The rain and the sun come through

Continuing with the second part of our holiday in the Ladybird Book of England.

In Herefordshire earlier this week it is still late wintertime as we set out walking on a mostly sunny day.Shobdon01We are staying near the village of Shobdon, halfway between Kington and Leominster, and set off on a circular walk Sarah has  downloaded from the local village shop.

The snowdrops which are finishing back home are still in full flower here.

The snowdrops which are finishing back home are still in full flower here.

The otherwise bare winter oak trees are heavy with parasite mistletoe.

The otherwise bare winter oak trees are heavy with parasite mistletoe.

We soon reach this splendid wall.

We soon reach this splendid wall.

With a mysterious doorway.

With a mysterious doorway.

This is the remaining walled garden of Shobdon Court, the nob house that stood here until it was demolished in1933. There are apartments here now and we hang around for someone to come out of them so we can maybe see into their walled garden. Sadly no one does.

So we look at the Squill outside the garden.

So we look at the Spring Squill outside the garden.

But we do manage to get inside St John's Church.

But we do manage to get inside St John’s Church nearby.

This is mostly an 18th century church but with that 13th century tower. We’ll be seeing some more of the original church on our walk, but first let’s go inside.

To see this beauty.

To see this beauty.

The Bateman family who were the lords of the Shobdon area in the 18th century – and still loan their name to the local pub – had the church designed by Horace Walpole, the Whig politician and ‘man of letters’ in his ‘Strawberry Gothic’ style.

It's a place full of light and grace.

It’s a place full of light and grace.

Delicate detail

Delicate detail.

We look around very quietly.

We look around very quietly.

Appreciating the light and the colours.

Appreciating the light and the colours.

Grateful for its beauty.

Grateful for its beauty.

We step back out into the sunlight.

We step back out into the sunlight, knowing we’ve been somewhere special..

Nearby finding what looks like Dorothy's house from 'The Wizard of Oz' casually set down in a field.

Nearby finding what looks like Dorothy’s house from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ casually set down in a field.

We walk on up the hill.

We walk on up the hill.

To find those remains of the church we'd heard about.

To find those remains of the church we’d heard about.

Transported up here in the 18th century.

Transported up here in the 18th century.

To look back down on where they originally stood.

To look back down on where they originally stood.

A folly of course.

A folly of course.

But fascinating anyway.

But anciently fascinating anyway.

At this point the formal gentility of our walk gives way to rougher ground and rougher weather as sudden rain turning into a snow shower reminds us again that winter hasn’t yet finished with this hilly inland part of the country.

Then we meet the pigs.

Then we meet the pigs.

These two are clearly being used as ground clearers and have been doing a splendid job rooting up everything in their given plot of earth.

They are glad to meet some humans though and are wondering if we might have anything a bit tastier for them than the bramble roots they're now down to.

They are glad to meet some humans though and are wondering if we might have anything a bit tastier for them than the bramble roots they’re now down to.

One pig is more friendly and persistent than the other.

One pig is more friendly and persistent than the other.

So Bren eventually gives it his flapjack,

So Bren eventually gives it his flapjack.

We walk on.

We walk on.

And the sunshine returns.

And the sunshine returns.

The fields here are rich and green.

The fields here are rich and green.

Reminding us once again that we are on holiday in the Ladybird Book of England.

Reminding us once again that we are on holiday in the Ladybird Book of England.

Thinking about the fields though, we notice during all of the week’s walks that around half of them don’t seem to be doing anything. None of us know anything at all about farming of course, but what’s going on looks more economic and political than agricultural. Like a waste?

Later in the week, on a different walk, we feel half locked out of our own country by missing way markers and unexpected electric fences across yet more empty fields. Like an argument we don’t know about?

Reminding me of something Leonard Cohen once wrote:

“The fields they’re under lock and key
Though the rain and the sun come through”

We begin walking up a steep woodland path.

Anyway, we begin walking up a steep woodland path.

Long and very steep.

Long and very steep.

Pausing frequently.

Pausing frequently.

To look back on our ascent.

To look back on our ascent.

At the top there is snow on the ground.

At the top there is snow on the ground.

But we find a dry and sunny place to stop for lunch.

But we find a dry and sunny place to stop for lunch.

After which sketching and painting are done.

After which sketching and painting are done.

And a poem gets written.

And a poem gets written.

“Sketching with my words

Sitting in a sunlit clearing by the Mortimer Trail,
Up the high woodland hill from Shobdon.
Bren and Sarah sketching beside me while I sketch with my words.

We have walked through mud and leaf mould as a snow shower swept over us.
And pigs stuck their pink snouts through a fence for flapjacks,
One skulking away when the food was too long coming.

Then up and up the high hill we tramped
Looking out for likely hazel to be a walking stick for me,
Though not yet found as we stopped here to eat
On top of the high hill in this sunlit clearing
As Bren and Sarah sketch on.”

Before we leave Sarah sets up a photograph of the 3 of us.

Before we leave Sarah sets up a photograph of the 3 of us.

On top of the high hill in this sunlit clearing.

On top of the high hill in this sunlit clearing.

We walk on through the snow.

We walk on through the snow.

Delighted by the sound of it under our feet.

Delighted by the sound of it under our feet.

The wind gets stronger and coder and louder through the trees.

The wind gets stronger and colder and louder through the trees.

Which we walk through to find the edge of our high hill.

Which we walk through to find the edge of our high hill.

Looking down across Byton Common.

Looking down to Byton Common.

We are cold but intensely alive. It's one of those special moments.

We are cold but intensely alive. It’s one of those special moments.

Just in time a decent

Just in time a decent piece of hazel for my stick turns up.

Bren cuts and shapes it for me.

Bren cuts and shapes it for me.

I’m not yet convinced I’ll need a stick like the other two have. But after the next bit of our walk I’m not at all sure I could have got through without it.

It's wild up here on the edge of the hill.

It’s wild up here on the edge of the hill.

And parts of the next mile or so are muddy and slippy.

And parts of the next mile or so will be muddy and slippy.

Wit the ground sloping away very steeply to one side of us.

With the ground sloping away very steeply to one side of us.

This is where the stick Bren’s found and shaped for me is a virtual necessity.

Here on the Mortimer Trail.

Here on the Mortimer Trail.

The Trail in full is a thirty mile walk from Ludlow to Kington. Named after the family of fifteenth century baron Roger Mortimer it’s not actually a medieval trail but a modern route to get us walking through bits of the country we might otherwise never see.

And reassured by my stick I can see how beautiful the steeply wooded slop here is.

And steadied by my new stick I can see how beautiful the steeply wooded slope here is.

Next Sarah finds him something Bren has long wanted.

Ib the hedgerow at the top of the hill.

In the hedgerow at the top of the hill.

Where its living relatives continue.

Where its living relatives continue.

Yes it's a sheep's skull and will be carried home very carefully.

Yes it’s a sheep’s skull and will be carried home very carefully.

We are now at the highest point of the walk.

We are now at the highest point of the walk.

And can see for miles.

And can see for miles.

Right over into Wales.

Right over into Wales.

Then we begin our long descent to Blyton Common.

Then we begin our long descent to Byton Common.

As the afternoon shadows lengthen.

As the afternoon shadows lengthen.

Past abandoned pieces of the place's history.

Past abandoned pieces of the place’s history.

Across fields of stubble and many many stiles.

Across fields of stubble and many many stiles.

Occasionally surprising flocks of birds.

Occasionally surprising flocks of birds.

As the walk ends we are grateful to have done it and also grateful that it's over.

As the walk nears its end we are grateful to have done it and also grateful that it’s almost over.

None of us believe it’s been the five and a half miles that were billed. More like double that. Or maybe it’s all the stiles we’ve climbed and the mud we’ve waded through makes it seem so much more?

As we finish by crossing a golf course Bren id to repelled by this ridiculous stand of Leylandii to look at them.

As we finish by crossing a golf course Bren is too repelled by this ridiculous stand of Leylandii to bear to look at them.

Three friend, one walk.

Three friend, one walk.

As evening falls on Herefordshire.

As evening falls on Herefordshire.

And another day ends of our holiday in the Ladybird Book of England.

And another day of our holiday in the Ladybird Book of England comes to its end.

See also our other holiday photos here. And get that map for this walk here if you fancy doing it. Only attempt it though if you’re reasonably fit and have got a good stick!

 

 

6 thoughts on “The rain and the sun come through

  1. Friko

    Hello Ronnie and Co.

    This landscape is very familiar to me; I live near Ludlow in the Hills around the Clun valley.
    Liverpool isn’t far away so how about coming back some time and walking part of the Shropshire Way or Offa’s Dyke. Sweeter landscape there is none.

    Reply
  2. robertday154

    “Clunton and Clunbury,
    Clungunford and Clun,
    Are the quietest places
    Under the sun.” (A.E.Houseman, ‘A Shropshire Lad’)

    Shropshire is a hugely undiscovered part of the country; I spent some time there a few years ago and would really like to get back there sometime soon.

    The fields you saw with nothing in them may have been left fallow – held aside for a year with nothing growing in them to allow the soil to recover and regenerate – or it might just be something to do with subsidies, like the EU ‘Setaside’ scheme, which paid farmers to do nothing with certain parcels of land for environmental reasons.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Looked more like some sort of ‘setaside’ as it was about half the fields – and all of us remembered that arable farming was one in four. I’ve seen it up here too, walking in the Wirral uplands, an ’empty homes’ feeling in the fields, that I always suspect is more about markets and their value that human well being.

      An astonishingly and quietly beautiful place though which has long fascinated me.

      Reply
      1. jen

        I’ve just moved to one of those apartments with the walled garden, and done this loop a few times now, many of the fields are now growing, some rape flower and some green small shoots I can’t yet identify, but they are actually in use.

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