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Outside the magic triangle of London, Stratford and Oxford, no place in Britain has been more visited and patronised by Americans than Chester. Until quite recently they entered this country through Liverpool and close at hand was what they desired to see. Nathaniel Hawthorne, consul at Liverpool from 1853-57, was one of many famous American writers to visit Chester: ‘It is a quite indescribable old town; and I feel, at last, as if I had had a glimpse of Old England.

80 years later a noted English travel writer, H. V. Morton, was even more categorical about its ancientry: ‘Chester is as “medieval” as Clovelly is “quaint". There is no getting away from it.’ And yet now, in our own day and age, Pevsner and Hubbard have declared, ‘Chester is not a medieval city, it is a Victorian one 95% is Victorian’ Nevertheless, when all this has been taken into consideration, the statement that Chester is a Victorian city is misleading, and anyone who cares to compare Chester to Manchester can see why. Manchester is almost as old as Chester in its origin and not without relics of its distant past. Yet they are no more than relics, and the layout and atmosphere of modern Manchester owes hardly anything to that past.

The finds from Roman Chester have been and continue to be so rich that they and the picture built up from them dominate the Museum.
There is a second Roman gallery in the Grosvenor Museum, full of finds made in or near the fortress. Most of these are inscribed stones and mean little to the layman until interpreted. When interpreted (there is a book on them), they reveal fascinating details about the lives of the soldiers: where they came from (all over the vast Empire), whom they prayed to, how long they lived (one to over 80), how some died (one was shipwrecked), how they dressed. In addition there are inscriptions that help to date the stages in the development of the fortress. The interpretations of some of these show the ingenuity as well as the great learning of modern archaeologists. One fragment containing just one whole letter and minute parts of four others has been expanded into an inscription of ten words, which helps to fix the building of the stone fortress within the years 102-18, the later part of the reign of Trajan.

Chester has been fortunate in having a corporation very proud of the city's past and anxious to increase knowledge of it and, in the curators and staff of the Grosvenor Museum, the initiative and expertise to carry through the excavation work.

Chester was the last important town in England to submit to William the Conqueror, who was so anxious that this submission should not be delayed that he drove his half-mutinous army across the Pennines in the depth of winter to obtain it. The deliberate devastation that they spread over most of the county is plainly shown in Domesday Book, made many years later. In Chester they pulled down half the houses and erected a castle on a mound overlooking the Dee, outside the limit of the Saxon fortifications. 

The city became both a bastion and a launching pad in the long struggle with the Welsh, who reacted with fury and, for a time. with considerable success to the Norman attempts to break into the mountainous regions which the Saxons had left severely alone. Chester’s walls were also rebuilt in stone and extended west and south to bring under their protection all the dry land within the great curve of the Dec. In those days the Roodee was a stretch of golden sand at low tide, but submerged when the waters were high. Even in the days when Welsh raids went as deep into the county as Nantwich, the defences of Chester were never seriously threatened.

Chester was for a time almost a second capital. The king, the queen, the great nobles, administrators and courtiers, were frequently in it. Armies and fleets were launched from it along the North Wales coast. In 1283, when Llywelyn had been killed and his brother Dafydd reduced to a hunted fugitive, Edward returned to Chester, heard mass in St Werburgh's and gave the abbey a valuable doth. It was really a thanksgiving service for the successful conclusion of the war.

Nowdays Chester is a busy centre, crowded by shoppers from a wide surrounding area in almost any season', by tourists in the summer, by those coming in for the Races, for the Regattas, for festivals and other cultural activities and in order to visit the highly successful post-Second World War Zoo at Upton Park.

Hereford is without doubt the archetype of rural England. When foreign visitors describe the rural idyll that is rural England, they are describing the gentle hills, wild woodland, winding lanes and quiet villages of Herefordshire. This county has a rich history and is fortunately one of the unspoilt corners of Britain, and is full of hidden surprises. Many of the walks will offer the intrepid walker the opportunity to unlock some of the splendid secrets of Herefordshire.

Such beautiful landscape is in danger due to competing demands on that scarce commodity in the British Isles, land. Like the pressures for change on the landscape, another major component of our British Heritage the pub -is under threat. In Herefordshire, in particular, isolated Inns are often lost forever as holiday homes. Other pubs, forced to make ends meet, take the short-sighted option of throwing five centuries of tradition into a skip to be replaced by bland quasi-restaurants.


Mistletoe Cottage in Herefordshire

Between the high border ridges of Wales and those majestic Malvems lies the beautiful and ancient county of Herefordshire”. For this oval shaped county, drained principally by the Lugg, Wye and Monnow, offers a variety of landscapes to suit the walker. From the wild windswept commons of Merbach or Garway hill, to the gentle valley bottoms of the Frome and Lugg, it is as unspoilt as the guide books suggest. Only one countryside spot comes to mind where visitors do seem to be thick on the ground Symond’s Yat, on the Wye between Ross and Monmouth. Even here, walk a mile from the Yat and the place is yours. Go elsewhere and the county is empty. Walk on any day except Sunday and you will hardly meet a soul. Apart from the town centres and country parks it is quiet for, regardless of recent trends, many rural Herefordians still live mainly by the land.

The walks recommended vary from short walks (two to four miles) ideal for an afternoon or evening saunter, to longer rambles for those who enjoy being out for the best part of the day. They are spread geographically throughout the county but the reader will notice that in some instances they are clustered together. If camping near The Black Mountains at The Bridge Inn, Michaelchurch Escley, for example, there are three or four walks that can be accomplished without travelling long distances.


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Herefordshire Countryside

What makes Herefordshire so interesting for the walker?

In short, the views, for Herefordshire is surrounded by upland masses. In the west there are The Black Mountains, Radnor and Clun Forests. In the east lie the pre-Cambrian rocks of the Malvem hills, and a range of foothills running north to Abberley. In the north, Mortimei’s Forest and the Clee Hills come to mind; in the south, the Forest of Dean.

The lowlands of Herefordshire do not appear to be so appealing perhaps. Be re-assured as this gently undulating countryside is broken by lower but nevertheless still impressive ranges such as Dinmore, Wormsley, Merbach and Woolhope, the latter being dome shaped and of considerable interest to geologists. The walks from Mordiford and Woolhope provide a superb introduction to the Woolhope Dome. The county must also have one of the highest number of streams and rivers for such an area. The water and woodland add so much character to the walks particularly in the Llangrove or Clehonger walks.

For the most part the soils of Herefordshire are red. The bed’rock is Old Red sandstone and there have been several periods of glaciation where loams and rich layers have been deposited by melting waters. This has ensured that Herefordshire is a very fertile growing area, in evidence on most of the walks but more so on the Staunton on Wye, Mathon or Bishops Frome walks. In the north west of the county the rock structure, is very different: a series of limestones and shales dating from the Silurian period and the resultant scenery features scarp (edge) and dip (gentler) slopes as on the Wigmore to Lingen walk where buzzards and even the rarer Merlin can be seen. Woolhope also features predominantly limestone rock outcrops often containing fossils embedded for thousands of years in these sedimentary strata.

Roman occupation at Kenchester and Leintwardine, linked by the Roman road between Deva (Chester) and Caerleon remind us of the relentless drive to push the Celts west. After the Romans, the story is one of gradual domination during the centuries by the Anglo Saxons and the establishment of kingdoms such as Mercia led to a clearer settlement of territories. Offa’s Dyke, a magnificent survival, was one such boundary which straddled the Powys-Mercia border and is featured in the Kington to Lyonshall walk.

Turbulent Past
It is the period before and after the Norman invasion, however, which is so well represented in Herefordshire. Edward the Confessor began to encourage the building of local castles using stone (rather than wood) before the Norman invasion and Richard’s Castle, built for Richard Fitz Scrob (hardly a Herefordshire name), is a good example. Such castles were built for penetrating nearby Wales, if necessary, and the pattern was intensified after the conquest by William the Conqueror. The lands were split between powerful lords, particularly the Fitz Osbornes and Mortimers. The latter family became increasingly influential, ruling much of the Marches (derivation from Mercia) as the area became known, from Wigmore castle. The county is littered with motte and bailey castles dating from this time. Some remain impressive such as Goodrich, others such as Dorstone and Almeley survive only as mounds. War broke out intermittently between these Marcher lords and those who championed Wales as a separate nation, especially the much revered Owain GlyndOvr who was responsible for the slaughter of many Herefordshire armies.

Mills were established on fast flowing streams not only for grinding corn and fodder but for paper and wool. These remained small scale and did not lead to the growth of factory towns as in the North West or Yorkshire. No mining of significance has occurred and even the railways remained on a rural scale. No major direct rail route was forged across the mountains to Wales from the Midlands. Instead, little branch lines were established to such unlikely places as Presteigne and Bromyard. Nor did the canal system stimulate large scale growth as elsewhere. Thus, the county has remained principally agricultural. Even today, two of the county’s major employers, Bulmers Cider Company (the largest cider plant in the world) and Sun Valley Poultry are based on processing agricultural produce and others are involved in fruit production in other parts of the county.

Hereford is also famous for Hereford cattle and the Hereford bull is exported throughout the world, the further the better many ramblers would say. The Ryeland sheep is also well known but 'is not reared extensively. The importance of Hereford and the outlying towns as market places cannot be overestimated and they still retain strong market towns identities. Hereford, while being a cathedral city and major tourist destination, is still first and foremost a place to exchange and buy goods. A visit to the Cattle or Butter market will illustrate this more than words on a page. The county towns of Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury and Leominster still have a special atmosphere. They are quieter, change has been slower, traffic less dominant and tend to feel more welcoming places. Ross-on-Wye is not like the others. It is a more established resort and although the stalls around the ancient market hall and small shops are attractive, the narrow pavements tend to be busier and there is not such a relaxed atmosphere as elsewhere. Don’t let this put you off visiting for Ross sits on a site of natural beauty above the banks of the Wye.

Thus, the major changes in the county which have affected the landscape and the culture have come more recently, such as changed farming practices. While less dramatic than in other parts of the country, there has been a grabbing of hedges, and an increase in chicken rearing in large scale buildings which are supplied by equally large lorries winding down back roads. There has been increased application ordes and fertilisers on the land and mechanised harvesting of crops. These farming methods are bringing about a rapid change to the landscape in some parts of the county, and this concerns those seeking to conserve wildlife habitats.

The Villages
It is, however, the villages and hamlets that make walking in Herefordshire such a pleasure. Many have retained a historic charm without becoming genteel. The timber and half timber framed houses in many of the settlements (sometimes called ’Black and White') and a distinctive grouping of buildings around parish churches and village greens make them attractive to the eye. Equally important is the farmyard and home orchard, the post office, pub and local school. Unfortunately, in some parts of the county these are gone. No longer are there pubs at Broad Oak, St. Margaret’s or Dulas (what a pub it was!), post offices at Bacton or Bredwardine nor many surviving blacksmiths.

For those who fancy a weekend away from it all, Country Village Weekend Breaks, pioneered by David Gorvett of Eardisley in the mid to late 1980's is an ideal introduction to Herefordshire staying with local people in villages such as Brilley, Eardisley, Lyonshall or Pembridge. Pick up a leaflet from a local tourist information office for details. David has since pioneered The Black and White Trail, introducing visitors to the distinctive half-timbered and timbered villages of western Herefordshire between Leominster and Kington. He has also established a walking trail between the same villages, details of which are also available at local tourist information centres.

Cider country
Good walking is also about enjoying the local culture and the county of Herefordshire has for centuries been associated with hops and cider. Cider is the beverage well known to Herefordshire and cider apple orchards can still be found throughout the county. Older orchards of standard size trees are, however, becoming rarer. A perry or cider tree may be at its best after seventy years or so growth and some orchards are estimated to be 200-300 years old. Nowadays, most cider producers prefer the faster growing smaller bush varieties with a higher yield per acre and allowing easier picking. Fortunately, a handful of farmers and producers have in recent years planted some of the older varieties and this is gratifying as the old orchard may no longer be a feature of the landscape in the next century.

Many farmers retain an orchard for their own production and towards the back end of the year the crop is harvested and a cider made for family and friends. It is not uncommon to be walking in October or November and come across picking in the orchards either in the traditional way or by something which looks akin to a mini road sweeper.

Real cider is still in production, i.e. cider that is made from crushed cider apples which is then pressed and fermented using few or no additives before being bottled or casked. In contrast, most ciders bought in the supermarkets or your local pub have been filtered, pasteurised or pressurised with carbon dioxide. The larger companies such as Bulmers (market leader) and Westons (fourth largest producer), however, make real cider too. This can be found in some pubs dispensed either by handpump or by pouring from a polypin at the back of the bar! Try it, for the drink is refreshing, with a very fruity taste rather than being sweet and fizzy. Be sure to enquire from the bar staff first as many of the fizzy ciders are branded with the words ’original’ or ’traditional’.

Real Perry, a drink produced in much the same way as cider but with perry pears, is a rarity in pubs. There are carbonated bottled varieties but the best perry is produced by companies such as Dunkertons, at Lundey hear Pembridge. The Dunkertons have engendered a great interest in traditional ciders and perry. Make a journey to their shop on the premises or to off licences throughout the county to sample their quality products. Be prepared to be disappointed though for perry production has been brought back from the verge of extinction in these parts. There are very few traditional perry orchards left and even though the Dunkertons have begun to plant more trees supply is limited. Westons of Much Marde also produce a pleasant draught perry.

Farmhouse cider is also produced and sold locally and what better way of sampling than to try a drop after a walk. Do be careful as too much can render the rambler temporarily legless for farmhouse cider gets to the parts that most lagers will never reach! Two such producers are featured in the Richard’s Castle (Forge) and Peterstow (Broom) walks. There other producers throughout the county such as Dinmore Farm, Franklins at Little Hereford, Pullens at Ridgeway Cross, Knights at Stonidge, Lyne Down at Much Marcle and Great Oak near Almeley. You’ll find them selling cider to customers at their premises along with fruit, eggs, honey and home made ice cream in some instances. Some of the producers have joined an organisation, Herefordshire Hamper, which aims to produce and promote good quality produce in the county, everything from cultivated snails to dairy produce or smoked fish and fowl.

Unlike cider the brewing of beer has not been important in Hereford‘ shire. The growing of hops, on the other hand, has and hop yards can still be seen in the eastern side of the county between Bromyard and Ledbury. The train journey between Hereford and Ledbury offers the best view of the hop yards and surrounding farms. Many still have 01d oast houses with pointed ventilation cowls where hops have been traditionally dried before being bagged in distinctive hop sacks. The fuggle hop is still used by some brewers in making traditional beers and thus has secured a future for a smaller number of hop growing farmers.

During the past two decades the county has been dominated by one brewing giant, Whitbread. This company has been criticised for buying up smaller brewing concerns, closing their breweries and selling off less profitable public houses especially in rural areas. One of the main critics has been The Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) which has been fighting for choice of real beers in pubs which are still as characterful as their local communities.

In recent years, the situation has improved dramatically in Herefordshire for many public houses released by Whitbread have become free of brewery tie and sell a range of real beers from several breweries. Thus, it is possible to buy a pint of Brains, Hook Norton, Smiles and Wood in Herefordshire nowadays where little was previously available.

The second encouraging development has been the success of The Wye Valley brewery in St. Owen Street, Hereford which sells good tasting beers at the brewery tap, The Barrels (formerly The Lamb), and in the free trade. The area around St. Owen Street is fast becoming a mecca for traditional brews. Next door to The Barrels is a lovely old pub, The Sun, where real cider is dispensed from wooden casks on the bar and pale ale drawn from the deepest cellar in Hereford. You are guaranteed a frosty pint in mid winter and cool glass when it is scorching outside! A few steps along, opposite the fire station is The Jolly Roger (formerly a Whitbread pub, The Bricklayers), something of a theme pub, but selling beers brewed on the premises and also real cider.

Country Pubs
Walking and pubs go very much together and fortunately there are dozens of good country pubs to choose from in Herefordshire. You may be seeking pubs not changed much this century such as The Hop Pole at Risbury, The Carpenters at Walterstone or Cupid’s Hill Inn just across the border on the road to Grosmont. Alternatively, you may seek more food-based pubs such as The Angel at Kingsland or the New Inn at St. Owens Cross. Most have retained a charm and provide a warm welcome.

Most of the pubs included in this guide serve real ale and many offer a traditional cider. Remember that most pubs survive by selling food as well as drinks so publicans generally do not allow you to consume your own food on the premises. Children, (well behaved ones), are almost always welcome at lunchtimes and early evenings and there are often seats outside.

Generalizations about any English county are of dubious value. In the case of Somerset this is especially true, for the old county has been truncated, and the northern coastal towns of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon and Portishead, together with an ample slice of the Mendip Hills, have been incorporated in the new county of Avon formed in 1974. Having been born and brought up in Clevedon, then styled ’the gem of sunny Somerset’ and likened to Rome on account of its seven hills, I was placed in the curious situation of having to drive some twelve miles south and over the River Axe at Lympsham (marked by the Viking sign of the Hobb’s Boat Inn) in order to attain the county of my birth. The change-over enraged many traditionalists ’I invite you to join the growing number of people who refuse to call Somerset anything but Somerset,’ urged a letter addressed to me at the time. One automatically sympathizes with such a view but unfortunately the packaging and re-allocation of boundaries is as old as history.


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Even allowing for the dramatic depletion in the extent of the county, it remains an excitingly varied place, difficult to pin down with any specific image. What does Somerset imply? Simply different things to different people. To the Powys brothers it meant the dusky-gold Hamstone villages of Montacute and Tintinhull where gloving girls and dairymaids with cowslips in their hair dallied with local youths on Hower-starred greens. But to the novelist Henry Fielding, born at Sharpham Park in the shadow of the Poldens, it probably signified grey stone and red-tiled villages where peat was dug and where Glastonbury Abbey was once the supreme landowner. RD. Blackmore’s Somerset is dramatically different again, conjuring up the sheep-cropped, buff-green uplands of Exmoor where clusters of thatched cottages overlook gushing troutstreams. But many would call Exmoor, with its luxuriant combes and aura of cream teas, more typical of Devon and draw attention instead to the alluvial Vale of Taunton Deane, where cider orchards abound and corn grows tall. This was the region that nurtured the poet Samuel Daniel, a contemporary of Shakespeare, and Thomas Young, who developed the science of optics and helped decipher the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone.

What exactly is typical Somerset? Perhaps the most apposite clue is the name itself, derived from ’Seo-mereseatan ’dwellers by the sealakes’. This alludes to the early settlers at the lake villages of Glastonbury and Meare who raised wooden huts on grassy mounds above the marshes which provided such rich ground for fishing and hunting. The area is now called Sedgemoor and is characterized by its millions of intersecting drains, locally called rhymes, which form a glistening network separating fields and farms. The villages of these plains are slightly solemn, pervaded by a plodding, hoof-heavy atmosphere of unvarying agricultural routine, and the most persistent music is the sullen dong of milk churns banging their metallic torsos as they are jostled along by farm wagons. The buildings are of grey limestone or severely whitewashed, while the churches, made splendid by the power of the ’Golden Fleece’, may be pinnacled, exuberant, with a rich show of statuary and gargoyles.

Geographers tend to classify villagers according to the pattern of their layout: ’nucleated’, ’dispersed’ and ’polyfocal’ are specimens of the incantatory jargon used to intimidate the layman. An example of a nucleated village might be Nunney, tightly wedged in its combe, the houses clinging like iron Filings around the magnet of the castle. while Spaxton on the Quantocks could be classed a5 dispersed, consisting as it does of hamlets and farms scattered over a large area. Martock can be seen as polyfocall for it has several distinct, interlocking units of development straggled along its main street. And then there are spring-line groupings, such as Brent Knoll and East Brent, and open-field-type settlements like Hinton St George where strips of land follow up behind the backs of houses. But in general such scientific classifications have been avoided here, for they are almost impossible to demonstrate without detailed mapping and extensive analysis. This book aims at impressionism rather than microscopic scrutiny.

Many chapter divisions in the present volume are self-explanatory. Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills are homogeneous regions with their own Hora, fauna and microclimate. The same could be argued of the Blackdown Hills and the Poldens, which form a low, thin ridge across the Sedgemoor plain. Taunton Deane is a large administrative area embracing the flatlands to the east as well as the red-soiled Tone valley and parts of the enclosing hills. Sedgemoor is truly extensive, necessitating a separate chapter dealing with the Northern Levels and further chapters describing the zoy parishes and the Curry villages. In certain instances an area has been designated after a major settlement, notably in the chapter detailing the villages around Frome. On other occasions a physical feature has been used, such as the Brue meadows, the Sheppey valley or that region, dominated by the twinkling spectre of Arthur, traversed by the tiny River Cary and guarded by the wooded ramparts of Cadbury Castle. These strategies have been resorted to in order to draw together disparate elements which inevitably occur in so geologically complex a county as Somerset where hills are continually giving way to plains, and rocks vary from chalk, Hint and greensand to red sandstone.

The Mendip Hills, aptly described by Thomas Hardy as ’a range of limestone rocks stretching from the shore of the Bristol Channel into the middle of Somersetshire’, are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty and display the typical scenery of karst: dry gorges the spectacular remnants of collapsed cave systems at Cheddar, Burrington and Ebbor; smooth, domelike summits with thin calcareous soil; disappearing streams and swallet holes features that attract the rider, hiker, camper and caver. Although the high plateau is sparsely habited, the perimeter is belted round by main roads along which are strung compact and populous settlements: Axbridge, Cheddar, Draycott, Shipham, Westbury and Wells on the westerly scarp face; Shepton Mallet, Prome, Mells and Chewton Mendip on the gentler eastern side.

The northern fringe of the Mendips reaches its extremity at Churchill, Avon, lying on the A38 Bristol road beneath the Iron Age encampment of Dolebury Warren. A former turnpike road forks off from here (established 1827 by the Wedmore Trust), taking one past a round-windowed Gothic toll-house and into Shipham, Somerset, a name recalling the early sheep fairs.

The hilltop village is centred around the square, which has a clean, spacious, utilitarian look. It is presided over by the late-Victorian court house, the Miners’ Arms free house, a group of terraced council homes and the dazzling white Penscot Hotel and Restaurant. But the apparent orderliness of Shipham is belied by exploration: the plan of the village is an random, haphazard, comprising a maze of crisscrossing lanes. Go up Hollow Road and branching off to the right, not far from the Community Hall, are Allens Lane, Court Lane, Hindpits Lane and Folly Lane, all looping in and out and converging.

The names Hollow Road and Hindpits Lane hold the clue to the expansion of the village in the eighteenth century. Calamine was the basis for its sudden trebling of population and rash of cramped cottage dwellings. The ore yielded zinc which, alloyed to copper, produced brass thus supplying the busy foundries of Bristol, already dependent on South Wales for copper and north-east Somerset for furnace-coal. It was mined in pits and lateral grooves, and in 1792 Collinson observed ’upwards of 100 mines, in the streets, in the yards and in the very houses of Shipham’. The last observation bears a veiled reference to the citizens of the village traditionally regarded as lawless sinking shafts beneath their own kitchens in the hope of avoiding paying the Lord of the Minery his dues. Common land during this period became rapidly in-iilled with squat and boxy miners’ cottages (today spruce, colour-washed buildings) approached by narrow and intersecting lanes, a feature which gives Shipham its distinctive cellular plan.

Hollow Road leads out of Shipham, climbing a hill on which derelict mining cottages stand and finally emerging in the hamlet of Rowberrow. Here the parish church and manor house stand adjacent, a mellow pair of buildings, lichen-stained and reddish-grey in colour. Clinging to the brow of a sheer-sided hill, they are most effectively seen from the flanks of Dolebury Warren.

Dedicated to St Michael, Rowberrow church was rebuilt in 1865, but the tower, an effective piece of Perpendicular work, dates from the original thirteenth-century foundation, although capped with Victorian pinnacles inferior to the originals which decorate the Churchyard. On a corbel, Fixed in the interior north wall, is a stone carved with interlaced and serpentine designs, obviously Saxon in origin. Quite Possibly it is part of a cross, and the Ringerlike coils may constituted the tail of the primeval serpent who was cast out of Heaven by the church's patron.

The manor house, although coeval with the church, is one of those hardy buildings designed to endure Mendip weather. Its one decorative feature is an oak mantelpiece carved with dolphins, probably Jacobean, which was moved from an upper floor to ground level. The rectory, screened by limes and elms, stands in spacious grounds, a large pink-washed Georgian building dating from 1790. Near it is the Swan Inn, an unpretentious free house around which several renovated cottages are grouped.

Dotted about the valley in Rowberrow are ruined homesteads, where daffodils once grew profusely, adding a touch of Hebridean melancholy to the landscape. They bring home vividly the situation in 1822 when nearly every man in the village was engaged in mining, except for about six who worked the land. But calamine-roasting was a dreadful trade, producing poisonous fumes that shrivelled trees, tainted pasturage and shortened lifespans. Only the spoilheaps and choked shafts survive today; fortunately many of them are effectively concealed by Rowberrow Woods, 545 acres of Corsican pine, Norwegian spruce and Sitka spruce, planted by the Forestry Commission in 1939.

The road from Shipham to Cheddar descends into the gorge of Callow Hill Quarry. Spoilheaps and scars loom; machinery clanks and shudders; lorries churn up lime dust; year by year the skyline is lowered by blasting. The demand for aggregates is still rising, and the quarries have been granted large concessions: no doubt in time Callow Hill and Sandford Hill will be reduced to hollowed-out stumps.

The main road from Bristol to Cheddar bypasses Shipham and Rowberrow. It hooks round Shute Shelve Hill, a former place of execution where felons were hung in chains, and clings to the lower slopes above the floodplain of Axbridge Moor. From here the Cheddar Reservoir, like an immense blue coin, glimmers crisply.

The name ’Cheddar’ derives from the Old English ’che’, ’high ground’, and ’dwr’, ’water’ features that have recommended the site from earliest times. Prehistoric man occupied the gorge over 10,000 years ago, and one imagines the Celts viewed this awesome green-robed chasm, rife wnth subterranean rumours, as a place of sanctity and terror.

The manor house, although coeval with the church, is one of those hardy buildings designed to endure Mendip weather. Its one decorative feature is an oak mantelpiece carved with dolphins, probably Jacobean, which was moved from an upper floor to ground level. The rectory, screened by limes and elms, stands in spacious grounds, a large pink-washed Georgian building dating from 1790. Near it is the Swan Inn, an unpretentious free house around which several renovated cottages are grouped.

Dotted about the valley in Rowberrow are ruined homesteads, where daffodils once grew profusely, adding a touch of Hebridean melancholy to the landscape. They bring home vividly the situation in 1822 when nearly every man in the village was engaged in mining, except for about six who worked the land. But calamine-roasting was a dreadful trade, producing poisonous fumes that shrivelled trees, tainted pasturage and shortened lifespans. Only the spoilheaps and choked shafts survive today; fortunately many of them are effectively concealed by Rowberrow Woods, 545 acres of Corsican pine, Norwegian spruce and Sitka spruce, planted by the Forestry Commission in 1939.

The road from Shipham to Cheddar descends into the gorge of Callow Hill Quarry. Spoilheaps and scars loom; machinery clanks and shudders; lorries churn up lime dust; year by year the skyline is lowered by blasting. The demand for aggregates is still rising, and the quarries have been granted large concessions: no doubt in time Callow Hill and Sandford Hill will be reduced to hollowed-out stumps.

The main road from Bristol to Cheddar bypasses Shipham and Rowberrow. It hooks round Shute Shelve Hill, a former place of execution where felons were hung in chains, and clings to the lower slopes above the floodplain of Axbridge Moor. From here the Cheddar Reservoir, like an immense blue coin, glimmers crisply.

The name ’Cheddar’ derives from the Old English ’che’, ’high ground’, and ’dwr’, 'water’ features that have recommended the site from earliest times. Prehistoric man occupied the gorge over 10,000 years ago, and one imagines the Celts viewed this awesome green-robed chasm, rife with SUbten’anean rumours: as a Place of sanctity and terror.

Romans, more commercially inclined, exploited the water~ supply by establishing a wharf at Hythe on the Wedmore Road, whereby lead mined at Charterhouse was shipped clown the Rivers Yeo and Axe to the port of Uphill on the Bristol Channel. Water-power also made an important contribution to trade in the eighteenth century, turning thirteen grist and paper-mills, while the rich pasturage of the valley encouraged cheese-making.

The magnet of all the business is the caves. At the entrance to the Fantasy Grotto (discovered by Mr Cox in 1837) there is a plaster model of a snarling wolf tucking in to the carcase of an unfortunate deer, no doubt serving to remind the tourist, possibly sedated by an overdose of natural wonders, that the subterranean lifestyle of early man was beset by bloody hazards. Cox’s Cave is considered to have the more exquisite formations: Marble Curtain, Peal of Bells, Bunch of Carrots, Lady Chapel, Mermaid and Mummy, Home of the Rainbow. Gough’s Cave, on the other hand, goes all out for sublimity: St Paul’s, the Fonts, the Frozen Waterfall names transcending the human scale of things.

This then is a sketch of Cliff Street, Cheddar, but the ’larger part of the village is separated from the gorge. Exploring roads like the Lippiat, Church Street, Silver Street (after the Roman god Sylvanus?), one encounters case~ mented cottages, elegant Georgian townhouses with scalloped entrances, stone-built Victorian mansions with bargeboard gables an architectural variety of surprising richness.

The omphalos of the old town is the market cross a Hfteenth-century monument encircled by a colonnade of six arches and covered by a roof. Medieval merchants sold their wares from here, and itinerant preachers vented their sermons. Not far away is the parish church of St Andrew’s, noted for its 110-foot tower; also its chantry chapel dedicated to the Fitzwalter family and the canopy tomb with brasses to Sir Thomas de Cheddre (d. 1442) and his wife Isabella (d. 1474).

A lane from the churchyard leads to the Kings of Wessex Upper School -a centre for cultural and further educational activities adjoining the excavated site of an old Saxon palace. Cheddar was one of the royal forests used by the kings for hunting, and there is an account (941 AD) of King Edmund chasing a flying stag to where ’a certain wood covers a mountain of great height, which being separated at its summit, exhibits to the spectator an immense precipice and horrid abyss, called by the local people Cedderclyff’.

Not far from the school, in Lower North Street, is Hannah More’s Cottage, now the property of the Evergreen Club. In 1789 she founded the first day school at Cheddar assisted by the statesman William Wilberforce. She thought Cheddar even worse than Shipham: ’There is as much knowledge of Christ,’ she commented, ’in the interior of Africa as there is to be met in this wretched place.’ In a letter she noted that she saw one Bible in the whole of the parish ’and that was used to prop up a flower pot’. Nowadays there is a County First School at Hillfield for the village, Fairlands Middle School at Fairlands Way and the Kings of Wessex (Church of England) for the surrounding area, together with a county library, a modern Catholic church, a Baptist and Methodist church, an informal group of Christian Scientists who meet in Cathay Lane and a dozen more civilized facilities. Confronted with all this, even Hannah More might have felt a prick of nostalgia for the hard primitivism of her day.

Draycott conjures up the appealing image of strawberry Fields; unfortunately the physical evidence -equidistant rows of polythene cloches is not visually delectable. A native of Cheddar, Sam Spencer, was among the first to recognize that the rich red strip of loam skirting the foot of the north-west Mendips was ideal for market gardening; it combined long hours of sunshine and a humid climate, together with a sheltered position. The strawberry trade was particularly intense during the 18805, when the Cheddar railway was known as the Strawberry Special. The original luxuriant brand known as the Black Prince did not carry well; in transit it tended to bruise and leak hence tougher strains such as the Gauntlet were developed.

Market gardening still flourishes here; numerous homesteads have allotments advertising the sale of onions, leeks, potatoes, cabbages and carrots. Otherwise one receives the impression of a. tidy village lacking an integral centre. The A371 cuts between the succession of farmhouses, often spankingly refurbished, and the odd stone-built Victorian villa. The main part of the village lies west of the main road and consists of four parallel routes: Back Lane, the Street, West Lane and Bay Lane. These meet up in Station Road; from here a minor road crosses the old railway bridge and strikes out across the moors, looping round Nyland Hill, one of those evocative tree-studded outliers of the Mendips.

As a hamlet and ecclesiastical parish, Draycott was formed in March 1862 out of the parishes of Cheddar and Rodney Stoke. One of its major industries was quarrying ’Draycott marble’, a conglomerate found in layers one to four feet thick and used for posts and steps but capable of taking a high polish and impervious to weather. The church, chapel and school, plus miscellaneous gateposts and quoins, together with the plinth of the memorial to John Card (d1729, the donor of a local charity) in the churchyard, are Composed of this attractive golden stone.

Draycott almost imperceptibly merges with Rodney Stoke, its sister village, yet POSSESSing a quite different atmosphere, an entrenched tranquillity. The village is built \ largely of Dolomitic conglomerate and comprises a church, manor, post office, Baptist chapel and junior school. Lining the main road there is a string of red-brick council homes; they exude a slightly raw sunset glare, modified only by their neat, well-tended gardens.

But the arresting feature is the church, a restrained and sober building displaying the familiar rooting appeals. Its highlight is the Rodney Chapel, comprising the tomb chest of Sir Thomas Rodney (1478), armoured and slumbering under an open canopy of cusped arches; of Sir John Rodney (1527), looking less comfortable under a Tudor cusped arch; and of Anna (1630), wife of George Rodney, under an arch supported by four columns. Finally there is the wall tomb and monument to George Rodney (1651), youngest son of Sir Edward, complete with angel statuettes and figure rising up from the coffin. There is something almost eerily affecting about these monuments. Not the fact that they bring the past to life. Rather it is their frozen inertia, their total deadness, that is unsettling. All that ornate sorrowing; gilded grief; a hopeless bid to achieve immortality by means of alabaster and elaboration.

From Draycott the New Road branches off, ascending the steep scarp face of the plateau, passing scattered tumuli, isolated farmstead, eroded hillfort. Colours here are muted greys, browns and greens. The terrain has a weathered, planed-down aspect; dazzling knuckles of limestone protrude through the turf, and sheep are strewn over the rough pasture like bits of cloud. After passing a quarry and reservoir, the road levels out and crosses the West Mendip Way, emerging on the 33135 about one mile from Priddy.

This village is the capital of the Mendips. Lying 800 feet up in a sheltered basin, it appears at first glance a harsh, grey-walled community grouped around a spacious green on which a stack of hurdles is placed, awaiting the annual sheep fair. In such a context, the word ’village’ is almost a misnomer, hardly applicable to these straggled settlements that have sprung up in this wild country owing to the presence of water, adequate pasturage or mineral wealth. There is such quietness here. No tight Devonshire grouping of rose-embowered cottages, church and manor house; here buildings stand separate, self-contained, reminding One there is work to be attended to and little time for neighbourly gossip.

Arranged around the green are the New Inn, a sprinkling of slated, colour-washed cottages, St Cuthbert’s Farm, Manor Farm, the post office and discreetly isolated on a low eminence the church of St Lawrence. Built in the Early English style, it stands boldly against the skyline, the western tower with pierced trefoiled parapets and pinnacles, making a powerful impression in its bare and barren setting. The font is early Norman, squat yet decorative, and there is a notable pulpit about which there is a legend that, when a goose nested annually inside, the kind vicar did not disturb the bird’s sojourn and COHHHEd his preaching to the lectern. Interesting too is a tablet recording the mending of the tower and ’to pinikls’ in 1705, when Shavian spelling flourished.

Priddy gives its name to one of the four mineries of Mendip. They were enclosures to which the miners brought their ore to be processed. First it was washed in buddles (tanks) and then reduced to metal in furnaces. The Hues and the chimneys for the latter were curious. Each flue ran for several hundred yards along the ground before ending in the usual high chimney to create the draught. The reason for this arrangement lay in the fact that lead was a volatile metal, and, if the vapours went straight into the atmosphere, much would be lost. The workers, however, could cool the Hues and enter the tunnels to scrape out the condensed lead. Until fairly recently, Chewton or Waldegrave minery had a complete chimney, but now only the flues along the ground remain. The water-supply, on the other hand, is still intact, the large artificial pond being widely known as Priddy Pool. Today people Fish in it and during cold winters go ice-skating; it is also a favourite place for naturalists, the nearby Stockhill Wood providing in autumn a fungicollector’s paradise.

As important as Priddy, and particularly rich in Associations, prehistoric, Roman and medieval, is the Scattered settlement of Charterhouse, set in a wide, empty landscape of rolling heather-covered hills, looking south

over Velvet Bottom towards Cheddar. Around Charterhouse, on the very top of Mendip, there is this feeling of ordered desolation. Compared with the lush dairylands of the Somerset plain, the terrain seems harsh, almost savage, especially where the turf has been ravaged by mining. There are few trees, only green-grey recessions of space, sweeping horizons, across which razoring winds hiss and sigh. Drystone walls crawl across the hillslopes in Hinty Piles, oozing moss between their layers like emerald cement, and many of the roads and tracks they follow are ruler-straight, affording spectacular views towards the edge of the plateau.

The name 'Charterhouse’ derives from the French ’Chartreuse’, the spot, fourteen miles from Grenoble, where in 1084 St Bruno of Rheims founded the first Carthusian monastery. The conclave at Witham near Frome was the first in England, St Hugh of Lincoln being its most famous prior, and it owned land at Velvet Bottom, a valley near Charterhouse, which was probably worked by lay brothers as a sheep farm. The building is a long, two-gabled affair with stone-mullioned windows, a tiled roof and look of weathered severity: no pepperpot chimneys or spiky ornaments for this hard land. It was erected over the monastic foundation by one Robert May whose descendants included John May, Sheriff of Somerset. The present house dates from around 1600, and the May family held it until 1799; the new owner was granted the glorious title Baron Mendip. His descendant, Viscount Clifden, owns it today.

Once Charterhouse had a village school but this now serves as an outdoor activity centre. The Blackmore Educational Reserve owns several acres of the old minery and is an important focus for wildlife studies. Those interested in local architecture find themselves drawn to W.D. Caroe’s most unusual church, erected 1908, with its roughcast exterior, vestigial spire and finely carved screen. Fittingly enough, it bears a dedication to St Hugh of Witham.

To the south of Priddy is Green Ore, a small hamlet situated on the crossroads where the Roman road from Charterhouse to Old Sarum and the Bristol-Wells turnpike road intersect. The land is irregular, with scooped-out troughs and bumpy depressions, the legacy of ancient leadworkings, and the hamlet consists only of a pu.

Druidically named ’The White Bull’, a few bleached cottages and outlying farms, and the ruined mansion of Hill Grove (1850), once a sanatorium. This is a grimly atmospheric ruin, split-walled with high, echoing rooms in which old wallpaper hangs like gigantic flaps of skin and ghosts of elderly men and ladies intermittently appear.

One explanation of the name is that ’Creen Ore' derives from the rare emerald-coloured deposits occasionally found in the local mines Woodward mentions ’Mendip Green Ore, a lead ore of Poppinjay green colour’. But the hamlet was formerly called 'Greenworth’, ’the green enclosure’, referring to the Carthusians’ grange and sheepwalks, but later corrupted to ’Green Ore’ by reason of the mining.

The grange belonged to Witham Priory, the owners of the Charterhouse farm, and Green Ore was referred to in the census of 1841 as an ’extra-parochial district’. The farmhouse occupying the sight of the Carthusian grange is obviously a building of some antiquity; the windows are narrow and arched, arranged in groups of twos and threes, indicating a seventeenth-century origin which is confirmed by an inscribed stone near the entrance porch: ’PAX HUIC DOMINI 1655’ (’Peace to this place 0 Lord’).

Wookey Hole, derived from the Celtic ’ogof’, ’Cave’, is recessed in a narrow Mendip valley two miles north-west of Wells. A wedged-in hamlet, always industrially active in a minor way, it had a paper-mill in 1610 close to where the Axe discharges itself from that immense stone vent that draws the jostling multitudes.

People like to be near each other most of the time and we gather together in families and other sorts of groups for various reasons: for friendship and company, or to look after and protect each other. Together, families and tribes can defend themselves from their enemies and rivals. People also join with others to make tasks easier. ‘Work shared is work halved.’

Working together and depending upon one another, sharing, joining forces in defending homes and land, brought people together in villages, and villages which were particularly well placed grew into towns. When we look carefully at a map we can see that villages and towns are not just scattered anywhere, there is a reason for each of them being exactly where it is. Often, of course, the original conditions have changed, but people continue to build where they have always done.

The most important needs for any family or group are shelter from the weather and a spot where it is easy to obtain food and water. In the past this meant a valley or hollow away from the worst of the wind and rain, a stream or river for water, and somewhere to graze animals and raise crops. Along any stream there is a spot where it is easy to cross by wading (a ford), or by building a span across it (a bridge). In these places homes were built, and small villages grew up. Where important tracks crossed rivers and streams, the villages there flourished even more and forts best, plans is a grid: that is, a pattern of streets which run parallel to each other, and at right angles, rather like a draught board with the squares as spaces for houses and gardens. Nearly nine hundred years afterwards you can still see this grid pattern on a street plan of Ludlow, and if you walk in those streets you can understand it even better. Part of the market place has been filled in but the plan still works. Wide streets lead up from the bridge, and from the Shrewsbury road. The town was walled, of course, and Broad Gate is still there as a reminder.


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Like all good soldiers, Roger de Lacy built his castle on high ground, and it is partly encircled by the River Teme. (Ludlow means ‘hill by the rapid’.) The castle was there before the town and was a very important one. It was a vital strong-point in the defence system and became the seat of the President of the Marches, the leader of the Lords Marcher. Much of the building was destroyed during the Civil War, when it was the last Royalist foftress but one to hold out against the Roundheads. But the outer walls, most of the keep, and part of the round chapel are still intact. From the top of the tower you can see for miles across to Wales: a very good lookout point indeed, if you were watching for attackers. Then go down and out of the town across the bridge, and look up at the castle from there. What a place to try to attack! It was not all hghting there, though. John Milton’s masque Camus was first performed in the castle in 1634, and the tradition was revived in 1959; plays, concerts and films are presented now in the Ludlow Festival each summer.

Ludlow was built as a place to live and trade in and so it has remained ever since. It has been the market town for people for miles around for so long that the buildings and street names reflect its purpose. Right in the centre is the Butter Cross, built in 1734 and almost certainly replacing an earlier one. Before the ground floor arches were hlled in, it must have been very much like the market halls or town halls found in many of the towns here.

On the upper floor of the Butter Cross is a museum crammed full of interesting things connected with the history of the town. There you will find collections gathered from the famous fossil beds, a poster telling you about the mail coach which ran from Ludlow to London, and hundreds more objects used in the past.

Not far away is the Bull Ring and what must have once been an open space for the entertainment it provided. Kidderminster has one too, and in one of the villages not very far away there is still an actual ring, fastened to a stone in the road. No need to tell you how the Old Bull Tavern got its name; this is one of the black and white timbered buildings that Ludlow is so well known for. Close by is the best known of all, the Feathers Hotel. This is a really splendid place, not just dark timbers and white plaster making elaborate patterns, but with the wood carved all over as well.

Just as in the county towns, in Ludlow there are many houses built in brick. Those down the hill by Broad Gate are my favourites, what I think of as the most elegant.

Just at the time when timber for building began to become scarce, and bricks became the fashionable material to use instead, builders began to have new ideas about housesI From the time of Henry VIII onwards wealthy people visited Italy and began to copy the Italian style of building. After the Great Fire of 1666 the city of London was rebuilt in brick to prevent another disaster and the people living in country towns soon followed this fashion. ' Wealthy men had their houses built like Italian palaces, with evenly spaced windows making a pattern along the fronts. John Evelyn (the famous diarist) thought that houses ‘ought to be built exactly uniform, strong, and with beautiful fronts’, and that is a good description of many of the brick houses in Ludlow.

It is the white-painted windows and doorways that make the pattern on the front of these houses, whereas it is the frames that you notice first on the earlier, timber buildings. Notice too how the windows get smaller in the upper rooms, and how this helps draw your attention to the ground floor. The elaborate wooden doorways (often with a little pointed sloping roof of their own, called pediments) seem to say ‘Look at me, I’m important’.'Another change was in the walls where they met the roofs; the builders in brick began to carry the walls up past the gutters to make a parapet, and sometimes you cannot see the tiles at all.

The pattern and shape of buildings, and the way the shapes are balanced and put together in certain proportions, are what gives them a particular style. A change in style sometimes means a change of materials, and this happened when men decided to build in brick instead of timber and plaster. But even in the same material there can be differences in style: some brick houses are graceful, carefully balanced and elegant, others are ugly, with no thought given to their proportions.

In Ludlow you can find both timber and brick houses, and some of them are as good as any you will find in the whole of England.

‘About 1766, where the river Stour ernpties itself into the Severn below Mitton, stood a little alehouse called Stourmouth. Near this Brindley has caused a town to be erected, made a port and dockyards, built a new and elegant bridge, established markets, and made it the wonder not only of this county but of the nation at large. In the year I 795 it consisted of 2 50 houses and about 1,300 inhabitants. Thus was the sandy barren common at Stourport converted, in the space of thirty years, into a flourishing, healthy, and very populous village.’ So Wrote Dr T. R. Nash, the Worcestershire historian.

Stourport is a very unusual town indeed, since it is the only one in England to have been built solely as a canal centre. The great James Brindley, who had worked for the Duke of Bridgewater only a few years before, was the engi' neer responsible for Stourport. Not that he designed the town, but he did build the canal to link up with the Trent & Mersey Canal near Wolverhampton. What had previously been nothing more than a hamlet became a flourishing small town, depending on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal for its living. ‘The Stour Cut’, they called it when it was busy with narrow boats carrying coal and other goods. Now it carries only pleasure boats and the great basins at Stourport are filled with cabin cruisers. When those basins were newly built they were surrounded by houses and churches it is rather different. In those cases the owners or builders have felt that the building was‘ important enough to make it worthwhile using stone, even though it might have had to be carried some distance.

Most of the stone buildings in Gloucestershire, Here. fordshire and south Shropshire use the pinkish-purple Old Red Sandstone. This is fairly hard and dichult to cut. It usually breaks with an uneven surface and is impossible to cut cleanly with a stonemason’s chisel. For this reason it has been much used for walls, dressed roughly into shape, but a different material is needed for window and door openings. Because of its rough and rather irregular shape it needs plenty of mortar between the stones. Since this mortar has local sand in it, it too is pink, and the overall colour of a cottage or church wall tells you that you must be in Border country.

Window sills and doorways, and the tracery of the windows in churches, are usually carried out in another stone. You can tell the difference immediately by the look and feel of it. The church doorway at Kilpeck shows the contrast very well. You can see how much softer it is, and how the mason has been able to shape the stones with sharp, clean angles and a smooth surface. Afterwards he was able to carve in tremendous detail, with curling vines, and grotesque heads over the arch.

The softer New Red Sandstone is found over most of Worcestershire and all of Shropshire north and east of the Severn. Apart from being employed for the more delicate work, it has been used by itself all over that area. Cottages, farmhouses, churches and cathedrals have all been built in the New Red stone. Almost anywhere there it is possible to dig a usable stone, but the best has come from just a few quarries. Those at Alveley and Highley, beside the Severn below Bridgnorth, provided stone for Worcester Cathedral and Telford’s bridge at Bewdley. It was a simple matter to carry it downstream from there. Much more diflicult must have been the journey to Much Wenlock, where it was used for the Prior’s Lodge.

The other especially well-known quarry was at Grinshill. This had two pits, one giving a red stone and the other a greyish stone, which the Romans used at Wroxeter. Two places where you can see it today are Attingham Park, and St Chad’s Church in Shrewsbury.

In Herefordshire and Shropshire sandstone was used for roofs. Some varieties split quite easily and the slates made in this way can be enormous. Pitchford Hall has a roof like this, but you are just as likely to hnd a cowshed or pigsty roofed in the same way.

Gloucestershire has another type of sandstone as well as the red one. This is grey in colour, and is still quarried in the Forest of Dean. Some of it was used at Avonmouth Docks.

Limestone is the other important building stone in our region. Gloucester Cathedral was built with it (from Painswick quarry), and the beds of this rock, which run from Symonds Yat to Chepstow, are quarried in the Forest of Dean today. A different sort of limestone was used to build nearly all the older houses in Much Wenlock. This is the stone that has so many fossils in it. Outside the town you can see lots of small pits overgrown with grass; each one of them would have provided just enough stone to build one small house.

Looking at houses today you might think that bricks are the only material that can be used. Many buildings in the West Midlands show that this is not always true, but brick is now the cheapest material. Most of the bricks used there at present are brought in by road or railway from Bedford or Peterborough. In the past, though, they were made wherever they were needed. Most of the valleys, and the flatter country north of the River Severn, have clay beneath the surface. As timber became scarcer, and as bricks became the smart and fashionable material to build with, men began to dig this clay. As it was possible to dig sufficient stone for one house, so it was with clay. Brickmakers would dig and bake enough bricks for one house and then move on. The Hall at Upton Cresset must have been built like this in about 1540. No one could possibly have carried enough bricks for this large Tudor house through all the steep, narrow lanes in that part of Shropshire, so the bricks must have been made near by.

As bricks became more popular permanent brickworks were set up. Each little area still had its own variety and colour, depending on where the clay was dug. Whereas the North Shropshire houses were built in red brick, round Madeley and Dawley they were brown or cream. You might be able to trace how far afield those bricks were used, and you might think about what the river and canals had to do with it.

Bricks have been especially useful when men have wanted to build many houses and to build them quickly. This has usually been in towns. Some of the most elegant brick houses have been built 1n towns and that 15 where you might look for them.

When you are exploring a village or town in the West Midlands notice just how many different materials have been used in the buildings in one street. If it is the most important street in that place you will probably find a great variety of materials. In a high street buildings are replaced fairly often and that makes it a good place to look for contrasts. You will almost certainly find different materials and different styles of building there. From these differences you will be able to discover something about the different ages and the different purposes for which the buildings are used today.

Where an old building is being pulled down you can often see its ‘bones’, the framework on which it has been built, exposed and sometimes brick and plaster are torn away to reveal something very different underneath. In the same way, a new building being erected often has a framework which does not show at all when it is completed.

Planning a holiday can be almost as much fun as actually going on one, and just one day out can be a holiday in itself. A good way to begin your planning is to think about what you like doing: the sort of places that you like to visit, and the sort of things that you like to find out about. The next step which you might want to take is to choose just one subject on which to concentrate. This chapter suggests a few places and things to explore by travelling about; you don’t always have to travel very far, and I have included some journeys which could easily be made on foot. .

You might decide that you want to explore one particular place, a village or part of a town, or a parish. Parishes are not the same as villages; they include houses scattered in the country as well as the town or village centre, and some parishes may even have more than one village in them. If you decide to explore a parish you will need to know where the parish boundary is, and this means using a map. The best one for this purpose is the 2% inches to the mile Ordnance Survey map*, and you ought to be able to see this at your local library. It will probably need several sheets to cover a parish, but you may be lucky and get the centre of your village on one sheet. Some libraries and District Council Surveyor’s offices will make photocopies for you, The West Midlands offers both the sort of sports and games Which you can play anywhere in the country, and a few activities that are rather special. The first sort are team games, and the special activities are those which you can undertake by yourself, or with just a few friends.

Just as in other parts of Britain you will find football clubs in all the towns and villages. Some of them play on the village green, but in the larger towns there are football grounds with stands and lighting and all the extras that you would expect. Football teams are everywhere, but with some of the other team games it is rather different. In Gloucestershire you will find that some people play rugby football, Rugby Union that is, not League. If you look in a Sunday newspaper in the winter season and find the scores, you may be surprised at just how many teams there are close to the Severn. Cricket too is played very widely but only ' Gloucestershire and Worcestershire have County Clubs.

Each year when there is a visiting cricket team from overseas, the first full-scale match is always played at Worcester. The ground there is one of the best sited in England, bounded by trees and the River Severn, and with the cathedral towerng over it all. That is where you must go if you want.