Monday 29 April 2013

Madness on the Mynd: A Walk In Shropshire

Retrospective View to Ragleth and Caer Caradoc
 I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity today to race off down to Church Stretton for a quick walk on the Long Mynd.  When I say “race” down to Church Stretton, I must hasten to add that this did not involve racing over the speed limit.  Oh no.  I’ve learnt my lesson.  Literally, from a very nice young man who ran the speed awareness course in Chester-le-Street on behalf of the Durham Constabulary.

So I raced down, always under the speed limit, and parked in the National Trust car park in Carding Mill Valley then set straight off on a very pleasant walk.  Well I have missed out certain details you do not need to know which happened between parking and setting off eg hurtling up to the gents’ for a pee as soon as I could.  I blame the pressure of the seat belt on my bladder whilst driving, although others, who shall not be named, ie my lovely wife just tells me that it’s a middle aged bloke thing.  I am currently considering writing a series of guide books to public toilets.  I am starting with Cumbria.  It will be a series of 7, which I shall call “A Pictorial Guide to Lakeland Lavatories".  I shall hand write the text, which will be accompanied by pen and ink sketches.  I reckon the format might catch on and inspire other guide book writers.

But there is another thing which you do need to know about.  I also didn’t start the walk before I had put on my boots, not being into bare foot walking.  I have been wearing trail shoes for the last few months, apart from when facing wintery conditions, but I have recently invested in some new boots and I wanted to try them out.  They are the Ecco Biom Mid Boots, in a fetching grey coloured yak leather, as reviewed and recommended by Robin at:

New Boots! Ecco Biom Mids

I did not need boots today, but a shortish walk seemed a good way of seeing whether they hurt the toes, ankles, knees and toes, knees and toes.  There's a song in that last phrase.  As it happens I was pretty impressed with them.  They seem a bit weird, as to look at they are three quarters rand and one quarter yak leather.  I shall call them my randy boots from now on.

Rather than walk down the road to Little Stretton, from where my route would take me on to the Long Mynd, I followed a path running slightly above the base of the Mynd, which was very pretty, but rather tortuous in places, eg because of the occasional obstruction such as a barbed wire topped  fence that had to be “negotiated”.  We never climb fences blocking our path do we?  Certainly not.  Never at all.

From Little Stretton the walk was Shropshire at its best.  A stiff breeze, sunny spells and fluffy clouds.  The views were extremely clear, and as I climbed there was a magnificent panorama to the rear of me to the hills on the other side of the Stretton fault line - Ragleth, Hope Bowdler and Caer Caradoc, ground I had covered a fortnight earlier, and also beyond to the Clee Hills.  For those of you who know the area, I took the path skirting round Callow Hill and Round Hill, a gradual climb to the moorland plateau that makes the Long Mynd.  Then it was on to Pole Cottage and the top at Pole Bank.  It was good to pass a small sign still pointing down the west side of the Mynd to “Priory Cottage” near Pole Cottage.  I have not been down there for years but this was once the run down outdoor centre owned by the then Priory Boys Grammar School in Shrewsbury where I received a pretty good education 40 years ago.

Looking towards Pole Cottage (in the trees)

 The views west from Pole Bank were at their best today, especially over to the splendid Stiperstones, the highest hill in Shropshire, with its quartz tors forming the Devil’s Chair and other landmarks, and to Corndon Hill.  Corndon is at the end of the “Six Shropshire Summits Walk”.  That is a 35 mile outing over the 6 hills in Shropshire over 1500 feet in height.  I have done that walk twice, but not since 1973.  The summit of Corndon is actually in Powys (or Montgomeryshire as it was when I was last up there) although its base is in Shropshire.  The walk goes over Brown Clee, Titerstone Clee, Wenlock Edge (not one of the 6), Caradoc, the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones and Corndon if you really want to know.  I seem to remember it took me 10 hours and 25 minutes the last time I did it, which is not bad going for 35 miles.

Pole Bank looking towards Corndon Hill

Now this post must be getting tedious to read so I will stop reminiscing and rant instead.  The amount of litter at Pole Bank was horrifying.  My guess is that it was from a single small party.  Pieces of tin foil blowing around –someone’s sandwich wrapping I assume, together with trail bar wrappers and the like.  I spent 5 minutes clearing this up.  I will now use some modest and mild words to describe the people who left this.  They are disgusting, selfish, self-centred lazy, dirty bastards.  And tossers to boot.  Why bother walking up to a place of incredible beauty if you are going to despoil it?  I can’t fathom it.  As I said, tossers.  Later on the walk I picked up an empty 1 litre plastic bottle (Asda Apple and Mango Sparkling water, with no added sugar) and brought that home too.  Out of curiosity I weighed this when I got back.  52 grammes.  Who can’t be arsed to carry 52 grammes off the hill with them?  When they carried it up, with its kilo of fizzy nastiness, it must have weighed 1kilo and 52 grammes.  As I said, tossers.
From the Mynd to the Stiperstones
"The Shooting Box" Sandwich Spot
 I didn’t let the behaviour of others spoil the walk.  It was delightful.  From Pole Bank I went down to the Shooting Box and ate my sandwiches.   The Shooting Box now is just a grassy mound.  When I were a lad there was a corrugated iron hut here, with a distinctive triangular profile.  A great navigational aid it was, in mist and clag, as it could be seen for miles.  After my lunch I followed the Jack Mytton Way before cutting down to follow the stream in the super V shaped valley that is Carding Mill.  The Jack Mytton Way was mentioned in a recent TGO route description. The author appeared not to be aware of Jack Mytton.  Well let me tell you.  He was mad.  Nutty as a fruit cake that definitely may contains nuts.  “Mad Jack” Mytton he was called.  I used to live just off Mytton Oak Road in Shrewsbury so I know all about him.  He lived in the Hall along this road back in the early 19th Century.  He allegedly used to fight his dogs with his teeth.  Mad Jack also once rode his horse up the stairs of Leamington Spa Town Hall, out on to the balcony then, still seated on the horse, leapt off.  He used to hunt ducks, in the middle of cold winter nights, whilst absolutely starkers.  So, as you can see, he was definitely a bit bonkers.  Check him out on Wikipedia if you have 5 minutes to spare.  They ought to make a film or write a novel about him (that idea is, from this moment, copyrighted by me).
Descending to Carding Mill Valley

Three and a half hours of perfection, in 12.5 km.