Like many an aspiring writer, I’m going to start small on my recent visit to Shropshire. Then I can build up to the really good stuff for next week’s walk. That’s the theory, anyway. How well do you know Church Stretton? Not at all? Then you’ll be happy to take a little stroll with me.
Much of my information is gleaned from Wikipedia, but I was already familiar with the concept of ‘Little Switzerland’. Many years ago I attempted to coerce a small boy up one of the hills that surround Church Stretton, but he was far happier down in the valley. As you drive the 13 miles south from Shrewsbury, the hills start to close in around you. The local geology includes some of the oldest rocks in England, formed over 560 million years ago, and the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. ‘Stretton’ derives from the Old English for ‘street’, and ‘settlement’. A Roman road, Watling Street, ran through Stretton Gap, as the dale is known, on a similar course to the current, busy A49.
It was a murky, grey day when I left the sanctuary of Arden House, hoping that the rain would hold off for an hour or two. The handsome old shop fronts were immediately attractive and I wasn’t the only one to press my nose up against the windows. There’s been a weekly market on the High Street since 1214, but a fire in 1593 destroyed much of the town. Many of the half-timbered buildings date from that period.
My lovely friend Tish had advised me to look out for Entertaining Elephants, an ancient barn converted to a health food and eco clothing store, ran by her sister, another Jo. And there it was, bang smack in the middle of the High Street.
Behind the Buck’s Head pub and the market place I had caught a glimpse of St. Laurence’s Church. And just look at those apricot roses!
But first I lost my heart, just a little, to the most romantic of Tudor cottages. Unfortunately it wasn’t a ‘for sale’ sign that Michael was reading.
Some places have the most delightful back streets. I was heading for the church but stylish headwear in a leafy window caught my eye, and the passionflower, of course. The Tourist Information office, in a former school dating back to 1861, was closed, it being a Monday.
According to the Domesday Book there was a church here before the Norman Conquest in 1066. It would likely have been a small wooden building. The Norman church we see today would have been built between 1110 and 1130. Sometimes a church really speaks to me, and so it was with this one. A feeling of warmth embraced me as I gazed around. Unusually the chairs were arranged in a semi-circle, increasing the feeling of inclusion. I loved the wall hangings and the ceiling art.
In case you’re wondering if we’re ever going to stretch our legs today, let me reassure you. I had downloaded a leaflet of a walk in Rectory Wood before I left home. This promised a ‘stroll in the footsteps of Georgian gentry’ which could be undertaken directly from the town. The rain hadn’t yet caught up with us, and we were close to an entry to the wood. It’s only short so, what are we waiting for?
You might have noticed that I come across Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown a lot on my travels. It sometimes seems he was everywhere! Rectory Wood once formed part of the grounds of the rectory in Church Stretton. Around 1770 Rev. John Mainwaring created a designed woodland landscape garden, probably inspired by his friend Brown, who was known to visit the town.
It’s an atmospheric spot, with it’s yew-ringed pond, the ruined folly and an ice house. The shadows and reflections conjure mysteries in the woods. I stare into the pond, looking for answers. But then the woods recede, and I’m back to the churchyard.
There’s more to see, if you have the time, but for now I’ll settle for putting my feet up in the luxury of my apartment. I’ll leave you with a peep into Stretton Antiques Market, which ranges over 3 floors. See anything you fancy?
I’m hoping you’ll be back with me next week. Carding Mill Valley is really a bit special, and I had the most gloriously sunny day to walk it. Time to put the kettle on now and catch up with my walkers.
Many thanks to all of you who wander along with me, week by week. It’s much appreciated. If you feel like joining in at any time details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. You’ll be very welcome.
What nicer place to start rambling than a Scottish island? Thanks, Anabel!
A bundle of fun images from Lady Lee :
Another episode of ‘life chez Jackie’ :
Indra takes us back to colourful Hong Kong in 2010 :
I’m always keen to showcase something different. Try photo walking with Aarti?
I love an aerial view on life, especially when Drake’s in the pilot seat :
Walks don’t always have a happy ending, unless you’re Peter Pan. Thanks, Susan!
I’m becoming addicted to Wordless walking. Meg makes such a superb companion :
Woolly focuses first on the ladies caught up in this madness and then, a conclusion :
Denzil has his ups and downs, but so long as it’s in beautiful scenery…
Eunice finds her walk a little boring, but the cloud reflections are lovely :
It’s an English Bank Holiday next week so heaven help the weather. I’ll still be here though, so have a great week and see you then!