A Shropshire Weekend
‘WE’RE going for a weekend in Shropshire,’ he said. ‘They’ve got old trees, castles and ancient town buildings, good food and walks.’
Ah, he knows what I like! I guess he would after so many years of marriage.
I love weekends exploring new places, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really know where Shropshire was. It turns out that it’s on the English-Welsh border, and what a beautiful county it is.
Our 4-hour long hike at Long Mynd was a wonderful beginning. Stunning heather and bilberry-clad hills were grazed by sheep with new lambs, and skylarks sang their joy of life for the pleasure of all the walkers and mountain bikers.
Coming down from the fell tops, our path took us through a beautiful area of woodland. At first sight, it looked as if it had just had an unseasonably late covering of snow. The sparklingly white flowers of wild garlic (otherwise known as ransoms, or allium ursinum) glistened in drifts amongst the beech and sycamores, canopied by the fresh citrus-greens of the trees’ leaves. Garlic is not a perfume you’d generally reach for, I know, but the bright oniony smell that enveloped us as we wandered through this glade was intoxicating.
Heading for Ludlow after a wash and brush up, we felt we’d earned a special dinner. Ludlow is apparently noted as being the foodie capital of this shire, and we chose the excellent Mortimers from a very reasonable list of options. Since we arrived after the shops had shut, the centre of this small market town was not busy, and we had a pleasurable wander through its impressively ancient streets before eating. The verdict? We will be coming again.
The next day, we decided to add in an unplanned visit to a castle we’d passed on the way to Ludlow.
Stokesay Castle is not a ‘proper’ castle, but what an out-and-out gem of a place it is. Billed as England’s finest mediaeval fortified manor house, you feel like you’ve stumbled onto a film set for some historic epic. It’s only slightly disappointing that the other visitors are wearing t-shirts and jeans, and carrying cameras, rather than being sword-toting heroes in doublet and hose come to rescue a damsel in distress. The place oozes history, and in my opinion, is all the better for not being uber-primped. It is pretty and romantic enough as it is. Do not miss this if you’re anywhere close.
For each of the three nights we stayed in Shropshire, we based ourselves in the tiny village of Norbury. The Coach House, a restaurant with rooms, is run by a charming couple and I’d highly recommend it, not only for the good food and very tastefully decorated rooms, but also because each morning I awoke to the sight of one of England’s ten oldest yew trees. (I wrote a short poem about it that you can read here).
As the sun began to set on our weekend away, we had been drawn back up to the hills—something notably lacking in Suffolk. We watched from the characterful Stiperstones as the surrounding grazing pastures, hills and hummocks, interspersed with the odd flash of a yellow field of rape, took on a hazy hue and faded from being unique landmarks into general Shropshireness.
I accept there is no such word, but if there was, it would be good thing.