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.We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
“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.”
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.
This is where the stick Bren’s found and shaped for me is a virtual necessity.
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.
Next Sarah finds him something Bren has long wanted.
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?