Friday 22 April 2016

A little hill, a big giant and a few virgins

A handsome hot dog on top of The Wrekin: Moss. We have to perm his coat regularly to keep him looking like that
I moved to live in Shropshire at the age of 11 and regard it as my home county.  I love the hills in the south of the shire, but one hill which has a special place in the hearts of all true Salopians lies elsewhere in the county.  This is The Wrekin. It stands tall and proud above the Shropshire Plain, and it is said that 17 counties can be seen from its summit.  I had not climbed it for the best part of 30 years, and as last Sunday was sunny and warm I decided to rectify this as another test for my legs, which have been behaving now for almost three weeks.  I had the pleasure of the company of Mrs F. and, surprise of surprises, the lovely young girl who lives in one of the bedrooms in our house, and who spends her time giggling at her very clever phone, which picks up something called You Toob, when she isn’t doing something called snap chatting.  "Who is she?", I whispered to Mrs F. as we climbed in the car. "Look. I've told you a number of times. Try to concentrate and remember," she replied. "She is your step-daughter."

Well, I knew I'd seen her before, but was glad of the explanation.  Apparently, she has lived in the front bedroom for several years now.  She moved in just after that day when my son told me to put my best suit on, pushed me into a church, and said to me "Just say 'Yes' or 'I do' each time the guy in the white frock asks you a question. And try not to muck it up." Anyway, Mrs F. says that this girl will come out of her room again in just over a year when we will then be asked to drive her, and several boxes of her possessions, to an as yet undetermined university town.
Looking east. Some of the 17 counties on view from just below the summit

When we tried to park in the small Forest Glen Car Park I realised that the choice of day for such a walk was not good.  It was full, and the narrow lanes all around were chocka with abandoned cars. We found a space, though and with the help of the front and rear beeper thingies I got parked in what I insist was no more than ten minutes. I then reminisced about crawling along the stream that runs near the lane in the pitch dark, on a Boy Scout exercise, forty five years ago, and also of the old Forest Glen Café, now dismantled and reconstructed at the fabulous Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
The track was enlarged when the TV people were allowed to desecrate the hill with a new mast in the early 1970s so that the people of Telford could watch Coronation Street
As we followed the hordes up the tourist path I also recalled the Geography field trip when, as a very young probationary teacher, I gave my splendid Head of Department apoplexy by telling our 'O' Level students that his rather dry explanation of how The Wrekin was formed, which involved terms such as “Precambrian...felsic tuffs…viscous lavas and nuée ardente ash flow" was "all baloney".  You see, as every Shropshire Lad knows, and as I explained to our pupils, The Wrekin was formed 700 years ago by an angry giant called Grimey Grossocks, who had bad toothache, and who went about in a battered old Austin Cambridge motor car. He was also rather smelly.  If you know your mediaeval  English you will know why. “Gros” meant dirty. Yes, Grimey Gros Socks never changed his socks or washed his feet.

Now you may already be disbelieving this, as you might think that a giant could not fit in an Austin Cambridge. Well he could if it had a sunroof and drove along with his head sticking out, and this is what Grimey Grossocks used to do.

Grimey lived on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, and every Easter, being fed up and angry about all the dirt and smoke and funny accents in that neck of the woods, he would drive over to the lovely market town of Shrewsbury and terrorise the locals. He would stamp on their houses, and would only go away if they provided him with three lovely young virginal girls, which the people always did, not wanting to have their houses squashed. He would stuff the crying maidens onto the back seat, drive them to Wolverhampton, do unspeakables with them, and then eat them, cooked in a little butter and smothered with ketchup.  And the following year, come Easter Monday, he would be back again, stamping on houses, and demanding his three fair maidens (“fair” because he preferred blondes to brunettes).  Well, as you can imagine the burghers of Shrewsbury got pretty fed up with this, as did the young men, who were almost all single, what with the lack of young maidens to marry.
Two modern day fair young maidens
Thus, on one Easter Monday when Grimey arrived, all the young men were holding clubs. For my younger readers I should explain that means wooden clubs, not night clubs.  As soon as he sat down on a house they leapt on him and hit his toes really hard with their weapons, and the Mayor, using a loud haler, shouted “now be off with you Grossocks, and never darken this place again,what with your brooding, menacing and quite frankly, rather unsavoury behaviour. And, I might add, with your dreadful foot odour.”

At this, Grimey jumped in his Austin Cambridge, floored the accelerator, and raced back to Wolverhampton in a right old huff.

The next day he decided to get his revenge. “I’ll learn em not to mess with ole Grimey,” he says.  So he picks up his giant spade, and digs up a giant sized spadeful of stones and soil, big enough to bury the entire town of Shrewsbury.  Now he couldn’t fit this in the Austin Cambridge (obviously), so he sets off stomping across the countryside to wreak his dastardly havoc.

But there was a problem. Grimey had never done this journey on foot before.  It was further than he thought, and the spade and its load were very heavy. As he sat resting near the village of Wellington, he sees a cobbler walking up the road. Now this cobbler worked in Timpson’s in Shrewsbury and he was one of the sharpest cobbling tools in the cobbling tool box, so to speak, and he knew all about Grimey and his dreadful deeds, but Grimey didn’t recognise him.

“How long will it take to get to Shrewsbury?” asked Grimey.

The cobbler, quick as a flash replied “Oh. It’s at least a two day walk from here, Mr Giant, sir, and uphill all the way.  It might take you even longer, as there are temporary traffic lights and road works just along from here as the bridge is down on the Shrewsbury by-pass.

Well Grimey was taken in by this very clever trick.” Cobblers,” he cursed, “I can’t be arsed.”  And, with that, he plonked his giant spadeful of stones and earth down just where he sat. And that, dear reader, is how The Wrekin was formed.  But that is not all. Just next to the Wrekin is a smaller hill called The Little Wrekin or Ercall Hill, depending on your bent. After Grimey had deposited his load to create The Wrekin, he sat down on it and scraped the mud off his boots and that smaller pile formed The Wrekin’s little neighbour.

It was a super little walk, and I reckon I could see most of the seventeen counties from the top. However, lessons were learnt. The next time I go up there it will be mid-week or raining. But the best thing of all about the walk was that the legs behaved yet again. Bring those hills on.

A mean-spirited, smelly footed giant on top of The Wrekin

(With thanks to Phil Wright who many years ago inspired the naming of the nameless giant. He also knew a thing or two about motor cars and which models were suitable for the taller driver).


  1. Very good, but you cut the heads off the wrong photograph!

    1. Mrs F and Ms F told me that they weren't given their great beauty to have it splashed all over the Internet. I, however, was feeling kindly, and was happy to help all male readers know what real manly good looks are like. Eat your heart out David Beckham.

  2. Tries, unsuccessfully, to suppress a snigger.

  3. Another suppressed snigger, Mr Crowther? Just let it out. The snigger I should add.