I’m not too sure how we settled on walking in Shropshire, but I think it was mostly to do with the fact that it was within a 2.5hr drive from Oxford and we could do it without paying for a nights accommodation (trying to keep on saving pennies!).
Using Peter’s OS Maps subscription, we searched circular walks with a decent mileage (ignoring 7milers, which are quite popular) and stumbled across a few by Trail Magazine, one of which started at Church Stretton, in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and which was handy circular 15 miler (24km).
We made sure to put a date in the diary and to keep it free, come rain or shine, we will be walking on that date. Unfortunately, the first date we scheduled, I was struck down by a sick bug, so we moved it back to another free weekend.
We calculated that to be able to make a 7.30pm dinner out with friends near Warwick on the same evening of the walk, we would need to leave home from Shropshire at 6am to be sure of finishing in time. Based on a rough estimate that we could cover 4-5km per hour, Peter reckoned that we could do the walk in at least 9 hours, taking into account a small amount of height gain and a few snack breaks.
With that early wake up call in mind, we packed our bags the night before and made our lunch (pitta breads filled with ham, cheese and salad, with a bag of roasted nuts and some crisps). In the effort of steering clear of sugar, we avoided any cake-based snacks, these being the norm during a hill day.
So, at 5:50am (yes, we set our alarm with only 10 minutes to get ready, a little optimistic if I do say so myself!), the annoying alarm brought us (or rather Peter), into action, leaving me still snuggled under the duvet refusing to believe that it was time to get up. Peter delivered me a tea in bed, whilst he also made our flasks, filled our water bottles and packed our lunches in our bags (yes, I have a super husband!). After ensuring I’d drunk every last drop of tea that I could, I dragged myself out of bed and put on my walking gear.
We made it out of the door by about 6:15 and headed to the car. Next stop, fuel.
Our drive there was fairly uneventful, other than having a bit of tyre debris quite dramatically hitting our windscreen on the M40, and bending our windscreen wiper, or atleast, that’s the damage we thought we’d got away with. It was only after parking up at our destination that we saw the full extent of the incident – our poor old Focus had a war wound on her nose. We hope it’ll just rub out with a bit of T-Cut, but we were thankful that it wasn’t anything more serious.
Rather handily, we were able to find free parking in a road close to our starting point and which also had some free public toilets (win!) (Peter: quick tip, when looking at where to walk, check out Google Street view, you can work out where roads are double yellow, parking permit etc). So, we suited and booted ourselves and set off for our walk!
The weather was fairly standard for January – mist, rain, wind and a very little sunshine, but it was fun and great preparation for our trip to Scotland.
The first hour or so of the walk was fairly tame, walking our way out of the village and into some woods, before getting on to the hills overlooking a valley. After a few wrong turns (good one Peter!), we walked into an area called the ‘Long Mynd’, which had a beautiful fast flowing stream cutting through the valley. This was by far our highlight of the walk, as the rocky path hugged the stream and needed nimble feet in points to clamber across water onto the other side.
We managed to keep our feet dry, thanks boots!
Strangely, it didn’t take me long to get a blister on my ankle. It’s odd because my boots are usually pretty comfortable in this respect. Peter snapped into action and dug out his Mountain First Aid kit, excited to use me as a guinea pig for Zinc Tape (apparently, a survival essential according to ‘How to Stay Alive’ by Bear Grylls). With my foot patched up, boot back on, we carried on our way.
We reached the top of the hills (name?) and decided to skip the viewpoint out which, I’m sure would have been strikingly beautiful… on a clear day!
After about 3.5hours of walking, we were halfway in, having covered a good 7miles. I’d told Peter after the 3rd time of hearing how much distance we had left to cover, to only notify me of our remaining distance at the halfway point!
The walk took us through a few little hamlets and farms, but mostly stayed in the hills, either on a footpath or following the ‘highland’ road which was covered in signs warning about winter conditions. Weirdly, Peter found it tricky to navigate at points along the walk, blaming either his map which used ‘too thick a line to mark the route’ or that the terrain was ‘too easy’….because of this ineptitude, we had a few detours!
Another favourite part of the walk was up on the exposed ridgeline overlooking the surrounding hills and valleys. I’m not sure whether this was a favourite part because of the beautiful scenery, or because we also walked past a man who had three gorgeous dogs – two collies, and one very old dog who was struggling to keep up! It was just after this that, yet again, Peter got us lost and we ended up trouncing along a very steep sheep track!
We finally found our way back to the path, and had a quick chat to a couple who had a gorgeous 18-month old puppy who was a mix of collie and Jack Russell (I mean, seriously! When can we have a puppy?!). With roughly 2 miles to go, we came off the hills and back into Church Stretton, satisfied that we’d decimated our estimate of 9 hours, we did it in 7.5hours.
On reaching the car, I couldn’t get my boots off quick enough! I will definitely be investing in some softer hill-walking boots for this type of walk, as my current ones are a little too extreme for anything other than Scottish terrain. The main reason for the purchase was that I needed a stiff sole for my hypermobile feet – but I must say, I think we overreacted a little!
All in all, we were really happy that we made the decision to walk in Shropshire, it’s a beautiful walking destination (without the long travel time) that we’ll definitely be visiting again and a great start to our 2018 micro-adventures!
Next planned adventure – 2 weeks in the Cairngorms!