Car Tour 3
This is the final part of the tour exploring the legacy of the Ice Age in the west of Herefordshire. It covers the north-eastern part of the area, between Staunton-on Arrow and the Lugg Valley to the eastern limit reached by the ice. Here the hummocky landscapes are larger-scale, banked up against the northern bedrock hills with a variety of erosional channels. The tour ends with a spectacular viewpoint site on top of the Orleton moraine.
Click map markers to explore the tour
Introduction to part 3
We have now reached the final part of the tour exploring the legacy of the Ice Age in the west of Herefordshire. This route the north-eastern part of the area, between Staunton-on Arrow and the Lugg Valley to the eastern limit reached by the ice. Here the hummocky landscapes are larger-scale, banked up against the northern bedrock hills with a variety of erosional channels. The tour ends with a spectacular viewpoint site on top of the Orleton moraine.
Start point Staunton on Arrow
If you have not continued from part 2, the start is in the centre of Staunton on Arrow village, SO370 601 (post code HR6 9HR).
Itinerary distance 21 km (14 miles). Allow up to 2 hours for local walks at certain sites.
Highlights | back to map
Large-scale landscapes with evidence of changing river courses and streamlined landforms; scenic ponds and parkland.
Directions to site 29
Our route takes you north from Staunton on Arrow, turning right at the first junction at the edge of the village and then straight across at a crossroads (Stockley Cross) after a few hundred metres continuing on minor roads towards Byton. Site 29 is at the roadside 1.5 km (1 mile) further on.
Site 29 stopping point
Stopping place for view of hummocky moraines.
29: Hummocky moraines | back to map
Here our view to the west-north-west shows hummocky moraines banked up against the flank of Wapley Hill that bounded the glacier to the north-west, as you can see in the picture.
Route to site 30
Continue for 500 m to the B4362 Presteigne-Shobdon road. For a quick stop, pause briefly here (Site 30A) and look down into the Lugg Valley below. For a longer stop, turn left and left again and continue for 250 metres uphill (Site 30B).
30: LIDAR of site 30 area | back to map
LIDAR image of the landscape around Site 30, looking north.
The ancestral River Lugg is thought to have flowed south-east through the Byton Gap. During one of the ice ages, a lake built up immediately in front of the glacier, known as a proglacial lake. The lake was dammed by the ice to the south. The level of meltwater in this lake eventually rose to a low point in the surrounding hills, through which it overflowed, cutting the Kinsham Gorge, now occupied by the River Lugg.
There is a possible parking place on the left. In the winter, a public footpath up to the right (west) side of the road leads at the top of the slope to a viewpoint (point V on the previous LIDAR image) to the right of the path which looks north into the Lugg Valley from Wapley Hill, but in the summer the route and viewpoint are choked with bracken.
Views of Lugg Valley
View north from Wapley Hill (point V on previous LIDAR image) into the Lugg valley (winter 2002).
The river Lugg originally flowed through Byton gap, but now passes through Kinsham gorge.
Hummocky moraine near BytonHummocky moraine near Byton gap (2002 photograph). Similar views can be seen at Site 30B.
Directions to sites 31 and 32
Continue east from site 30 on the B4362 for 1.5 kilometre (1 mile) and then turn left on the minor road to Uphampton, parking is on the verge on the left. Site 31 is at the road junction, whilst Site 32 is 200 metres along the road on the right.
Viewpoint for site 31
As shown the viewpoint is opposite the road junction.
31: Hummocky moraines south of road | back to map
Looking south in winter at hummocky moraines south of the main road.
LIDAR overview sites 31 to 34
LIDAR image: overview of Sites 31 to 34 with emphasis on the main landscape features: hummocky moraines and meltwater channels. The viewpoint of the photograph from Site 31 is to the rounded moraines to the south. The image shows that the apparent streamlining of the moraines in the view from the road is misleading and that they have no elongation when viewed from vertically above.
Pond on hummocky moraines
Site 32. View into field to east of road. You can see a pond on moraines with an open aspect and grazed margins.
Directions to site 33
Follow the road for 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles), parking on the right (Site 33A) just after a bend where there is a farm entrance on the left.
Parking for site 33
Parking spot for site 33. Walk back along the road 100 metres to reach the view point (33) where we can see the spectacular meltwater channel.
33: Spectacular meltwater channel | back to map
Oblique view of meltwater channel that runs for 500 metres, cut into bedrock. A thin superficial layer of slope deposits (head) is being used for badger setts. The near slope is south-facing and has an abundance of flowering plants in Spring. The channel has been modified by quarrying in the 19th century.
Directions to site 34
Follow the road downhill for 400 metres and turn left at the crossroads onto the Shobdon Estate road, stopping after 50 metres.
Stopping for site 34
Stopping place for Site 34 on the historic Shobdon Court estate.
34: View S along meltwater channel | back to map
Site 34. View downhill (south) along line of meltwater channel which continues from site 33.
View N along the meltwater channel
View north along the line of a meltwater channel where a pond has been created by the damming effect of the road. The pond is covered in duckweed with water cress and rushes at the margins. Duckweed favours nutrient-rich locations, here provided by abundant leaf litter.
Shobdon Court Estate
A side visit to the Shobdon Estate is recommended. Although not a commercial touristic site, there is permissive access by car to the Church and there are public footpaths that cross the estate. Drive westwards from Site 34, turning left at the crossroads by the church and leave transport there. The picture shows an icy Swan Pool east of the north-south private road crossing the Shobdon Estate, December 2017.
Shobdon Court itself was a grand house, similar in design to Clarendon House in London, built after its purchase in 1705 by Sir James Bateman who was both Lord Mayor of London and Director of the Bank of England. The house was demolished in 1933, but its outbuildings are listed and were requisitioned by RAF Shobdon in World War II. There is a grade I listing for St. John’s Church which was completely built in 1749-1752 for 2nd Viscount John Bateman, grandson of Sir James in a Rococo style.
In the eighteenth century, ancient Romanesque carved stone arches from the original church were removed to a nearby hilltop site which can be reached by following the path northwards uphill from the church. The purpose was to create an “eyecatcher”, a focal point in the landscape.
Proceeding south from the church, there are views of the various ornamental lakes on the estate, such as Swan Pool, and it is also possible to make a circular walk on public rights of way via Shobdon village.
Directions to site 35
Returning eastwards out of the Shobdon Estate, go straight on at the crossroads. After 1 kilometre, turn left onto the main B4362 road downhill, passing through a cutting in Silurian-aged rocks. After 600 metres, stop at a lay-by on the left just before a minor road turning.
Site 35 viewpoint
Site 35. Lay-by which has a viewpoint.
35: Former river course | back to map
Here is a view north-west up the Covenhope valley from where it intersects the B4362. We can see a wide, deep and long valley with no surface stream today. Like the Byton gap, it is believed to be a former course of the River Lugg.
River diversions in the ice ages.
The Covenhope Valley seen at Site 35 is a former course of the River Lugg. Presumably it was forced to cut a new route to the east when ice blocked the southern outlet of the Covenhope Valley.
Route to site 36
Continue eastwards on the B4362, giving way to the A4110 at Mortimers Cross. We reach the River Lugg after another 100 metres. Continue 1 kilometre further (take care as the road bends uphill), then turn right on a minor road for Lucton. On the sharp left-hand bend at the bottom of the hill stop near a gravel track on the right (see photo below) near which there is a verge for parking.
Gravel track to site 36
Follow the gravel track, which is a public footpath, over a stile into the next field where there is a pond by the track belonging to the owners of New House Farm – site 36.
Lucton pond life
Hornwort, a native aquatic plant and Canadian pondweed an invasive species, in Lucton pond in June 2020.
Great Pond Snails
Netting the pond reveals an abundance of Great Pond Snails.
Leech, mussel, newt
Invertebrates found in Lucton pond.
Till and organics from pond
Sediment derived from clearing the base of the pond shows the texture of a till (all sediment sizes from gravel to mud) together with black organic remains. This material is impermeable, meaning that water from the pond does not seep down into underlying deposits.
View 100 m beyond pond
Around 100 metres beyond the pond at site 36 you can see views across to prominent large hummocky moraine hills to the south of Lucton village.
Directions to site 37
Continue east out of Lucton village, over a hill, then turn right at a T-junction after 500 metres. After 200 metres, there is space to stop at the side of the lane, both on the left and the right (site 37). Follow the green lane on the right for 200 m. This lane appears to be the replacement on the ground for the public footpath in the next field. It follows a shallow valley along which you can find a chain of ponds.
Stopping point for site 37
Stopping point on left (N side) of road.
37: Series of ponds | back to map
Green lane on right (S side) of road. Follow this lane to the pond and view.
View west towards Lucton
View west at site 37 (short walk along the green lane) of the large hummocky moraines to the south of Lucton.
Small pond with bulrushes
At site 37 you will find a small pond with bulrushes. The ponds have likely been artificially created.
The ponds are shaded by trees and some have ornamental water lilies.
In June, there are many dragonflies, who leave behind their cast off skin known as an exuvia, as in this example on a lily leaf.
LIDAR of Lucton area
3x vertically exaggerated LIDAR view, overlaid with geology of the Lucton area. The large, elongated moraines are prominent. Although till is present under the pond at site 37, nearby is a quarry with gravels. The significance of the gravels is explained below.
Lucton gravel pit
The gravel pit illustrated here lies on land belonging to New House Farm and should not be approached without landowner’s permission and a risk assessment. The gravel is unusual because it is virtually lacking sediment grains smaller than half a millimetre. This implies very strong currents in a meltwater stream next to the glacier. These currents were also in various directions as whilst the lower face shows transport to the north-west, in the upper face it is to the east. This variability can occur close to the front of a glacier. The presence of gravel shows how varied the Ice Age deposits are in this area.
Layers dip to NW
Lower quarry face of gravel pit, Lucton where layers dip to the north-west, implying transport in this direction.
Lower quarry face
The site lies at a lower topographic level than site 36 where till was present beneath the pond and it is likely that the glacial deposits have several layers of different composition (as at Stretton Sugwas, Site 8). The gravel layer represents a period of relative ice retreat whilst the till probably represents a re-advance of the ice.
The streamlining, size and preferred orientation of the landforms in the area resembles the features known as “drumlins” which are thought to be shaped by shearing under a glacier. However, drumlins are not typical of glaciers that terminate on land as very fast flow is normally responsible for the streamlining which is easiest for glaciers that form “ice streams”, terminating in the sea. This paradox is being examined in current research projects.
Upper quarry face
Upper quarry face of gravel pit, Lucton (30 cm scale), showing openwork fabric (lack of matrix between gravel particles).
Directions to site 38
Continue east along the lane for 1 kilometre and turn left at the crossroads. After 200 metres the viewpoint of Site 38 is reached.
Site 38 stopping point
Stopping point for site 38.
38: Oaker Wood view | back to map
Panoramic view eastwards to Oaker Wood in hummocky moraine landscape.
3D LIDAR of Oaker Wood
3D LIDAR image and superimposed geology of Oaker Wood. The wood conceals a remarkable meltwater channel which leaves from and rejoins the valley between hummocks followed after Site 38. [Access to the wood is restricted to those engaging in commercial outdoor activities.]
Directions to site 39
Continue for 3 kilometres (2 miles), initially through the terrain shown in the LIDAR image, then to Bicton and on to Yarpole. Continue straight on, north-east from Yarpole. After 1 kilometre, turn left at the B4362 for the hamlet of Bircher. The Morgan family of Gatehouse Farm are willing for you to park one or two vehicles in their outer courtyard on the right (east) side of the road. Leave the farmyard by the double gates and proceed down the lane for 100 metres.
If instead of continuing straight to Bircher you turn left at Yarpole, after 1 kilometre the Cock Gate entrance to the National Trust property Croft Castle is visible across the B4362. Although not scheduled as part of this tour, Croft Castle has many points of interest including the meltwater channel called Fishpool Valley.
39: Gatehouse Farm | back to map
Small pond on minor stream, on edge of old orchard, Gatehouse Farm. The pond changes depth seasonally, but does not dry out.
Directions to site 40
The route is a walk for 700 metres (0.5 miles). After the pond, the lane joins the track which is a public right of way. On the left you will find a small stream on bedrock, beyond which is till. This stream lies along one of several meltwater channels in the area. The track is a former drover’s route which is also an ancient Saltway along which salt from Droitwich was transported. It was the main road, despite going over the top of Bircher Knoll which is ahead! En route, there are the remains of a footbridge over a stream and the path is cobbled at this point. At the bottom of the slope, a gate on the right marks the start of a public footpath which continues up Bircher Knoll.
40: Bircher Knoll | back to map
Start of footpath up Bircher Knoll (site 40). An east-west meltwater channel crosses the route at this point.
Bircher Knoll from below
Bircher Knoll viewed from the east (B4362). The east-west meltwater channel valley seen on the route lies this side of it.
Clee Hill from Bircher Knoll
The view from Bircher Knoll to the east is splendid. You can see the distinctive outline of Clee Hill is seen to the north-east, whilst in the middle ground is a continuation of the Orleton Moraine on which you are standing.
Till with pebbles in muddy matrix
Bircher Knoll appears to be an eastern continuation of a bedrock ridge on which a recessional moraine was built. Near the summit there are small exposures of the morainal sediment: it is a till with pebbles in a muddy matrix.
LIDAR Orleton moraine
3D LIDAR map with superimposed geology. [White areas are holes in the LIDAR data.] The walk to Bircher Knoll is seen to be close to several meltwater channels. The Orleton moraine represents a pause in the glacier’s retreat. Towards the right, the LIDAR topography shows it cut by a collapsed canal tunnel next to a railway cutting.
North pointing lobe of moraine
This map shows the wider context of Site 40 (Bircher Knoll). The rectangular LIDAR block is the same as in the previous image. Bircher Knoll lies on the north-pointing lobe of the Orleton moraine. This matches the northern bulge in the ice limit. The ice blocked a broad valley leading to the formation of a glacial lake, Woofferton lake and the diversion of the River Teme.
Old river courses
The River Teme used to flow south from Ludlow to Leominster, but was blocked by the Orleton moraine (just NE of Site 40). Glacial Woofferton lake then developed and reached a level high enough to overflow the watershed of a tributary east of Tenbury Wells and create the present course of the Teme. Earlier in the Ice Age, a similar blockage created Glacial lake Wigmore and led to the formation of the Downton Gorge diverting the Teme via Ludlow in the first place. The precise ages of the river diversion events are not known.nnThe dramatic landscape formed by overflowing meltwater is best known from Downton Gorge. Here is the birthplace of The Picturesque in landscape tastes, thanks to the writings of Richard Payne Knight and his layout of his estate at Downton Castle.
Summary | back to map
Our route in the landscape tour has taken us from the eastern ice margin near Hereford, through the interior lowlands of the Wye Valley, to the northern flanks of the glacier along the Silurian Hills of Titley and Shobdon. We finish, near Orleton, in sight of the eastern ice margin again.
Note: The map shows the tour as ending in Leominster. This in an option based on the original idea of a landscape tour starting at Hereford station, with a return via rail from Leominster station.