Saturday, 28 August 2010

On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

So mused the rather sad Professor Housman, best known for his poetry ('The Shropshire Lad' set to music by numerous composers), about the part of Shropshire where we've just been staying with the family. In fact the view (above) from the back of the house, including the conservatory where we sat, was looking over the Eaton Brook up to Wenlock Edge itself. And it's true that when the wind was up, the forest fleece would heave and the thinner trees bend, if not double, at least out of vertical. We were further south than Wroxeter (the Roman town that A E Housman calls Uricon and the fourth largest Roman settlement in Britain) but there was a reminder of the past in the name nearby of Roman Bank.

Although with three young grandchildren it might not have been physically quiet all the time, spiritually it was actually peaceful. We seemed to escape the unquiet that troubled first the Roman and then the poet. The weather wasn't the best, but it compelled less activity than sometimes - with the exception of the small swimming pool adjacent to where we were, which we enjoyed to the max.

Jane with Buttercup the cow
And some days it were grand. Like when we went to Acton Scott Farm Museum which was just 10 minutes away. Jane's years of practice with Mishka the Vicarage goat were obviously not wasted. Milking the rather static cow - no problem. Meanwhile Clumper the shire-type horse who starred on the recent BBC series, 'Escape in Time', was busy in the wheelchair-hostile farmyard, kibbling the corn (i.e. bruising it to make it more digestible).
Clumper of 'Escape in Time' fame

Tree by stream in Cardingmill Valley

And then there was Cardingmill Valley, in Church Stretton, going up the Long Mynd. I enjoyed that, ending up at two vantage points: one of a beautiful tree with its exposed root system, and the other further up reached courtesy of the sweated labour of my family where I could listen to and watch the stream carving its way off the hillside. I was happy as Larry!
Note the harebell l.h.bottom corner
We had gourmet feasts each day, thanks to six different chefs, with the notable exception of the seventh day - when it was my turn. Of course, I cheat, and, after careful research, find the Ludlow Assembly Rooms which I read is 'family friendly' and has particular recommendations for its steak and kidney pie and its all-day breakfast. In fact, I quote: "If you see 'home made steak and kidney pie' on their board, it's top class. Also the ham, eggs and chips is a MUST. It's in Mill Street - round the corner form the market - good reliable Mum, Dad and kids destination, if a bit unadventurous."

Ludlow Castle (Tourist Board)
Well, it said it was entirely independent... but I should have researched a bit more and I'd have found the local rag reporting that the cultural flagship of Ludlow had been hit by the government's cut-backs. That would explain why their café-bar was staffed entirely by two hard-pressed ladies and after 2 by just one, and why we discovered there was no steak and kidney, the lasagne was off, the chocolate milk-shakes were pink, the plaice was equal measures of breadcrumbs and fish.... I don't blame them. It must be depressing being cut back to the bone. Fortunately my family forgave me, and the children thoroughly enjoyed the castle - that was worth going to Ludlow in itself.

Church Stretton Church
(©Kev747@English lang Wikipedia)
Our nearest town was Church Stretton - and that provided us with a better experience. Along with the large Coop, the parish church contained a welcome surprise: a tastefully reordered interior, with banners down the nave and suspended bronze tongues of the Spirit above the meeting of the transepts, comfortable seats around the dais with the old pews at the back. It was well done. The service on Sunday morning WAS family friendly. And in fact people were altogether friendly. The couple behind us chatted to us afterwards. It turned out they once lived in the village where Jane and I had a historic lunch 15 years ago! I was touched when he offered to pray for me then and there. I thought, 'This feels like real church'.

Meanwhile back at Eaton Manor, Nicola showed us the chicken shed which they have converted into an archery practice range. It's enormous, 76 metres long. The Olympic Bronze medallist, Alison Williamson, lives quite near and they needed somewhere to practise - and this is it. So when you see United Kingdom archers in action at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, the chances are they'll have honed their skills here.
Eaton Archery Centre
For a few days, we had four generations of family - with Jane's parents joining us. They are excellent company, and enjoyed spending time with our half of the clan. 
One incredible evening we were having our meal when Jane suddenly noticed the almost full moon rising over Wenlock Edge. It was dramatic. Unfortunately, the mown cornfield which was glowing on the hillside doesn't show up on the photo.
Moon over Wenlock Edge
I think you could say the week was a feast of good things - which, as you know, are sent from Heaven above. 


  1. Amazing how we trust people, isn't it? You can present a spoilt negative with a tomato ketchup blob on it, describe it as "Moon over Wenlock Edge" and everyone believes it! I do - we had a lovely holiday "up there"
    a year or two ago (in a converted cowstall, I think) and everything was magic - if you allow it to be.......

  2. Oh come on, be fair, Brian! We don't use negatives these days. It's all digital.

  3. Oh I love reading your blog, Michael. It is so serene and restorative!