Across our farm you will find many interesting footpaths, which will take you through our historic areas, which includes a Roman Fort.
When we were looking into Stewardship, we studied some old woodland and discovered certain varieties of plants and fauna within the wood. We contacted a conservation advisory group who informed us that the species of plants found were only found in ancient woodland. This woodland has therefore been kept out of any wood-thinning programmes for the time being.
Lower House Farm has been in the Parish of Canon Frome for many generations and thus there have been settlements on the farm going back to the Roman times.
The roman fort on the farm has been here since the 1st century AD –AD 600, but remains of worked wood and other materials indicate wooden tools from 3500 BC for fishing. A certain amount of archaeological work has been carried out since the late 1960s – in terms of aerial reconnaissance, auguring and field walking surveys and archaeological observation of limited trenching. The town was possibly called Epocessa and was a local market centre, with evidence of possible industrial activity. In 2007 a local archaeology company, Border Archaeology (borderarchaeology.com) did a lot of work on the site and others nearby and a wealth of information was found not just here but also on other farms as well.
Measured between the inner ditches, this Roman fort measures about 500 feet from east to west by 445 feet north-south, therefore covering an an area of just over 5 acres. It is thought that the fort was protected by a rampart and double ditch system with centrally-placed gateways in the east and west sides but none are apparent to the north or south; the fort would have faced west, towards the hills of Wales. The encampment is large enough to have been garrisoned by a cohors equitata quingenaria, with a complement of approximately five-hundred men from a mixed auxiliary unit of both foot soldiers and cavalry troopers. Either way, the unit was probably stationed here during the early campaigns of governor Publius Ostorius Scapula, sometime around A.D. 47/8.
Due to the sensitive nature of this historic site, no deep cultivation is undertaken, which allows the history beneath the surface to remain undisturbed by our normal farming routines above.
Hereford to Gloucester Canal
The canal was opened in two phases in 1798 and 1845, and closed in 1881, when the southern section was used for the course of the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway.
The first plans were made in 1777, and later approved in 1790. The estimated cost was £70,000, and it was expected to carry 33,203 tons per year, generating £9,582 in revenue. Some of the promoters began to think that improving the River Wye might be a better option, but the announcement of new seams of coal at Newent resulted in a decision to obtain an Act of Parliament, which was granted in April 1791. In 1838, a proposed new route for the final section of the canal was made, which includes the stretch you see on our farm today. In May 1839, a new Act of Parliament was obtained, allowing the canal to be completed.
Work started on 17 November 1839. A feeder from the River Frome to the summit level was completed in August 1842 (Hence the adjacent fields name "Feeders"), and the canal opened in stages as it was completed, with extensions to Canon Frome wharf in January 1843, Whithington wharf in February 1844, and finally to Hereford basin on 22 May 1845.
As with the first phase, it was the tunnel construction which caused the most problems, and Ashperton tunnel, although only 400 yards (370 m) long, was affected by water flooding the work faces and by unstable rock, resulting in the need to construct a brick and stone lining. Again, costs escalated well beyond the original estimates. In 1858, the canal carried 47,560 tons of goods. On 17 January 1862, less than 17 years after the opening to Hereford, the canal was leased to the Great Western and West Midland Railway, with a view to converting it to a railway. This did not take place immediately, but on 30 June 1881, half of the canal was closed, and sections of it were used for the course of the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway. The Hereford to Ledbury section remained open, but gradually became disused.
15 years ago we undertook a major project of cleaning approximately 1 kilometre of the Canal that runs through the farm. We reclaimed a stretch of the canal that had lain untouched for 150 years.
This has created a bird-friendly stretch of water that is now inhabited by ducks, tufted ducks, swans, geese, coots, moorhens and other wildlife.
In early 2019 we finished the last stretch of the canal to return it to the same standard as the newly restored section.
You can see many of these historic sites from the local footpaths surrounding the farm.