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Introduction to Herefordshire (1 Viewer)


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Herefordshire is a small, unspoilt county surrounded by hills, with the Shropshire hills in the north, the Malverns to the east and the Black Mountains rising to over 2300 feet in the west. To the south lies the Forest of Dean. The county is famous for its cattle and its cider making, and this is reflected in its mixture of fields and woodland. The county is crossed by the River Wye which emerges from a gap in the Welsh hills to the west near Hay-on-Wye before flowing east through Hereford and exiting through the Wye gorge, famous for its Peregrines. Its tributary the River Lugg flows south from the Shropshire border, joining the Wye to the east of Hereford.

The birds of Herefordshire are typical for the counties either side of the Welsh border, and include summer migrants such as Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. These should be looked for in deciduous woodland between late April and early June when their songs make them easier to locate. Preferred woodlands include Queenswood Country Park (map ref SO505515), Barnett Wood (SO402691), Haugh Wood (SO593365), and Lea and Paget’s Wood (SO597343). Resident birds associated with these woodlands include the ubiquitous Buzzard, Raven, Woodcock, Tawny Owl, all three woodpeckers, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

The Mortimer forest (SO475731) in the north of the county contains much planted coniferous woodland which is often good for Crossbills as well as commoner birds such as Siskins and Coal Tits. Access is good with Forestry Commission car parks on the road from Ludlow to Wigmore. A visit here can be combined with one to look for Hawfinches at Whitcliffe Common just across the Shropshire border.

The county contains a number of commons such as at Bircher Common (SO456661) in the north and Bringsty Common(SO698555). These also often contain woodland birds and summer warblers, and may attract a Great Grey Shrike in winter.

The short length in the county list compared to surrounding counties is due in part to there being only a few areas of wetland. The best two sites are Wellington Gravel Pits(SO507483) and Bodenham Lake (SO525515) to the north of Hereford. These attract wildfowl, passage terns and waders. Both the Wye and the Lugg occasionally flood in the winter and have in the past attracted wild swans and geese.

Upland birds can be found in the county by visiting the Black Mountains, especially the Olchon Valley (SO297300), north-west of Longtown. There are three parking areas: at Black Darren grid ref. SO297300; the Ford at grid ref. SO274337 and at Black Hill grid ref. SO287330. Then paths to hills, woods and Olchon Brook. Woodland and upland species found here include Red Grouse (scarce), Peregrine, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat, Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher and Raven.

Other areas not mentioned but which can be worth exploring include the Golden Valley between Dorstone and Pontrillas (woodland and upland species) and Hergest Ridge to the west of Kington (open ground species such as Stonechat and Wheatear).

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