Church Stretton and the Shropshire Hills - DAY 2 (Breakfast, Stiperstones,The Bog and All That Jazz)

Tea (various), coffee (instant), hot chocolate, fresh milk, butter, Oreo biscuits and Roses chocolates had been available on our arrival. But, very early in the morning before normal people have risen from their slumbers, the breakfast fairy had laid out the feast that was to be our first meal of the day. I think I can safely say that I have never needed as many as four photographs to describe breakfast.

A choice of five breakfast cereals plus instant porridge along with cranberries & raisins and/or pumpkin & sunflower seeds (Photo 1). 

Photo 1: Breakfast Cereals
Fresh fruit (apples and bananas), pain au chocolat, brown bread for toast (white option available), five different jams plus honey and, my personal favourite, ground coffee and cafetiere (Photo 2).

Photo 2: Toastie Delights

We thought that would be plenty, but there were more surprises on opening the fridge, orange juice and a choice of yoghurt flavours, all beautifully packaged (Photo 3) ...

Photo 3: Orange Juice and Yoghurts

And finally, fresh blueberries and melon balls (Photo 4). Breakfast #2 also included fresh strawberries along with blueberries and melon.

Photo 4: The Final Discovery

Suitably refreshed and replenished, we headed out for some fresh air. Mary was in autopilot mode as she headed for Carding Mill Valley - despite having agreed that was a trip for the next day! Retracing our steps, we took the narrow road (The Burway) out of Church Stretton and onto the Long Mynd. The Burway is an ancient route that is described as 'not for the faint-hearted' - a single track for much of the way with a sheer drop on one side and no barriers. Going up onto the Long Mynd from Church Stretton is easiest as the sheer drop is on the other side of the road. Mary, who was driving, made the understandable decision that we would return to Church Stretton via a different route.

Once on top of the Long Mynd, there are great views to be had; for example, this view (Photo 5) from the Bur Way viewpoint (Figure 1) looking down onto Church Stretton.

Photo 5: Looking Down on Church Stretton from the Bur Way Viewpoint

Figure 1: Map of Church Stretton and the Bur Way Viewpoint

Photo 6: From the Bur Way Viewpoint Looking North-east of Church Stretton

Moving on, we headed for the Stiperstones and The Bog Field Centre (Figure 2):

Figure 2: Map showing The Long Mynd, The Stiperstones and Church Stretton

Parking in the Knolls Car Park (bottom, middle, Figure 3), not far from The Bog Fields Centre, there is a well-trodden walk onto the Stiperstones ridge. 


Figure 3: Access to the Stiperstones NNR

On the way up looking at Cranberry Rock ...

Photo 7: Cranberry Rock, The Stiperstones

Although bright and sunny, there was a strong cold wind on the exposed Stiperstones ridge so we turned back after reaching Manstone Rock ...

Photo 8: Manstone Rock, The Stiperstones

Panoramic views are to be had in all directions ...

Video 1: Panoramic Views from Cranberry Rocks

Video 2: Panoramic Views Starting at Manstone Rocks and Looking Eastwards towards the Long Mynd

... but with all the cobwebs blown away, time to head for some refreshments at The Bog Field Centre where a cheese scone and cup of freshly brewed coffee (tea for Mary) was much appreciated.

Photo 9: Approaching The Bog Field Centre

The fields were covered in flowering gorse which made a change from the heather (not yet in flower) up on the top of The Stiperstones.

Photo 10: Gorse-Covered Fields

It was now 4 pm and we started the journey home. There was dinner to prepare and we had booked tickets for an evening Jazz Concert ...

Figure 4: The Evening's Entertainment

One final treat on arriving back at the B&B: fruit scones and jam kindly provided by our host.

Church Stretton and the Shropshire Hills - DAY 1 (Finale)

 After leaving Stokesay Castle, there were two quick stopovers in Craven Arms - the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre (for local info) and Harry Tuffins' supermarket (for supplies) - before continuing up the A49 to Church Stretton. We were a little early for the booked accommodation so opted for a short walk in spite of the damp air and chill wind. We parked in the Rectory Wood car park with the intention of walking around Rectory Wood & Fields.

Figure 1: Rectory Wood, Church Stretton

As the weather suddenly took on a more inclement outlook, we made a last minute decision to 'do' the nearby Sculpture Trail in the grounds of the Long Mynd Hotel - a shorter and more sheltered walk. The work of a local woodcarver, Dave Bytheway, carried out some years earlier (going by the state of some of the carvings) we wandered around somewhat aimlessly as there was no map or guide to show where the sculptured pieces were.

Goodness knows how many sculptures there are but these are the ones we saw ...

Photo 1: At the Start of the Trail

Photo 2: The Three Bears

Two pictures of this eagle (?): my preference (Photo 3) and Mary's (Photo 4).

Photo 3: Here's Looking at You

Photo 4: Here's Looking the Other Way

You had to keep your eyes peeled otherwise you could easily miss some of the well-hidden wood carvings.

Photo 5: Owl (obviously)

Photo 6: Eagle in Flight

Photo 7: Otters

Photo 8: Gnome Alone

Photo 9: A Second Gnome in the Country

Photo 10: Menacing Owl

Photo 11: Gone Fishing

Photo 12: Green Woodpecker

And finally, something not carved out of wood ...

Photo 13: Stag Doing What Stag's Do

It was now half past four and time to escape the wind and rain and head for our accommodation for the next two nights ...

... with the promise of better weather for the next couple of days

PS I have no idea how many sculpture pieces there are on the Sculpture Trail. Did we miss the odd one or most of them? If anyone has, or knows of, a map/list of the sculptures on the Sculpture Trail, please point me in that direction.

Church Stretton and the Shropshire Hills - DAY 1 (Stokesay Castle)

 Another day, another holiday. This is a busy time of the year in the garden so it's good to have a few short breaks for the mind and body to recover. Church Stretton is an historic market town close to the Shropshire Hills. We visited many times either camping or staying B&B. The town is on the Hereford to Shrewsbury railway line and we have caught the train on previous occasions. This time we went by campervan even though we were staying B&B.

Photo 1: Stokesay Castle, Craven Arms

Church Stretton is 40 miles due north of Hereford on the A49 and it takes about an hour by road. We always try to make the journey part of the holiday so dropped in on Stokesay Castle on the way. Described as the finest and best preserved fortified medieval Manor house in England, it really is a gem. Photo 1 is taken from the doorway of the Great Hall looking back towards the gatehouse.

Photo 2: Inside the Great Hall, Stokesay Castle

We had to cut short the excellent audio tour because the chill wind meant the house was extremely draughty and cold, especially with all the doors open and no windows! It was actually warmer outside with the benefit of some weak spring sunshine. Fortunately, being English Heritage members (with free entry) we didn't feel the need to overextend our stay to get our monies worth. 

Some parts of the house were clearly more expensively furnished & comfortable such as the Solar - the private living and sleeping quarters of the owners.

Photo 3: The Solar, Stokesay Castle

You can ascend the North Tower ...

Photo 4: North Tower, Stokesay Castle

... for excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

Mary had noticed one or two swallows flying around the castle so we were not surprised to hear this one singing his/her heart out from this overflow.

Video 1: Singing Swallow, Stokesay Castle (18/4/24)

A couple of close-up photos of this remarkably tame specimen ..

Photo 5: Swallow, Stokesay Castle (18/4/24)

Photo 6: Swallow, Stokesay Castle (18/4/24)

In the North Tower, numerous swallows were flying in and out, pairing up and building nests ...

Photo 7: Pair of Swallows, North Tower, Stokesay Castle (18/4/24)

Time to say goodbye to Stokesay with one last look at the entrance to the castle ...

Photo 8: Entrance to Stokesay Castle

... and a trio of yellow Spring flowers: from left to right - false oxlip, primrose and cowslip.

Photo 9: False Oxlip, Primrose & Cowslip - Stokesay Castle (18/4/24)


 Once you have forget-me-nots, you wont be able to remember the time you didn't have them! They will happily invade any and all areas - even growing where you might not think possible.

Photo 1: Swathes of Forget-me-nots in the Secret Garden

Easy to grow and, fortunately, easy to pull up when they grow where you don't want them.

The flowers undergo an interesting change after fertilization - the yellow corona, designed to attract pollinating insects, changes to white when there is no more nectar left (Photo 2). Indirectly, this reroutes the bees and other pollinators to other 'yellow' forget-me-not flowers thus making the pollination process more efficient.

Photo 2: Close-up of 'It'll Come to me in a Minute'

Lea & Paget's Wood Nature Reserve - First Visit of 2024

Photo 1: Recently-emerged Orange Tip Butterfly (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

Lea & Paget's Wood is but a short walk from Common Hill Nature Reserve and we often combine the two on a visit to either one. Described by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust as 'one of the finest ancient, semi-natural broad-leaved woodlands left in the Wye valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. Predominantly a mixture of sessile oak and ash trees, it continues to suffer tree loss due to ash dieback.

Photo 2: Diseased Ash Clearance I (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

Photo 3: Diseased Ash Clearance II (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

In spite of the destruction, wood clearance leaves space for other plants to grow and thrive: e.g. this Herb Paris had established itself in the middle of the wide path shown in Photo 2.

Photo 4: Herb Paris (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

The bluebells were out but it is a little early - it will look more impressive in a couple of weeks.

Photo 5: Bluebells at Lea & Paget's Wood (14/4/24)

Although we have had a lot of rain recently, Lea & Paget's Wood is always a good place to visit if you are interested in moss-covered tree stumps and fungi.

Photo 6: Bluebells, Wood Anemone & Moss-covered Stumps (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

Fungi abound on fallen trees especially where moss helps to retain water. I think these may be Glistening Ink Cap ...

Photo 7: Glistening Ink Cap? (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

... or maybe I'm just imagining the shiny (aka glistening) mica deposits on the tops ...

Photo 8: Close-up of Glistening Ink Cap? (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

Lea & Paget's Wood is usually a good place to spot Orange-Tip Butterflies because one of its main food plants, cuckoo flower, is widespread throughout the wood [note: both cuckoo flower and cuckooflower are widely used names; Lady's Smock is an alternative name].

Photo 9: Orange-tip Butterfly on Cuckooflower - side view (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

Photo 10: Orange-tip Butterfly on Cuckooflower - front-on view (Lea & Paget's Wood, 14/4/24)

A list of flowering plants spotted at Lea & Paget's Wood (14/4/24):

Barren Strawberry
Cuckoo Pint
Dog's Mercury
Early Purple Orchid
False Oxlip
Lady's Smock
Lesser Celandine
Common Dog Violet
Wild Garlic
Wood Anemone
Wood Spurge
Yellow Archangel

Photo 11: Early Spotted Orchid (Lea & Paget's, 14/4/24)

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