Cycle Tour 2
This second part of the trail, exploring the legacy of the Ice Age in the west of Herefordshire, covers the north-western part of the area: between the Letton basin and the Arrow river. A recurring theme is the presence of a variety of valleys created by meltwater streams. The traverse continues along a belt of hummocky moraines with ponds.
Click map markers to explore the tour.
On this second part of the trail, we will explore the legacy of the Ice Age in the west of Herefordshire, the route covers the north-western part of the area: between the Letton basin and the Arrow river. A recurring theme is the presence of a variety of valleys created by meltwater streams. The route takes you along a belt of hummocky moraines with ponds.
Part 1 of the Landscape Trail finished on the Staunton moraine to the east of the Letton basin. It could be followed by the walking tours to the Sturts or the Birches.
Part 2 is best as a separate day trip.
Start point at Norton Canon
Cyclists are recommended to include the itinerary within a circular route from Weobley [SO 401517, postcode HR4 8SA] and is 26 miles (43 km) long. A .gpx file for use on a mobile GPS device can be downloaded via the link above. The GPS enabled map in the IceAgePonds app for this tour also includes the route via Weobley.
Allow 2 hours in addition to cycling time for local walks.
Start of the Cycle Tour Part 2 | back to map
The start of part 2, travelling west to site 15, passes along the margin of the Letton basin which is the site of a former glacial lake whose waters were impounded by the Staunton moraine.
Directions to site 15
Our starting point is Norton Canon. The following shows how this relates to the Herefordshire glacier.
Ice Age legacy
The tour is an adventure to explore the legacy of the Ice Age in the west of Herefordshire – including the country north of the Wye and up to the Arrow valley. Action by glaciers in different ice ages over the last half-million years have formed a glacially eroded landscape of upstanding hills separated by lowlands mostly plastered with a layer of sediment up to 30 metres thick.
Distinctive landscape features
Distinctive landscape features are mostly from the most recent Ice Age and gradually emerged from the ice from about 20,000 years ago. Deposits include the distinctive hummocky moraines (mounds of glacial debris) in which most of the ponds from the Ice Age are found.
Meltwater pouring east from the ice margin led to extensive deposits of sand and gravel that underlie the western side of the Lugg Valley and much of Hereford city. As the ice retreated, the Wye, the Arrow and the Lugg rivers re-established themselves, in several places cutting down to form new courses with small gorges.
Area covered by Herefordshire ice lobe
Overview of the area formerly covered by the Herefordshire ice lobe in relation to modern settlements.
The shaded areas have many Ice Age ponds, mostly in hummocky moraine. The Letton Basin, in which the Sturts Reserves are located, is an exception, since this area is a flat, former lake floor.
15: Field on left, opposite Ernie Gilbert Meadow | back to map
At Site 15 you will see a narrow pull-in on the left where you can pause just short of the entrance to Duxley Farm. On the right there is a farm gate to Ernie Gilbert meadow, a Local Wildlife Site managed by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.
Site 15 refers to the field on the left.
Ponds at site 15
LIDAR image showing the terrain at site 15. There are many Ice Age pond depressions, some of which are shown in blue, as they are marked as ponds on modern Ordnance Survey maps.
LIDAR is a method of mapping the landscape by aeroplane, by shining a light across the landscape and calculating how long it takes to reflect back to the plane you can accurately calculate the height of the land.
Field at site 15
The field at site 15 has low relief (little change in ground height), but there are ponds in hollows with abundant aquatic vegetation. We can take samples, known as cores, of the material beneath the soil. These cores can be many metres deep and can reveal where peat has built up beneath the ponds.
Sediment coring at site 15
Sediment coring at site 15 (with landowner’s permission). One typical characteristic of Ice Age ponds is that they were originally much deeper and have gradually become shallower over time as sediment has accumulated. Taking cores from this pond showed a series of different layers, including peat, clay and mixtures. Peat is particularly useful for reconstructing past vegetation by separating preserved pollen grains. However at this site though, the deeper layers are clay and a long record could not be obtained.
Sediment core at Site 15, 60 cm long, top to left.
Dark grey peat rests on pink clay on grey peaty clay.
Coring beneath ponds reveals past environments. Two ponds in Herefordshire show very long records back to 14,000 years ago, but most records are much shorter.
Climate since the Ice Age
Around 14,000 years ago, after the ice sheet had retreated, Herefordshire was almost as warm in summer as today. Pollen samples from peat cores show that the whole region was covered in a Birch-Juniper woodland. Around 13,000 years ago it suddenly got much colder. All the trees were replaced by cold-loving grasses and sedges. After 1500 years, warm conditions quickly returned and pollen analysis shows warm-loving tree species including Oak, Hazel and Elm. This marks the start of the Holocene epoch of relatively stable climate during which vegetation changes are most strongly influenced by human activity.
Route to site 16
Now continue north-west to Kinnersley, taking the left on to the A4112. A further left turn after Kinnersley takes you towards the Sturts walking trail, but for the main cycling route, turn right for Almeley passing over a bedrock ridge and valley beyond, then up towards the village where there is a fresh cutting at the entrance to a property on the right (site 16)
The cutting shows gravel with angular rock fragments on top of bedrock formed about 420 million years ago in a time called the Silurian period. Geological maps refer to such deposits as “head” and they originate by shattering of rocks by freezing and thawing followed by gradual movement down a slope.
As you continue on the A480 you will reach Almeley, where there are two potential stops (17A and 17B) and the option of a short walk.
Almeley also offers shops and a pub, The Bells.
17A: Stop point for Almeley walk | back to map
There is a separate walking trail which you can download into the IceAgePonds app and also preview on this website under Walks.
The full route would take 90 minutes and follows fields, lanes and a track along the scenic dingle known as the Batch as well as taking in historic sites in the village. Stop point is at Almeley Village hall (Site 17A) at the eastern edge of the village [grid reference SO 4519 4192, postcode HR3 6LB].
17B: Shorter Almeley walk | back to map
A shorter option (45-60 minutes), suitable for cyclists, starts at Site 17B, at Almeley Wootton reached by continuing north from Almeley. Here there is a track into the north end of the Batch (see Almeley walking trail for details).
Diretions to site 18
Continue on the main route form Almeley/Almeley Wootton to the north. The road gradually rises and meets the A480. Take the left turn and pause immediately after the turn to Holme Marsh on the left.
18: View of Silurian hills | back to map
This roadside view to the north-east gives us our first sight of the Silurian hills that bounded the Herefordshire glacier to the north and near which we pass in part 3 of the tour. In front of the hills you can see a set of hummocky moraines that run all along the Arrow valley which we will follow later in part 2.
Directions to site 19
Follow the A480 downhill to Lyonshall, turning left in the village and before heading uphill on a minor road for about a kilometre.
On the right of the road you will see a hedge line that crosses a prominent dry valley.
19: Stop for meltwater channel | back to map
Running east-north-east in this area is a belt of eroded bedrock with many dry valleys. These are believed to have been eroded by powerful meltwater streams running parallel to the edge of the glacier and the direction of ice movement.
Meltwater channel view N to NW
View obliquely uphill N to NW across meltwater channel.
Meltwater channel view NE
View obliquely downhill across meltwater channel to the north-east.
Evidence for ice transport
Lying on the surface of the field are many stones that give evidence for the Ice Age. This one shows flat surfaces with rounded corners and fine striations (long thin scratches) – characteristic of transport in the basal (base) zone of the glacier.
Directions to sites 20 onwards
Retrace our route back along the road north-east downhill to Lyonshall and continue on the A480 to the north-west to its junction with the busy A44. Here there is an important decision to be made. The cycle route follows two bridleways – one to reach sites 20/21 and the other to go between sites 22 and 23. The second bridleway in particular gets very muddy in winter or after wet weather. If you feel your bike and the conditions are suitable, continue on the bike tour. If you are concerned about damaging your bike or getting muddy, go via site 24. An issue about avoiding both bridleways is that you have to ascend the steep hill to the west on the busy and narrow A44 (much easier on the way back!).
Bridleway to site 20
Just east across the A44 road you will see a minor road junction as in the photo. Turn onto this road which turns into a bridleway through the woods. It is an old Tramway so the upward gradient is gentle. In dry summer conditions the surface is sound, but there are muddy stretches after wet weather or in winter. The gradient slackens and you join another track and then a minor road. Turn steeply uphill for the viewpoint of site 20.
20: Major dry valley | back to map
Viewpoint to the north of a major dry valley, running east from the Arrow valley. This is thought to have been cut as a meltwater channel, perhaps in a previous Ice Age.
The dry meltwater channel viewed from the same location as the previous picture, but in winter.
LIDAR view of area
3D LIDAR image of Lyonshall Park Wood, looking north. A major dry valley runs from Site 22 to Site 24 to the east and could be a former course of the River Arrow (see following).
A variety of hummocky moraines occur north and south of the channel as well as smaller channels running north-east to south-west.
Dry meltwater channel – Arrow valley
The dry meltwater channel appears to relate to the Arrow valley, since it forks off from the valley at a point where the river abruptly shifts to a more northerly course and this suggests that water used to flow to the east along the channel. Perhaps it is a former course of the Arrow since the line of the channel rejoins the present Arrow Valley near Pembridge about 8 km (5 miles) to the east. However, since this area has not been remapped in detail by the British Geological Survey since the 19th century, the interpretation of the channel is not firmly established.
It has been suggested by B.H. Luckman that the channel was cut in a previous glaciation and that the effect of the last Ice Age was to modify the channel as well as forming hummocky moraines on the ground to the north and south of it. The watershed between Sites 20 and 21 may have originated as a ‘plug’ of till deposited during the last Ice Age. The cutting of the mini-gorge of the River Arrow to the north-east from near Site 22 appears to be a response to the blockage of the channel by ice or till. The smaller meltwater channels running north-east to south-west may well also relate to the last Ice Age as they are roughly parallel to the ice margin to the north like the one we saw at Site 19.
Downhill to site 21
Retrace our route steeply downhill towards site 21. Site 21 consists of a stopping spot (21A) and Tramway Pool (21B). As you descend, you are at a ridge in the middle of the major glacial channel we saw at site 20.
Perhaps the ridge contains a plug of sediment deposited by ice, but no one has studied it.
Tramway Pool (Site 21B)
Tramway Pool is a large pond, about 250 m long which has been created by artificially damming the slope to the west in what is otherwise a dry valley. It is bounded by trees, but there is a large unshaded area in the centre.
Directions to site 22 (A & B)
Continue down the minor road to its junction with a bridleway (Site 22A). If your cycle is suitable, follow the muddy bridleway through the wood. (you will have to walk with it some of the time) until you reach the River Arrow (Site 22B).
Bridleway to river
Muddy bridleway passing through woodland with River Arrow below to left.
Site 22B. The River Arrow has cut down through bedrock which underlies the steep slopes to the right (east).
Directions to site 23
Continue to follow the bridleway through the wood, noting the surprising appearance of a railway line next to the River Arrow! The bridleway then traverses the left-hand side of a field and cuts left through to a second field, at the end of which is a gated entrance.
Note, you will only visit Site 24 if you have opted not to go via sites 20 to 23.
Directions to site 25 via 23
From Titley Junction station entrance turn left, follow the minor road over the River Arrow, partly up the opposite valley side and take the right turn down to cross the river again at Hunton Bridge (Site 23A). The road then rises steeply up the gorge side with hummocky moraines visible from the road. Keep left at the road junction beyond Hunton Farm where there is the site of an ephemeral pond. Continue for 500 m to a viewpoint across the Arrow Valley (Site 25).
Ignore the following site 24 option if you have come via sites 20 to 23.
The second crossing of the River Arrow at Hunton Bridge. Although the River incised to bedrock in the Ice Age, a floodplain underlain by alluvial sediments has developed in the last few thousand years.
For cyclists who have chosen to go via sites 20 to 23, you can skip over the Site 24 option, continuing with Site 25 Viewpoint.
24: For cyclists | back to map
Site 24 is inserted here for cyclists who have opted to bypass sites 20 to 23, following instead the dashed route on the map between the A44 and site 25.
From this stopping point you have a good view of hummocky moraines.
View across meltwater channel (Site 24)
This is an oblique view west across the meltwater channel valley that we saw earlier in Lyonshall Park Wood. The land rises from the valley bottom into a hummocky moraine.
Directions to site 25 from site 24
Continue north, bearing right at the next junction, passing through the hamlet of Lewis Wych and then turning sharp left. Continue 700 m to a T-junction and turn right. After 500 m, there is a viewpoint (Site 25).
Directions to site 26
Continue east past Strangworth Farm for 600 metres until you reach a cross-roads (“The Forge”, 26A).
A scenic diversion is to take the lane to the left (north), forking sharp right steeply downhill until you reach a footbridge over the River Arrow near Forge Farm (Site 26B).
Directions to site 27
Return to the Forge crossroads and continue east-north-east for 300 m and pause at a pull-in on the right (Site 27).
Valley floor with hummocky moraines
Here we have a view to the south of a valley floor with hummocky moraines beyond it. A wooded depression winds through the moraines and is believed to be a meltwater channel; it leads down to a marshy area in the middle distance.
Marsh becomes a lake
The marsh becomes a lake under winter conditions.
LIDAR on geology for sites 26 to 28
LIDAR image with superimposed geology for Sites 26 to 28. Hummocky moraines (green) occur on both sides of the incised River Arrow. A meltwater channel seen from Site 27, contains a pond (A) and is underlain by peat (brown shading). The pond at Site 28 is marked B.
Pond A, occupying the meltwater channel can be seen from Site 27 and is densely vegetated.
Directions to site 28
Continue east along the minor road (Noke Lane) for 500 m and stop at a gate on the left.
Stop point for site 28
Stop near gate.
28: Broad hummocky landforms | back to map
Field with broad hummocky landforms and a small wooded Ice Age kettle hole pond (right).
The landowner has given permission to visit the pond at site 28 through the field beyond this gateway. Keep to the hedge on the right margin of the field to the bottom, branch left to reach the pond which is fenced off but has a small gate in the fence.
Wooded pond in field. The pond is fenced off.
Ice-age (kettle-hole) pond
Ice Age (kettle-hole) pond photographed in winter and displaying abundant aquatic vegetation.
Continue along Noke Lane which passes downhill. Its surface becomes rough for a couple of hundred metres where it is susceptible to flooding. You emerge onto the Lyonshall-Shobdon minor road just after the Court of Noke and discover that there is no signpost to where you have just been – and recall that you have seen hardly any traffic! Turn left for easterly destinations and left again for Staunton-on-Arrow if you are proceeding immediately to part 3. If not, haste ye back!
The map and gpx file for this tour contain a suggested return route to Hereford.
View SE toward Hereford | back to map
View south-east in the direction of Hereford from near Site 28 across hummocky moraines.
The distinctive, glacially eroded conical hill of Pyon Hill is visible on the skyline some 8 km (5 miles) away.