Today Over The Garden Fence

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This morning we woke to thickly frosted panes on the cottage roof lights. But what a change after the dank and gloomy days. The frost came with added sunshine. And blue-sky brilliance. And frosted sparkles. And somehow cold weather doesn’t seem half so shivery when it brings wall-to-wall brightness.

This is the Evereste crab apple tree by the back garden fence. The pigeons and blackbirds have been scoffing the tiny apples. At least half the crop has gone already. It helps that the fruits are much smaller this year so the birds can get their beaks round them. And in between times, the apples that remain make fine beaded garlands, which we can see, looking up through the kitchen’s French windows. It truly is a treasure of a tree.

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Back in August and September:

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CFFC: Apple Red Colours

End Of The Day ~ School’s Out

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  William Brookes School pupils walking home across the Linden Field

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The last day of #WalkingSquares, and a big cheer for Becky for getting us out and about. And an even bigger cheer for Becky for getting herself out and about: such a spirited and generous stepping out as she finds her own path through grief. In fact, I’m  really going to miss these squares. Even though my own participation has been sporadic, I enjoyed the IDEA of the daily walk, the mysterious cyber magic of people sharing their wanderings around the globe each day.

Thank you, Becky!

 

Walking Squares #30

A Quick Trip To The Plot

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Yesterday morning we woke to glorious sunshine, this after days of gloom and deluge and nights of rain battering the rooflights. With all the wetness, the lean-to greenhouse against the back door had been leaking and turned itself into a paddling pool, the garden water butts were overflowing and everywhere turned to mud. I had not been up to the allotment for days.

But then came the sunshine, and I needed leeks and herbs for the risotto I’d planned, and also salad stuff to go with it. And then there was the vegetable waste to take up to the compost bins. So I set off, though not before I’d grabbed a stick to avoid an undignified up-ending along the field path. (Done that: got the muddy bum to prove it).

It truly was all slip and slide, though in passing I noticed the winter wheat in Townsend Meadow had grown an inch or two, though there was also an unscheduled stream of water along the field boundary. Climbing through the hedge gap into the allotment also proved problematical. No foothold on the mud bank. I was glad I’d brought the stick.

Allotment plots have a tendency to dreariness in the winter months, but the paths had been mowed and some diligent allotmenteers had worked hard to tidy away the listing bean poles and decaying vegetation. I’m afraid I’m not one of them, nor did I feel inclined to make a start yesterday. Instead, I inspected the winter greens,  pulled up leeks, prised some container-grown parsnips out of their bucket and gathered rocket, lettuce, parsley, fennel and baby spinach from the polytunnel. There were even a few Sungold tomatoes to pick. Now that was a treat. Then I had natter with stalwart gardener Phoebe, who was on her way home for lunch, and then, guess what…

…it started to rain. A blanket of wet mist descended and I headed home, though not before taking the header photo, snapped because somehow the drizzle made everywhere look gauzy. But by the time I reached the garden gate the light had gone and the rain set in. I turned back to scan the field: dusk at lunchtime? I really do not remember a November with so much day-time darkness. Nor a month that has gone so fast: not so much walking as galloping.

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Walking Squares #26 Becky thinks we should not let bad weather stop us from walking; in fact confronting wild weather elements may well do us good.

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Day’s End On Windmill Hill

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Windmill Hill is probably most Wenlockians’ favourite spot for a short walk, though it does involve quite a steep climb, especially if you approach it from the Linden Field.

When I set off here on Friday afternoon it was under glooming skies. But just as I reached the top, the sun broke through the cloud, lighting up the land all around the town. Here are the views:

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Looking west. You can see the allotment polytunnels in the shadows  just right of centre.

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And to the east, Shadwell Quarry, long disused, but the land around slated for some sort of leisure development (dive school plus cabins). The pool is exceedingly deep, and every time I look, the water level seems to have risen. Peregrine falcons have a breeding spot in the least accessible quarter of the quarry face.

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And looking from east to south:

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These two photos show land that was originally part of Wenlock Priory’s considerable possessions; once the monks’ hunting ground in fact. After the Dissolution in 1540 the Priory assets were acquired by Henry VIII’s courtiers and sold on to London gentry, men with entrepreneurial flair who were intent on further developing industrial enterprises already run by the monks and their peasant workforce: coal mining, iron smelting, charcoal production.

These days, as you can see, it is an agricultural estate (some 10,000 acres) presently owned by Lord Forester, whose family have held it since the 17th century. The distant tree line in the photo immediately above is Shirlett Forest, the site of early coal mines, where it is said, (and somewhat hair-raisingly) that the miners reached the coal seams by being lowered down shafts in baskets. As may be imagined, for some this did not end well.

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And finally looking down the hill to the Linden Field:

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Now you can see why it’s a favourite walk. I also discovered on Friday that a brand new bench has arrived there, bequeathed by two well-loved residents. What a very fine gift to us. Two good spots for sitting and dreaming.

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Walking Squares #20

Rooftops And Chimney Pots

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We have had masses of rains lately, so not much walking, but yesterday afternoon we were treated to an unscheduled burst of sunshine. We popped into town for some milk, and on the way home up Sheinton Street, this back-garden cherry tree caught my eye. And then the chimney pots with the sun on them, plus the odd visual juxtaposition of Wenlock Priory ruins, and the surviving roof-height elevation of the south transept (just to the left of the tree).

Walking Squares #16  Please join Becky on her November walks.

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Winter On The Edge

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The National Trust owns the north-east facing scarp of Wenlock Edge. There’s a good path along the summit which, in gaps through the trees, offers stunning views of north-east Shropshire. It also skirts the old limestone quarries which now provide quarters for, among others, a garden fencing company and an outfit turning trees into pellets for industrial wood burners. The quarry enterprises are by no means scenic, but they have a certain drama. The National Trust trail and map are HERE.

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Looking towards the North Shropshire Plain and the Wrekin

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Edge Renewables

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Walking Squares #8  Join Becky on her daily November walks

And Another Wenlock Walk

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This feels like a old path, the way hollowed out between field boundaries, the ground worn threadbare to rock and knotty tree roots. As you leave the town and climb towards Callaughton, you need to watch your step, and take the occasional breather. Which is good too, because it means there are chances to stop at windows in the vegetation and look back on the town.

In the next view, I’m looking roughly north, the Wrekin in the distance, and in the far right you can just spot the windmill atop Windmill Hill. The field directly beneath the Wrekin and woods (bordered by a short row of pink roofs) is Townsend Meadow. Immediately forward of the field is the allotment, but you can’t see it for trees.

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Now turning towards the east so you can the tower of Holy Trinity Church. It was once part of the Wenlock Priory complex. But the oldest parts of the church are said to date to the days (before the Norman Conquest) when the priory was a convent for both men and women, though they worshipped seperately. It is thus believed to be the site of the original women’s church, but has obviously undergone much rebuilding over the centuries. In fact during reburbishment in 1101, the supposed remains of St. Milburga were found near the altar, she who was the first abbess of Wenlock (675-690). The discovery of the saint’s bones, described in 1190 by Bishop Odo, as ‘beautiful and luminous’, put Much Wenlock on the pilgrim route and led to the town’s rapid growth. Happy days for the Priory coffers.

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The path brings you out on Callaughtons Ash, a field on the boundary with the historic township of Callaughton. To our ears the word ‘township’ is perhaps misleading. These days the settlement is little more than a hamlet, and it may never have been much bigger in the past, though records show there was  a weeping cross in the vicinity in the 13th century which doubtess attracted the devout. It is anyway one of seven ‘townships’ that surround Much Wenlock and once fell within the town’s ancient parish boundary. Others include Bourton, Farley, Harley, and Wigwig. And I have no idea how the Wigwig name came about.

There’s a fine view of Clee Hill at the top of the path:

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Walking Squares #7 Keep walking with Becky.

Coming Home From The Edge

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It’s interesting but when you are walking about in Much Wenlock, you are very rarely aware of how steeply the land rises towards Wenlock Edge, or of the fact that the town sits in a distinct hollow with other not-so-steep hills rising to the east and south.

In this photo I am walking down from the Edge, following the path that ends up on Sytche Lane, a short hop from our garden gate. We’re lucky to have so many good walks on our doorstep, and mostly field paths, too.

Walking Squares #5 Today Becky is taking a walk close to home.

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On the Road In Much Wenlock ~ ‘A Rip Van Winkle Kind Of A Place’

Much Wenlock Sheinton Street towards Holy Trinity Church

Sheinton Street looking towards Holy Trinity Church

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It’s a while since I posted any photos of my home town. These shots are all from the archive, but I had a notion to edit them in sepia tones, along with a touch of over-exposure here and there to accompany  the century-old quotation from Shropshire writer Mary Webb. I mean to say, even with all the cars, it still has that  look. There’s definitely a sense of Winkle time-slippage. This may well have something to do with the fact that this small town has been continuously occupied for  more than a thousand years. And before that, there would have been Romans and Romano-British wandering around the place with the likelihood of a villa/bathhouse on the site of the medieval Wenlock Priory. And before that, itinerant Bronze Age smiths may well have passed through, one of whom lost his stash of arrow and axe heads in the River Severn not far from Wenlock. Or maybe it was a donation for a safe crossing.

Many of the facades you see in the photos have been added on the front of much earlier buildings – this during periods of particular market-town prosperity when there were attempts at gentrification. I say ‘attempts’ because by all accounts even in the late nineteenth century there was a smelly open sewer running through the town. Also the place was regularly doused in limestone dust with every blasting at surrounding quarries. And there would have been some evil smog too from lime burning kilns (this to produce lime for building mortar and fertiliser).

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Looking down on the High Street

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Much Wenlock The Bullring

The Bull Ring where once  the popular sport of bull baiting took place on fair days and holidays

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Much Wenlock The Square

The Square (looking past the church towards Wilmore and Sheinton Street)  with the Museum on the left (once the Butter Market and then a cinema) and the 16th century Guidhall opposite. The assizes were held on the upper floor, the lock-up down below. These days the town council holds its meetings there.

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Much Wenlock Queen Street

Queen Street and Brook House Farm, one of the last surviving town farms, now ‘done up’ into several desirable residences. I remember it with cattle in the barn.

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Much Wenlock High Street with Reynalds Mansion

The High Street featuring our star timber-framed residence – Reynolds Mansion, a fifteenth century hall with a grand 1682 frontage

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Much Wenlock High Street towards Gaskell Corner

Top of the High Street. This row of stone clad cottages contains some very ancient inner parts.

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Much Wenlock High Street and Wilmore Street with Guildhall

Much Wenlock Sheinton Street towards New Road

Looking down Sheinton Street from the Farrell house

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Much Wenlock lane beside Priory ruins

Downs Lane beside Wenlock Priory

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Related: Wenlock: “A Rip Van Winkle kind of a place

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: roads