Shropshire

Longmynd Sculpture Trail

A teddy bear’s picnic,

Where else but in the woods?

Watched by two wise birds.

One last offering from Shropshire.  It didn’t seem to sit well on the end of Monday’s walk though that is when I saw them, in the grounds of the Longmynd Hotel, before we tramped wearily back into Church Stretton.  I love the owl but the bears are a bit creepy, don’t you think?

Have a good Thursday!

Jo’s Monday walk : Carding Mill Valley

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.

Unconcerned mother, and uncertain child

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?

Woolshed walk : moss march

Woolshed walk : the splash

Or, maybe, ‘no words’, with Meg?

Wordless walk : Glasshouse Rocks, Cemetery Beach

Hamburg does look an appealing city.  After all, it was good enough for the Beatles.  Thanks, Lady Lee!

Holiday in Hamburg

This lady has a bit of a food obsession, but she’s not alone.  Happy eating, Jackie!

Steakout

Drake does quite a lot of reflecting.  He’s such a thoughtful guy!

Reflecting bike ride

In case you suspected that Denzil might not be a dedicated walker, here’s evidence to the contrary :

Walking around a very wet Virelles

And something I know you’ll all love, from Carol.  No, she’s not meeting royalty!

Hello Harry

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!

Six word Saturday

Dilly dally in the Welsh Borders

Heading home from Shropshire, we had a little time to kill before Stokesay Castle opened for the day.  What else to do but dilly dally?  I’m not entirely certain where the Welsh borders begin and end, but heading west from Church Stretton we can’t have been far away.  I was delighted with colourful and quirky Bishop’s Castle, a centre for arts and crafts, and just one and a half miles from the border.  I did go looking for the castle, built in 1087, but discovered afterwards that when it deteriorated in the 1700s it was flattened to make a bowling green!

I was luckier in tiny Clun where the ruins of a Norman castle still linger soulfully on a hill, only disturbed from slumber when the May fair comes to town.  Clun was on the site of the historic drove road, where flocks and herds were driven from Wales to the markets of the Midlands and London. It amused me to find that at the time of the Norman Conquest, Clun formed part of the lands of Eadric the Wild.  His wildness did him no good because his lands were confiscated when he led a revolt against King William 1.

To reach the castle we crossed over the 14th century packhorse bridge, and then on to lovely Stokesay.  The ochre-coloured buildings are joyful, aren’t they?  I hope you have a happy weekend, full of warmth and colour, but first, steer clear of troubled waters with Debbie.  Share six words?

Cornered at Stokesay

Stokesay Castle is the best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. It was constructed at the end of the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, the leading wool merchant and one of the richest men in England at that time.

The castle comprises a walled, moated enclosure with an entrance way through a 17th century timber and plaster gatehouse.  It’s a striking sight, and even on a grey day the ochre gatehouse affirms its right to be there.

The gatehouse features elaborate wooden carvings on both exterior and interior doorways, including angels, Adam and Eve and the serpent from the Garden of Eden and dragons.  It had little real defensive value but is undeniably ornamental.

Inside, the courtyard faces a stone hall and solar block, protected by 2 stone towers.  The south tower is an unusual pentagon shape and is 3 storeys high, with impressive views fom the turrets.  The castle has seen drama in its life, including skirmishes with Cavaliers and Roundheads, but never sustained any real damage and has been more affected by the ravages of time.

The hall adjoins the south tower and has a 13th century wood-beamed ceiling. Next to this, a  2 storey solar block with extensive wood paneling, a huge fireplace and intricate wood carving.  This would have been the family’s main living space.

Since 1986 Stokesay Castle has been managed by English Heritage, preserving and opening to the public.  Details of how to get there are on their website.  I’m hoping that you will have observed many an interesting Corner in this post.

I really oughn’t to but I’m also going to link to Paula’s Traces of the Past, just because I think she might like it.  Is that a good enough reason?

Jo’s Monday walk : Simply Church Stretton

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!

Arran – the walks

A bundle of fun images from Lady Lee :

Home is where the heart is

Another episode of ‘life chez Jackie’ :

Tea Time

Indra takes us back to colourful Hong Kong in 2010 :

Rock Art and the Color Green

I’m always keen to showcase something different.  Try photo walking with Aarti?

Will walk with friends @ Mumbai

I love an aerial view on life, especially when Drake’s in the pilot seat :

In the air

Walks don’t always have a happy ending, unless you’re Peter Pan.  Thanks, Susan!

Walking the Plank

I’m becoming addicted to Wordless walking.  Meg makes such a superb companion :

Wordless walks : Smuggler’s Cove, Carters Beach and Narooma Surf Beach

Woolly focuses first on the ladies caught up in this madness and then, a conclusion :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk32_Lochnagar-Crater-Pt3

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk33_Lochnagar-Crater-Pt4

Denzil has his ups and downs, but so long as it’s in beautiful scenery…

Walking around Viroinval

Eunice finds her walk a little boring, but the cloud reflections are lovely :

A Rivington ramble

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!

A window on Shropshire

Windows are delightful things and I have to confess to collecting more than my fair share on my travels.  Looking out or looking in, I’m equally happy.  You never know what you might find, do you?

On my visit to Shropshire this week I stayed in a wonderful old Arts and Crafts property, Arden House, in Church Stretton.  Looking out of the windows I could hardly wait to get started on another adventure.

It has the nicest of country pubs, even if a malevolent wasp might be hiding beneath the plate, ready to pounce.  What’s this chap doing up there, you might wonder? Trimming back the wisteria, I believe, in rather precarious fashion.

I don’t mind scaling the heights now and again myself, in search of a good view. Stokesay Castle was a prime example.

There will be more, of course, but for now let me reassure you that the swelling from the sting has stopped.  I hope to have matching hands again in the near future.  Meantime you are free to go and look at Paula’s unusual Windows, because Thursday’s Special.  And maybe spare a thought for Dawn?  I haven’t lingered at her monthly challenge in the longest time.