I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and heaven knows, there’s been enough of it lately, but I want to dedicate this post to the memory of Kate, who many of you knew as Rough Seas in the Med. Kate died on 13th August. I don’t know the circumstances. This came as an enormous shock to me, and I cannot imagine how her partner, Adrian, is dealing with it. Kate was a very straight-talking woman, with a very soft centre when it came to animals. She loved her native Yorkshire too, and would often comment if I featured it. Regretfully we never met, though I once did visit Gibraltar briefly. My thoughts are with her family and friends. I’m sorry to start your Monday this way, but Adrian is in no position to pass on such sad news himself. Rest in peace, Kate.
Last week I brought you with me to Church Stretton, in Shropshire. I promised that I had something a little special in store for this week. I hope you will agree with me that Carding Mill Valley justifies that.
My own expectations were high. Rising to a lovely sunrise and clearing blue skies, I could hardly wait to get started. I was staying at Arden House, on the very edge of Carding Mill Valley, and the owner had kindly supplied me with map and suggestions. An 8 mile circular, through the valley, up to the heights of the Long Mynd and back down through Ashes Hollow, was the walk of choice. I wasn’t sure that I had sufficient stamina for this, but there was the incentive, at the 6 mile point, of a highly recommended pub. My companion approved.
Church Stretton was known as a centre of the textile industry, using wool from its abundant sheep. The carding mill was built in the valley in the 18th century, ‘carding’ being one of the 3 stages of processing the wool, followed by spinning and weaving. Back then carding would have been deemed a job for children, using a hand-card, a wooden block with metal spikes, to remove and untangle short fibres from the wool. The mill was closed and demolished at the beginning of the 20th century, but the name lives on.
Bypassing the National Trust centre, which didn’t open till 10, I headed up toward the reservoir. A little hummock led to a viewing point for Bodbury Ring, Iron Age hill fort where, more than 2,500 years ago, Celtic tribes guarded their sheep and cattle. The mill pools along this stretch used to feed water down to the carding mill.
You can walk all around the reservoir, catching glimpses through the trees, and even swim in it, if you wish. Unusually this is encouraged by the National Trust, because it is beneficial to the algae in the water. Continuing up the valley the walk becomes ever more beautiful, for this is August, the time when the heather blooms in an entrancing purple.
I had taken the top route, referred to as the Pipe Walk by National Trust, with wonderful views down to the valley. Soon my mountain goat skills were going to be tested as I scrambled up and around the waterfall at Lightspout Hollow. At this point I could have retreated down the valley, with a 3 mile walk under my belt and the prospect of refreshment on the roof terrace of the café.
The sky was darkening a little and there seemed a serious prospect of getting wet, but by the time I was up and over it had brightened again. The instructions said to carry on uphill, bearing slightly to the right until reaching level ground. Michael was walking slightly ahead of me and I wondered what had caught his eye. One of the most magical moments of the walk was about to happen.
I tiptoed gently past, before breathing out. This wasn’t our only sighting of ponies along the walk but I had been totally unprepared to see a foal, so close to the path. Soon I reached Dr. Mott’s road, a path built by local people to enable the doctor to visit patients on the west side of the Long Mynd. A left turn here will bring you to the gravel track of The Shropshire Way. This is a popular stretch and people often drive up to visit the trig point, a stupendous viewpoint at 516 metres above sea level. You can see for miles. Look, there’s the Wrekin, in the far distance!
And now it’s downhill again, following the path signed for Ashes Hollow. It’s another beautiful valley and it’s good to be alive. And then I come upon these two young families, communicating with each other. Heartwarming, isn’t it?
The ponies aren’t the only inhabitants of the valleys but they must be the most endearing. My feet were getting tired and the end not yet in sight.
Finally, after crossing the stream a time or two, the valley bottom opens out and I am approaching the village of Little Stretton. A pretty cottage, a camp site and a ford, and I’ve arrived. And did you ever see a lovelier church? With thatching too!
Best of all, The Ragleth, some excellent pub grub and a rest for the weary feet. We won’t mention the evil wasp that turned up uninvited. Suitably refreshed, the 2 miles back to Church Stretton could be undertaken, either along the road or following the old Cunnery drovers trail. The other half failed to tell me that the second, more interesting option, climbed a hill almost vertically, to round the back of the village.
Thank heavens for interesting distractions! The National Trust have a number of walks on their website, with many more details, plus instructions on how to get there. I understand the café does good cake, too!
Another Monday, another walk! Well, lots in fact, and I hope you have time to enjoy them. Many thanks to all of you, for your patience and loyalty. If you’d like to join in, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, and you’ll be very welcome.
Something new to start! How about a poetry walk with Frank?
Or, maybe, ‘no words’, with Meg?
Hamburg does look an appealing city. After all, it was good enough for the Beatles. Thanks, Lady Lee!
This lady has a bit of a food obsession, but she’s not alone. Happy eating, Jackie!
Drake does quite a lot of reflecting. He’s such a thoughtful guy!
In case you suspected that Denzil might not be a dedicated walker, here’s evidence to the contrary :
And something I know you’ll all love, from Carol. No, she’s not meeting royalty!
I hope that Kate would have enjoyed this walk. I’m sorry if I’ve shocked some of you with the news. I think we need to live our lives, before they’re taken from us. Wishing you all a peaceful and happy week ahead!