Meadow and Medieval

Meadow and Medieval

A few years ago our friend Marie from the USA came over here and on one day we took her to Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms in Shropshire. We travelled by car and parked in the Stokesay Castle car park as that seemed to be the most obvious thing to do.

We recently decided to visit Stokesay Castle again but this time we were planning to park in the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Craven Arms and walk to Stokesay Castle. Marie will probably recognise the views of Stokesay Castle. The Discovery Centre is on the edge of Onny Meadows; a large area of very nice water meadows with numerous footpaths.

We parked and then set off from the Discovery Centre to find the path that would take us across to the other side of the River Onny. We probably would have missed it if it wasn’t for the fact that I had my smartphone in my hand which showed us our position on a map. At the point at which it showed that we had reached the start of the path there was a rather insignificant gap in the hedge and that was the path we wanted. We probably wouldn’t have recognised it otherwise.

We were now heading for the river and on the way we passed some rather nice timber framed cottages.

Then we soon arrived at the ‘White Bridge’ over the river.

I stopped on the bridge to take a photograph of the river so there are no prizes for guessing whose shadow that is.

On the other side of the river we started to climb whilst travelling parallel to the river. The path went through some nice landscapes until it was fairly high above the river and then began to drop slowly until we reached river level again.

The River Onny here is quite deep and so flows very slowly. The overall impression is that of a pond rather than a river and there were plenty of dragonflies about.

As we walked alongside the river I spotted this Reed Canary-Grass which I thought looked rather nice. It is, unsurprisingly, a waterside grass.

Where the river was very shallow at the edges we saw a lot of fry, possibly Minnow, in large shoals. Each fish was only about one inch long.

It didn’t take us very long to get to Stokesay Castle which was looking its usual splendid self. This is an English Heritage property and all visits currently have to be pre-booked because of the Covid-19 situation but entry was quite straight forward. Needless to say there are plenty of features to look at and it really is interesting. They do have a nice gift shop at the entrance and we left carrying three jars of assorted fruit preserves and a bottle of liqueur. I don’t know how that happened.

Having had a good look around we decided that it was time to leave and started to walk back to the Discovery Centre. We passed this recently harvested field and I couldn’t resist a photograph partly because those large hills on the horizon are actually clouds.

We returned on a different path which passed through this wooded area of mainly Ash trees which looked very nice in their silvery bark.

Onward through the meadows were these Tansey flowers which I haven’t seen for some time and this is probably the largest bunch that I’ve seen.

As we approached the Discovery Centre we passed through these wooden representations of Mammoth tusks. These are here because there is, in the Discovery Centre, a full sized replica of Woolly Mammoth remains which were found near Condover, Shrewsbury.

The Discovery Centre is a modern building with a low profile and a grass roof.

The interior is very pleasant with a large gift shop and a well stocked cafe where we had lunch including, of course, finishing up with ice cream ( a very good selection of flavours). This is the passageway to the cafe.

That was the end of another interesting and enjoyable little trip.

Victorian Valve House

Victorian Valve House

This morning we set off to find a footpath. Yes I know, there are dozens around here but we were looking for a particular path. We had seen it on the map but had never walked it so, perhaps, now was the time.

It started in Presteigne Road so we walked over there then started up the road, phone in hand so I could see our progress and position on the map, until our position showed as being at the start of the path. There is housing along here and we could not see an obvious path. There was a small wooden gate which looked like the entrance to someone’s garden but nothing else. We went up to the gate and could see in the relatively lush undergrowth that there was a small plate on the gatepost with a footpath sign on it. It would have been very easy to miss.

Once through the gate it was very obviously a footpath which eventually leds us to another similar gate. Through the gate brought us to open ground and we could see the Victorian Valve House right in front of us.

This was built as part of the aqueduct which runs from the Elan Valley reservoirs to Birmingham to provide a water supply. We knew that if we walked up the hill to the top corner of the hill we could get on to another footpath that we had used before but in the reverse direction.

Unfortunately for us this hill is very steep and some of us needed a rest. Still, it gave me the opportunity to take a photograph of the view.

When we reached the top we joined the other path which took us back home through the wooded area of Frydd Hill.

It was a short trip but it did satisfy our curiosity regarding the Valve House path.

On the road to nowhere

On the road to nowhere

In April 2017 we traversed the Cambrian Mountains, on our way to Devil’s Bridge, on one of only two roads which go over the Cambrian Mountains. This is the blog that covers that trip. https://www.beenthere-donethat.org.uk/deoprrssw/?p=2428

We now decided that it was time to explore that second road. We weren’t going to a particular destination but purely to see what that road was like (Have you ever had a premonition that you are about to make a mistake?).

We headed off, on a warm sunny day, towards Beulah. Yes, I know, you’ve never heard of it. Well it’s a small village about 8 miles south-west of Newbridge-on-Wye in Powys. This is where the mountain road starts and having turned on to it, and before we’d left Beulah, we spotted a nice little church which we had to explore. The original path into the churchyard went over this cute little bridge but the current path bypasses the bridge.

And this is the little church. It is not very old, having been built in 1867, but it is very attractive.

Having had a quick look round ( what else can you do with a church that small?) we set off again along the road. This road is just one car’s width and does have passing places but you can bet that you won’t be near one when you meet a car coming the other way.

The first part of this road is mainly wooded but eventually after a gentle climb of some miles we came out into the open. We continue to head upwards through that valley round to the left.

We carried on to the village of Abergwesyn where we’d heard there was a ruined church. We couldn’t find the ruined church, if it still exists, but we did find the old churchyard with a mega Yew tree.

We carried on and soon went into another wooded section of the road with an unprotected steep slope on one side. No barrier to stop you driving off the edge and you do have to drive relatively near the edge because the road is so narrow.

I was quite pleased when that was over. Next we reached the Devil’s Staircase – a steep bit of read with some hairpin bends. The name is more worrying than the actual road and we successfully negotiated that section without problems. We reached another open area and we are still climbing but the views were getting better.

The road was beginning to get interesting now. It was bending in three dimensions and they tended to be sharp bends. When the bend was in the vertical plane the road beyond the top of the hill couldn’t be seen until the car was beginning to tip down the other side so one couldn’t see which way the road was going to go and there was always the possibility of a car coming the other way. Travelling was slow and if there was a short stretch where one could attain 20 MPH then that would be considered very fortunate. The same applied to bends in the horizontal plane – it meant driving really quite slowly. Don’t pick an argument with a rock – you won’t win.

Having reached the top we took a 7 mile detour to have a look at a reservoir we had heard about, Llyn Brianne, and it turned out to be a worthwhile detour. But it certainly increased our bend count.

Our road was now going downhill again but the bends didn’t get any better.

We finally reached the end of the road in a small town called Tregaron which was a relief from the bends – but not for long. We now had to return home which meant travelling the same route in the opposite direction. I was really looking forward to doing all those bends again. :(

I can tell you that by the time we reached Beulah again I was rather tired and we still had an hour to go to reach home. However we did reach home without incident and I don’t intend doing that journey again in a hurry!

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Now that some of the Covid-19 restrictions in Wales have been relaxed we can go somewhere else – anywhere – so we did just that.

We headed 60 miles due west and found ourselves in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. It took us about one hour and fortyfive minutes to do those 60 miles because most Welsh roads are anything but wide and straight. The last 10 miles was particularly wiggley but we got there.

We parked in a large car park on Park Avenue and were expecting to pay £1.70 for the day but all the pay machines were covered with large bags and there was no explanation so we ended up paying nothing.

We headed fo the sea front and soon after leaving the car park we walked past the Vale of Rheidol Railway Terminus which is a Heritage Steam Railway that runs to Devil’s Bridge. The last time we went to Devil’s Bridge we saw the other end of this line and took some photographs when a train arrived from Aberystwyth.

This time the terminus in Aberystwyth was closed with no signs of life anywhere so we continued past. Probably because of Covid-19. Pity really.

We headed for the harbour and were then planning to walk north along the sea front as far as the Funicular Railway at the far end of the bay. Where we parked was an obviously new area including a retail park but the buildings and streets suddenly changed when we reached the old part of the town.

This was one of the streets in the area of New Street and the hill in the distance could be Constitution Hill and the funicular railway runs up that.

It was a short walk further on to the harbour which includes the River Rheidol just before it runs into the sea. Both pictures are taken from the same viewpoint but in different directions.

A short walk from the harbour brought us to the sea front. This view is looking south and shows the wall at the entrance to the harbour.

Walking on South Marine Terrace along the sea front we passed these colourful houses and could see the castle in the distance.

Then an equally colourful plant bed.

A short way on we reached Aberystwyth Castle built by Edward I in 1289 but by 1343 the castle was in a bad state of repair. In 1649 Oliver Cromwell ordered the castle to be slighted, i.e. rendered unusable, hence its current condition.

We finally left the castle after having a really good look round and went back down to the sea front onto the New Promenade which was completed in the early 1900s.

On Constitution Hill in the distance, on the left of the next picture, there is a straight line visible running from the top to the bottom – this is the funicular railway of which more later.

In 1795 John Nash built the Old College buildings on the right, with George Jones as the architect, in Gothic style. It was later sold to the University of Wales who turned it into a college for higher education and it later became the University of Aberystwyth. It remained as the main part of the university until the 1960s when the university open a new campus near the National Library of Wales.

A short way on and we found two things – an ice cream kiosk and the pier. We had some ice cream, to help the local economy you understand, and had a look at the pier. It has to be said that this is the shortest seaside pier that we have ever seen. It does have amusements inside and a restaurant at the outer end which has a sun deck visible at the far end. We didn’t have time to visit the restaurant so we moved on.

When we reached this point along the sea front there was a turning off to the right which, having previously looked at the map, I knew led a short distance to the Tourist Information Centre. Having previous looked at some web sites which gave opening times I thought we’d pop in to see if there was anything we should visit that we might have missed. Needless to say it was closed with no signs of life. It was, however, a pleasant part of the town.

We went back to the seafront which has, as you can see, a rather fine beach. This beach runs all the way along the seafront promenade and has a greyish sand but sand nevertheless and there were plenty of people enjoying themselves.

We continued on towards the Funicular Railway passing some colourful, fine looking houses on the way.

We finally arrived at the bottom station of the funicular railway expecting it not to be running because of the current virus problems but it was so we decided to make use of it and take the easy way up.

We were asked to wear masks whilst on the ‘train’, which they supplied at a small charge, and the single fare was £7 for two.

We boarded the coach and, after a short time, it started to move. As with all funiculars there are two sets of rails and two coaches. When one coach is going up the other is coming down so that each coach acts as a counter-weight for the other.

This funicular is interesting in that the rails start up steeply then level off a little then go up an even steeper slope. When we reached the top I took a photograph from the station looking down.

You will be pleased to hear that there is a cafe at the top -we certainly were. They had a good selection of items on the menu including cake so we had to try some. We both had some cheesecake (very nice) and a cup of coffee each. The view from this level is really quite amazing.

The second picture was taken with a telephoto and is of the castle area with the war memorial on the right and parts of the castle showing on the left. You can also see the sundeck on the pier.

Once we had finished our cake and coffee we had to walk back down but just before we did that we had a look at the view north of Aberystwyth towards Clarach Bay. Beautiful.

This is the start of the footpath down but it isn’t that wide all the way.

We are almost at the bottom now.

On the way down we saw a number of wild flowers including Sea Campion, Thyme and Quaking Grass.

Finally back to sea level we now have to walk back to where we parked the car but we did pass through some more interesting parts of Aberystwyth.

We finally staggered back to the car and set off home but this time we are going home via the mountain road rather than the main road which brought us here.

We first go from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge where we join the mountain road.

The next picture, which is just before we reach Rhayader, will be of particular interest to our friend Marie because she has been there. It shows one of the reservoirs in the Elan Valley and we brought Marie this way on that little road in the bottom right corner.

We reached home without incident although Amanda was feeling a little travel sick by this time. It took her about an hour to recover.

I wonder where we’ll go next time!

A Fortifying Walk

A Fortifying Walk

The weather is still fine, is forecast to be hot, and our new sense of freedom is still active so we decided on another trip. We went the half mile down to the railway station into England and set off on the Clun road. Clun is a small market town, in Shropshire, about 7 miles from us but the ancient river bridge, which carries this road over the river, is closed for a week to enable repairs to be made so we must cross the river by alternative means.

When we reach Clun we turn off the main road onto a narrow winding lane which brings us to this.

Yes it’s a ford. Who needs a bridge?

We carry on to the car park at Bury Ditches a few miles on and start our walk. We started this trip immediately after breakfast and as it was only a half-day trip we hoped to beat the heat. That turned out to be a dismal failure.

We are doing this walk in two parts.

We are first walking along a wide track which is more or less level to see if we can spot any Wood White butterflies. There are only a few colonies in Britain one of which is supposed to be in this area. I don’t know how far we walked but we did eventually spot a small butterfly we couldn’t identify. It was somewhere between the size of a Common Blue and a Small White but the colour appeared to be a very pale blue. There is no butterfly in this country that matches that description so was it a Wood White? It came from in front of us and went past so we turned and followed it. It was flying at about walking pace and the damn thing wouldn’t stop so that we could get a good look.

At this point we gave up and walked back to the car park and we still don’t know if we’ve seen a Wood White or not.

So now we started up the path which goes up to the Bury Ditches Hill Fort. It was getting hotter by the minute and the path had patches of sun and shade which meant that we could stop in the shade for a rest which we did frequently. The path has a moderately steep gradient all the way up, which didn’t help, and there were a number of wild flowers along the edges of which these are some.

St. John’s Wort
Hedge Woundwort
Meadow Vetchling

On the way up I took these two photographs from exactly the same viewpoint but you should be able to see that they appear to be quite different in appearance.

This is the HDR feature on my smartphone’s camera. HDR, if you don’t know, stands for High Density Range and it improves photographs like this significantly. Not long ago the only way to produce the HDR effect was to put the camera on a tripod and take 3 seperate photographs, one exposed for highlights, one exposed for mid-tones and one exposed for shadows which then had to be ‘blended’ in a post photograph operation using a computer. With many current smartphones that have that feature if HDR is set ‘on’ the phone’s camera will take 3 photographs almost instantaneously and automatically blend them. Simple!

Continuing our climb we eventually reached the top but the climb, in this heat, had been VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. This hill fort is very large and, from here, one can go up onto one of the banks to the left, straight on into the central area or off to the right up onto another of the banks. We took the easy way by going straight on.

We soon found that this is Foxglove Central. They were everywhere and the distant views were pretty impressive too.

Foxgloves as far as the eye can see – well almost.

This next view was from the top of one of the banks.

We finally reached this little structure. It’s not in the centre of the open internal area but it may be on the highest point as there is an engraved plate on the top which shows all the surrounding landscape features.

We felt by now that we’d had enough of the heat and so we headed back down to the car park. At least going down the path was a lot easier than climbing up and, having reached the car, we went home.

FORE!

FORE!

Let’s make this clear. We are not golfers and we do not play golf. This ‘Golf Ball’ is not really a golf ball and is somewhat larger than a golf ball.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was going to be a lovely day and, as we are in Wales, we should not travel more than about 3 miles under lockdown rules. However in England there are now no such travel restrictions so we drove a half mile to our station which is in England and were then free to travel as far as we like.

So we drove for about 45 minutes to Titterstone Clee Hill near Ludlow.

That is an impressive hill wouldn’t you say? We intend going to the very top but we are, of course, going to cheat.

Titterstone Clee Hill used to be quarried, although the quarries closed in the early twentieth century, and that means that there is an access road almost to the top. The view below is from the level of the car park looking back along the road the way that we came.

This is the car parking area looking towards one of the old quarry faces which is slowly being taken over by nature and doesn’t look anything like as raw as when it was a working quarry.

Time to start up to the top. We climb a moderately steep path and soon come across this view of another quarry face, again softened by nature, with two very strange devices looking rather like giant golf balls showing over the quarry edge.

These devices are radar domes. The largest is part of the National Air Traffic Services radar network and covers one of 30 overlapping regions of UK airspace. This one on Titterstone Clee monitors all aircraft within a 100-mile radius and the smaller of the two is a Meteorological Office weather radar which is part of a network of 16 radars across the country used to detect rain. I usually just put my hand out of the window.

As we climbed higher we passed these tiny flowers which turned out to be Thyme so it was nice to know that we had plenty of Thyme.

Continuing upward we reached a point where we could see one of the old quarries below us. This is the opposite view from the one I took from the car park looking into this old quarry. That fairly obvious light area on the left is the car park, with our car showing on the left, and just to right of centre those little dark blocks are the remains of some of the old quarry buildings.

The path that we are following is actually part of the Shropshire Way and the post in the picture below is a waymarker post for that path.

The shropshire Way long distance footpath covers some 200 miles crossing, as well as Titterstone Clee Hill, the Stiperstones and many other Shropshire towns and villages going as far north as Whitchurch.

We finally reached our furthest point which was the trigonometry point and Amanda tried to hide behind it without much success.

The hill in the distance, to the left of the trigonometry point, is Brown Clee Hill which is the highest hill in Shropshire and is a little higher than Titterstone Clee. The second picture is a closer view of Brown Clee.

This next picture shows the relationship of the trigonometry point and the radar domes.

The views from this height, about 1700 feet, are stupendous and not only that but they were accompanied by the sounds of Skylarks above us.

We started back down and passed these foxgloves on the way.

Have reached the car park we decided to have a look around the old derelict buidings. There was one on the left with two large cavities underneath and one, with legs, just above Amanda’s head. The building with the cavities underneath was used for loading railway trucks with quarried stone.

In one of the buildings there was some ‘Street Art’ (Graffiti). It certainly shows some artistic talent but I do wonder if any of the people that do this put it to good use. I have no idea what the symbolism means.

Finally we found something we had hoped to find – the Titterstone Incline. This was part of the narrow gauge (3 ft) railway used for transporting quarried stone which carried the stone from up here in the quarry downhill to the nearest road or railway.

All in all a very interesting trip. We had been here once before in 2005 when we stayed in Ludlow but we missed a lot of the interesting bits on Titterstone Clee Hill then. We have now rectified that.

A Knighton Walk – We’re on edge!

A Knighton Walk – We’re on edge!

Another sunny day – time for another walk. This time we are starting at Offa’s Dyke Centre and walking to just past Nether Skyborry and back on a circular route.

We started from the Offa’s Dyke Centre and this shows the park at the back of the Centre. We set off along the visible path which is actually part of the Offa’s Dyke Path.

Just as we entered the park we saw this rather fine Chestnut Tree in flower.

A little further along the path (still In the park) the grass on the left-hand side was covered in Buttercups and Daisies.

We soon reached the point at which the path divides, the left-hand path leads to a section of Offa’s Dyke, should you want to see that, but we wanted the right-hand fork which follows Offa’s Dyke Path down to the River Teme.

That right-hand path leads to the top of these steps so down we go.

The path levels off briefly, crossing a grassy area, and the bank on the left is the section of dyke mentioned earlier

The path then goes downhill again for a short while to where we turn left still following Offa’s Dyke Path.

We then leave the wooded section into the open where we walk alongside the River Teme for a short while. The hill in the distance is Panpunton Hill.

Leaving the riverside we cross the River Teme on this footbridge

and cross the railway line. There is very good visibility on this crossing as the line is straight for quite a good length and it is very easy to see a train if there is one.

On the other side of the railway line we go through a gate and continue on the path.

The signpost at this point is pointing along the Offa’s Dyle Path, back the way that we have come and off to the right to continue on Offa’s Dyke Path. We, however, are taking a different direction. You should be able to see a very small figure (another walker) in the centre of the picture which is where we are heading. On the left of that figure you may be able to see a patch bare of grass which is the path we are following.

The path continues slightly uphill past a trough and goes through the gate ahead. The gate is held closed by a chain which can be unclipped and, after passing through, do not forget to shut the gate and clip the chain back together.

This section of path passes through this meadow and heads for the far right corner of the field where there is another gate which is very similar to the one we have just passed through..

On the way we passed a number of Hawthorn Trees in blossom. There were also some Bluebells below right.

On the far side of the second field we pass close to the River Teme and start uphill again.

This uphill section is neither long nor steep.

We do, however, soon reach this point where the path appears to go through a tree. That is because the path does go through a tree. When we had a lot of rain earlier in the year it was enough to cause part of the bank on our left to collapse taking the tree with it so that the tree has ended up at an angle although it still appears to be growing. We had to detour around the tree on the right.

On the other side of the tree the path runs along the top of a cliff and you may be able to see that there is quite a drop down to the river. Bearing in mind that we have just seen evidence that this ground is unstable you can see why we were on edge in both senses of the word.

A short way on we saw a number of bright blue Speedwell flowers. Very pretty.

The path continues for some time at about this level. Do you get the impression that Amanda is trying to lose me?

Then we saw some rather attractive Red Campion flowers. There are a lot of wild flowers of various types along this route.

We reach a point where a small stream cuts across the path but what you can’t see is that the path this side is very steeply angled towards the stream but you’ll be sorry to hear that we both made it without getting our feet wet.

Shortly after we saw this splendid example of a coppiced tree and coppicing should not be confused with pollarding.

At this point amanda saw a strange old geezer suffering from OldBufferitis trying to get over a low, very simple stile and making a real meal of it. This is the start of a short section of path which we have named the Assalt Course as there are a number of obstacles to be negotiated.

Just the other side Amanda spotted this Jews Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) which I had missed comletely. The latin name translates to “Judas’s Ear” and is also known as Wood Ear or Jelly Ear.

The strange old geezer made a second appearance when we had to clamber over a fallen tree and made a miserable attempt at making it appear difficult.

There aren’t many choices with this one. Either you clamber over it or crawl under it. We chose the former.

Finally we reached this gate where we left the wooded part and emerged into the open. This gate has an interesting closing mechanism which I haven’t seen before. I won’t attempt to explain it but I managed to work it out so you should also be able to if you attempt the walk.

You may just be able to see a gate in the far hedge in the right half of the picture. It’s above and just left of the left-most sheep. That’s our current target.

On our way to the gate we passed quite close to one of the locals.

When we finally reached the gate we stopped to look back at the view. That hill on the left with the mast on the top is Garth Hill and we have walked on Garth Hill a number of times.

We left the field via a gate and emerged onto the road. The route we are going to take now is from that gate towards and behind the camera which is back towards Nether Skyborry and, thence, Knighton.

It was a bit of a puff going uphill to Nether Skyborry but we managed and the gate on the left had a nameplate on it which read ‘ Nether Skyborry’.

A little further along the road we had this rather nice view of Knighton.

Eventually we reached the point at which Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the road. This view is looking back the way we have come and the gate on the right gives access to Offa’s Dyke Path up Panpunton Hill. The gate on the left takes us back towards Knighton to the point at which, earlier on the route, we branched off the Offa’s Dyke Path.

There is a choice here of going through the gate back to Knighton which will mean the total length of the walk will be three miles or of continuing along the road to Knighton Station and then right along Station Road back into town which would mean a total length of four miles.

We went back home after a delightful walk with a lot of interesting features. We have done it before and we’ll probably do it again.