Sunday, 18 October 2009

Walking The Severn Way: Stage 10

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Wroxeter to Ironbridge
(Roman Town to Cistercian Abbey)
Only 10.7 miles

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In this issue.... find out about wishing on a balloon, a dog the size of a hippo, a baby saw-mill creature, spot our biz cards, straw harvest, The Wrekin, colony of white bees, and a Snout!

Hello and welcome along again to the next stage of our meandering stroll alongside the River Severn, through some of the most beautiful countryside of Wales and England tracing the whole of its length right from the source at Plynlimon high up in the Mid Wales mountains to its end at the Bristol Channel. Join me now for 210 miles of the stunning River Severn Way with its wonderfully diverse scenery, its fabulous flora and fascinating fauna.

Click here to see how far we've travelled to date.

Train to Shrewsbury again and then bus to Wroxeter Roman Town. In fact today's walk starts from a Roman town through a Cistercian Abbey and then on to the famous bridge in the Ironbridge Gorge.

If all's gone to plan you'll be waiting for me at the bus stop at Wroxeter right on the edge of these fascinating ruins. Hope you're all there ready to go.

Emerging from Shrewsbury railway station on this cloudy but mild 14 degree day I was greeted with this sight:-

See that balloon up there. That's a Virgin hot-air balloon that I hope to be going up in shortly. Next week, in fact, on the 22nd September. This will be my 3rd attempt as the previous 2 have been cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Let's hope it happens this time.

The bus was spot on time and the driver jovial. He made everyone smile as every time someone asked if they went past the school, the post office, police station etcetera he would reply 'I'll think about it as I pass by'.

Here we are at Wroxeter and I'm more than pleased to see you all here waiting. No Pam today as this is just under 11 miles and she's not keen on stretches exceeding 8 but I'm sure you're all game?!

Let's go.

We have to walk down the road a short distance to get back on to The Severn Way once more. Just lurking in the slightly hazy distance we can just pick out the Shropshire hills of Caer Caradoc and The Lawley as the sound of buzzards fill the still morning air on our arrival in the lovely village of Wroxeter.

Such a pleasant sleepy old place this with its magnificent church the proud centrepiece. The old post office is now a cottage and looks as if it may be for sale. What a marvellous place to live. It looks as if time has stood still in this tranquil spot with typically English cottage gardens fronting typically English cottages.

Leaving the village behind, it's obvious there's been lots of farm activity in the last few days with the last of the summer harvests now safely gathered in.
What a spectacular sight! Just look at all those straw bales!

A late Snout moth rests in the undergrowth carefully camouflaged.

And Shropshire's most prominent hill comes into view - The Wrekin. I'm to join other members of The Wrekin Forest Volunteers (link opens a new window) near the summit tomorrow night celebrating National Moth Night, so I'll be taking my moth-trap up to the summit in order to trap, ID and record whatever enters the trap.

As I walk along the lane that connects Wroxeter to Eyton on Severn I remember when I started this walk some four months ago that I optimistically but rather roughly calculated that we'd finish all 210 miles to Bristol by November - six months after starting out.

OK - let's be realistic here - we still have around 130 miles to go and at something like 8 miles every 10 days on average that's still a few months to go! Well... there was never any rush, it's a walk purely for pleasure, it was never intended to be a route march. We need time to savour, to sit by the river bank when the fancy takes us, to marvel at a busy insect going about its daily duties and to just breathe in the wonderful English (and Welsh) countryside.

Oh! Hang on! What's that ahead? It looks for all the world like a gigantic dog slumbering at the side of the path.

It's the size of an elephant!

Best approach with caution...

Oh it's OK. It's a couple of broken straw bails but it did look a bit scary don't you think? Anyway, where were we? Ah yes... so do we mind that this glorious walk is taking longer than we thought? I can only hope not! What does it matter? It will just turn into what was a mainly summer/autumn walk into a walk for all seasons because I'm thinking now that we may not finish till next spring or even summer. What do you think to perhaps taking a few weeks off during the cold winter months? Perhaps just do the odd stretch on a crisp frosty or even snow-clad day and leave the rest till March perhaps. We could take the tent and use it as a base for 2 or 3 stages. Comments at the bottom please. Your decision!

On the way to Cressage we find a really overgrown path that we have to negotiate - lots of nettles and the attractive but very tall Himalayan Balsam once more! Fortunately, I chose trousers over shorts today and I'm really glad I did otherwise my calves and shins would be covered in nettle rash. So I'll tread a way through for you all.

Do you hear that? Tiny explosions as we walk through this tunnel of foliage and stalks. It's a while before I realise what's causing it; pods exploding and shooting off seeds from the balsam. Ouch! That one caught me in the face! Best shield your eyes as we battle through this short stretch.
Guess that's one of the reasons this plant is so successful - seeds are jettisoned several yards.

Now there's something you don't often see - it's a pure white bee! In fact I don't recall seeing one ever before! There's another, and another. There are scores of them. There's hardly any colour on them - they're just a beautiful snowy white. Have you come across them at all?

Note: On researching later I find these are normal honey bees covered in the pure white pollen that is found in the centre of each Himalayan Balsam bloom! So it wasn't a rare bee colony after all!
We arrive at Cressage bridge on the outskirts of the village bearing its name which is derived from Christ's Oak - an historic tree which graced the village for many centuries. A War Memorial now stands in its spot.

Oh... before I forget...

Has anyone come across our biz cards? We just thought it would be a good idea to invite other walkers to follow our blog and our walk so we give them out to people we pass the time of day with and we leave them on the path somewhere - at stiles and in trees for example. Don't worry - we don't litter the countryside with them. Let us know if you come across one at any time won't you? There's an email address on the card or you can drop a comment at the bottom of this post.

Arriving at the wonderful little village of Sheinton complete with dead squirrels (see the slideshow later) I check the schedule against my carefully prepared route card (I must show you one of these sometime soon) I discover to my delight that we're 20 minutes ahead so no rush today at all. In fact I have a lift home arranged today so no bus or train to catch. The end of today's walk at Ironbridge is in fact just half-a-dozen miles from home. Sorry - my lift-car only has 2-seats!

Entering Buildwas Park on the last leg of today's walk I sit on a log for a snack and a cup of tea from the flask. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flit about in the branches above seeking out insect food.

Leaves are starting to fall from the trees - We're just coming into Autumn here in dear old England - or 'Fall' to all my American friends who follow this blog. A slight breeze enters this delightfully wooded area at Buildwas Park releasing a few leaves to dance gently to the floor to start the autumnal carpet.

As I leave the woods The Severn Way follows a farm track at Mill Farm where two large birds appear to be foraging together - a Buzzard and a Raven but alas I wasn't quick enough with the camera, they spotted me just as I spotted them and then they were away in seconds in different directions.

The path then emerges onto a main road where I meet and chat briefly to a couple who were just doing a local walk - a circular around the lovely Shropshire village of Little Wenlock. These were the only people I'd met on this stretch of the walk. Well... apart from you of course but then you're walking with me!

And here we are at Buildwas Abbey where my English Heritage card allows me to wander around this amazingly well-kept Cistercian Abbey without payment.

After a 30 minute break here we move on down this very busy, noisy 'A' road but fortunately only for a few yards where The Severn Way drops back to the riverside and follows it right through to Ironbridge about 1.5 miles away. Well it follows it nearly all the way - there's a stretch of around 100 yards where it's not possible to hug the river so the path despatches you onto a 'B' road.

Just as we amble along here I recognise a red car that flashes by and then stops:-

Oh - it's Pam - she's come to collect me at Ironbridge. She asks if I want a lift there. The knees are a little tired but I would never do that - it would be wrong - I couldn't then say I'd walked the whole of The Severn Way could I? "I'll meet you at the pub" I call and she's away with a few minutes in hand to look around the shops - that delightful pastime that the female of the species likes to indulge in whenever possible.

A Saw-Mill larva sits and basks between leaf-chomps at the peaceful and pleasantly laid out Dale End Park just on the approach to Ironbridge

And here we are at Ironbridge - where British industry is said to have started with the building of this historical bridge and the world's first cast-iron bridge built in 1779 and built by Abraham Darby.
The end of another wondeful stretch of The Severn Way. Catch you shortly with the next instalment where we'll walk from Ironbridge to Bridgnorth together. Hope you can make it!

Walking Companions
If you'd like a friend or friends to come along too just send them the link:-

We'll make them most welcome. The more the merrier! I know I've said before I prefer to walk on my own but you're so quiet I hardly notice you're there. Walking The Severn Way together it's really only at the end of each stage you tend to make a comment, and talking of comments...

Don't forget to leave one below; help, advice, silly banter, words of encouragement are all very much welcomed and I know then you're definitely following me along the enchanting Severn Way!

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Paul e Watts said...

Copied to this post for relevance:

Hi Paul,
Looking at the picture, I was wondering if you were using a walking stick?
Whenever I used to go for long walks, I always had a walking stick. A good stout hunk of fir cut to size. It serves both as a walking aid or protection against four-legged (or two legged) trouble. We are with you on your voyage, even if only by blog!

12 November 2009 04:32

Paul e Watts said...

Thanks for the comment Raven. I don't use a walking stick (I lost one - quite an expensive present from Pam - which I inadvertently left behind somewhere on the Cadair Idris moutain in Wales when backpacking a couple of years ago, but we don't talk about that - shhhh! Still a raw wound.)
The problem I have with walking and using a stick whilst juggling a map, guidebook, route card, camera, occasional compass along with my notebook and pencil is that I just don't have any hands left!

Anonymous said...

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