An evening stroll along Carding Mill Valley

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Late morning on the Tuesday the rain started to come in, so we spent the afternoon taking it easy in our comfortable apartment, reading and listening to some music. By about 6 o’clock it had stopped raining so we decided to go for a short walk along Carding Mill Valley and take a look at the reservoir up New Pool Hollow. The small reservoir was constructed in 1902 to supply water to the Carding Mill. It didn’t have to fulfil it’s intended purpose for long; the old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. Today the reservoir is an attractive feature at the end of a short steep sided valley and is frequented by “wild swimmers”.

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It was only a short walk up Carding MIll Valley and it’s short side shoot, New Pool Hollow (named after the new reservoir – what was it called before 1902?). We stopped for a short while to take in the view.

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The sun was starting to break through the cloud and it looked like it might develop into a pleasant evening, so we extended the walk by taking the high level path back along the valley before walking further up the main valley.

This is the view of the reservoir’s dam, looking back from the high level path.

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and looking down towards Church Stretton from further along the path.

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Rejoining the main valley

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One of the locals taking a look at us!

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A little before the intersection with Lightspout Hollow we turned round and headed back – it was getting close to tea time.

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Passing the old factory building which has been converted into flats,

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and then the National Trust shop and café in the Swiss Chalet.

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After a short while we arrived back at Arden House

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We chose the right time to go out – an hour after we got back it was raining heavily again.

St Laurence’s church, Church Stretton

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On the Tuesday of our holiday the weather forecast was for rain during late morning. As we’d already done a couple of decent walks on the previous two days we decided to take it a little easy and have a mooch around Church Stretton.

There are a lot of old buildings in the town, and St Laurence’s church, a Grade I Listed Building, is the oldest with a nave built in the 12th century. The chancel and the upper stage of the tower were built in the 15th century while the south vestry and west aisles were added during the 19th century. This is the church that put the “Church” in Church Stretton!

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The oldest part of the church, the nave is Romanesque (Norman). This unused door in the north wall is very typical of the style with its simple rounded arch.

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Above the door, to the left, is a sheila-na-gig.

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This website provides a good explanation of these pre-Christian symbols found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain

Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually Romanesque, building.

The rest of the church is Gothic –  Early English, although the top stage of the tower, which is Perpendicular.

A Gothic door with a pointed arch in the South wall

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We had a look inside

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The timber roofs in the nave

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and the south transept

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go back to the 13th Century and are in remarkably good condition.

I liked this metal sculpture in the roof in the tower crossing – dating from about 1970 it depicts St Laurence and his attribute, a gridiron.

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There was some attractive stained glass

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Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hill

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The Monday of our break in Shropshire was looking promising so we set off on a walk taking in some of the hills to the east of Church Stretton.

Caer Caradoc dominates the view to the east of the town. It’s a very distinctive hill that used to be surmounted by an Iron Age Hill Fort. That was to be our first objective.

We walked through the town and crossed over the A49 (luckily there’s a Pelican crossing) and then through an estate of houses. But after only a short while we were walking down a quiet country lane.

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The hills soon came into view across the fields.

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Rather than a direct assault on the very steep slope at the end of the ridge, we followed the track along the base of the hill

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We crossed over the stile and then were faced with a sharp, steep, ascent up tot he summit

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Looking back along the ridge with the Long Mynd in the background

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At the summit the defensive ditches from the Iron Age Hill fort were clearly visible.

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Looking north across to Little Caradoc, the long ridge of The Lawley and, in the far distance rising out of the flat plain, the distinctive shape of The Wrekin.

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Looking west to the Long Mynd

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and, to the east, Bowdler Hill.

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After a short break to take in the scenery we set off north down the slope towards Little Caradoc, a  minor prominence to the north of the main summit.

Looking back

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The view north from the summit of Little Caradoc

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We took the path down to the bottom and then circumnavigated the hill following a path that took us back to the track that runs along the foot of the Caer Caradoc. This route was clearly not followed very often. It was overgrown and we had to fight our way through long stretches of bracken which wasn’t particularly pleasant and climb over stiles that hadn’t been maintained and were somewhat dodgy.

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We eventually reached the track and our next objective came into view

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There were a couple of options and I took the wrong one, following the path straight ahead. It was fine at first but then it petered out and we had to battle through yet more bracken and boggy ground

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but we finally made it to a better, more distinctive path along the bottom of the hill and then reached the junction with the path which would take us up to the top of the ridge. Another short steep climb, this time through bracken. But at least it was a clear cut path.

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Reaching the top of the climb we took a clear path over the ridge – not marked on the OS map but clearly very well used.  Bowdler Hill consists of a series of prominences and the path took us over them all.

Looking across the valley we had an excellent view of Caer Caradoc.

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Looking back along the ridge,

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and over to Church Stretton

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There were plenty of sheep about

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At the south end of the ridge we reached the distinctive Gaer Stone.

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From here we took the path back down the hill towards Church Stretton

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which took us through fields before retracing our steps along the metalled track and roads back to the town.

Time to stop for coffee and cake!

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All Saints Church, Little Stretton

As we turned on to the main road at Little Stretton this is the first thing we saw

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Well, I’ve never seen a church with a thatched roof before, so we stopped to take a closer look

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The lady who was tidying up the garden provided some history for us. The church isn’t as old as it appears and its appearance is deceptive. It was only erected in 1903 and was a pre-fab, “the 1903 equivalent of a flat pack furniture” as the lady put it. It’s constructed of timber and was painted black and white to blend in with the adjacent old timber framed manor house. It originally had a  corrugated iron roof, but because it was noisy when it rained and the congregation couldn’t hear the pastor, it was replaced with the thatch.

We took a look inside

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An interesting building! Kind of Arts and Crafts style.

The Long Mynd and Ashes Hollow

Our main reason for choosing Church Stretton as a base for a holiday was that, as well as the peace and quiet, we wanted to do some walking in the Shropshire Hills. So on Sunday morning we loaded up our day sacks, put on our boots and set up for a walk up the Long Mynd, the large “whale back” hill that looms over the town.

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The grassy plateau is about 7 miles long with steep valleys on its eastern flanks. We set off up one of these, the most popular, Carding Mill Valley which, like much of the Long Mynd, is under the stewardship of the National Trust.

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The National Trust has some information about the history of the textile industry in the valley that gave it its name

In 1812 a carding mill was built to process local fleeces. The carded wool was then spun at home as a cottage industry.

In 1824 George Corfield bought the mill and expanded, building a factory and installing Spinning Jennies and Hand Looms to become a cloth manufacturer. Being sited away from the heart of the woollen industry in Yorkshire proved difficult so further expansion in 1851 took them into clothing manufacture employing sewers and dressmakers. The business remained under threat so diversification was attempted.

By 1881 part of the factory was used for ginger beer and soda water manufacture and another part as a tea-room. By this time many people had new-found wealth and increased leisure and Church Stretton was developing as a spa town known as “Little Switzerland”.

Two reservoirs were built, one in 1865 in Townbrook Hollow and 1902 in New Pool Hollow. The old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. By 1920 the factory had been converted to flats and the Chalet Pavilion had been imported from Scandinavia to be used as a tea-room for the day trippers.

It’s a popular spot so on a Sunday morning in August there were plenty of people around. Many of them, however, seemed to be sticking around the lower part of the valley, which was flat, pottering around with children messing about near or in the river. There were some relatively easy low level walks. One in particular up to the reservoir that used to feed the former carding mill on the site.

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We walked past the chalet building, imported from Switzerland, which today house the NT café and shop

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It was too soon to stop for a brew (only 15 minutes or so since we’d set out!) so we carried on up the valley

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Rather than follow the main route up to the top of the Long Mynd, we took a left fork up Lightspout Hollow, a narrow, steep sided valley leading up to the Lightspout waterfall.

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As there hadn’t been a lot of rain over previous weeks there was more fall than water!

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We climbed the steep stepped path up past the waterfall and then cut off the path carrying on up hill. A short distance away we spotted a group of ponies on the hillside

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Reaching the top we carried on along the grassy plateau, heading for the path that runs along the ridge of the Long Mynd.

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Looking back there was a good view of Caer Caradoc to the east of Church Stretton, across the other side of the A49.

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Walking along the ridge we could see several gliders circling around on the thermals created by the hills.

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As the top of the Long Mynd is a fairly flat plateau there isn’t a distinct summit, but we headed for the highest point on the ridge , “Pole Bank” where we stopped to take in the view.

Looking west towards Wales.

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Visibility was OK but with a cloudy grey sky the light was rather flat, not great for photography, and we couldn’t see as far as the Welsh mountains which were obscured by cloud and the grey light.

We turned round, retraced our steps for a short distance before heading east and turned off down the path that would take us down Ashes Hollow.

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It’s another narrow, steep sided valley, the path following a stream down hill. It was much quieter than on the way up and along the ridge – we saw only a few people, mainly coming up the valley. Most people were obviously descending by alternative routes.

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Initially passing through rough moorland, as it descended the scenery changed into a pleasant rocky, wooded valley

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eventually flattening out

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Towards the end of the valley, passing through a meadow, I spotted a couple coming up from the opposite direction. The man was wearing a sweatshirt with a familiar badge on his chest – Wigan Warriors. I asked if they were from Wigan and it transpired that the woman was a born and bred Wiganer who now lived near Church Stretton.  So we stopped for a chat. It’s I surprising how often we bump into people from our home town  (I was once paddling in a canoe with our children when they were young teenagers on the Dordogne and was hailed by someone – “are you from Wigan?”) – it’s a small world, as they say.

We passed through a small camp site and arrived at Little Stretton, a small village a couple of miles south of the town where we were staying.

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A small, affluent community of a small number of mainly ancient houses.

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We followed the road back to Church Stretton. Time for a brew and a cake at one of the independent coffee shops.

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Church Stretton

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In recent years we’ve moved from having a long summer holiday to taking several, shorter breaks. So a week to the day of getting back from our holiday in Whitby, we set off to spend some time in the Shropshire Hills.

We’d booked a few days in an apartment in Arden House, an Arts and Crafts style house in the small Shropshire town of Church Stretton, nesting at the bottom of Carding Mill Valley. The house had been built in 1903 by William Blower a local business man who was also Mayor of Shrewsbury. The building had been very tastefully converted with 3 apartments available to rent on the upper floors with the owners, Ian and Julie, living in the rest of the house. They had maintained the character and original features of the house while the apartments were modern and comfortable. We stayed in the Mackintosh suite which had original windows, three of them with stone window frames and some of them had original stained glass.

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A very relaxing and comfortable stay.

Church Stretton is 12 miles south of Shrewsbury, the capital of Shropshire, on the A49. People have lived here for a long time. There were Iron Age hill forts on nearby hills and the Roman road, Watling Street, ran through the town – although there wasn’t a Roman settlement here. The town grew up in Saxon and Medieval times along with the nearby settlements of Little Stretton, and All Stretton.  It became popular as a spa resort in the 19th Century and with the coming of the railway became a popular holiday destination during the late Victorian and Edwardian period, adopting the nickname of “Little Switzerland” as the landscape was said to resemble the said Alpine country.

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There used to be some wool textile production based around Carding Mill Valley, but being too far away for the main industrial areas in the North, this died out in the 19th Century.

Today it’s a small market town with some industry but with tourism probably it’s main source of income.  Despite it’s size it has all the basic facilities and shops. Other than the mid-size Co-op supermarket it was notable that all the other shops were independent. No chains. All the coffee shops were independent too – not a Starbucks to be seen!

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Most of the buildings in the town centre were quite old – some medieval

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and, particularly moving out of the centre, some for the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

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A walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby

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We’d been wanting to walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby during our recent holiday. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t been particularly promising. But on the Friday the forecast was for sunshine until the evening, so we laced up our boots and took the bus the few miles to Robin Hood’s Bay and set out along the coastal path. It was easy walking at first but we soon had to negociate a series of “ups and downs” along the cliffs.

Looking back shortly after setting out.

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A short distance along the route we came across this “rocket post”. Devices similar to this were used by the coastguard to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailors. Rockets were used to fire ropes across to stranded ships.

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It was a beautiful day, if a little windy. There were great views of the cliffs ahead and the sea was a beautiful shade of blue.

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“Scars” could be seen under the water. It was high tide but these rocky selves that make this stretch of coastline potentially treacherous for shipping would soon be revealed as the tide receded.

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Looking out to sea.

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Moving along the coast

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This must be the shortest lighthouse I’ve seen.

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A cliff face of Kittiwakes

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A short distance after the lighthouse we passed this disused foghorn station. I wouldn’t have liked to be walking past when this was blasting out.

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Carrying on the cliffs

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Getting closer to Whitby. We passed the bay where we’d been foddiling earlier that week.

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The Abbey came into view

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Looking down to the ship wreck we’d walked past during the fossiling trip

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Whitby harbour came into view.

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Getting closer to the Abbey

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We finished the walk with tea and cake in the YHA café next to the Abbey.

An enjoyable walk of about 8 miles.