a lane and turn left, leaving the Geopark Way. At Holders Farm take a footpath on the right, crossing two fields and an embankment (the former railway) to meet a lane. Turn right.
3 Take a path on the right, just before St Anne’s Vineyard. Walk to the corner of a wood then go obliquely right across a field to a stile by a water trough, then diagonally across the next field to the far right corner. Follow field edges to a lane at Four Oaks and turn left, then soon left again into Betty Daw’s Wood. Walk to a Tjunction and turn left. Turn right at the next junction then straight on at the far side of the wood to pass through a gate into a field. Paths are waymarked to left and right but you want another which goes roughly straight on, soon by the left-hand field edge, to Greenaway’s Wood.
4 There are two paths here – take the left-hand one (not the public footpath) and go left at the next junction. Turn right at a Tjunction and soon right again, shortly joining a lane by Gwen and Vera’s Fields nature reserve. Turn right, passing Poultry Park, then go left to Shaw Common. Turn left within the wood and stick to the main path which soon swings right, descending into a shallow valley then climbing slightly through a clearing. Turn left at the next junction, soon crossing two stiles to gain access to Hay Wood. Go straight on, ignoring all turnings, for 700m.
5 The path crosses a brook and a little further on there is a junction where you have a choice of three paths – take the left-hand one. Follow it to a lane and cross to a path opposite, which turns left along the valley of Brockmorehead Brook. Cross the brook when you come to a footbridge. You’ll soon come to another footbridge – don’t cross this, but if you just step on to it you can read an information panel about the Hereford and Gloucester Coal Branch. Though it seems illogical, if you’re to keep to the right of way, you should now turn right by this bridge, and then, after about 100m, as you approach Ell Brook, you should turn round and go diagonally right to rejoin Brockmorehead Brook.
6 Cross Brockmorehead Brook at the next footbridge, close to its confluence with Ell Brook. Go left to pass through a gate then follow a fence to another gate. Continue in the same direction to join a lane and turn right. Turn right again at Oxenhall, then take the next left to follow Horsefair Lane back to Newent.