Christmas Cheshireman

christmas-cheshiremanIt’s a steam-hauled excursion from Bristol to Chester and back, hauled by the reliable pair of Black 5s 44871 and 45407. It was running around 40 minutes late when we saw it near Craven Arms, but going very nicely…  For more (admittedly very similar) photos visit “Christmas Cheshireman” on Geoff’s Rail Diaries

Coalport on a grey afternoon…

…so we’ll do it in black and white! It’s a pleasant circuit, down to Jackfield by hidden paths in the jungle, then across to Coalport and along the old railway track to Coalport bridge. We cross the Severn again and walk along the other old railway, before joining Pound Lane and heading for home.


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November on Clee Burf

There’s a stiff breeze, but it’s too good to stay in – we’ll walk up to Clee Burf, the southern summit of Brown Clee. Apart from the wind in the trees, it’s quiet up here. There’s no-one else about, apart from a solitary jogger, who doesn’t look happy. No shortage of sheep, of course. The forecast suggested there could be the odd shower, but we’re lucky today – bright sunshine throughout. There’s a big shower cloud to the north, and another, nearer, provides us with an unexpected rainbow. The end of it is just over there – no crocks though, just another sheep – taking on an appropriately golden tint in the late afternoon sunshine.


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Wellington’s Hill

The Shropshire Hills AONB is almost entirely south of the Severn – just one little bit spills over to the other side, almost to Wellington, to encompass the Wrekin, which in many ways is Wellington’s own hill. The first stretch from the Forest Glen can be busy (that’s a relative term, of course), and the summit was positively heaving – there must have been four other people there, plus two dogs. Most visitors seem to turn here and return the way they’ve come. Beyond lie the rocks (notable for the Needle’s Eye, which one must thread at least once in a lifetime) – and a different feel altogether. That’s perhaps because of the views – the ground drops away sharply, and the panorama in the south-westerly quarter is spectacular, especially on an afternoon like this. Unusually, the strong directional sunshine lasted while I stayed on top – the clouds gathered as I returned along the quiet woodland paths on the north-western flank. Did a few snowflakes drift gently down, or was I imagining things? It was certainly cold enough.


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A Crab in the Severn Valley

the-crabFor more on yesterday’s brief outing to the Severn Valley Railway, visit “Catching a Crab“, just published to Geoff’s Rail Diaries.

The Crab

the-crabAn unusual visitor to the Severn Valley Railway this weekend –  an ex-LMS Horwich mogul (these ungainly-looking machines were universally known as “Crabs”) from the East Lancs Railway. Last time I saw one of these in steam was around 50 years ago: it was black and dirty, but somehow more real than this beautifully-restored specimen. Great to see 13065 today though!

A Rail Diaries page will appear, but not before a second attempt tomorrow – fingers crossed for some sunshine.


The Hope Bowdler hills are not the highest  in Shropshire, but later in the afternoon, at this time of year, they provide one of the most spectacular viewpoints for the border country. Beyond the numerous ridges, picked out in the golden light, our south-western horizon is filled by the broad table of Radnor Forest. We have to feel sorry for all the others – those who weren’t up there. We only saw three people, and one of them, a runner, didn’t really seem to be paying much attention (What is this life if, full of care…). There are one or two showers about; happily, they pass us by. It’s not all good – there’s a biting breeze, and the temperature is dropping quickly as the sun nears the horizon. We’re almost glad to get back to the car.


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To Fairoak Pools

Early November in Staffordshire: it’s cold but it’s sunny, and there’s little wind – Cannock Chase could be good, we can have bacon rolls* for lunch at the visitor centre… We’re ringing the changes slightly – starting from one of our usual spots, we’re taking in a detour to Fairoak Pools – they look good on the map, and we can loop around them. They’re man-made – dammed, in other words – but they’re very attractive in the sunshine, the autumn leaves of birches and oaks contrasting with the dark pine forests beyond. After lunch, tall beeches glow beside the track as we head back towards the car; in the last half-mile, we look out past silver birch trunks to the grassy plateau beyond. “There could be lions” says my wife, just as the word “savanna” pops into my mind.

* We were too late. They don’t serve breakfast items after 1pm. (Have they been raided by the diet police?) The wraps and rolls, it has to be said, were pretty good, but not the same…

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Oh deer!

Wenlock to Bannister’s Coppice – out via Homer, back past Farley Hill and along the old railway track. The morning’s fog has cleared to hazy sunshine – it’s an afternoon to be out and about. The air is almost still, and though the woodlands are carpeted with the fallen, the trees are still well-covered with leaves, in widely varying shades of red and gold. There are usually deer about in these woods – today we enjoy no fewer than five sightings. In Bannister’s Coppice there are two, then two more, then a family of five, then a group of perhaps ten, out from the edge of the wood, tempted by the turnips in the field. Later, another two trot away from us on Farley Hill. These fallow deer are shy, often only partly visible for brief moments through the trees (and almost impossible to photograph). The turnip thieves are a real bonus, making this last day of October a little bit special.

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Wenlock in late October

A wander near Much Wenlock, enjoying the fine dry weather but wishing there was a touch more sunshine…

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