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This page looks at Local Projects which are underway or completed in and around Bredwardine and Brobury. At the moment, these include:



The Crafta Webb Film Premiere

Saturday, November 3rd 2007 was the date for the unveiling of the film 'Crafta Webb', that was made by local people under the guidance of the Rural Media Company, Hereford. Crafta Webb is an abandoned settlement high on Bredwardine Hill where many families, some very poor, lived in Victorian times. The poor were perhaps encouraged to settle there by the possibility of receiving assistance through the Jarvis Charity which then covered Bredwardine, Letton and Staunton-on-Wye. The Charity still exists in the area, but no longer distributes coal and meat! Click here to go to the Jarvis page

The venue for the premiere, Moccas Village Hall, was packed by those involved in the making of the drama film (about 30 min long), and the other related short documentary films. Everyone who participated in the film received a free DVD on which were the Crafta Webb Drama; the Making of the Drama; the Crafta Webb Animation and Making of the Animation; Crafta Webb Victorians; Photo Galleries; and the Archaeology of Crafta Webb. There is also a 40-page book that describes the evolution of the project, and the history of the site.

The DVD can be purchased from Rural Media in Hereford on 01432 344039 and from Jen Maddison in Bredwardine on 01981 500048.

Follow this Crafta Webb link to read more about this memorable project!


The Merbach Hill Commons Project

Herefordshire Nature Trust Community Commons Project Team has developed a Management Plan for Merbach Hill involving 'commoners' and other interested locals. This plan purposes to maintain the common as a partially open space, to restrict the encroachment of bracken, scrub and woodland in order to preserve the biodiversity.


Merbach Work Days 2011

Special invitation to join in!  The more the merrier! Everyone welcome! Hope to see you there!

If you would like any further information concerning our monthly work days on the Merbach Common, please ring Mary 01981 500 406.   No previous experience is required as training in the use of tools will be given and you can work as hard or as little as you like!  Please wear stout footwear and bring waterproofs in case of wet weather. A packed lunch and plenty to drink is also recommended.

August Work Day 2008
Thank you for your help! On Tuesday, August 19, 2008 local volunteers cleared a section of the Wye Valley Walk on the western edge of the common on the approach from Middlewood (map reference SO 296 448)

July Work Day 2008
On Tuesday 29th July local volunteers continued to build a flight of steps on the steep and slippery section of path leading up through the woodland in the north-eastern corner of Merbach Hill Common. We managed to dodge the showers until a deluge towards the end of the afternoon put a close to play. All the timber being used has been selected and prepared by local craftsman woodworker Chris Armstrong.

For the last few volunteer work parties we have been concentrating on step-building in the woodland in the north-eastern corner of Merbach Hill Common. However, for August we have decided to do some clearance of vegetation that is encroaching on the path that runs along the northern edge of the common. This is the path that was opened up during the first work parties we had on the common.

Spring Work Days 2008
Our February Work Day focused on clearing bracken, brambles and scrub in an effort to entice reptiles to habitat on the Merbach. Heather was discovered in one area and "liberated" from the brambles.  A number of large "ancient" ant-hills were also noted. March and April focused on building steps on the step western slope of the walking trails.

The Work Day on 2nd Oct 2007 successfully refreshed the clearing done during the first few Work Days last winter on the path along the northern boundary and back up to the south-west to join the Wye Valley Walk

The Work Days in January 2008 focused on clearing vegetation from some sections of path and putting in some steps along the path that leads up through the woodland in the north-eastern corner of the common. Also clearing selected trees and scrub from the upper, flatter areas of the common. This made the annual programme of bracken bruising on the common easier. Some areas of scrub were left as nesting habitat for birds.

February 2008 addressed an area that has some impressive anthills, clumps of heather plants and is believed to be potentially good habitat for reptiles and amphibians.


Historical News


Fungus Foray on Merbach Hill Common
Wild about fungus and toadstools! Autumn is a great time of year to hunt for many of the hundreds of species of fungi found in Herefordshire. So, on a cool misty Monday morning on October 6th, Sheila Spence, a local field mycologist, led a fungus foray on Merbach Hill Common. At the start of the day, an enthusiastic group of local people listened to Sheila’s captivating description of the world of mushrooms and toadstools. But which of the many fascinating and beautiful species of fungi would they find? Would they stumble across death caps, stinkhorns and ugly milk-caps? Or would the species growing on Merbach Hill be more appealing?

As the morning progressed, 35 species of fungi were recorded. They included colourful crimson waxcaps, meadow corals and parasols growing in the rough grassland at the top of the common. The crimson waxcap (Hygrocybe punicea) was a particularly pleasing find as it is an indicator of high-quality species-rich grassland. Coconut-scented milk-cap, with its delicate coconut fragrance, was the first find of the day. Later on, golden waxcap was discovered in the rabbit-grazed areas, as were snowy waxcap, apricot club and smooth earth tongue. Under the hawthorn and birch scrub, other striking species, including common bonnet, lilac bonnet and blusher, were spotted by the group, who unanimously decided that there could be few better ways to spend a Monday morning!

Merbach Hill Common is one of 12 commons in Herefordshire Nature Trust’s Community Commons Project. Information about this project can be found at www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/hereford. Monthly workdays are held on Merbach Hill Common and details about these can be found above. New local volunteers are always welcome! Please contact Mary Macpherson, if you would like to come along.

Sheila Spence describes the magical world of mushrooms and toadstools to Alan Maddison


May Botanical Walk
The walk, led by Jude Smith, took place on a warm sunny day. The Common was looking lovely with the Bluebells very prominent on the top as well as in the woodland. The Blue Tits are making good use of the bird boxes too. Lots of interesting plants were pointed out to us, including a new record, the tiny Upright Chickweed, Moenchia erecta.


Merbach Hill Common - Community Commons Project Overview

Across Herefordshire, twelve commons have been selected for inclusion in the Community Commons Project, which is a partnership between Herefordshire Nature Trust, English Nature and Herefordshire Council. The aim is to increase understanding and appreciation of commons and to plan and take practical action where necessary to protect, conserve and celebrate them.

In part, Merbach Hill was chosen for the biodiversity potential in its 160 acres (66 ha) - as witnessed by a vegetational survey carried out in the late '90s (Map). Like many commons, this biodiversity is being threatened as bracken, brambles, scrub and eventually woodland take over from the grassland. Encroachment is happening rapidly because few commoners exercise their grazing rights nowadays, especially since the recent foot and mouth epidemic. The Project distributed a questionnaire in 2005 to the owner, commoners and local residents and about 50% replied. The opinions and information obtained have been incorporated, together with experience from other projects, into a draft management plan which was discussed at a meeting in early Feb 2006 by a working group formed from locals expressing an interest in helping with the Project. When finalised and approved, the management plans for the 12 commons will be submitted in May 2006 for further Heritage Lottery Funding as from September 2006.

The main management proposals under consideration are:
- Coordinated programme of bracken clearance
- Re-introduction of sheep and cattle grazing
- Some coppicing of trees and scrub to maintain linked open areas and to retain open views
- Rexcavate pond
- Targeted surveys of butterflies and moths
- Installation of bird boxes on woodland edge
- Survey for reptile hibernacula (Monday 24th April 2006)
- Survey for dormice
- Full archaeological survey
- Installation of new access gates
- Installation of interpretation panels
- Explore possibilities of local primary school adopting common for educational purposes

Eight members of the Steering Group met on 20th September 2006 at the Red Lion Hotel, Bredwardine. Tim Breakwell, the Community Commons Project Officer, confirmed that the proposed Management Plan for the Merbach has been approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund. He then reviewed the current Merbach Hill Management Work Plan. Clearing the walking paths for access to the Merbach was determined to be the first priority of the next phase. Two work days have already taken place in November and December and this has opened up the path along the northern boundary from the Wye Valley Walk eastwards. There will be further work days in 2007 - watch this space.


In Spring 2007 Bird Nest boxes were set up on the northern edge of the Common, having been provided through a collaborative effort involving the Commons Project, a local woodworker, Clifford School and others. The boxes were well received by the local blue tits which occupied nearly all of the boxes, and produced many little ones.



Butterfly Monitoring has been carried out weekly through the summer into autumn on transect routes defined on the Common. A summary of each years' results can be found by clicking on the appropriate year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014. A comparison of 2011 and 2012 can be seen by clicking on 2011/12


comma Butterflies are us! September 2008 saw the completion of our second year of Butteryfly Transects which is part of the Merbach Commons Project.  Butterfly Monitoring was carried out weekly through the summer, beginning April 1, ending September 29, 2008.  The length of this year's transect route was extended to include newly cleared trails on the western boundary of the Merbach Common, where food and shelter provided a welcome habitat for the Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown to name just three butterflies. When complete, a summary of the 2008 results will be posted on the Bredwardine & Brobury website.  A picture says a thousand words.  This Comma was gorgeous! Click on the image to enlarge.

Butterflies abound July 2008!
Okay, just a slight exaggeration to say "abound", but last week the faithful few who participate weekly in the Butterfly Transect on the Merbach sited a total of 40 butterflies.  There were 18 Ringlets, 15 Meadow Brown, 3 Gatekeepers, 3 Large White and 1 Small White.  Three Speckled Wood were spotted prior to the start of the Transect and could not be counted.  What a tease!  Considering that Merbach Hill does not contain many flowers that serve as food for the butterfly community, the Butterfly participants were pleased with the increasing observations.  The prior week there were 32 butterflies counted.  With this glorious weather, this past Sunday really brought out the butterflies in droves.  Official count:  83 butterflies.  Honest!

August 6th 2006 - Sunday proved a bit breezy for our Lepidoptera "friends"on Merbach Hill.  Despite the wind and light cloud cover though, our Butterfly Survey group managed to observe seven species common to Herefordshire.  Our Speckled Wood was missing along with the Meadow Browns but it was a pleasure to see so many Gatekeepers!  An occasional Painted Lady, Peacock, Green-Veined White, Small White plus one Small Heath and Ringlet completed our study on the day.  We theorized now that the Brambles are beginning to fruit there are fewer blossoms to attract the butterflies.

July 23rd 2006 -Sunday was a perfect day to wander around Merbach Hill in search of local butterflies. The Merbach Hill Butterfly Survey is part of the Herefordshire Nature Trust Community Commons Project. Despite the fact that the Merbach does not currently have much vegetation to lure and sustain butterflies, nine difference species were sited during our three-hour walk. They ranged from a plethora of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Ringlets, all of which are generally orange to brown in colour. Our sightings also included some more bold-coloured butterflies like the Painted Lady, Peacock and Red Admiral, which are large-sized butterflies. The find of the day was the Speckled Wood, located near a stand of elm and birch trees. Several Green-Veined White and Small White completed the list of Merbach Hill Butterflies in residence on Sunday.  Interesting to note that all of the Gatekeeper Butterflies, which were sited on the Merbach were smaller in size than normal. Bramble blossoms proved to be the favourite butterfly food, followed closely by the Common Knapweed and Thistle. Some of the butterflies feed on Fine Grasses and Wild Yarrow which were found under the dense canopy of Bracken.

July 2nd 2006 - Local Butterfly Expert Ray Harberd, with a few interested villagers, walked the MERBACH on Sunday in their continuing survey of butterflies as part of the ongoing COMMONS PROJECT.  Due to the dense growth of bracken on the MERBACH, there is a shortage of butterfly "food" for the native butterflies.  Despite this meagre amount of available plant food for the butterflies, a few specimens were seen.  They included several MEADOW BROWN BUTTERFLIES, RINGLETS, PAINTED LADIES, one COMMA, and one LARGE WHITE.

It was interesting to note that the latter two species of butterfly fly high above the bracken along the tree line, whereas the MEADOW BROWN, RINGLET, PAINTED LADY fly low, just above the bracken.  It was lovely to see the MEADOW BROWN flying in circles as they performed their mating flight.  The English butterfly love this hot summer and were warming themselves with wings spread wide open.  When the the butterfly sits with close wings, they very likely at having a bite to eat.  All very fascinating!

The White-Letter Hairstreak Butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of the elm leaf. In early May, elm trees were inspected for signs of White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly larva.  No larva were spotted then and as a result no White-Letter Hairstreak Butterflies have been seen to date.   Unfortunately the group noted that one of the larger elm tree on the Merbach appears to be dieing possibly due to Dutch Elm disease and/or the dry weather.

The focus of of this initial part of the survey is to identify the number of butterfly species reside on the MERBACH.  This statistic will serve as a baseline for future reference.   Numbers of butterflies sited to date are very low.  This is proprably largely due to the lack of plant food for the butterfly population.   At the conclusion of this phase, the group will discuss their findings with the Common Management Planning Group to conclude if the MERBACH is not a suitable site to conduct the Pollard Butterfly Transect as recommended in the management plan.

May 7th 2006 - Conservation of butterflies and moths is included as part of the Merbach Hill Common Management Project.  It is hoped that the White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly is alive and well in the elms trees located on the Merbach.  Specific monitoring for this butterfly plus the small heath butterfly can be accomplished using the Pollard Butterfly Transect as recommended in the management plan. 

Local Butterfly Expert Ray Harberd, with a few interested villagers, conducted an initial survey of Merbach Hill on May 7th.  The day was spent identifying areas where local butterflies may live and breed.  Due to the elevation of Merbach it is too early to expect to see a lot of butterfly activity.  Only two Orange Tips were spotted, but then the garlic is just now starting to bloom on the Merbach.

May 3rd 2006 - Fifteen people attended our second meeting of the Merbach Hill Common Management Planning Group.  The group reviewed the proposed Community Commons Project Officers Management Plan for MERBACH HILL.  Aerial photographs showing proposed fencing and proposed areas for bracken cutting or rolling were discussed.  The plan recommended that grazing should be re-established for sheep, ponies and possibly cattle, that some coppicing and tree clearance be done to enhance the views and to encourage butterfly and moth populations, install wooden bird boxes and nesting tubes plus hibernation boxes for dormice.  Clifford School has whole-heartedly embraced the idea of using the Merbach for educational purposes.  Of the twelve commons included in this Community Commons Project, Merbach Hill is the first to have a school adopt a common area for their learning activities.  Congratulations Clifford School!



Reptile Work Day, January 29th 2008
Last Tuesday proved another successful work day on Merbach Common, which focused on Reptile Habitat. Five enthusiastic Merbach volunteers cleared scrub, mainly young ash, hawthorn and bramble, much of which was shading small clumps of heather. Scrub was also cleared to improve open grassland and the dwarf scrub mosaic for reptiles and butterflies. All our common native reptiles are now ‘Priority Biodiversity Action Plan’ species.

The last couple of years records for Merbach were extremely low for reptile records. Slow worm is the only species encountered. No other reptile species has been seen recently, but with the new clearance work undertaken, it should encourage grass snake in the area.

The pond on Merbach has Smooth Newt, Common Frog and Common Toad present. A series of anthills in this same area could possibly date back 50 to 100 years.

If you have any questions about the work-day or about the project in general, or wish to be added to the mailing list, please phone the Community Commons Project on 01432 853205.  

The Reptile Day on Tuesday 24th April 2007 was again unproductive. Nigel Hand, the County Recorder for Reptiles came to the common to survey for reptiles, but no individuals or signs of them were found, despite additional searches on the western flanks of the common. Adders, grass snakes, slow worms and lizards have been seen on other commons already this year. However, Phil Bauer did spot a slow worm on the sunny western slopes later in the year - 7 June 2007.

April 24th 2006 - On Monday Nigel Hand, Country Amphibian and Reptile Recorder, conducted a "fieldtrip" for a selected group around the Merbach, identifying where reptiles and amphibians might be tempted to hibernate and to reside.   It is thought that the common may provide suitable habitat for reptiles such as adders, grass snakes and slow worms.  Spring is a good time to survey for reptiles when they are emerging from their winter hibernation.  Knowledge of the locations of these hibernacula can be used to better manage and preserve their habitat.  The goal is for the selected individuals to monitor reptile and amphibian activity during the upcoming year.



Bat Evening at Merbach Hill Common, Friday 8th June 2007
Hilary Smith led an informative guided walk on the Common looking for bats, and explained the use of bat detectors to help locate and identify these fascinating mammals. We learned a lot, but unfortunately we didn't coincide with many bats. However, the Commons Project left a bat detector with the Merbach Group, so that we could visit the common again, and hopefully provide more information on what's there and what isn't in the way of bats. Nearby Moccas Deer Park has 15 of the 16 species found in Britain.



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Last updated: January 20, 2015