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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.

Covid-19 Lockdown: Day 736

Covid-19 Lockdown: Day 736

Needless to say we haven’t travelled anywhere that isn’t local but that doesn’t mean life is in stasis.

One thing that has changed since my last post is that all the surplus water has gone and, in particular, the mud has dried so that one does not sink in up to the ankles in sloshy, sticky mud. There is no water running along Kinsley Road. Spring has finally sprung.

There is a lot of Butterbur growing on the banks of our brook as you can see here. This is on our property.

Our Magnolia Tree is in full bloom.

We have been going out for the occasional walk down by the River Teme and there were some sheep on the other side, some of them with little lambs. This is one of the sheep having a drink. Forget the saying that sheep will drink only from still water because that water was moving quite quickly.

A little further on and the large shingle bank with the river passing both sides used not to be there. There are large lumps of the bank, still with grass on them, laying in the river.

Lesser Celendine is out in force at the moment.

and there is also some Blackthorn blossom. It’s not Hawthorn – too early for that.

On the way back along Kinsley Road I saw a number of other flowers both wild and cultivated,

Suddenly, after a few warm sunny days, there seem to be lots of butterflies around. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orang Tips, Small White, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Comma.

I had thought of giving you a tour around our garden.

But that is as far as I took it because I couldn’t hold the camera steady enough. I need a gimbal. Who wants to see our garden anyway?

How to wear out a pair of old legs very quickly.

How to wear out a pair of old legs very quickly.

As today was dry I decided to try part of a walk that Amanda and I have done before. I say ‘try’ because although soon after we first moved to Knighton we walked from the town, up Panpunton Hill (which is VERY steep) then along the ridge and up to the top of Cwm Sanaham Hill I’m not sure that I could do all that with my current state of health.

So I decided to cheat by driving to the top of Kinsley Wood and start the walk from there which cuts out the ‘climbing Panpunton Hill’ bit. That left me with a 4 mile return walk with plenty of ups and downs. Amanda is not joining me on this one as she wants to get some gardening done.

Having parked the car I set off. I had been walking for a while when I arrived at this point and looked back.

If you look carefully you will see the path (bright green) curving round to the right and eventually disappearing over the brow of a hill in the distance. This is part of Offa’s Dyke Path.

I pressed on and eventually reached the junction where the path from Five Turnings, a very small hamlet, crosses Offa’s Dyke Path. The next picture, again looking back towards my starting point, shows the footpath sign. The yellow pointers indicate the Offa’s Dyke Path and the plain white ones indicate the path from Five Turnings.

I walked on further to the point shown below which gives me a good view of Cwm Sanaham Hill. Um, err, oh! I’m supposed to be going to the top of that one. The path can be seen curving right out of the picture because it follows the side of that valley in front until we meet the valley floor coming up which saves me a very steep climb down followed by a very steep climb up. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any slopes it just means that they aren’t as steep as they might have been.

After much grunting, heavy breathing and sighing I do finally make it to the top and to prove it here is a picture of the trigonometry point on the summit. I stopped for a breather and telephoned Amanda to let her know I’d reached my objective (she worries a little y’ know).

The only snag with this is that I now have to do it all again in reverse. On the way back I stopped to take this photograph just because I liked the lighting effect.

Not long after the above I stopped to take a photograph of Offa’s Dyke itself. There is quite a long run of it here akthough it isn’t as high as it is in some places.

At this point there is a gap in the dyke and the end of the dyke in front is shown by the shadow. The rough ground on my left is the continuation of the dyke behind me. You may notice the inevitable sheep.

I short while later I saw two large black birds fly across my route, at some height, and from the calls they made I would guess that they were Ravens but I’m no bird expert so don’t quote me on that one.

I finally made back to the car after a walk of 4 miles, which took me 2 hours and 20 minutes with an elevation gain of 832 feet. Cwm Sanaham Hill is 1342 feet high ( and feels it).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the local leg shop to buy a new pair – my current ones have had it.

We have been loafing about.

We have been loafing about.

For those of you who may not have seen this expression ‘to loaf about’ it means to be idle but we haven’t been loafing about in the accepted sense.

If one goes out for the day and ends up absolutely and totally knackered how can that be ‘leisure’?

It all started so well. We parked our car, got out and looked around. Lovely!

Then we started to walk along the footpath which sloped gently upward and, as you can see, although it was a sunny day visability looking towards the sun wasn’t all that good but looking away from the sun was better.

Our destination at the moment is off to our left so we are walking parallel to it but it is hidden from us by a slight rise in the ground. Still going up gently we were walking along chatting away and then we reached a point were we could see byond the slight rise which had been blocking our view and saw this.

YIKES! No, wait, lots of yikes! The top of that is our destination and it looks a long way away and a long way up. Those clouds are brushing the top of what is known as the Sugarloaf. Before the advent of granular sugar, sugar was sold as ‘loaves’ which were roughly the shape of that mountain; hence the name.

It didn’t look all that impressive when we were looking at the map and planning this trip. We are, by the way, near Abergavenny which is about an hour and a half by car from home. We seriously thought that, perhaps, we had bitten off more than we could chew.

After seeing this view we changed our plans slightly inasmuchas we had planned to go up the right-hand end but after seeing that it was steeper at that end we decided to head for the left-hand end which looked like a shallower (easier) slope. Even then we are still travelling parallel to the Sugarloaf and we were probably going to have to walk further to reach the left-hand ridge.

So we pressed on with the intention of going as far as we could. We reached the start of the path which we had originally planned to take and there were some other walkers heading up that way but we could see that avoiding that route was the right decision. From here the mountain looked slightly nearer. Progress! You may also notice the top is being slightly covered in cloud.

We continued along our chosen path and took a photograph back the way we came which was along the path on the left from the horizon to here which looks quite a long way. Needless to say the lady with the dog soon overtook us oldies.

We walked on and from here the slope increased and we could feel our energy slowly but surely fading away. We are now, at least, level with the left-hand edge of the summit ridge and heading towards it. Where the path in front seems to stop suddenly it actually turns towards the right heading for the centre of the summit ridge.

I’m walking fairly slowly now although Amanda can do better than me but is keeping down to my speed. We have now reached a point where the slope steepens again and I suppose we are about two thirds of the way there and I am not looking forward to the last third. Compared with the previous view of the path we have come a long way.

On this section of the path, which is significantly steeper than it looks in the pictures, I find that I am taking about 10 steps and then having to stop for a short rest. I can see that this is going to take a long time. Although it still looks a long way to the summit ridge there is no doubt that it looks nearer although there are some people on the ridge who still look very small indeed.

Later on the steepness of the path increased even more to the point that one was stepping up a level at a time rather like stairs which slowed me even more. This is the last part of the ‘path’ which led up to the summit ridge and it was steeper than it looked.

My main problem is that medication I am having to take now has the side-effect of reducing muscle mass which is a nuisance as I didn’t have that much before. I was now seriously thinking that I may have to give up but I just took it a step at a time and we actually did finally reach the summit ridge. I may be slowly falling apart but at least I have 83 excuses for it.

It was certainly worth it with those tremendous views.

Now comes the part I’ve been dreading – going back. We started off back down on that same rough path.

Then Amanda though she would make the descent easy by flying back but couldn’t flap her arms fast enough. It was a good try though.

Going down the steeper parts was rather trying on the leg muscles, especially since I didn’t have any, but stopping to rest and look at the surrounding scenery was good.

The town down there is Abergavenny where we are hoping to go after reaching the car for much needed sustenance.

Abergavenny seems to be getting nearer and that can’t be too soon.

We finally staggered, literally, back to the car and drove the 3 miles to Abergavenny where we visited the Fig Tree Espresso which we hadn’t been to before but had read plenty of nice things about it. As it turned out it was a nice little place where we had a light but late (3 o’clock) lunch. We finished off with a slice of Rose and Chocolate cake which was unusual but very nice indeed.

It was an hour and 30 minutes to get back home after dark. Whew!

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 https://is.gd/yfd5Ox

Until next time.