Saturday, 14 October 2017

Strolling not striding

October 11, 2017 Ryton to Grindleforge circular

It's amazing what you can see on a short walk even in mid-October if you just take your time. A brisk walk certainly brings cardio-vascular benefits but it's also great to feed the soul with a short leisurely stroll now-and-then which is what I did today. It was just a 2-miler but took a couple of hours simply because I was enjoying the wonderful charm and diversity of nature that our lovely English countryside has to offer. So I chose a walk in the lovely county of Shropshire betwixt the historically interesting village of Ryton and the tiny and quintessentially English hamlet of Grindleforge. 

It starts by following a Permissive Path alongside Wesley Brook (which appears to be a popular sheep-run too) as it meanders generally south through to meet up with the River Worfe which flows into the River Severn near Bridgnorth. On reaching Grindleforge I took the top path back to Ryton. A lovely little walk that I can truly recommend. I saw not one person during the whole walk.

Many species of fungi were to be seen. I was fortunate to find a large Field Mushroom growing just in front of  a sandy badger sett underneath a fine Field Maple tree, breakfast tomorrow!  (No pic I'm afraid). There were many others to marvel at.

                                                           Shaggy Ink Caps

Looking across towards Ironbridge and a sight we won't soon be able to see; the Power Station chimney.

A bumble bee filling up her reserves for the winter hibernation

A lovely view on the approach to Ryton with the church peeping over the trees and the splendid house built by Italian Romollo Piazzani in the late 1800's. He died  in1932 aged 60 and is buried in the churchyard overlooking his rather grand house in front of a sandstone column monument to his name. He was a landscape gardener and an artist. There's apparently a portrait of him hanging in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.
He appears to share the grave with the reverand Henry Pole Fraser MA the rector of the parish for 37 years who died aged 84 in 1977.

 Badger Sett

Spotted  two 7-spot ladybirds and a Green Shield Bug soon to be turning a purplish brown colour for the winter.

There are still quite a few butterflies around.I saw around 8 Red Admirals and a single Comma mainly on flowering ivy at the side of Wesley Brook approaching Grindleforge. This is one of the last and very important nectaring plants for these beautiful insects before they bed down for the long hibernating sleep where they will emerge early spring to start their frantic search for nectar once again, after which they will mate and die but they will have forged the first brood of the season. A Green-veined White was also spotted in flight. Also two Hornets and a few wasps all on the same flowering ivy along with Honey bees.

Wild flowers were still in profusion including Himalayan Balsam, Red Campion, Lords and Ladies, Borage, Cat's Ear and Mouse Ear, 

Birds seen; Crows,Starlings, Dunnocks, Buzzards, Long-Tailed Tits, Kestrels and the ubiquitous Pigeons

The old bridge at Ryton is interesting. It is very similar to the one at Grindleforge. I'm sure this is an old packhorse bridge because if you look at the construction there is an added layer above the original coping stones. Packhorse bridges were usually built with narrow crossings and very low walls to allow the panniers on the heavily-laden horses to ride over the tops. But here's the dilemma with these two bridges, the Ryton one stretches 21' from wall to wall, much wider than a packhorse bridge would be, so was one of the wall's moved at some point on a necessary road-widening exercise as the motorcar succeeded the packhorse, possibly at the same time of wall-heightening? This is purely conjecture on my part and I have no evidence to support the theory but it's interesting all the same.

And a final little note about our threatened Hedgehogs, this was a poster from the Hedgehog Preservation Society that I came across at Ryton Church: Don't put out bread and milk, it's not good for their stomachs. Instead leave special hedgehog food, chopped unsalted peanuts, or meaty cat food and only water to drink. They walk up to a mile at night foraging so try to leave a hole in fences and walls to give them more variety a 13cm square hole is recommended. They are the gardeners friends as they eat our snails and slugs.

So, all-in-all a lovely walk on a warm and sunny mid-October day. Highly recommended if you just want to stroll and enjoy what the countryside has to offer.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Cotswold Way - Day 2

Friday, June 26, 2015  
Broadway to Stanway
5.8 miles with 832' of ascent

OK - everyone ready? Boots on and ready for the off? 
It's the second day of our walk along the glorious and typically-English Cotswold Way!
Both Pam and I are very pleased to have you on board for this next stage. Hope you enjoy it!

We're blessed with another fine day as we start out from Broadway and as we climb we can look back into this lovely Cotswold village with Broadway Tower on the skyline.

As we continue we're joined with the song of Skylarks way above us. We can't see them but they're definitely there.

A cloud moves slowly across the sun and a few minutes later we feel a spot or two of rain, which doesn't really detract from the soft landscape we're walking in and certainly doesn't stop me from spotting a few interesting invertebrates in the hedgerow:-

Nettle-tap Moth

This is a small micro-moth which is quite common most of the year. It's larvae spin themselves a home by curling a nettle leaf around them.

                        Agriphila straminella

This is one of the Grass Veneer micro-moths with a wing length of 12mm.

Cucumber spider

And I couldn't resist showing you this little beauty - the bright orange 7-spot is the most common ladybird in the UK (ladybugs if you're in the USA) but this is a 22-spot and not so common, so called because it has... you guessed it... 22 spots! This ladybird identification task is a doddle isn't it?

Colours never seem to clash in nature do they? This is red clover and what we used to call 'egg-and-bacon' flowers or more technically; Bird's Foot Trefoil. Don't they go well together?

And just look at this stunning Pyramid Orchid - one of many we see on today's walk.

The force of nature is quite remarkable too isn't it? This tree was obviously struck by lightning and not that long ago either.

For some time now, I've been on the look-out for a country retreat, somewhere remote, hidden, something small and unassuming, well off the beaten-track. This could be it! What do you think? A des res? Would you live here?

When life's work is done just put me out to pasture

We feel a spot of rain first, followed by sun, and then both together on our descent into Stanton

Where we spot these two magnificent beasts - friends forever.

We stand awhile and listen to the sounds around us. Prominent are the simultaneous call of a chiff-chaff and the complicated but shrill song of a nearby Robin.

We stand and watch the butterflies as the sun comes out once more. There are Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Speckled woods and a lone Small Skipper.  

Very soon we arrive at the wonderfully tranquil village of Stanton. It seems like a secret village, so much so that I'm reluctant to even mention it here in case too many others are intrigued enough to visit. It totally lacks tourists, it's a villagers village if you know what I mean. It's so quiet, we whisper as we meander through it's small but main street. We see just one person around who seems to be delivering a bunch of flowers to some lucky recipient. There's a slowness of life here that's almost palpable, even the cat slowly ambles across the road with not a care in the world.

We stop to rest awhile on a bench in the centre of this quaint little place and we don't even mind as it starts to very lightly rain. We take out our umbrellas and laugh as we realise we both have bright red ones in our rucksacks and then we simultaneously spot we've each selected the same colour combination in clothes today; blue tee-shirts and khaki shorts! We must look more than a little odd to the occasional passer-by, but then I'm not even sure anyone has actually noticed us. In fact there's no-one else around. Shhhhhhh!

The village has a number of these delightful lamps dotted around. Charming.

Onwards now! Our end of day is nearing. Or at least the walking day.
Best be careful here though - keep together!

This is an interesting plaque just here on the outskirts of our day's walk-end, which seems to imply - to the uninitiated - that this is the actual start of the National Trail but it must have been simply announced and officially launched here.

So we arrive at Stanway and it's just 3pm - exactly as planned. Coming for a pint? Let's drive to Broadway...

Here we are and a perfect spot too! We'll sit here outside the Crown and Trumpet with a well-earned drink whilst Pam does what Pam does best; browsing around the shops! Cheers!

A lovely walk, with a couple of very short spells of light rain but warm all day even though the sun hardly broke through the clouds.

We'll see you all for Day 3 soon. We're off to eat at the Corner Cupboard in Winchcombe again tonight. There's a lovely waitress there who Pam has likened to Mrs Overall (Julie Walters) in Acorn Antiques! There's a definite resemblance! Hope she doesn't read this blog!

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The more the merrier! And yet... you're all so quiet we hardly notice you're there. It's only at the end of each day you tend to make a comment, and talking of comments;-

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Cotswold Way - Day 1

Thursday, June 25, 2015   
Chipping Campden to Broadway
5.75 miles with 634' of ascent

OK - everyone ready? Boots shiny, waterproofed and ready for the off? 
Oh... neat; new boots eh? 

It's the start of a new adventure for Pam and me and we're SOOOO pleased to have you on board with us to share the fun, the trials and the tribulations of a 100 mile walk through some of England's best countryside.

We start at the official start - by the ancient Old Market Hall in the lovely old town of Chipping Campden. The start coincides with another long-distance walk which passes through the town and one that we did a few years ago; The Heart of England Way.

Our plan for this walk is slightly different to our Severn Way walk which you may have followed. We aim to do this in 3 phases each of 5 or 6 days, each day averaging around 6 miles which is plenty when there's so much to see and explore en route. We'll be staying in a different B and B for each phase. Our first base is in the lovely hamlet of Postlip at the remote and charmingly rural Postlip Hall Farm, which is almost a mile drive along a farm track. It's in an idyllic spot surrounded by fields full of sheep, in fact it's a working farm with currently 3200 ewes and lambs! Apart from the sheep it's really quiet, and at night there's no light pollution whatsoever. Superb!

So this is the first phase consisting of 5 days walking culminating at Dowdeswell Wood some 29 miles and nearly 4000 ft of ascent away. 

When we walked the Severn Way we chose to use public transport as much as possible relying only occasionally on using the car. Having checked out transport facilities some time ago for The Cotswold Way I quickly realised it would be too big a challenge! Train stations are few and far between and most of the route is way off any bus routes. So - although not very green - we're using our 2 cars and shuttling them around from B and B to walk finish to walk start. It's the most convenient but I'd be the first to admit not the most eco-friendly method.

Anyway... onwards, best foot forward and all that!

Walking out of Chipping Campden we pass a lovely thatched and typically Cotswold cottage, but this one's a little different as it was, for a short time, the home of a famous English author.

It's not long before we're climbing up Dover's Hill with great views of Cotswold country. Pam has never been a lover of walking uphill, often soldiering on but continually moaning not quite 'under her breath' which I find mildly annoying and somewhat distracting when I'm enjoying the climb and the views as each step takes us higher. But... I've found a way of avoiding this; I keep far enough ahead and just out of ear-shot! Bliss!

She's happy enough when she reaches the top though!

Dover's Hill is where back in 1612 a Robert Dover started the fancifully-titled Olimpick Games which became very famous in their day and continued on an annual basis through to Victorian times when they were halted. 100 years later, in 1951, the games were resurrected  and still happen here every year where a castle is built as the base for such games as shin-kicking (ouch!) and sack racing, where participants are tied into a sack up to their necks! Sounds more fun than the real Olympic Games!

Descending the other side of the hill and looking closely at the map I was expecting to walk on hard Tarmac for quite a way, but a lovely path has been created following the edge of a field on the other side of the hedge. A pleasant surprise.

On then to something called The Mile Drive which is a long straight and wide path alongside an interesting hedgerow (i.e. teeming with wildlife of the small insectoral kind) and an equally interesting narrow meadow bordered by another hedge. 

Lots of bees, butterflies and other insects. It's great to see so many wild flowers too including the pretty Common Spotted Orchid.

And on to Broadway Tower high above the beautiful village of Broadway.

The privately owned tower was built as a folly in 1799 and stands on a hill over 1000 ft above sea-level with dramatic views (it is said) over no less than 16 counties. It was purchased in the 1980's by a German man whose daughter now owns it. She also owns and runs an upmarket, exclusive B and B in Broadway.

Down hill now to explore this lovely village. On the way we stop to admire the work of the dry-stone waller, a highly-skilled job necessitating many years of theory and practical exams before achieving the accolade of Master Craftsman. This particular area has been under restoration for at least 2 years and will continue until all of the existing and crumbling dry stone walls have been replaced right up the hill to the tower.

Finally we reach our day's end at The Swan for a pint and well-earned rest. The village of Broadway is often referred to as the  'Jewel of the Cotswolds' and the 'Show Village of England'. It's not hard to see why!

Tonight, we decide to eat at a pub/restaurant in Winchcombe, just a couple of miles away from our B and B and recommended by Valerie - our lovely landlady. It's called the Corner Cupboard and tonight is Steak Night; 2 sirloin steaks plus all the trimmings for just £22. Great value and an excellent end to an excellent day.

Catch you all soon for Day 2.


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The more the merrier! I know we've said before we often walk on our own but you're so quiet we hardly notice you're there. It's only at the end of each day you tend to make a comment, and talking of comments;-

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