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Walking the land

You can discover a lot about a stretch of country simply by looking at it. When you have found out how and why the country looks as it does you can say that you are beginning to understand it. Another part of understanding lies in seeing how things and places lit together as part of a pattern or structure. But looking at the country from any single spot often means that we are too close to be able to see the pattern, and we need to stand back a little. If we could make a tour of the West Midlands in a helicopter we should be able to see how the hills and mountains are grouped together, how the rivers and valleys fit in, and where the flatter farming land is. But since we cannot do this, we have to use maps and pictures to help explain what we see from the ground.

Just looking at what is above ground does not tell us the whole story either. The soil and the rocks underneath it are really the most important part of the pattern and so that is where we shall begin.


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Soils vary in colour throughout the whole of Britain and this is an area where almost all the soil is red. When I say red, that is only a very general description to cover all the shades of pink and orange and pale purple which show in the rocks, and wherever the land is ploughed, from the Severn estuary almost as far north as the River Dee. In some places it is sticky clay and in other places it is gritty red sand, but it all derives from the sandstone rocks which lie beneath most of this part of the country. On the higher ground, or wherever a river cuts its way through, or where men have driven a road or railway line, the rocks themselves are exposed to view. Geologists call the rock sandstone and divide it into the Old Red and the New Red varieties, but they are talking in terms of many millions of years and the newest rocks here have existed for many, many thousands of years.

The mountains and hills of the west of our region, and most of those in the southern part of it, are composed of Old Red Sandstone. It is quite easy to recognise as a pinkish-purple stone full of minute shining particles of mica, which sparkle in the light on the surface of a broken piece of rock. The New Red Sandstone, an orange-pink rock, is found on rather lower ground to the east and north of our region.

In the southern part of Shropshire there is a famous tongue of high ground called Wenlock Edge, which is composed of limestone. This small area is described by A. E. Housman in his collection of poems called A Shropshire Lad, but it has other secrets beneath the surface. From Ludlow up to Much Wenlock, and across to Wigmore, are some of the most important spots for fossils in the whole of England. This land was once beneath the sea and the Silurian rocks which formed there from the muds contain dozens of different types of creatures trapped in the stones.

The best place that I know of to find out more about these fossils IS the little museum over the Butter Cross 1n Ludlow. There you will see a collection of specimens that have been found, and the Museum Guide to Ludlow Fossils gives you lots of useful advice on where to find them for yourself, and how to gather them.

Further south, in the Forest of Dean, is more limestone, of a different type, and both this and the Wenlock stone are used for building.

You will have noticed that I have referred to the mountains in this region. Strictly speaking, a hill which is over 1,000 feet high is a mountain, yet although many of the West Midland hills are higher than this they are usually called hills. These hills and mountains form the western boundary of the region and if you look at the map you will see that they form a wall from north to south, broken only where the river valleys emerge. Jutting out from this wall, like the fingers on a hand, are Long Mountain, the Long Mynd (and the Wrekin), Wenlock Edge and the Clee Hills. The only other really high ground is the Malvern Hills, standing rather isolated near the River Severn and joining Herefordshire with Worcestershire.


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The truly high mountains are all in Wales and form the boundary to our region and the border between the two countries. We normally use a capital B in writing of this border, and sometimes describe it as the Welsh Border Country.


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The Berwyns, Breidden, Clun and Radnor Forests, and the Black Mountains formed a barrier which armies found difficult to pass. King Offa, who ruled most of Britain between A.D. 757 and 795, fought his way into part of that country and built a great ditch and wall to mark out and defend his territory. Parts of Offa’s Dyke still remain today and you can see how good a barrier it was. Nearly three hundred years later William the Conqueror had the same problem and his knights established themselves in their castles along a similar line. Even so, a fair amount of what is now Wales was then part of England, and one way of discovering the former boundary is to trace out where the English place names change to Welsh.

Boundaries, unfortunately, are not always agreed peacefully and this one between England and Wales, which is also our regional boundary, was fought over many times before the people were able to live in peace. Long before the Romans arrived, the warring tribes of Britain fought all over this countryside and the evidence of this is still there if you know how to look for it. I shall have a good deal to say about maps later on, but perhaps a few words here might be useful. If you take a Bartholomew’s Half-Inch, or an Ordnance Survey Onc-Inch map*, and look at the high ground you will often find marked ‘Camp’, ‘Fort’, ‘Castle’, ‘Circle’. If you visit some of these places you will fmd mounds and ditches which will still give you some idea of what they must have been like at least two thousand years ago. One of the most exciting of all is British Camp, on the Herefordshire Beacon between Ledbury and Malvern. (And ‘beacon’ is another word which gives a good clue to what has happened in a particular place in the past.) If you are lucky enough to visit British Camp and manage the long climb to the top, try to imagine what it must have been like to hurry up those slopes when you heard that your enemies were approaching. Try to imagine, too, that you were attacking a fort on top of that hill. There. were no stone walls as in the castles of later days, but deep ditches, and steep walls built from the soil which had been dug out. There was a whole series of these walls, built one above the other. The entrance to such a fort was through a steep, . narrow entrance which could be overlooked on three sides, and from which missiles could be hurled down on the attackers. Not just thrown though, because the Celts, the inhabitants of Britain at this time, were experts in the use of the sling, their long-distance weapon.

When under really severe pressure, the defenders of a fort would retreat upwards from one rampart to another. Looking down from the summit of British Camp it is easy to understand the meaning of the expression ‘a last ditch stand’. It was from a similar hill fort near Bucknell, in Shropshire, so the tradition runs, that Caractacus fought his last battle against the invading Roman armies. Caractacus was King of the Silures, (this area is sometimes still referred to as Siluria) and after his defeat he was taken prisoner and sent to Rome.

Life in a country where groups of people are fighting each other is not very safe, and when under attack, one of the best moves is to find a position where you cannot be taken from behind. Failing this, taking a stand on high ground at least means that you can see your enemy approaching, and it is much more difficult to fight up than downhill. For as long as castles were in use in this country, they too were normally built on high ground and as we shall see, there were plenty of castles in the West Midlands.

If the earlier inhabitants of this region retreated to the hill and mountain tops in time of severe danger, they certainly did not live there for the rest of the time. These peaks and crests are far too wild and inhospitable places to live in, windy and exposed to all the storms blowing in from the Atlantic. As in other parts of Britain, people chose to live in more sheltered spots, places where it was possible to live and work in greater comfort.

To the west, and deep in Wales, lie the Cambrian Mountains, some of the very oldest mountains in the world. High on Plynlimon, one of the peaks, and within only a mile of each other, rise the two great rivers of the West Midlands, the Severn and the Wye. Both flow down to the sea in the Bristol Channel, and both gather into themselves other rivers and streams on the way, but to begin with the Severn flows northwards while the Wye flows south. Each river has its own beauty, each has its own admirers who will claim it as the best. The Severn is the longer, in fact the longest river in Britain. In the past, it was certainly more important than the Wye because it served as a route for carrying goods by boat right into the heart of England and Wales.

The River Severn, or ‘Sabrina fair’ as it has been called (Sabrina was the Roman name for the river, and John Milton called it ‘Sabrina fair’ in his masque Camus), starts its journey by Howing north and east. It slows its pace as it reaches the flatter country and has time to make great loops and bows. One of these almost completely encircles Shrewsbury town and another has nearly cut back to make a lake above Buildwas. From there the river changes. Before, it had been a boundary alone, separating the mountains from the plain. At Buildwas there was once a large lake and at the time of the Ice Age the waters broke through and cut their way through the rocks to make the Ironbridge Gorge. The river still rushes and tumbles through this stretch before it quietens down again to flow with dignity to Bridgnorth and to Bewdley. It is difficult now to imagine cargo-carrying vessels sailing here from Bristol to be loaded and unloaded, but Charles Hulbert described the Gorge in 1837 like this’: ‘From Coalport to Ironbridge, two miles, the river passes through the most extraordinary district in the world; the banks on each side are elevated to the height of from 3 to 400 feet, studded with Ironworks, Brickworks, Boat Building Establishments, Retail stores, Inns and Houses, perhaps 150 vessels on the river, actively employed or waiting for cargoes; while hundreds of busy mortals as assiduously engaged. . . . ’ Today you may see a canoeist negotiating the shallow waters that have not been dredged for a hundred years, or perhaps a fisherman on the bank or wading in the pools. The river has not changed, merely the use that men make of it. ,

Down then to Bridgnorth and Bewdley, both busy river ports in their time, with packhorses carrying goods overland into the Midlands and what we call the Black Country. So, on to Worcester. The river is wider, slow and deep and much more powerful. Small vessels still carry goods from Avonmouth but it is the Stratford, or Warwickshire, Avon which joins the Severn at Tewkesbury and so downstream to Gloucester. This is a true port with wharves and docks and its own Custom House. From Gloucester to the Severn Bridge is a real river estuary, two miles wide in places, and ships must take on a pilot to guide them up to the city. Rivers flow slowly but strongly in such places, and also meet the tide sweeping in from the sea. Salt water meets the fresh but they do not mingle without a struggle. Twice a year espeeially, in spring and autumn, when the tides are at their highest, this river meets the sea in a most spectacular way. Then, where the estuary narrows at Sharpness, a large wave forms and surges up river as the Severn Bore. After plenty of rain to swell the stream, and with a stiff wind behind the tide, this wave can be anything from three to nine feet high.The biggest Bore in Europe!

Downstream again, and right under the Severn Bridge itself, the Wye Hows into the Severn. Though their sources are only a mile apart, it has taken some two hundred miles for the Severn to come back to its companion. Compared with the Severn, the Wye is a very winding river, meandering along its valley bottom throughout most of its course. From the eastern slopes of Plynlimon the Wye iiows fast through mountain country with only a narrow valley bottom and just enough room for the road to follow alongside. This is the Welsh stretch of the river, as the town and village names quickly show: Llangurig, Rhayader, Builth Wells and Llyswen. These are the roads and the stretches of river that William and Dorothy Wordsworth walked, and that William called ‘the finest piece of scenery in South Britain’.

Between Llyswen and Glasbury the river swings northeastwards and the valley opens out to the flatter farming land. By now it is a West Midland river, meandering more slowly towards Hereford and the south. The Rev. Francis Kilvert was curate at Clyro for seven years and knew this river well. In his diary for Saturday 5 March 1870 he wrote: ‘The view from the banks lovely, the river winding down from Glasbury like a silver serpent, iiowing beneath at the foot of the poplars. Hay [the town of Hay-on-Wye] in the distance bright in brilliant sunshine. Every watercourse clear upon the mountains in the searching light. As the sun went down a pink and then a deep purple glow bathed the mountains and Cusop Hill and a keen frost set in.

For a short stretch, from Hay-on-Wye to Rhydspence, the river still forms the boundary between England and Wales, as it did in F rancis Kilvert’s time: ‘About midnight I passed over the Rhydspence border brook, and crossed the border from England into Wales. The English inn was still ablaze with light and noisy with the songs of revellers, but the Welsh inn was dark and still.’

From Hay the river winds on under the old toll bridge at Clifford and down to the new concrete bridge at Hereford. Crossing places were always important and this city’s name means ‘wide crossing place’, from the time when men and horses waded through the shallows. South of Hereford and down through Ross, the loops and bows get larger and larger until the river thrusts its way between the hills again. There, at Symonds Yat, the Wye turns in an almost complete bow to make what is the best known and most beautiful stretch of the whole river. A beautiful place with a strange name, but one that describes it perfectly when you understand it. ‘Yat’ comes from the Old English word ‘geat’, which sometimes means ‘a gap in the hills, pass, deep ravine’, which is exactly what this is. (If you say ‘ge-at’ out loud to yourself you will see how close the sound is to Yat.) ‘Symonds’ is probably a corruption of Sigemund’s, so we discover that this is the ravine which Sigemund owned or where he lived.

Below Symonds Yat the Wye flows on between steep wooded hills, marking the border again, the boundary' between England and Wales, and the left bank marking the western limits of the Forest of Dean. Mid-way between Monmouth and Chepstow the river has left a small level terrace, and there, tucked in against the hills, are the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Downstream just a few more miles, the River Wye flows past the cliffs at Chepstow to join the mighty Severn, almost two miles wide, below the new suspension bridge.

Until about five hundred years ago there were many more forests, and much more of the country was wooded than we can easily imagine today. Certainly the lower slopes of many of the mountains and larger hills were covered with trees and what is now open country given over to farming, or even covered by towns, was once thickly wooded. Some of these forests still remain, but are very much smaller than they once were. Gone now are the Clun Forest, Wentwood Forest, Kinlet Forest, the Forest of Shirlett and others,  but the Wyre Forest and, of course, the F orest of Dean remain. Wentwood and the F orest of Dean both had their Speech Courts, or F oresters’ Courts, where all matters concerning grazing and other rights were decided. Right up to the present day the Court still meets at The Speech House, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean. One of the names which you may hnd on the map, near Ludlow, is that of Bringewood Chase. A chase was a forest where royal hunting rights were maintained and the deer were protected for this reason. But apart from hunting and grazing, the forests had other very important uses: they provided fuel and timber for building. Wood was burnt to heat many thousands of homes, but it was also partially burnt to make charcoal and this played a very important part in the iron industry in both the F orest of Dean and in Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. .

Timber for building obviously explains the very large number of timber-framed houses, barns and even churches in the Border country. It also meant timber for building great ships, and for this the best was English oak. There are many places in the region which have a reference to oak trees in their name, as for example, Mawley Oak, not far from ,Cleobury Mortimer. There are also the places which have stories about oak trees. At Cressage, near Much Wenlock, there was a very ancient oak, where, according to the Venerable Bede,the English bishops gathered to meet Saint Augustine. At Boscobel, however, there is real evidence that Charles II hid in an oak tree during his flight after the Battle of Worcester, though rather sadly it is not the tree standing there today. King Charles described that day in 1651 ; he ‘got up into a great oak, that had been loped some three or four years before, and being grown out again, very bushy and thick, could not be seen through, and here we staid all the day . . . while we were in this tree we see soldiers going up and down, in the thickest of the wood, searching for persons escaped, we seeing them, now and then, peeping out of the wood.’ Royal Oak Day is still celebrated in the West Midlands, and in other places too, on 29th May each year.

We seem to have come rather a long way from the forests which once covered much of the landscape, but when you start thinking about trees, and about oaks especially, you do find yourself discovering a lot of very interesting history. Most of the English hardwood trees have long since been felled for fuel and building and to clear the ground for farming. The planting that has taken place in recent years is almost all of softwoods on the hills and mountain slopes towards the Welsh Border. The dullest of these plantations are those where only one variety has been used; where they are mixed they look much better. Best of all, though, are those private plantations where soft and hardwood have been planted together. Those woods have a mixture of greens in the spring and summer, with all the colour changes in autumn. When the time comes to fell the larches and firs, the remaining trees will have grown strong enough to stand unprotected and will last for another hundred years or more before it is their turn to be used and replaced.

On the wilder hill slopes there is little but grass and bracken, but lower down the soil is rich enough to grow a vast variety of crops. On the flatter lands north of the Severn, where it sweeps round through Shrewsbury, thousands of acres are given over to grazing for dairy cattle, black and white Friesians that have replaced the English breeds. This is damp country and always has been. In north-east Shropshire there are many pools and lakes known as meres. Mere is the Old English word for a pool and a number of the town and village names reveal their origin quite clearly. Ellesmere takes its name from a longdead owner called Elli, and Colemere may mean ‘the pool surrounded by hazels’. Other parts of that damp land have names like Fenns Moss or Whixall Moss. ‘Fen’ means marsh, and ‘moss’ means bog. Not surprisingly, this is an area where peat is still dug.

South of the Severn, and along the eastern margins, the country is more varied; there are more hills and valleys and farmers are as much concerned with crops as they are with cattle. On the heavy clay land they grow potatoes, but especially sugar beet, which is sent to the factories at Wellington and Kidderminster for processing. As the forests were cleared, hrst in small patches and later to make the sort of fields that we would recognise today, men discovered just how rich this red land is.

Between the Forest of Dean and the great turn of the Severn near Shrewsbury lies some of the most fertile land in Britain. The great stretch of Herefordshire and both banks of the Severn up to Bridgnorth have helped to fill our granaries for hundreds of years. Between Bewdley and Bridgnorth the country on the west bank is known as the Wheatland and that is precisely what you can expect to find there, wheat, oats and barley in hundreds of acres. Although it is perhaps not the best known crop of Herefordshire, it has been a staple one for centuries.

This region has been famous for centuries for its fruit trees, and in Herefordshire and Worcestershire there are very large areas given over to orchards. The range of fruit grown is both wide and varied. There are cooking apples and dessert apples, and of these latter, one is native to the country. This is the Worcester Pearmain, one of the earliest eating apples to ripen, and I believe one of the best. It is crisp, white and juicy inside a bright red skin, but it has to be eaten soon after picking, for unfortunately it will not keep. Quite apart from apples for eating, there are those that are used for cider-making; small and hard and bitter, they are crushed for their juice and pulp. This is the fruit that has helped to make Herefordshire famous. Less well known, but every bit as much a local fruit, are the hard pears used for making perry, a drink very similar to cider and one which I think is not made anywhere else in Britain.

But apples and pears are not the only fruits to be found here; another speciality is damsons, that relation of the plum which seems to be going out of fayour. The older variety is small and almost black, with a grey ‘bloom’ to it, very sour and almost all stone. But stew it with sugar, or make it into jam or ‘cheese’, and it is truly delicious. The newer variety, Merryweather, is the same colour, but much larger and therefore easier to pick ; the flavour is similar but perhaps not quite so good.

Worcestershire offers yet another fruit in the Teme valley and thereabout, the cherry, growing on the steep clay slopes of the valley sides. Whereas the Vale of Evesham grows great quantities of fruit on fairly Hat land at the foot of the Cotswolds, and away across to Pershore (famous for its plums), the Teme Valley is tight and compact, full of twisting steep lanes. Each year in April or May, according to the season, the ‘Blossom Route’ is announced and signposted from Worcester. This takes you through country which is splendid at any time, but in blossom time is quite breathtaking. It is like travelling through a sea of flowers:pale pink for the apples, white for cherries and plums, and silver on the taller pear trees. Paintings usually have short titles like ‘Landscape near Bewdley’, but the landscape here seems to make even artists want to use more words than usual. A picture which I bought a few years ago has this written on the back: ‘A very fine cherry orchard at Rock’ (near Bewdley; the picture was painted in the orchard belonging to a friend of mine).

One other crop I must mention is hops. These were once grown fairly widely in England whereas now, apart from Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire are the principal areas concerned. As with other crops, they create their own particular pattern in the landscape. In autumn and winter the poles of the hop fields make a strong geometrical pattern; in spring and summer this disappears behind the exceptionally high hedges which protect the bines (as the stems are called) from the wind.

Looking at the country and the scenery can mean more than just admiring the view. The view will have a great deal to tell you if you learn how to look and what to look for: how the scenery was formed and who had a hand in it, what happened there in the past as well as what is going on today. It all depends on what you are looking for.

There is a story about a visitor who was admiring a view and said so to a farmer. ‘Durn the view,’ he answered, ‘I bain’t lookin’ at no view. I be lookin’ how they dratted rabbits ’as 21th up my tunnips.

Bude is laid out on the southern slopes of a broad tongue of rising land almost filling a mile-wide gap in the rocky wall that Cornwall presents to the Atlantic.

There is no formal front at Bude; the Parade" is a broad stretch of open turf bounded on the west and south by low cliffs below which are wonderful expanses of firm golden sand. If one part of the town more than another resembles a promenade it is the Strand, part of the business thoroughfare, bounded on one side by shops, hotels and banks, and on the other by the picturesque Strat River, which after considerable windings contrives here to pour its waters into the sea.


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The river is crossed by two bridges, either of which leads to another pleasant waterway that is recognisable as a canal only by its straightness in this last reach to the sea. Here are the Falcon Hotel, the parish church and some very attractively placed houses. Behind them the ground rises to resume the Cornish cliff wall; half a mile away to the north, where the ground rises again to form the magnificent cliffs on towards Hartland, is the suburb of Flexbury.

Some attempt has been made to describe the open situation of Bude,  no photograph can do justice to the place as a whole. Although
a busy little town, it is almost surrounded by open common and though a seaside resort it overlooks two fresh-water spacious channels.

That it is an outdoor resort should need no emphasising. Bathing and surfing, tennis, golf, bowls, cricket, riding, hunting-practically every sport is followed with and the wide grass-covered common, known as Summerleaze Down, with the glorious sand render it an ideal playground for children.

Moreover, when the winds are too boisterous to make the sands or the downs altogether pleasant, there an many sheltered combes and villages easily accessible a mile or so inland. As a centre for the exploration of the country between the Camel and the Torridge, Bude is unrivalled.

The district possesses an equable climate. Frost and snow are rare, and the summer heat is tempered by the Atlantic breezes. The records show that Bude enjoys an exceptional number of hours of bright sunshine

The town is, like most young resorts, somewhat uneven, but there are good shops, and well-lighted streets. There is an excellent supply of pure water and the drainage is thoroughly efficient. The reservoirs, 2 miles east of Kilkhampton, are stocked with fish.

On the farther (southward) side of the Canal is the Church of St.Michael and All Angels, consecrated in 1835, with baptistery and font added a few years ago.

The Bude and Holsworthy Canal was constructed in 1819-26, at a cost of £128,000. Originally extending over 30 miles, it is now navigable for only a mile and a half, having been superceded by the railway. The Canal communicates with the seay means of a lock, the gates of which serve as a footbridge for those who wish to ascend Compass Hill and the Downsall bay opening to the sea at the mouth and here is of darker colour than usual and is highly valued for agricultural purposes.

Bathing in the open sea at Bude is safe except at low water when it is best to use the excellent Bathing Pool the cliffs under Summerleaze Down. The pool is on extent, with graduated depths and dressing boxes. With its background of rocks and its views over the sands and down at the foot of the coast the Pool is delightfully situated, and provides a pleasant alternative to the open sea.

Here can be seen waves mountains high, and like a thousand thunders, can be heard for miles inland The Breakwater, reached by a path at the end of Breakwater Road, close to the lock gates, protects the Canal entrance and also serves as a promenade. Its irregular stones are certanly unconventional, but the structure affords a means of getting into close contact with the sea, and is a sheltered spot for writing or reading.

The rock with flagstaff at the end of the Breakwater is called chapel Rock, for legend says that a hermitage, dedicated to the Holy Trinity and St. Michael, once stood here.

Shropshire, the largest of English inland counties, is divided by the River Severn into two roughly equal halves. The north-east is a wide and fertile plain; south-west of the river is the famous hill country and one of the most attractive countryside’s in the whole of England, it is still remarkably unspoilt, having preserved its unsophisticated individuality together with many of the outward and visible signs of an ancient past.

The inspiration of its own novelist, Mary Webb, and its own 'sweet sad singer', the author of A Shropshire Lad, it is a hidden-away piece of old England much loved by its visitors as they visit the area. From that great Salopian Legions, the Wrekin, to the uplands of the half-Welsh Clun Forest; from the Clee Hills to the jagged Stiperstones, a rich diversity of rock formations produces striking contrasts in the natural scene.


The Old Cottage, Ludlow, Shropshire

That indefatigable topographer John Leland described sixteenth-century Ludlow as 'very propre, welle walled and gated, and standeth every way eminent from a Bottom'. The town's walls have long since disappeared and of its original seven gates only one remains, but its eminence still makes the place an impressive sight as you approach it from either the north or the south. An adequate description of Ludlow would need a small book to itself. Here I shall merely make a personal choice of a few focal points of interest which are special favourites of mine.

If you approach the town from the south you will come to the ancient Ludford Bridge, a splendid sturdy structure which for nearly seven centuries has borne a ceaseless flow of traffic from the time of packhorse and saddlehorse, broad-wheeled wagon, stage and mail coaches right up to the present day's continuous stream of motor vehicles. Perhaps its most difficult task in recent years was during the last war when it had to support the great weight of a hitherto unknown monster, the army tank, but even that it accepted without demur. Before crossing this bridge you must turn to the left and make for Whitcliffe where Ludlow and its wonderful views are.

Leintwardine is full of interest; this attractive village has grown and developed with the old fortifications of a Roman Camp its buildings, of various set and ages, line the parallel streets surrounding the elevated church of St. Mary Magdalene. On the south side the river Clun joins the Teme crossed here by a handsome stone bridge built in the early 19th century and widened in 1930. Views of the hills of South Shropshire, Mocktree and the Wigmore Rolls can be enjoyed during this four mile ramble.

A place to be enjoyed joyfully in the late summer sun. Now in the village of Leintwardine the way continues to the left along Watling Street past modern school buildings and a cemetery with an unusual entrance dated 1901. This street has a crowded mixture of cottages, barns, shops and houses either stone or timber framed, some beautifully restored while others remain derelict. A right turn leads to the 900 year old church with its massive tower.

Sun Cottage, Shropshire

The pleasant churchyard is hemmed in by houses which overlook weathered tombs, and a convenient seat is shaded by a graceful silver
birch. The church's dark interior features two side chapels, the scanty remains of a 15th century reredos and nicely carved choir stalls which probably came from Wigmore Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A novelty is the internal mechanism of a disused clock, one of the oldest of its type, dating from the 16th century. Originally in the tower the clock is now displayed near the porch.

Church Stretton has been aptly described as the centre of the Shropshire Highlands; it lies in an upland valley with hills rising so steeply beside it that they give an almost mountainous character to the scenery, and yet by their fortunate north-easterly to south-westerly direction they leave the town open to sunshine. Also known as little Switzerland.

There are three separate Stretton’s strung along a road now mercifully relieved of main road traffic which by-passes all three places by means of the A49. Little Stretton, the most southerly of the trio, has a number of good timber-framed houses, but to sec the best of the village you must walk round the loop off the main road where you will discover a stream with tiny waterfalls and a succession of miniature bridges leading to secluded cottages sheltering under the lower slopes of the Long Mynd which offer inviting walks through Ashes Valley and Small Batch. The twentieth-century black and white thatched church blends happily with the general character of the village, but its pitch pine interior shows less taste and imagination.

The Clun district in the south-western extremity of Shropshire has been well described as 'that remote outlying cantle wedged in between the Welsh mountains of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire. Its hills consist not so much of a range as a succession of rounded heights split up by valleys and then merging into the wild open moorland of Clun Forest which in places rises up as high as 1600 feet to meet the mountains spilling over the border In early Norman days this inaccessible region of the Marchland became virtually semi-independent, especially as its overlords had been granted any land they could wrest from the wild Welsh-men; and the delimitation of the boundary between the two countries was not finally settled until the reign of Henry VIII. Clun itself was included in Montgomeryshire until 1537 when it became part of Shropshire. Even today there are parts of the region which seem to be only officially English; the speech is no longer Salopian but more akin to the lilting Welsh.

Even some of the buildings look Welsh: 'those prim, grey, sober-fronted dwellings of Clun, for example, look just as if they had slipped across from the
other side of the border.' A study of the place names in the region will reveal the extent and limits of the Saxon settlements; often Offa's Dyke shows the line of demarcation where English names like Mainstone, Churchtown and Weston are present.

Visiting the Long Mynd,   Few of us, even if we wished to, can experience the mysterious fascination which grips the mountaineer as he grapples with the difficulties and dangers of towering heights but those of us who nevertheless have the urge to climb or even just to walk up steep paths to a summit; to feel we are above the restless noise and movement of main roads; and to have the joy of watching changing lights and colours, at their best when seen from high places, can still go to hills which exercise the same attraction. For, after all, it is only a question of relativity in size and height. Stevenson pointed out long ago that 'even greatness can be found on a small scale; the mind and eye measure differently. Bold rocks near at hand are more inspiring than distant Alps'. This longing for hill country is something innate in many people and is felt by many more than admit it. Many years ago read some lines by an unknown writer which vividly recapture the sudden tug of this passionate desire.

In a short story, Many Mansions, Mary Webb described Much Wenlock as a 'very Rip Van Winkle of a borough. Somewhere in the Middle Ages it had fallen asleep and if you should wonder at the fashion of its garments you must remember that it had not,since the day it fell aslcep, changed its coat, its hosen or its hat'

Cornwall very nearly an island and very different from any other part of the country. The North Coast, in particular, is a land of legend, of mystery, of romance.
For millions of years it has been defended against the raging Atlantic Ocean by the finest stretch of cliff scenery to be found in the British Isles. The man-made attractions of
the orthodox seaside resort fade into insignificance when compared with the brilliant colours of the water, the scenic grandeur of the towering cliffs and the natural beauty of the sandy porths which breach them at frequent intervals. This fascinating area can be reached in comfort in a day by express train or coach from London or the Midlands, with bus connections to the more remote parts, while those who make the journey by car are assured of well-surfaced, fast roads to all the more popular resorts. Throughout the North Coast area there are excellent hotels and guest-houses. Accommodation can also be had at inns and farm-houses, and furnished cottages may be rented.
Early booking is, however, essential.


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From Bude south-westward the health resorts on the north coast of Cornwall are more invigorating in summer than those on the south, but the difference decreases south-westward, until at St. Ives the variation from Penzance is not nearly so marked igh and open position of Newquay renders it more suitable for summer, when its bracing air is unexcelled in the West; but there are many sheltered spots near where the mild winter of Cornwall may be thoroughly enjoyed, to the special advantage of those to whom a degree or two, more or less, of temperature is of less importance than protection against the stronger winds.

The rainfall in North Cornwall is less than in South Cornwall.
It may be interesting to note that sunset time is 23 minutes later than London. The Summer sea temperature varies between 58 and 61 degrees

In winter Newquay, in common with most of Cornwall, hardly knows snow, and frosts are of a mild character.
Tintagel and Boscastle are quiet, restful spots where the bracing Atlantic breezes can be enjoyed to the full while Bude possesses all the best health-giving qualities of the other North Cornwall resorts Cornwall, generally, is a wonderful place for the naturalist, and fine north coast claims its share of rare plants.


Tewennow Cottage, Cornwall

NEWQUAY is the most considerable centre and easily the most popular holiday resort on the north coast of Cornwall. It is a bright and cheerful town possessing all the ingredients for a healthy happy and interesting holiday. It lies midway between Bude and Land's End, 28 miles by rail from London, 254 by road and 14 miles north of Truro.

At this point of the coast Towan Head projects north-westward and with Pentire Headland and Trevelgue Head forms two spacious sandy bays. The principal
portion of Newquay has been built, in comparatively recent years, along the cliffs overlooking the more easterly of these two bays, and the eastward expansion s goes on; but the town has rapidly taken command of the wide western bay, and has also spread itself over the northern slopes of the ridge of high ground known as Mount Wisc. Many of the houses here have excellent views in all directions: northward over Newquay to the Headland and the sea, southward over the luxuriant valley of the Gannel.

Though it cannot boast of any particular historical interest, Newquay was known under the name of Towan Blystra many centuries ago. In 1439 Bishop Lacy, of Exeter, granted an indulgence for the construction, repair and maintenance of the harbour. Carew, the Cornish historian, writing in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, mentions "Newe Kaye", a place on the north coast.

In former times Newquay was merely a little fishing village, practically unknown except for its catches of pilchards. A century ago its population
could hardly have totalled a hundred; in 1871 it had risen to 1,121. The population now numbers nearly 22,000 with a tourist industry worth billions, a remarkable story of progress when it is remembered that the main industry (pilchard fishing) has departed, and that the town depends almost entirely on its visitors.

The railway which put Newquay in touch with the rest of the world dates only from 1875. Once given the opportunity, the public quickly showed their appreciation of Newquay cliff scenery, the charm of its vast sands, and the purity and brilliant colouring of its sea, gracious and lovely in fine weather, and magnificent when the wind blows hard from the west and north, or when the ground seas from the Atlantic sweep in line and hurl themselves against the stern, wild cliffs.


Humble Cottage, Cornwall

NEWQUAY in the south-west, has various beaches at the foot of the town in complete shelter, Fistral Bay being somewhat less protected
From a westerly wind the Towan, Great Western and other beaches are sheltered by the Headland, and when the wind is from the east, shelter is to be found in Fistral Bay and on Tolcarne and Great Western Beaches.

At first sight the town appears to consist of a long, winding and busy street close to the edge of the cliffs, with houses and shops on each side. Between the buildings occasional glimpse of the sea can be obtained, and by turning out of the main street terraces and slopes facing the beaches can be reached in a minute. It must be admitted, however, that owing to the lack of foresight of the early builders, Newquay lacks the fine front it might have had. Large numbers of new houses have risen in recent years on the higher ground away from the cliffs, and though these are farther from the sea they have a remarkable range of coast views. The town has also extended downwards towards the Trenance Valley, and on the other side of the golf links towards East Pentire Point, while eastwards it is difficult to see where Newquay ends and Porth begins.

The most prominent building in the town is the Church of St. Michael, (1909-11), well situated on the slope of Mount Wise. It is designed as far as possible after the style of the old Cornish churches. The Methodist Church, overlooking East Street, is another building commanding attention, and at the top of the
Crescent, in Bank Street, is the rebuilt Congregational Church.

Whether by car, coach or bus, visitors will find Newquay one of the best motoring centres in Cornwall. It is well placed for drives to all parts of the Duchy, the roads are good, the town boasts efficient garages, and there is a good network of public road services serving all places of interest.

Here, then, is a holiday playground ready-made by Nature. No man-made pier in the kingdom can compare in grandeur with Newquay's natural pier, Towan Head, which runs for nearly a mile out to sea, covered with soft, springy turf and other sea flowers.

The extremity is a chaos of rocks against which the waves of the Atlantic hurl themselves with stupendous power-in rough weather. certainly a sight to be remembered.

From this point the sweep of the coast-line can be followed round, the sheer perpendicular cliffs and rocks showing more or less prominently above the belts of yellow sand, north-eastward past Porth and Watergate Bay to the famous Bedruthan Steps (huge detached rocks nearly 200 feet high), to Park Head, and on till Trevose Head, with its lighthouse, limits the vision.

On either side of the Headland is a fine bay, that to the east being the larger and more populous, though an increasing number of visitors favour the more open Fistral Bay, west of the Headland.

Newquay's eastern bay is lined with a series of smaller bays. These are floored with firm sand and are ideal for bathing. Immediately east of the Harbour and overlooked by the Pavilion Cinema is Towan Beach.

Here the pleasures of bathing may be enjoyed at all times and seasons. The water is delightfully clear, and the far-reaching Headland ensures immunity from west or north westerly winds or swells. There are numerous bathing huts, but for many, convenient little caverns and rocks suffice. The Harbour is a favourite bathing place at high tide, as diving can be practised from the quays.

North-eastward of Towan Beach is the Great Western, or Bothwicks Beach, which can be reached at low tide by going round the Island. There are good changing facilities. At high tide access to this beach is obtained by the winding road by the Great Western Hotel.
The next beach north-eastward again is the Tolcarne Beach. This is reached from the others at low tide, by steps fromm Narrowcliff at high water and by a cliff path at Crigga Head.

Westward of the Headland is Fistral Bay, with a splendid stretch of sands. With the golf links at the back and splendid views of the Towan
and west respectively, it is not surprising that this western bay is becoming more popular every year, though extreme care is necessary when bathing.

Headland and Pentire to north The Golf Links are finely situated between Towan Headland and East Pentire, overlooking Fistral Bay and commanding a magnificent all-round view. This 6,000 yards' course of eighteen holes is considered one of the best and most sporting in the county.

The hazards and bunkers are formed chiefly by sand-dunes, pits, and stone walls The Club-house is the castellated building known as The
Tower. The entrance is in Tower Road. There is also a pavilion with verandahs, adjoining the first tee. Large numbers of temporary members including non-players join the club annually. The Club also has one hard and three grass tennis courts available to visitors.

The Harbour is merely a little cove guarded by two very solid stone piers access is by a long flight of stone steps or by a rather steep road leading down to the harbour. Its sandy floor at low water, is charming, and is increasingly popular with children. Bathing is allowed. Around it are perpendicular cliffs smothered in season with wall-flowers and alerian from base to summit, and rich always with ferns

This rocky inlet, with wers-a rare and lovely picture. There are the occasional fishing boats (bearing the distinctive PW of Padstow, the port of registration), but principally yachts, and motor and rowing boats, the majority of which are available for hire.

To reach the North Quay, continue northwards along Fore Street until North Quay Hill is reached on right. A few yards down the hill are seats from which a grand panoramic view of Newquay's magnificent beaches is obtained, with the busy little harbour just below. There are promenades farther down and the quay itself may be reached, either by a steep, rough and narrow lane or by stone steps. Immediately over the Harbour is one of the many shelters and promenades with seats, pleasant for reading and sea-gazing, whatever the weather.

The site was formerly occupied by some pilchard curing-houses known as Active Cellars. Formerly the tanks of pilchards were enormous, but now the fish seldom get so far up the coast as Newquay, and if they did there are no seine nets with which to catch them. At these cellars the pilchards were salted and pressed beneath large stone weights, and the oil extracted The arrival of the shoals was signalled from the Huer's House, on the Headland. This little building has great interest for visitors as a symbol of a departed industry, though it is not so old as it looks.

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