Long Walks in August 2023

2 Aug 23 Wenlock Edge  Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 9 miles, Driving Distance: 52 miles, Number walking: 9

Start from TF13 6AR  What 3 Words /// equipment.ethic.sweetly

Click here to see a map of the walk.

Because the leader was staying in Ludlow, the group assembled in two cars on the Waitrose car park. They took different routes; one travelled 56 miles and arrived in the expected time-frame while the other travelled 51 miles and required a look-out to stand on the road near the car park at Much Wenlock. The late arrival, driven appropriately enough by the back marker, had suffered conflicting navigation advice from Garmin and Google Maps and had visited quite a number of tiny villages with narrow roads closely surrounded by tall hedges and sometimes flooded. The late car returned via Shrewsbury using old fashioned navigation on good, dry roads and took a couple of miles longer.

The leader had said, in a message not passed on to the unsuspecting walkers, that they should avoid the walk. He claimed at the start of the walk that it would be “grim”. In fact, the walk rated quite low on the grimness index; the weather was much better than the forecast and the only difficult terrain was the path into Hughley. Kath might take a less charitable view after she fell on the slippery limestone, but she soon bounced back up.

From the National Trust car park nearest to Much Wenlock the group set off up Wenlock Edge. After reaching the wooded area, the group zig-zagged down the slippery limestone path to the west and eventually found the way into a field that had been recently harvested to leave a stubbly surface for the walkers to sit on for the coffee stop. A local was pulling up ragwort from an area that hadn’t been harvested that he claimed was deliberately left for wildflowers and soon went off with his pickup stuffed with the yellow plants.

After wandering into a field littered with giant molehills and finding that there was no way out going east, the group retreated and found the correct exit where a stile had been removed and replaced by a fence. This prompted a call for lunch and the group settled in a field of very long grass, where some giant molehills would have been useful for seating. Lunch was terminated early by a shower, which didn’t last for long.

After walking across a couple more harvested fields the group had to enter the little village of Hughley via a narrow path bounded by a solid fence and barbed wire on the other side. To make the path even more unpleasant, nettles and brambles intruded from both sides and above. By creating this dreadful path, the Hughley village authorities have indicated their complete disdain for the walking community. There appears to be nowhere in the village for walkers to spend money, so maybe the authorities there don’t care.

From Hughley the group walked up to the Edge along the road in the sunshine. A thoughtfully positioned log by an abandoned lime kiln provided the seating for most of the group to eat whatever they had saved from lunch. This was also terminated early by a heavier shower but that also gave up after a few minutes. The expected thunderstorm didn’t make an appearance.

While looking for the site of Major’s Leap, the leader found a spot where the countryside to the east was laid out conveniently for viewing. It turned out not to be the official site, but it was easier to get to.

Major’s Leap: In the English Civil War, Major Thomas Smallman was a Royalist officer who was forced to flee from Cromwell’s approaching troops after escaping from Wilderhope Manor. He was cornered on Wenlock Edge carrying important dispatches. Rather than surrender, he galloped his horse off the edge falling some 200 feet. His horse was killed but the Major was saved by falling into an apple tree. He made his way on foot to Shrewsbury where he delivered the despatches. The area where he made the jump is known as Major’s Leap and is said to be haunted by the Major and his horse.

None of the walkers reported any paranormal experiences.

16 Aug 23 Malpas  Leader: Kath & Dave, Length of walk: 9 miles, Driving Distance: 27 miles, Number walking: 16

Start from SY14 8NP  What 3 Words /// pest.happening.indoor

The walk commenced in the pleasant town of Malpas.  The weather looked fine and warm, so we crossed our fingers for it to last.  A last minute route adjustment by Kath plunged the group into the depths of a maize field but we emerged, remarkably, with the same number who’d entered.  No insurance claims yet.  Underfoot was mixed – some longish grass in parts but generally not too heavy going as we crossed many fields – some with frisky bovine occupants which expedited our speedy exit.  We trekked remorselessly through lush farmland with an occasional wave (or was it a finger ?) from local farmers whizzing around on their tractors.  All very jolly.  Our coffee stop was in a field by a pond which offered now’t noteworthy to mention here.  We moved on, the sun shone and we sweated like slaves on a galley ship, but endurance is our game and we persisted.  We traversed Bishop Bennet Way and parts of the Sandstone trail, by-passed huge solar installations to end up at – a derelict pub.  We gasped, licked our cracked lips and chewed on our cheese sandwiches resolutely before resuming our sweaty endeavours to approach a forlorn looking church standing in the middle of nowhere – St Chad’s we were sagely informed by leadership.  Whilst it looked in quite good shape it apparently attracts no parishioners, having been usurped in purpose by another St Chad’s half a mile away.   Clearly Bishop Bennet was not involved.  Our leader then made another dramatic manoeuvre into the very centre of a mature, seven foot tall maize field (there maybe a maize issue from childhood here to explain this) but we emerged successfully after a good amount of fond thrashing.  This led us onto what must be the only carpeted farm track in the country – actually more of an Astro-turf finish than Axminster but very easy on our tired feet – as we ambled back into the welcoming bosom of Malpas and the ‘Fire Station’ café/bar.   All members were accounted for as they answered the roll call.   Nevertheless, a fine walk with determined leadership !

© Sandbach U3A 2024