Up the dale

Saturday 17 Feb: It was cold, but clearly it was sunny too – just a day later, before looking through the photos, I’d remembered the weather being dull. Memory plays tricks! We’re walking in the Ironbridge area, following mostly quiet roads away from the Wharfage, which is always busy. There’s always something to catch the eye in this part of Shropshire.

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A cold day in Callow Hollow

Monday 12 Feb: The wind felt stronger (and colder) and there was more cloud than the forecast had suggested, but it was still a good day (sandwiched between some pretty awful days) for an outing. We thought there might have been some shelter in Callow Hollow – and there was, beside the little Oakleymill waterfall, sufficient for a lunch break. The flurry of snowflakes waited until we were moving again – then, as we reached the summit plateau, the sky cleared, and suddenly the world was colourful once more. Given good weather, the top of the Mynd is a great place to be.

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A Witchend Walk

The Ordnance Survey – and almost everyone else, I suspect – calls it Priors Holt. It’s barely a hamlet, just a couple of houses nestled at the foot of Nut Batch, one of the lesser valleys on the eastern side of the Long Mynd. However, Malcolm Saville seems to have had the place in mind when he wrote his “Witchend” children’s series, so that’s how we’ll think of it. Whatever the name, it’s a quiet spot, despite its popularity with muddy cyclists (we must have seen at least six of them), and the gentle slopes of the forestry roads (ideal for the bikers) make for an easy walk to the Mynd’s summit plateau. The trees are also good shelter from the wind… The forecast said “dry, bright and windy” – it was accurate, though we arrived a little early for its first two elements. By the time we were on the Port Way, walking south along the western edge of the Mynd, the “dry and bright” had arrived, providing us with some dramatic lighting for the extensive views of the border hill country.

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A stroll on the Mynd

It’s not all “stroll” – there’s a steep pull up Mott’s Road to the Long Mynd plateau, and our legs haven’t had enough exercise during the past few weeks. But once we’re up, it’s a very pleasant amble. The sunshine is bright, the sky is (mostly) blue, the breeze is light – no need to hurry. It’s one of those afternoons whose only downside is the need to come down…

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Cothercott’s decaying early 20th century concrete is hardly the prettiest relic of mining in the Shropshire hills. If the barytes mining had begun earlier, the remains might at least have been of stonework. The grim slab beside the road on Cothercott Hill has formed a minor landmark for many years, but now the site has been tidied up, with interpretation boards and a yellow-painted mines tub (from Gwynfynydd – it’s not a local!) set on a plinth as a reminder of the little railway which once operated here.

There are more interpretation boards just a little further up the hill – but we’re on our way elsewhere, and it’s bitterly cold despite the sunshine. We’ll come back another day, and perhaps try to follow the route of the railway back to the mines.