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Golden Valley Environment Group
Flowering plants of the parish of Clifford
Merbach Hill commons project
River Wye
Agricultural information

Introduction
Clifford is a predominantly agricultural parish, dominated by hills (Merbach hill rises to 318m), woodland, the river, and various features associated with agricultural development. Further environmental information, such as geological features and natural history, will be posted on this page as it becomes available.

The section on 'flowering plants' was put together by a local resident. If any local resident has undertaken research which they would like to share on the site, please contact Dave, the website manager.



Golden Valley Environment Group
Clifford is situated at the north-western end of the Golden Valley, where environmental stewardship efforts are coordinated by the Golden Valley Environment Group (GVEG). Information below is taken from GVEG's 'statement of purpose'. GVEG has its own website.

The main purpose of GVEG is to enable individuals and groups to achieve sustainable communities within and around the Golden Valley and to facilitate positive action in the community to benefit the environment locally and globally.

GVEG started in the autumn of 2006 and has undertaken a range of awareness raising initiatives and supported local families and groups to establish environmental actions. Our legal body - Green Action CIC (Community Interest Company) acts as a community enterprise providing a financial and legal umbrella for GVEG and other local environment groups needing to raise funds and develop projects. GVEG has a committee of 8 members, of which 3 are also directors of Green Action CIC.

GVEG is one of many local groups in Herefordshire which are made up of residents, public bodies and business people who are working together to investigate and put into practice ways of reducing pollution, waste and energy consumption.  We also support local economic and joint venture initiatives to increase community resources.

We recognise that the core problem of climate warming is causing environmental degradation and that the solution lies in a multiplicity of sustainable communities’ actions based on physical, social, economic, human, natural and cultural values in organising, working in and living in, communities.  

Our operational objectives are to:

•    influence individuals, groups and organisations to take action to reduce pollution and waste, and increase resources and economic well being
•    promote good environmental policies and practices in the workplace, at home and in the community
•    raise small grants and develop projects to pilot and promote environmentally good practices
•    work with other environmental and sustainable communities groups around the country through joint ventures and promotional campaigns
•    work with our Parish Councils and Herefordshire Council to research and develop local policies for sound environmental practices

Value Base:   
•    engagement of local individuals and groups to achieve our objectives
•    openness about what, how and when we do things
•    act democratically and in accordance with our Governance Statement
•    zero waste in production, transport and disposal of materials

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Flowering plants of the parish of Clifford

The following lists were provided by Hardwicke resident Alison Alcock  based on information in W. Keble Martin’s The Concise British Flora in Colour. It is not a comprehensive list, but it provides a very thorough general overview.

A (hard-copy) list of fungi in the churchyards of St Mary's Church, Clifford and the Holy Trinity Church, Hardwicke is available from the website manager. The list is based on surveys undertaken by local mycologists during 2006.

Trees
Woods
Hedgerows
Gardens and cultivated ground
Meadows
Dry places
Brooks and damp places

Trees
Clifford is blessed with plenty of trees, in hedgerows, small woods and plantations. There are plantations of larch (Larix) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). The main woodland trees are oak (Quercus rober), ash (Fraxinus excelsior) with an understorey of holly (Ilex aquifolium) and hazel (Corylus avellena).

Hawthorn or may (Crataegus monogyna) grows not only in hedgerows but scattered around Little Mountain, Alt Common and Merbach in gnarled and characterful shapes, their white blossoms like snow in May. Also in hedges and elsewhere are field maple (Acer campestre), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) – with its clouds of white blossom followed by sloes, bullace (Prunus domestica) – with fruit like little round damsons, crab apple (Malus sylvestris) its beautiful pink and white blossoms opening in April, its sour little apples making a delicious jelly.

Elder (Sambucus nigra) which has creamy-white frothy heads of flowers which turn into black berries, dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and ivy (Hedera helix) are also found in hedges, the ivy also growing up trees and walls etc, its October flowers providing vital nectar for insects before winter. Also to be found in the woods are beautiful trees of wild cherry (Prunus avium), silver and downy birch (Betula pendula and B. pubescens) and on the edges and in hedgerow spindle (Euonymus europeus) with its colourful fruits – bright pink cases hiding bright orange seeds. In damper places are white willow (Salix alba), great and common sallow (Salix caprea and S. atrocinerea), alder (Alnus glutinosa) – with its purple catkins, and aspen (Populus tremula).

The glorious yellow coconut-scented flowers of gorse (Ulex europeus) adorn the commons and some field edges along with the bright yellow flowers of broom (Cytisus scoparius) and the western gorse (Ulex gallii) which, unlike common gorse, blossoms in late summer. There are a few rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) in the higher places, and yew (Taxus baccata) in both churchyards, hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) above Pen-y-Lan and a splendid specimen of small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) growing at Lower Middlewood. The sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) can also be seen throughout the parish.

Woods
There are many smaller plants growing in the woods, the lovely wood anenome (Anenome nemorosa) and bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus) being prolific where they do grow. Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) and blackcurrants (Ribes negrum) can be found. Primroses (Primula vulgaris) can be found in woods and on banks in the spring, and foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) in the summer.

Less obvious beauties are wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), wood dogviolet (Viola reichanbachiana), bugle (Ajuga reptans), yellow pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), wood speedwell (Veronica Montana), moschatel or townhall clock (Adoxa moschatellina) – with its tiny cubic head of five green flowers, lords and ladies or cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) - with its strange green-hooded ‘flowers’ and spikes of poisonous orange berries, and hairy wood-rush (Luzula pilosa).

More humble still are three-veined sandwort (Moehringia trinerva), herb bennet (Geum urbanum), red-veined dock (Rumex sanguineus), sanicle (Sanicula europaea), ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia), Dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), woodland meadow-grass (Poa nemoralis), wood melick (Melica uniflora), woodland brome (Bromus ramosus) and wood false-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum).

You might find early purple orchids (Orchis mascula), the Roast beef plant (Iris foetidissima), the parasitic toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) and greater broomrape (Orobanche rapum-genistae).

On fruit trees, hawthorn, poplars etc, Herefordshire’s county plant mistletoe (Viscum album) grows prolifically. In woods, on banks, all over the place grows the lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) brightening wherever it grows with its shiny yellow petals.

Hedgerows
In the hedges and on their banks and verges grow refugees from wood and meadow, often growing more abundantly then in their original habitats. The year starts in early spring with celandines and primroses (see above) and the delightful white, deep purple or, occasionally, pinky-mauve scented flowers of the sweet violet (Viola odorata). Then come dog and common violets (Viola canina and V. riviniana), barren strawberry (Ptentialla sterilis), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), white dead-nettle (Lamium album) – which you can sometimes find in the autumn and winter too, yellow archangel (Galeobdolon luteum), Jack-by-the-hedge (Allilaria petiolata) which has mild garlicky leaves, greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) - with its prolific white stars, red campion (Melandrium dioica) more deep pink then red, strawberry (Fragaria vesca) – followed by its delicious little fragrant red fruits, great white clouds of cow parsley (Anthiscus sylvestris) – followed by lesser white clouds of chervil (Chaerophyllum temulentum) and hedge parsley (Torilis japonica).

In summer the beautiful bright blue flowers of bird’s-eye or germander speedwell (Veronica chaemedrys) adorn grassy banks along with lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea), ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and in damper places greater chickweed (Steallaria neglecta), herb robert (Geranium robertanium), shining cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) and codlins and cream or greatwer willow-herb (Epilobium hirsutum). The showy magenta pink rosebay willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) grows in great patches, its seeds blowing away in white fluff later in the year and the pretty and elegant St John’s wort (Hyperiucm pulchrum) grows on dryer banks. Higher in the hedges grow brambles (Rubus ssp.) beloved for their blackberries if not for their thorns, beautiful dog roses (Raso canina) and white field roses (Rosa arvensis), sweetly-scented and followed by their orange-red hips. Three hedge climbers are black bryony (Tamus communis) with its strings of poisonous, translucent red fruits, the Herefordshire speciality hop (Humulus lupulus) and masses (if it hasn’t been cut off by overenthusiastic hedge-trimmers) of honeysuckle (Lornicera periclymenum) with its wonderful fragrance.

Later in the year come the splendid blue-tufted vetch (Vicia cracca), yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), betony (Betonica officinalis), wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia) and golden rod (Solidago vigoria), all very pretty. There are many of the woodland and meadow grasses, but barren brome (Bromus sterilis) is most often found in hedgerows.

A verge plant of the winter which ends and then starts the year is the vanilla-scented winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrens) which grows in large-leaved patches.

Gardens and cultivated ground
Unfortunately, because of herbicides, there are not many wild flowers left in cultivated fields. But as almost everyone in the parish has a garden, they will know all about so-called ‘weeds’. Those that are the biggest nuisance are couch grass (Agropyron repens), greater bindweed (Calystegia sepium) – despite its very lovely white trumpet flowers, ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsute), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) with its beautiful yellow flowers and goosegrass (Gallium aperine) which sometimes seems to be making a bid to take over the world in gardens and hedges.

Some ‘weeds’ are very pretty, such as daisy (Bellis perennis), dandelion (Taraxacum officinals), fumitory (Fumaria capreolata), scarlet pimpernel or poor-man’s-weather-glass (Anagallis arvensis), field pansy (Viola arvensis), Persian speedwell (Veronaica percsica), slender speedwell (Veronica filiformis) – which sometimes makes a blue haze over lawns, creeping cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans), ribwort plantain (Plantago lanciolata) – with its dark-brown conical heads and ring of cream stamens, and nipplewort (Lapsana communis). Sometimes the handsome great silvery green rosettes and tall silvery spikes with yellow flowers of common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) appear.

Other garden wild flowers are wartcress (Coronopus squamatus), shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), chickweed (Stellaria media), common pearlwort (Sagina procumbens), annual pearlwort (Sagina apetela), hairy willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum), broad-leaved willowherb (Epilobium montanum), square-stalked willowherb (Epilobium tetragonum), cudweed (Filago germanica) – a gunny little grey woolly plant – pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides) which smells just like pineapples. You can often find the cudweed and pineapple weed round farm gates. Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), smooth sowthistle (Sonchus oleaceous), prickly sowthistle (Sonchus asper), common forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis), grey speedwell (Veronica polita), Greenfield speedwell (Veronica officinalis), thyme-leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia), woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) – which smells foul, red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum), greater plantain (Plantago major), common orache (Atriplex patula), sun spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia), petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus), knot grass Polygonum aviculare), red-leg (Polygonum persicara) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Meadows
There are very few ancient meadows left, but many of the meadow plants still survive, and some abound. Meadows in May and June may be golden with bulbous and meadow buttercups (Ranunculus bulbosus and R. acris). Nearly all meadow flowers, even the grasses, are very attractive, meadow cranesbill (Geranium pratense) with its great blue saucers being perhaps the most splendid. Other are: lady’s smock (Cardamine pratense) in damp spots, red clover (Trifolium pratense), zig-zag clover (Trifolium medium), white clover (Trifolium repens), meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), devil’s-bit scabious (Succia pratensis), yarrow (Achillea millifolium), ox-eye daisy (chrysanthemum leucanthemum), meadowsweet (Filipenula ulmaria) in damper places, hardheads (Centaurea nigra), cat’s-ear (Hypochoeris radicata), corn sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), goatsbeard (Tragopogon pratensis) with its great ‘clocks’, the delightful harebell (Campnula rotundifolia), the honey-scented cowslip (primula veris), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) and three comparative rarities: meadow saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata), green-winged orchid (Orchis morio) and meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale).

The following are some of the humbler meadow inhabitants: common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), clustered mouse-ear (Cerastium glomerata), cut-leaved cranesbill (Geranium dissectum), black medick (Medicago upulina), hop trefoil (Trifolium campestre), bush vetch (Vicia sepium), common vetch (Vicia sativa), agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), pignut (Conopodium majus), pepper saxifrage (Silaum silaus), hogweed (Heracleum sphondyleum), ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), the three thistles creeping (Cirsium arvense) – which has a very pleasant scent however much of a nuisance it is, spear (Cirsium vulgare) and marsh (Cirsium palustre) which grows in damp fields. Smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaries), hay rattle (Rhinanthus minor), sorrel (Rumes acetosa), sharp dock (Rumes conglomerates), broad-leaved dock (Rumes obtusifolius), curled dock (Rumes crispus), and Good Friday grass (Luzula campestre).

There are several true grasses: meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratense), timothy (Phleum pratense), creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera), common bent (Agrostis tenuis), sweet vernal (Anthoxanthum odoratum) which gives hay its distinctive scent, creeping soft-grass (Holcus mollis), Torkshire fog (Holcus lanatus), tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), yellow oat-grass (Trisetum flavescens), oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), crested dog’s-tail (Cynosurus cristatus), cocksfoot (Dactylis glmorata), annual meadow grass (Poa annua), rough meadow grass (Poa trivialis), meadow grass (Poa pratensis), sheep’s fesue (Festuca ovina), red fescue (Festuca rubra), meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis), and rye grass (Lolium perenne). 

Dry places
These are plants that can be found on the short cropped grass and old quarries on Merbach and Little Mountain and on walls etc. They include common milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), soft-leaved cranesbill (Geranium molle), the lovely lemon yellow mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella), and the golden autumn hawkbit (Leontodon taraxacoides), bird’s-foot trefoil or lady’s slipper or bacon and egges or whatever you like to call this enchanting little plant (Lotus corniculatus), tormentil (Potentilla erecta), whitlow grass (Erophila verna), thyme-leaved sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia), trailing St John’s wort (Hypericum humisufum), lesser yellow trefoil (Trifolium dubium), wall sppedwell (Veronica arvensis), red bartsia (Odontites verna), delightful aromatic wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), sheep’s sorrel (Rumes acetosella), silvery hair-grass (Aira caryophyllea), navelwort or pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris), prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) and ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis).

Brooks and damp places
In this category are lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula), watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquatica), wavy bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides), figwort (Scrophularia nodosa), the impressive but invasive alien Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), bog stitchwort (Stellaria alsine), the tiny blinks (Montia fontana), marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), butterbur (Petasites hybridus) – which flowers early in the year and then grows enormous leaves, the wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum) and the common rush (Juncus conglomoratus).

There are also snowdrops (Galanthus nivalius) and daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) that carpet St Mary’s churchyard in late winter and spring which are no doubt wild but got marooned in this safe haven.

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Merbach Hill commons project
Merbach Hill common is one of 12 Herefordshire commons involved in a project, managed in a partnership between Herefordshire Nature Trust, English Nature and Herefordshire Council, to develop sustainable long-term management of the commons.  

A management plan has been developed, which includes the following  'vision statement':

- A programme of bracken clearance and the re-introduction of grazing livestock will restore areas of grassland to the common.  This should benefit a range of plant species.

- Surveys for butterflies, moths, reptiles, dormice and the wildlife of the ponds will increase knowledge of the ecology of the common.  An archaeological suvey will increase knowledge of previous human activity.  

- The mosaic of habitats on the common will continuie to support a significant bird list.

- The footpaths and bridleways on the comon wil be kept open and accessible and some coppicing of trees will enable the excellent views across the surrounding countryside to be retained and enjoyed.

- Interpretation panels and information on the Bredwardine village website will explain the history, ecology and archaeology of the common.  

- By encouraging Clifford Primary School to 'adopt' the common it is hoped to engender a sense of interest in, and ownership of, the common amongst local children from an early age.  

Regular work parties have been organised in order to take this work forward, including path clearance and the construction of bird boxes with the help of children from the school.  Details of upcoming work parties will be posted in this website; for further information please e-mail project manager Tim Breakwell.  

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River Wye
Clifford is bounded along the north and west by the River Wye, which at 251km is one of the country’s longest rivers. The river rises in the dramatic uplands of mid Wales, flowing past Rhayader, Builth Wells, Clifford, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth and enters the Severn Estuary at Chepstow.

The Wye is unusual in that there is a public right of navigation. This has been in place at least since an Act of Parliament in 1662.  The river, which is largely unpolluted, is consequently very popular for recreational boating and canoeing.

The Wye provides a wide range of wildlife habitats and supports a number of rare species which justifies its selection as one of only three rivers in Britain to be designated as a Special Site of Scientific Interest.  The river is regarded as one of the best salmon fisheries in Britain and it also provides excellent coarse fishing.

wye from merbach
View of the River Wye looking north from Merbach hill
Photo: Dave Prescott

By normal standards the Wye is not a navigable river for large craft due to its long stretches of shallow streamy water. The upper river contains many rocky stretches. Prior to the construction of tarmac roads, and before the era of the internal combustion engine and the lorry, waterways including both canals and rivers were the most effective way of transporting goods from the coast inland and between inland towns. 

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Wye was used for the transportation of goods to and from Hereford and above, to Moccas, Whitney, Clifford and Hay-on-Wye - though barge traffic to Clifford and Hay was limited by the shallow water and lack of a bridlepath. In 1805 it was estimated that about 500 men were employed in hauling barges up the Wye and bringing about 15,000 tons of goods annually up-river to Hereford.

Sources:
The Environment Agency

The River Wye website
The Landscape Origins of the Wye Valley project


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Agricultural information
Details to follow.

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Send questions or feedback relating to this website to: cliffordparish(at)gmail.com [replace 'at' with @]