Catherton Common

Sunday 6 August: we’ve parked here before, but always headed upwards onto Magpie Hill and beyond. Today, we’ll walk in the other direction, to explore the common lands of Silvington and Catherton. At the lowest point (but certainly not the nadir) of our wander, we cross the stream at Cramer Gutter, before heading back past colourful heather and ling. It’s a very absorbing little bit of countryside – scattered cottages, patches of heather and bracken, small stands of birch, clumps of gorse and one particularly fine blackberry bush, which delayed our onward progress for a minute or two…

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Oats and beans and barley…

…grow near the Munslows in August. A familiar route starting from Aston Munslow – across the sheepy field, up the lane to the edge and along to Munslow Common, then down the lane to Munslow and back across the fields (battling, in the last half mile, with 7′ tall maize) to the start. Very pleasant, even though the undergrowth makes some stretches almost impassable, where the sun can get through the trees.

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A much-needed leg-stretch down to Coalport (for well-earned tea and cake…), on a grey Saturday afternoon. We may not be past July, but there are signs of seasonal change – the wheat looks ready for harvest, there are some hefty (but undoubtedly sour) apples by the farm, and ripe (but rather blobby) blackberries, with many better-looking specimens to come. Could be an excellent crop in a few weeks time… And at last the butterflies are playing to the camera!

Church Stretton to Craven Arms

We’d thought of doing this by using the train, leaving the car at Craven Arms – then realised we could make the same journey free of charge using our bus passes… An interesting trip too – not entirely along the A49, the Minsterley Motors 435 service uses some very narrow lanes through Wistanstow and Bushmoor. Who’d be a bus driver in south-west Shropshire?

Starting out from the bus stop in Church Stretton, we aim for the top of Ragleth Hill for lunch. We’d have got there quicker if we’d spotted the waymark roundels at the foot of Poplar Drive. Later, after lunch, we find ourselves taking another little detour at Hatton Wood, where the correct path isn’t the obvious one. Soon mended. After the Apedale prairies, we’ve another short climb ahead of us, onto the Wenlock Edge beyond Wolverton. It’s a very enjoyable walk through the trees along here, before we drop down to Strefford and follow the Quinny brook, and later the Onny, back to Craven Arms. On the sound principle that these things come in threes, we take yet another wrong turning where, once again, the obvious route is the wrong one. By the time we arrive in Craven Arms, we’ve earned those ice creams. But what an enjoyable walk! Plenty of variety, and a perfect day for it.

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July on the Edge

A short wander along the Wenlock Edge in early July. The scenery is rather drab at this time of year, on a warm, still but grey afternoon – however, there are other things to point the camera at. The many butterflies are too busy to pause and pose; the floral colour is easy to deal with. It may have been a short walk, but we felt we’d earned our ice creams (not that ice cream in July needs any justification…).

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Clee and Magpie

If there’s a preponderance of pictures with blue skies below, it’s because we’ve not seen blue skies for a while. After the heat of the previous week, last week was cold, damp and thoroughly miserable. This afternoon’s break in the clouds demanded an outing (it’s raining again, on-and-off, as I write…). It wasn’t just sunny and warm, but the air was clear – the Brecon Beacons, our usual yardstick for clarity, stood out on the south-western horizon as we explored Clee Hill and Magpie Hill. Industry once thrived on these wind-swept grasslands, and quarrying continues to this day, though the associated railways are long-gone, their trackbeds providing good walking routes. Elsewhere there are the remains of small coal mines (what are those 8-shaped brick-built structures?), traces of aerial ropeways, a curious “three-forked pole”, a red kite, a curlew, skylarks, a farm called “Random”… There’s never a dull moment up here!

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A short walk on a long day

It’s the longest day of the year today – it has been one of the hottest too, though we managed to keep comfortable on a very pleasant short walk at the south end of the Stiperstones ridge, with a visit to the top of Black Rhadley. It was (relatively) cool in the woods, and on top there was a good breeze blowing. We celebrated with half a punnet of English strawberries (we’d eaten the other half at lunchtime!) – best strawberries I’ve had for many years too. There are other berries up here. The birds have obviously been eating something bilberry-coloured – but it will be a good few weeks before they’re ripe. In between the baby bilberries, we spotted interlopers, which I reckon were crowberries. Didn’t try them… We certainly wouldn’t have tried the fine fungus we’d found in the woods earlier. A common earthball with a stalk? Is there such a thing?

The tea / cold drink and cake at the Bog Centre were good, as ever.

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