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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.

The Island in the Sky – Day 2

The Island in the Sky – Day 2

The next morning we couldn’t wait to draw the curtains and this was our view.

Oh! Were did all that fog come from? Whilst we were preparing to go down for breakfast we kept an eye on the view and it was then that we saw the island in the sky. What an astonishing view!

The view was changing over time and we realised that the fog was slowly disapating and we could see more of the island as it did so.

However breakfast awaits!

After stuffing ourselves at breakfast we prepared to go out. First we were off to the local village Llanwddyn (pronounced lanurthin) to look at the dam at this end of the lake and I must say it looks very impressive.

Looking from the dam across the lake we can see the straining tower where the water first passes through a fine metal mesh to filter or strain out material in the water. The tower stands in over 50ft deep water and is over 150ft high but much of the structure is hidden underwater and cannot be seen.

Some of the earlier fog is still hanging over the water which makes the scene that much more picturesque.

From the top of the dam part of the village shows in the early morning sun.

Then we set off on today’s adventure which means climbing up the hillside to look at the remains of a Knights Hospitaller Hospitium built in the 14th century.

The first part of the walk was through forest so we could see little but trees. When we finally left the forest we could still see a small portion of Lake Vyrnwy and some beautiful autumn colours.

We were now out in the open trying to navigate across the relatively featureless moorland.

If you look carefully at the image above you should be able to see a diagonal track starting near the left-hand edge of the horizon and sloping down into the picture. That track leads down to the Hospitium but we didn’t know that at this time.

We are much further along now and you can still see that diagonal track disappearing into the dip ahead. It turns out that what remains of the Hospitium is in among that Bracken on our left. It would be very difficult walking through that so, although it was disappointing, we gave it a miss.

We went on round to the left and down into that valley which is where that diagonal track was leading and in the valley is a small stone bridge over which that track passes. This medieval bridge is a crude but functional structure and each side is shown in the photographs below.

There was supposed to be a spring near the Hospitium and Amanda found it by wandering around until she could hear rushing water. It was rather buried in the undergrowth but the flow was very strong.

We made our way back to the car (much easier to say than to do) and as it was parked next to the lake we noticed that the change in the direction of the sunlight was now lighting up the arches in the top of the dam rather nicely.

Driving back to the hotel I spotted this nice view of the hotel so stopped to take a photograph.

We went up to our room to prepare for dinner and later I took this photograph of that same view from the window again but different lighting.

I don’t think I could ever get bored with that view.

Black and White Villages and an Arrow – Part 2.

Black and White Villages and an Arrow – Part 2.

We drove the 2.5 miles from Pembridge to Eardisland and, as in Pembridge, we crossed the River Arrow again although, this time, it was on the far side of the village for us. The bridge dates from around 1800.

Once again there is a free visitors car park on the main road through the village almost opposite the Dovecote and there were plenty of spaces but, unlike Pembridge, no public toilets. The Dovecote, dating from the late 17th/early 18th century is shown below and is open to the public. It functions as an information and exhibition centre for the village offering interesting historical displays and information on the area alongside a shop selling local produce. There is no entry charge.

Moving to the right of the Dovecote we can see the side of the Manor House with a front view below.

The Manor House dates from the 17th century with what appears to a a geogian extension added to the front. Turning to our left, away from the side view of the Manor House, we look back past the Dovecote towards another road bridge.

If we go into the Dovecote we see at the back of the interior a small staircase and going to the bottom of the stairs and looking up will show a small part of what we could see if we went upstairs.

Arriving upstairs we can see the whole point of the place; a huge number of nesting places for the doves and I understand that they numbered well over 600 although there are no doves there now.

Amanda is trying to asses, from the depth of water, what would happen if she fell in. In the background is the 17th century Millstream Cottage and the water is, naturally enough, the mill stream.

Dating from the early 13th century is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. Some parts such as the Chancel and South Porch were built in the 14th century. The original Tower, of probable 15th Century origin, collapsed in 1728 and was replaced by the present one in 1760. The whole church was restored in 1864.

Eardisland turned out to be very pretty little village and well worth a visit. Unlike the church we haven't been restored so we will now have to return home for a rest.

 

Black & White Villages and an Arrow – Part 1.

Black & White Villages and an Arrow – Part 1.

There is an area in Herefordshire known as the Black and White Villages and there is also a Black and White Villages Trail which is meant for motoring not walking. We last visited about 12 years ago on a day trip from Ludlow and the results from that are already on the web site. That previous visit was before the blog was started so there is no blog entry for it. This time it was a 30 minute drive from home so we were able to have a much more leisurely look round especially as we were re-visiting only two of the villages.

Both villages, Pembridge and Eardisland, are situated on the River Arrow.

Part 1.

We started in Pembridge and we had to cross the River Arrow to get into the village and this is the bridge we used. It is not very old having been built in the 19th century but is attractive nevertheless.

There is a small, free, car park with access down the roadway next to the King's House in East Street and there was plenty of room. There is a small sign, easily missed, pointing to it from the main road and there are also public toilets in the car park which had disabled facilities and were nice and clean.

The entrance to the public car park can be seen on the right. The King's House is a restaurant, not open on a Monday when we were there of course, and dates from the 15th century. This building is a sign of things to come. This next picture is in East Street looking towards West Street and showing the front corner of the King's House on the right. You should be able to see a number of black & white timber-framed buildings.

I think we'll need to do a bit of exploring don't you?

How's that for a start? The building on the right is the New Inn so called because it was new when it was built in the 17th century. Can you think of a better reason?

A market charter was granted to Pembridge in 1239 and just behind the New Inn is the early 16th century Market Hall.

Standing in the Market Square it doesn't look like a hall as it isn't enclosed but that's because the upper storey was removed at an unknown date. Pity really as it would have looked pretty impressive with an upper storey.

Although these villages are known as the black and white villages, with good reason, not all of the buildings are black and white. This next picture shows a row of black and white buildings broken by one cream washed, jettied building.

The picture above shows a timber-framed building with red brick infill and the one to its right, an early 15th century hall house known as West End Farm, has a pinkish cream wash on the walls. This was one of the earliest domestic buildings in Pembridge. The multitude of other timber-framed buildings in Pembridge date to the 15th century.

The church here is also unusual in that it has a separate bell tower which dates from the 13th century. The current church dates from the 13th century with alterations in the 14th century century.

The bell tower has to be seen to be believed. The main timbers are enormous and from the look of them they are whole trees squared off.

The church also has some very interesting interior features. There are mason's marks in the picture below – can you spot them?

There are also some medievel wall paintings. One on the wall behind the organ and one on the wall of the nave. Not in the best of condition but they are visible in spite of being around 600 years old.

Just outside the church door is a delightful view across the churchyard to the village and the hills beyond.

That is the end of part one covering Pembridge. Part two will be Eardisland.

 

Time to catch a tram

Time to catch a tram

We are just back from a short shopping trip.

We drove the short distance to Kington in Shropshire where Amanda wanted to visit a small garden centre as did I. As they were 'Hozelock, agents I was hoping that they would have a hose reel on a small trolley (which can be trundled around the garden with little effort), where the hose is completely enclosed, and they did. Whoopee. We need a hose! Amanda bought one plant and a few odds and ends.

We then drove a little further to Eardisley, one of the villages on the Black & White Trail, not to look at the village but to visit a bookshop/pub. It is an odd combination. They provide food, as well as books, and have many good reviews so we were hoping to have lunch there and Amanda wanted to look round their books. Typically they are closed until the end of the month for redecoration. Bummer!

So, where to get lunch now? sad

Opposite, on the other side of the road was another pub, The Tram Inn, so we decided to try that. Apparently in 1816 there was a horse drawn tramway constructed running from Hay-on-Wye to Eardisley bringing coal from Brecon. It was for industrial use only and not for moving people. The 17th century inn was already in existence but was renamed to celebrate the arrival of the tramway.

Our lunch turned out to be excellent and beautifully presented such that we would be more than happy to go there again.

No photographs this time. The weather was dry but the cloud was rather low such that when we climbed onto higher ground we went into the cloud. We will probably be back in better weather. cool

 

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Monday.

I went 220 miles to Devon for 30 minutes – Monday.

Today is the big day! My most ambitious day of the whole trip. I plan to get the bus to Chideock (pronounced 'Chidock') and walk back to Lyme Regis via Golden Cap. What's Golden Cap? It's the highest point on the south coast – that's what. smilies

After breakfast I walked a couple of hundred yards to the bus stop to wait for the bus which is supposed to arrive about 9:35 which it did. Thirty minutes later I was standing by the roadside in Chideock looking for Mill Lane on the opposite side of the road. As it was close to the bus stop even I couldn't get it wrong and I was soon walking down the lane towards Seatown.


You can probably see that the sun is out but that there is plenty of cloud. It was only about three quarters of a mile to Seatown so it didn't take long to get there and I walked a little in the wrong direction so that I could get a view of Seatown.

I don't know why it's called Seatown because it's not even big enough to be a village let alone a town. smilies

This view from the beach shows Golden Cap ( the big lump in the centre of the picture) and I don't have to tell you why it's called Golden Cap do I?

I am foolish enough to start from here, at sea level, and climb to the top of that lump and then walk on over the hill to Lyme Regis. That's the plan anyway. So I set off the short distance up Mill Lane to find the start of the footpath and here it is.

The figure is probably difficult to read but it says 'Golden Cap 1 1/2' (1.5 miles) and 4.5 miles to Charmouth. Here we go.

It starts off inocuously enough to lull one into a false sense of security along a gently climbing path then, when it thinks it's got you into a good mood, it starts to get steeper. The path is now steep enough that steps have been cut into it. This is done to alleviate erosion by walkers and to deliberately aggravate my old leg muscles smilies . The steps are cut into the ground then wooden risers are set at the front of each step to stop them collapsing. Here the steps are quite far apart so it's step up then walk a few steps and step up again.

You can see a couple of steps in the photograph above and you can also see that I have gained some height since leaving the lane. smilies

A bit higher now with the summit visible some way ahead. You may not be able to read the distances on the signpost but it says 'Seatown 3/4' and 'Golden Cap 1/2' (miles). So far I've walked 3/4 of a mile from Chideock to Seatown and another 3/4 of a mile from Seatown to this point – a total of just 1.5 miles and I'm already puffing and blowing. Still, the views are nice.

That's Seatown down there. It looks a long way down. I have still a good way to go yet and all of it steep. There are long stretches of path with lots of steps packed close together that seem to go on for ever. I finally get to a steep grassy slope with a bench seat at the top. Just what I need but I have to get there first. I didn't make it in one go and had to stop and rest part way but I did eventually make use of that seat.

Then there is another short uphill stretch, with steps, until I arrive at the summit at last. The top view below is to the east and the bottom picture is to the west.


In the bottom picture Lyme Regis is the cluster of buildings in the centre of the picture with Charmouth on the right. Charmouth is my next target.

After a short sitdown to eat lunch I set off again and pass some locals who are admiring the view.

 So is it now all downhill? If only! The path goes steeply down hill to the bottom of a valley and just as steeply up again to the next ridge and then down and up again ad infinitum. I am, however, slowly leaving Golden Cap behind.

These repetitive steep slopes are making me very, very weary and I'm beginning to realise that I'll be lucky to make it to Charmouth let alone Lyme Regis so I decide I'll have to stop at Charmouth and get the bus back. smilies smilies smilies So much for ambition.

I had walked about six miles but the ups and downs would effectively double that in terms of energy used. What a wimp! Perhaps I should modify that a little. What an old wimp!

I finally reach Stonebarrow Lane and set off down towards Charmouth.

I finally reach the village but still have to walk uphill for some distance to reach the bus stop where I took this photograph looking back to where I'd come from.

I clambered wearily onto the bus and finally arrived back at my hotel for a rest. I'm going to need that rest for tomorrow.

(Tomorrow, Tuesday: Musical cliffs, a water wheel and a Tudor museum.)

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugley

The Good, the Bad and the Ugley

Yesterday we were thinking of going on a day trip but in the end we decided not to. Why did we not go? Because we had worn ourselves out the day before on another day trip.

We had decided to go shopping. We wanted a mower lift, a coiled hose that stretches to 100 feet and a drill bit sharpener plus some other items. Those every day items that everyone needs. smilies

These were to be purchased from a shop in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. It was only 33 miles from us so it didn't take long to get there and we duly purchased our items and stuffed them in the car.

We walked off into Bishop's Stortford to have a look around. As we were walking away from the shop we noticed the unusual roof.

Shops don't normally have what appear to be strange tapering chimney pots. The reason for those is that the building used to be used for malting. Malting is a process that converts the starch in cereal grain, usually barley, to alternative forms of sugar used in brewing. The conical chimneys of these distinctive buildings emitted a rich aroma of roasted malt, a smell not unlike that of roasting coffee, that permeated the air for miles around.

Those days have long gone but the buildings remain and this one has now been converted to a shop.

We were now in Bridge Street with the 16th century Black Lion Inn just ahead and to our left. This looked to be a fine timber-framed building. There were other nice old buildings in this street.


After walking up Bridge Street we found ourselves in the Market Square with the Corn Exchange on the right and the church tower and steeple showing above the buildings in the distance.


 We wanted to see more of the church so headed in that direction. The continuation of Bridge Street westward is High Street and we spotted a very nice timber-framed building.

This local tailors was one of the oldest businesses in the world until 2013 when it closed. Part of the building dates from about 1360, with modern additions around 1545.

A little way up from here, near to where High Street changes to Windhill, we found the church. A rather large, impressive building in a rather small churchyard making photography difficult. It is unusually long at 170 feet with a spire 180 feet high.

Although there was probably a Saxon, and later, a Norman church on the site, the only surviving fragment of those times is the font. The church seems to have been completely rebuilt in the early fifteenth century and it was altered and restored in both the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Immediately opposite the church is the Boars Head Inn dating from around 1420 (Tudor).

Samuel Pepys frequented this inn and is recorded as having dined here on 26 May 1668.

Just above this point High Street changes to Windhill a wide and attractive street tree-lined on one side.

You can see evidence of the malting industry again in the form of that tapering chimney and the fact that the house is called 'Oast House'.

So, back down Windhill then High Street to this junction where we turned left into Basbow Lane.

We had spotted some colour-washed houses at the far end when we were on our way up the hill and decided to investigate on the way back. This is what we found.

A nice group of old, pretty houses. At the end of the lane there were some steps down to Hadham Road and an interesting building at the bottom of the steps. The building is, apparently, timber-framed covered in plaster and dates from the 17th century with alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We went back down Bridge Street and crossed the road into Castle Gardens where we saw all that's left of Waytemore Castle – the mound on which it was built.

The River Stort runs through the park and the southern part is navigable.

We followed the riverside path for a while and saw yet more evidence of malting in the form of those tapered chimneys.

We had had enough walking by now so headed back to the car having seen most of the interesting parts of Bishop's Stortford and it wasn't until we were headed out of town that we realised we had missed a bit. A group of old buildings on the junction of Dunmow Road and Stansted Road. Oh well, next time perhaps. That was the 'good'.

We headed north into Essex, through Stansted Mountfitchet, and this is when our situation turned Ugley. In fact it was precisely at this point.

Ugley is a very small village just a few miles south of Widdington. It has a lovely little church which unfortunately was locked.

The road to the church was narrow and they don't come much narrower than this. No hope of seeing out to the sides either.

There was a group of attractive thatched cottages and a few modern houses round about and that was 'Ugley'.

We decided to travel the few miles to Widdington. Remember Widdington? We visited that village in July 2010 and wrote a blog report. We saw a medieval barn there but were unable to see inside because it wasn't open but today it was open.

Now is that impressive or is that impressive?

We had come to the end of our day out and so headed home. Most of the journey back is on the A120, a fast dual carrigeway that is rarely busy, but suddenly we found ourselves being diverted off the road near Braintree with no signs to offer an explanation. We had to make our way through Braintree town centre and eventually to home. That was the 'bad'.

The other day trip I mentioned at the top of this post will happen another time. Wait and see. smilies