To Much Wenlock
After the excitement of the Brazilian Bay Sleepover and with our Northern Chapter Meet to come shortly, we thought it would be good to fit in a chilling weekend – but where to go?
We really like leafy, green, Shropshire, with its rolling hills and little market towns so, initially (and having checked the weather forecast) we decided to head to Little Stretton. We’d stayed at the Small Batch site before (Link) so I rang them, to book from Thursday to Sunday, only to be told they were already full over the weekend.
So, back to the drawing board (or at least the Internet) and after a couple of unsuccessful calls we found Styche Caravan Site, just 6 minutes walk from Much Wenlock town centre and with good reviews.
I rang and booked us in, paid a deposit and re-checked the weather forecast (have I mentioned I’m anal about planning?). Dry and bright was the consensus, with the possibility of a few showers on Friday – looking good then.
Thursday came and we packed light for once – no trailer, no Glawning, no event shelter and, best of all, more shorts than jeans.
We arrived at the site about 2.30 and were greeted by the two wardens, who live in a static caravan on site. They rushed down to meet us at the barrier and, whilst he talked me through the barrier code and took the rest of our booking fee, she walked up to our pitch to show us where to go.
Alison followed her in Absinthe and I caught up as she was pointing out the pitch we were allocated. Things then got a bit weird. As she was walking off she said, “No dog?”
“Yes”, we replied, pointing at Boris in the back of the van. “Right, you need to make sure you take him off the site for walks”. “There’s a kissing gate in the corner and you MUST take him through there to go to the toilet – we’re trying to keep the site clean and we think we’re winning”. “He’s not allowed off the leash at all on site”
She was a bit brusque but, fair enough, we thought, we always pick up after Boz anyway so that’s no problem. She started to leave again then suddenly said, “Will you be having a barbecue?”. “No”, I replied, knowing we hadn’t got one with us.
She took a step closer to us and made eye contact for just too long. “Are you sure?”.
“Definitely”, says I.
More eye contact.
I’d had enough at this point and took a step closer to her with as much eye contact as she could take (Alison said I stood up straight to intimidate her, but I think that was an involuntary action)
“Do you want me to take a lie detector test?” “Err, no, it’s just that we have some pallets that we expect people to stand them on if they’re having a barbecue”.
“We haven’t got a barbecue!”
At that point she left, and Alison and I just looked at each other wondering what we’d booked ourselves into…
We set up camp and walked into town for a potter around the (by now mainly closed) shops and to have a couple of pints in the George and Dragon. Very nice they were too, as was the pub food. A first for me, as I had faggots – they were fine although I’d describe them as being just like meatballs on steroids. The pub is very dog friendly which is more than you can say for Boris, who took exception to a German Shorthaired Pointer coming into his bar. Despite his behaviour the barman still gave him a dog treat – spoilt schnauzer.
|A Kombi hiding from view|
Back to the van, for wine and The Killing, which meant a late night but has become part of the ritual when we are away. A ritual killing, I guess.
On Friday, we headed to Bridgnorth, another lovely town about 12 miles away. We had a coffee and bought bread, cheese and meat from a deli to have later for lunch. We walked down to the bottom of the town and then up to the Castle gardens, The Severn Valley Railway runs from Bridgnorth and there’s an impressive bridge across to the station.
As we walked back into town we spotted a funicular railway down to Low Town and the River Severn, so we paid our £2.40 and took the trip down – apparently it’s the steepest inland funicular railway in Britain.
Back at the van we decided to use our National Trust cards to visit Benthall Hall, which was only a few miles away, albeit along some very poorly maintained roads. I wonder how long it will be before our economy can afford to repair all the damage that’s occurred to our roads since the recession.
We pulled into the car park only to find that the Hall wasn’t open on a Friday. At least that explained the empty car park, although before long quite a few others did arrive – the grounds of the Hall have some great walks which seem very popular with local dog walkers.
It didn’t really matter that the Hall wasn’t open – we’d brought our food with us and soon had the kettle on for a brew and a lovely meal of local produce. It reminded us of being in France where we tend to eat simply, with things we’ve bought from local markets and shops – heaven.
We had a walk with Boz but the rain arrived with a really heavy shower that had us hiding under the trees.
It didn’t last long and by the time we got back to the site the sun was out again.
The site itself is extremely well kept – the grass is immaculate and the shower and toilet block is cleaned three times a day. What made us uncomfortable were the signs around the place that had an edge to them, that may have just been down to a lack of subtlety in their language. The messages they conveyed weren’t unreasonable, it was just their tone which jarred.
The number of rules aimed at dog owners was strange and not something we’ve come across before – I think they’d be better off banning dogs altogether – I suspect the wardens simply aren’t dog lovers. They didn’t stroke Boris or take any interest in anyone’s dogs, that I could see.
I don’t think we’ll be back, which is a shame because the location is excellent, with easy access to the town and lots of walks starting directly from the site.
Anyway, Friday night brought, more wine and more Forbrydelsen…
Alison had spotted a Craft and Food Festival advertised in a local magazine, so we headed towards Donnington on Saturday morning. The Craft part was a bit underwhelming, but the Food part was great and, again, we bought some things to eat later.
The only downside was that there was an Exotic Zoo represented and they had a young girl walking around with a huge yellow python draped around her. Alison’s fear of serpents is Biblical and she wouldn’t go down to that area of the marquee at all.
We weren’t far from Ironbridge, so we opted to drive over to see the Bridge, but not before stopping at the Maws Craft Centre, a small group of studios in the refurbished Victorian tile factory of Maw & Co, once the world’s largest tile manufacturer.
We had a coffee and a bacon sandwich at Scarletts Cafe, before driving down to the car park at Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site, set in a beautiful wooded valley in the heart of the Shropshire countryside
We’d never been before and on a lovely sunny day the bridge looked great. We looked around the shops then took Boris for a walk along the old rail track to a limestone kiln, before heading back to Benthall Hall, which was only 10 minute drive away.
The Hall was open this time and the car park was completely full. We waited a while and eventually got a space when someone left. We weren’t having much luck with Boz this weekend, because when we got to the entrance to the hall and grounds we learned that dogs weren’t allowed anywhere in the gardens, which is most unusual for National Trust properties.
So, back to the van for Boz and a tour round the house for us. It’s a lovely building and still lived in by the family who own it, in conjunction with the NT. It’s compulsory when at a historic place like this to have a cup of tea – a service slowed down considerably by the presence in the little court yard cafe of a rambling group from Bramhall in Cheshire. Inevitably, there’s always one chap who likes the sound of his own voice and thinks he’s the funniest man alive. And there was someone just like that in the rambling group too…
We headed to Much Wenlock, for Alison to buy yet another hand made schnauzer for the van dashboard, before driving up to Wenlock Edge for a longer walk. This is a great area for walking of all types and we strolled uphill through a small wood and along hay meadows to The Edge Adventure Centre where there seemed to be a party going on and activities being enjoyed.
We went through the back of the Centre, across fields and back down an ancient bridleway to the car park. When we got back to the van, Boris refused to get in – he was so tired he just sat down in the long grass with a forlorn look on his face, His Mum had to pick him up and carry him over to the van. He’s seems to have lost his appetite for his food as well and we suspect his age is catching up with him. Gulp…
Back to the van for food, wine and, yes you’ve guessed it, more episodes of the Killing.
We left on Sunday morning dead on 11am, intending to have a leisurely drive back and a nice Sunday lunch at a country pub somewhere.
Alison turned off the A49 and we came across Beeston Castle, located on a hill, 11 miles from Chester, with views of 8 counties. It’s owned by English Heritage and it cost us £14 to get in, plus an additional £3 to some enterprising farmers who’ve turned their field opposite the castle into a car park.
The views are awesome and we sat on a bench for a while just chilling.
What we hadn’t found was a country pub and we were starting to get hungry! We were nearly at the M56 before we came across The Leigh Arms where we ordered too much food and I enjoyed a pint of Dizzy Blond.
We were home by 4pm after a great and relaxing long weekend away. Next time we might even steal the Monday as well…
Things we’ve learned
Not everyone likes dogs
It can be still be freezing at night in June
Shropshire has to be on the list of possible “forever house” locations
If you want to take some fantastic photos at a Food Fair you need to remember that you’ve taken your SD card out of your camera the night before
Boris isn’t getting any younger
Buying a cardigan from White Stuff with elephants on it, will get Alison more attention from strangers than any other item of clothing she’s ever worn
There’s a full set of pics here: Flickr