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Public rights of way

A Fortuitous Trip

A Fortuitous Trip

We have had a lot of rain here recently and we were very surprised to see that the weather forecast for Monday (yesterday) was that it would be sunny. We couldn’t miss this opportunity to do something that we had planned to do some while ago so we set off from Knighton for the little hamlet of Chapel Lawn in Shropshire about 6 miles from us.

As we leave Knighton and cross the River Teme we are now in Shropshire and after the long and arduous 10 minute journey (well, Ok, I like to exaggerate sometimes) we parked in the Village Hall car park and prepared to set off on our walk.

That walk is to be to the top of the hill in the photograph below. We don’t intend to go straight up the side as it’s just too steep so we’ll be going off to the the right and, eventually, back left to the top. It may be longer that way but the gradient is far more manageable.

Just off to the right of the car was the village sign which I though was nice enough to warrant a photograph.

You’ll remeber that earlier I said we had had a lot of rain and because of that we found ourselves walking along the lane which was awash with water.

We pressed on, however, and soon spotted something interesting in the form of some large fungi on the roadside verge which we have yet to try and identify. Perhaps it’s Fungus biggus. :-))

We started going uphill very shortly after leaving the car park and the views from the lane were starting to get impressive.

After walking about three quarters of a mile up the lane we found the start of the footpath and a short while after leaving the lane I stopped to take this photograph looking back along the footpath to the gate in the hedge.

About 15 minutes later I stopped to take another photograph looking back along the footpath because the moon was showing high above in the sky. You should be able to see it not far from the top of the picture.

There were, of course, the inevitable sheep about.

And we stopped soon after for this rather nice view of Chapel Lawn where we had started from. If you can spot the church then our car is parked immediately to its left. It now looks a long way down and we haven’t yet stopped going uphill.

Now this sign looks as though it has been there a very long time and it is pointing to the place we are going to – Caer Caradoc. It is a hill about 1300 feet high and it’s not just a hill but we’ll get to that later.

We spotted some more fungi along the way which isn’t surprising at this time of year and, again, we have yet to identify them.

Soon after, with much puffing and blowing, we reached our destination – the Caer Caradoc Hill Fort which turned out to be the most impressive hill fort we’ve seen so far. This photograph is taken at the eastern entrance and shows a well defined ditch with a bank on both sides.

The next picture shows Amanda going through this entrance and you may notice that although we have reached the fort we have not yet stopped going uphill. You can see that the bank beyond Amanda stops for the entrance opening and in the foreground is the drop into the ditch with the left-hand bank above it.

Just inside the fort we find yet another little fungus, about the size of a little fingernail, which Amanda is fairly sure is a Wax Cap.

We walked across the inside of the fort and I am relieved to say that we have reached the highest point at around 1300 feet. Whew!

We are now approaching the west entrance seen just in front of Amanda having moved further into the interior of the fort.

Oh no, not another one! Oh yes, I’m afraid so, yet another fungus which, so far, remains unidentified.

At the west entrance to the fort we find that the banks and ditches are much more well defined compared with the east entrance. These next two photographs show two of the three parallel banks and a ditch seen from the top of one of the banks plus another very well defined ditch.

The views from up here are phenomenal and, as the sun at this time of year is very low, you can see my shadow.

Amanda is at the bottom of one of the ditches and it gives a good idea of the scale of this place. The distance from the top of a bank to the bottom of the adjacent ditch is quite considerable. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to build something like this especially with the tools which were available at the time.

There were beautiful views in every direction and on a warm, dry summer’s day one could look for hours. We are now on our way back to the eastern entrance and you should be able to see the gap in the outer bank and the view beyond.

We made our way back to the lane and on the way down towards Chapel Lawn we saw these Hawthorn trees with a multitude of red berries.

That was a really enjoyable walk, if a little strenuous but one has to ask why did these iron age people go to such lengths to fortify their living enclosures? Who were they protecting themselves from? We probably may never know.

Incidentally there is another Caer Caradoc in Shropshire, near Church Stretton, but I gather that the Hill Fort on that one is not as good. Don’t get the two confused.

If you’d like to see it on a map then look here

Until next time.

Butterflies and Flowers

Butterflies and Flowers

Butterflies? Flowers? February? It’s not as silly as it sounds. It all started this morning with a bright sun in a cloudless sky – it was going to be a beautiful day so we just had to go somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be Croft Castle.

We wanted to try and find some snowdrops which were supposed to be found in Pokehouse Wood. Don’t ask me where that name comes from because I don’t know and I’m not about to start guessing but the wood is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate. If one parks at Croft Castle then it’s going to be a five and a half mile return walk to Pokehouse Wood which we didn’t really want to do so we, naturally, cheated. On the way to Croft Castle we pass through the small village of Amestrey which, surprisingly, is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate so we didn’t pass through, we stopped and parked.

We used a public footpath to reach the edge of Croft Castle Estate where we found a sign, by some steep steeps, which told us that we had arrived at Pokehouse Wood. Up the steps we went and eventually arrived at a wide path where we turned right. Walking along the path, which we noticed was going downhill very slowly, we kept a lookout for Snowdrops. Not a sign. Not a tiny speck of white to be seen anywhere. But then we found these. Not a lot admittedly but it is a start.

As the path was going downhill we eventually arrived at river level, you can see the river below us in the image above, onto another path where we turned right.

Then things started to get interesting.

So, finally, we did find a few. We also noticed that the Snowdrop flowers were beginning to die back so we were lucky that we hadn’t left it another week as we may then have been disappointed.

We also spotted this solitary Primrose.

The path we were on seemed to be heading back towards our starting point so we decided to risk it and continued on this path. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the bottom of the steps we had climed previously so we needn’t have climbed them in the first place. Bummer!

On our way back along the public footpath we stopped to have a look at this tree.

Now that is a tree that you couldn’t easily miss. That tiny person at the bottom is Amanda trying to identify it. She eventually decided that it was a Wellingtonia. Wellingtonias are native to California in America and that is where they grow to their maximum height. They do also grow in other parts of America but not to such a height. However they do also like it here in Britain; growing not to such a height as they grow in California but higher than they grow in other parts of America.

We drove round to the car park in Croft Castle then walked to the restaurant where we had some much appreciated sustenance.

Our next plan was to walk around the upper reaches of Fishpoool Valley so we set off and came across another interesting tree.

This is known as the Candelabra Oak which Amanda estimates can’t be far short of 1000 years old. So you should be able to work out that it is an Oak and I don’t want any dimwits asking “Barry, why is it called the Candelabra Oak” as it should be fairly obvious. We started down the wooded path into Fishpool Valley.

Some way further down we saw, across on the other side, the Grotto which we had heard about but hadn’t seen so we went across to have a look.

It has to be said that we were not awe struck. Apparently some of it is now missing but what and where I don’t know. The second photograph above shows the Grotto on the left with Amanda sitting a little way in front. Walking on we came across our third flower of the day – a wild daffodil.

From the look of the area there should be a lot more of those in bloom in a few more weeks. We’ll have to come back and see. Back to our walk. The path went on – and on – and on.

It may be long but we were enjoying it. At this time of year with no leaves on the trees and a low sun the atmosphere was ethereal.

Our final picture, before we climbed out of Fishpool Valley and went back to our car, is of one of the ponds. The surface of the water was completely still and acted like a mirror showing some amazing reflections.

We also saw some butterflies – a Brimstone, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell so it must be Spring. That was the end of our day but we hope to be back for more daffodils – weather permitting.

Under an Essex sky

Under an Essex sky

Today, Thursday, is the BIG one. I plan to do an eight mile walk from Tollesbury to Salcott-cum-Virley along the edge, and through, some of the Essex salt marsh.

It wasn't practical for me to drive to Tollesbury as I wasn't reurning there so I planned to go by bus but Amanda immediately volunteered to drive me to Tollesbury. So was it her altruistic nature showing through? Well, no it wasn't, it was because I was planning to have lunch, when I got to Tollesbury, in a little tea room that we discovered recently and which neither of us had tried and she certainly wasn't going to be left out of that.

So we parked the car and headed down towards Tollesbury Waterside. This tea room is called 'The Loft' because it is in one of the old sail lofts which I have mentioned before.

We arrived at around 12:30 to find plenty of vacant tables, chose one and settled ourselves down and you can see Amanda avidly studying the menu. We didn't have long to wait for our order to be taken and my coffee and Amanda's tea arrived very soon after. It wasn't very long after that that our lunches arrived so the service was certainly good. I was having Mediterranean vegetable soup which turned out to be very tasty and the bread, from the local bakers, was excellent. Amanda had a free range chicken, homemade sausage meat stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich which she thoroughly enjoyed. The food served here is all local produce and they also have some very tempting cakes which, I believe, are also homemade. Although it was quiet when we arrived by the time we left it was very busy. An obviously popular place.

Having sampled the fare I was very tempted to suggest that we spend the afternoon sitting here drinking coffee and eating cake but decided that it wouldn't make a particularly interesting blog post. So it was time for Amanda to go back home and for me to start my walk the beginning of which was virtually next to the tea room.

My route, produced on my GPS as I walked, is shown on this map with the start at the bottom.

There are waypoints marked at 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours into the walk with the final waypoint at the end.

This is the start of my journey into the unknown (I haven't done this before) so up onto the sea wall and out into the wilderness. This next view is only a few hundred yards, if that, from the start of the path shown above with the salt marsh stretching off into the distance past the houseboat.

It wasn't long after I started that I saw a Little Egret standing in the marsh and I was hoping to get a photograph with the telephoto when I was near enough but it flew off long before that.

I suppose it would have been about 30 minutes into the walk when I took this next photograph.

The habitation on the horizon is West Mersea on Mersea Island on the other side of Salcott Channel. By the time I get to waypoint 'B' I shall be a lot nearer but that won't be for some time yet.

Not long after taking the above photograph I turned round and looked the other way. This picture was taken at that point with the sun and Tollesbury just out of the picture to the right. I'm probably looking towards Shinglehead Point (see map).

After about 40 minutes I reach Old Hall Farm which, as you can see on the map, is at the end of a little lane which comes in to the marshes and stops at the farm.

A little further on at the 1 hour mark I saw this next view looking across the marsh to Tollesbury. A little to the left of centre, on the horizon, is the Tollesbury Lightship and you can just about see the tower on the lightship sticking up above the horizon in the larger picture. It looks a long way away now.

Not long past the last view I reach a junction where I have to decide to branch left and take a shorter route or carry on round the edge the long way with no chance of changing my mind. I ask myself 'Are you a man or a wimp?' and my legs quickly answer 'A wimp, a wimp' but I decide to ignore them and go the long way anyway. I may regret that later and my legs certainly will.

Further along the wall I found that I had to wade through a lot of Norfolk Reed. It's certainly unusual to find it on the top of the wall as it normally grows on the edge of water. You can see the wall curving gently to the left with the River Blackwater on the outer edge of the marsh to the right.

Occasionally I hear the cry of a Curlew but don't actually see any. I am now heading along the sea wall on the northern edge of North Channel which runs between me and Great Cob Island. If I turn and look inland I'm looking across Old Hall Marshes towards Peldon (off the top of the map). The water in the foreground will be fresh water because it's on the inside of the sea wall.

A little further on I met this group of local ladies having a chat on the wall.

They didn't seem particularly pleased to see me and went off in a huff. I think that they were envious of the fact that I could navigate the stile and they couldn't. The buildings visible beyond are part of West Mersea on Mersea Island and are a lot nearer now than when I mentioned them earlier.

It was pretty breezy out here and there were a number of sailing vessels on the water including these small sailing boats which appeared to be in a race of some sort.

I then come across a small shell bank (bottom right of next picture) with Mersea Island in the distance. You may be able to see that the sea wall runs straight ahead towards Mersea and then turns abruptly left. That turn should be around my 2 hour mark. You can also see that parts of the marsh are now almost submerged as the tide is coming in.

I finally reach my two hour point, waypoint 'B', and I'm as near to Mersea as I'm going to get. Doesn't look very far away does it? The sun seems to have taken a break though.

Looking inland over Old Hall Marshes, at this same point, I can see Pennyhole Fleet.

Pennyhole Fleet is the area of fresh water in the foreground. A 'fleet' is an old channel that has since been blocked at both ends. Whilst I'm looking at this view I hear a lot of distant honking and then seen a flock of geese flying in from the right and they curve round towards me and land on the far side of the marsh. They are too far to see once they've landed but they are probably Brent Geese coming from more northern climes to overwinter in this country.

A little later I took this photograph, again of Old Hall Marshes, because I rather liked the look of the back lighting when looking directly into the sun.

Surely I must be getting near the end by this point? Well the bad news is that I still have an hour to go and I am beginning to get tired. My legs are trying to mutiny but I'm in charge and they do as they're told. So there!

I'm now at Quince's Corner, just short of the three hour 'C' waypoint.

Quince's Corner is a small bay in Salcott Channel. You can probably see the curved shape in the picture with Mersea over to the far left and the path I've been following along the top of the wall and it can't be far to the three hour mark surely? Well no it isn't far and I reach it shortly after (waypoint 'C'). I pause to telephone Amanda to get her to come to Salcott to pick me up and then continue towards salcott. A little after this I hear a Curlew and see it land on the opposite edge of the channel.

Those buildings in the trees on the horizon must be Salcott. I wish they didn't look quite so far away.

I finally get to the point where I have to leave the wall and cross a field to get into Salcott and there, at the end, is Amanda waiting for me at the end of the lane (waypoint 'D').

That turned out to be 8.5 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes. Whew!  :cool:

It was, however, a lovely day to be out on the marshes although a lighter breeze would have been a bonus and I suppose I'll do it again – sometime. :mrgreen:


Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Wednesday

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Wednesday

We were up at about 7:30 and down to breakfast just before 8:00. Amanda chose a standard cooked breakfast but I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg – yummy. Soon after breakfast we were off once again towards Avebury. We were told that the Olympic Torch was passing the hotel at about 11:00 this morning but they were going to have to do without us as we had other plans

There is a long earthwork called the Wansdyke consisting of a ditch and bank, 45 miles of it, which runs from Savernake Forest on the edge of Marlborough to somewhere near Bath. We were going to have a look at the section that passes about 3 miles south of Avebury.

There is a small car park between Knap Hill and Milk Hill which we used as the starting point of our walk. Having crossed the road from the car park we set off along the central path of three diverging public footpaths which went steadily uphill. This is the ridge we are making for and just look at all those buttercups – lovely.

After a short distance we could look back and see the car park we'd started from (just below the horizon on the right) together with yet more buttercups.

Onward. After (puff) some more (puff) uphill (puff) walking (puff, puff) we reached the Wansdyke. This is looking east towards Savernake Forest with the bank and ditch curving off to the right to a visible promentory where it bends left out of sight.

This, surprisingly, is not a pre-historic earthwork but was built around 500 AD. Now tell me why someone, using primitive tools, would want to go to all that trouble to build 45 miles of this? Why, I wonder, did they think that they needed 45 miles of defensive earthworks? This is one of the largest linear earthworks in the UK.

On the right hand flank of the bank is a small patch of yellow flowers – they are cowslips.

This is the Wansdyke running off into the distance in the other direction towards the west.

We started walking east along the Wansdyke accompanied by the songs of Skylarks and  Meadow Pipits. Meadow Pipits behave a little like Skylarks in that they flutter up high and then drop whilst singing but the song is not quite as nice as Skylarks. There was nobody else around up here and it was very quiet apart from birdsong.

We were quite high up here and I chanced to see this cow motorway down below us.

I don't know where they've come from and I don't know where they're going. That's going to remain one of life's mysteries.

A little further along the top of the dyke I spotted these.

They are Chalk Milkwort and those flowers although small really are a brilliant blue and should not be confused with Speedwell which, although broadly similar, are of a much less intense blue.

We reached the point where we were leaving the dyke to go back towards the car park but we also had a good view of the Wansdyke as it wandered into the distance. Notice how it curves round to the right and finally disappears off the right edge of the picture near the top. Although it was a warm sunny day the visibility was not very good and it did look a bit murky in the distance.

Time to clamber over the stile to get onto the new path.

We could see from the map that the next section of path formed an 'S' and the lower part of the 'S' was a curve round the top edge of a bowl giving us a good view over the surrounding landscape.

The top section of the 'S' was where the path curved round to avoid a small wooded enclosure and soon after that we came across this.

The lumpy area in the foreground is apparently known as 'ant hill grassland' and I'll let you guess how it's formed.

This next picture shows a white horse and our path, which you can see if you look carefully, crosses just above the horse then curves down to where we are now. When we passed above the horse it was easy to see the construction because it was so large but difficult to discerne the shape with any clarity because we were so close.

Once we were here it is easy to see the shape.

Now we are on the final leg of our walk, on a different path from the one we started out on, and you can see the path heading roughly in the direction of the car park in the distance.

We got back to our car, which ended a really lovely walk, and headed off to our hotel – tomorrow we go home.