My home county of Shropshire is farming territory and so, with only two main towns (Shrewsbury and Telford), five smaller towns, and very many villages, hamlets and isolated farms, there are far more by-ways than highways. Sometimes the back roads start off well, asphalt sealed and marked on the map, only to deliver you, after much meandering, into a farmyard midden or sheep field. This is a particular feature of the upland tracts of the South Shropshire Hills. Sometimes, too, after you’ve been driving on a narrow lane for several miles, thinking you are well on course, you may find the tarmac sprouting weeds. Sometimes it runs out of asphalt altogether yet clearly progresses as a dirt track that must go somewhere. Other times it may simply devolve to a footpath with retreat the only option.
The top photo shows the great divide between the north and south of the county. In the foreground is a hill lane crossing the Long Mynd. The vista beyond is the North Shropshire Plain which in due course runs into the Cheshire Plain, fertile dairy terrain both. By contrast, the hill country is very much about sheep.
The next location is definitely the haunt of sheep, but also of walkers, day-outing picnickers and school parties studying environmental matters. This is Carding Mill Valley, the largest of several combes that cut into the Long Mynd’s flanks, and thus through some of the world’s oldest geology. This particular lane may begin looking intentional, but then it simply gives up and becomes a rock strewn defile with trickling streamside accompaniment. Boots not wheels for onward progress.
Now we have moved on across the Long Mynd, and are looking at its westerly slopes as seen from Shropshire’s most mysterious hill country, the Stiperstones, place of mine shafts and lead workings. One of the Stiperstones’ craggy tops is said to host the Devil and his court whenever the fog descends. Such be-misted gatherings of wicked entities obviously won’t enjoy views like this one.
These next three views are of and around the Stiperstones: gorse along the lanes in high summer, and heather blooming on the hillsides.
We’re close to the Welsh border now. Corndon Hill in the background, and the white lane we’ve driven along…
…which then becomes one of those tracks that still looks to be going somewhere. In fact as we left the car to walk, we were passed by a police patrol car. It sped by us over the hill in a manner that suggested routine activity, doubtless taking the unpaved route into Wales.
We weren’t going that far, at least not terrestrially, though we were going back in time, following 6,000 year-old footsteps to Mitchell’s Fold, the remains of a Bronze Age stone circle.
These final photos are closer to homes, the lanes below Wenlock Edge, near Easthope.
Lens-Artists: along back country roads Beth at Wandering Dawgs wants us to take to the by-ways.