Wenlock Edge - The Shropshire Weekend Away

(25th - 27th July 2003)

Don't want to read the text? Then go straight to the photos.

Travelled, scoffed food and drunk beer, then attempted to sleep. Tried to use footpaths. Got told off, twice!

I hadn't attended a weekend away with the walking group before. I hoped that it would be better than some cringe-worthy experience I endured as a cub-scout a long time ago. It wasn-t at all bad - this time we could legally drink alcohol and it didn't have to be warm Happy Shopper Cider!

After what seemed to be a clear drive across country and down the M6, we eventually found our way to Much Wenlock at the junction of the Gaskell Arms pub. Travel weary, we decided to call there first and meet up with the majority of the other walking group. Food was still being served and we succumbed upon sightings of others tucking in. I thought that the food was good value for money and the Theakston's XB was definitely drinkable. We got invited for a lock-in - unusually friendly, so we thought.

We arrived at Stokes Bunkhouse Threshing Barn where drinking and frivolity continued, just as soon as the cars were unloaded and bunk beds were claimed. Not much sleep was invested that night, due to several factors including snoring, farting and intriguing sleep-talk. In the early morning, the sunlight through the window, combined with the rich aroma of ten bodies in a confined space, was an excellent alarm clock. I decide that I wasn't going to get much more sleep and I may as well jump the shower queue. The men's shower was okay, but the women's shower apparently had settings ranging from trickle through to hosepipe ban. In these showers, you could communicate over the dividing wall too - handy for passing the soap!

The bunkhouse additionally had a lounge area, a telly and an old video recorder. Some board games and magazines were offered too. Nobody else but me knew how to operate the gas stove, though some matches would have been a good start. There were laminated signs around the place with a "fact of the day" upon them. I now know that the nest of a particular species of eagle can weigh up to two tonnes, but please don't include me in your pub quiz team.

Breakfast was started when I found a Reeves and Mortimer-style frying pan, and my badly planned two-day diet of sausage product commenced. I also discovered that I would be catering for at least three others, though some repayment in beer was exchanged in the evening.

There were three categories of walk on the Saturday. The 15 mile route-march and 11 mile walk both started at Church Stretton, which gave access to Long Mynd via a steep climb through a golfcourse and across some heather covered landscapes. The long walk included Wenlock Edge. Ah yes, the short walk...erm, there was a bimble around tea shops in the locality for those not wishing to overdo it... except in the clotted cream, cake and scone department. By coincidence, the medium walk group met the short walk group in the same pub. They even drove up the big hill that we had walked. Hurrumph!

Though the views are spectacular, there were some disappointing things to report about this part of Shropshire. The landowners seem to remove or re-direct some of the footpaths. They plant land mines too§. We did see a sign that read, "Please take your dog poo home", which was a quaint little number. We encountered a telling off from Farmer Palmer, who did instruct us to get off his land and go up his back passage.

There was a queue for the shower again that Saturday evening. I made some dinner for four of us and then I jumped into the shower. A furry creature* had evolved around the plug hole, and apparently one sheet too many will block the toilet, but a die has a total of 21 spots on it. You see, I've been educated by those signs!

Most of us went to the pub, and since the Gaskell Arms was impressive on the Friday night, we decided to start the evening of drinking there. We were highly entertained by Charles and his stories until Mrs Binns* told us off for being too noisy at a whole five minutes past ten at night. Can you imagine that? Surprisingly, it wasn't about our adult conversation that started after the children had gone. Apparently she had "people upstairs" and she couldn't hear herself think. In courtesy, we apologised, and I was glad to have withheld any cutting witty remarks because the police station was just a muffled stone's throw away and their breakfasts are inferior (no sausages). Thought it amused the barmaid, it spoilt our evening, so we loudly announced that we were going. The pub lost about fifteen paying people en masse. For the quieter few of our group that remained there, Mrs Binns became somewhat rather humble towards them.

Yosemite SamWe went to the George and Dragon, where we continued our drinking and subdued story telling there. We saw Yosemite Sam with a droopy moustache-beard combo and a Bobby Charlton-style comb-over. He enjoyed pointing at people, winking and repeating Austin Powers quotes, I kid you not. "He-s the Daddy, suck it baby", apparently. It was about this time that I concluded Much Wedlock was a little too "local" and snobbish for my liking. After the pub, further roudy street behaviour was exercised. Some locals were amused, scared or both.

The hardcore stopped up until nearly 3am, engaged with group gossip and long compound words in German. Iris gave into some chocolate with disregard to her food allergy consequences - apparently she might explode or something. So with that loose grenade, we retired to our bunks and the quantity of beer did help some of us to sleep. Sometime after, I unfortunately broke wind very loudly, having completely forgotten that I wasn't in the isolation of my own home. Somebody tittered at my dawn chorus. I apologised, but I guess that's why I was nearest the struggling Expelair, though the blades had possibly melted by then. I could have blamed the outburst on the collection of motorbikes outside, just that it had gone past 4am.

Breakfast for me and my catering chums consisted of, um... sausage and bacon, for the second consecutive morning. Some looked worse for wear after the drinking session. The Sunday walk was reasonable and we saw a freaky tree growing out of a bank and bent perpendicular up to the light. We also saw more fiercely worded private signs. I was surprised to read that it is the home of the Modern Olympic Games concept - take a looksee at: www.wenlock-olympian-society.org.uk.

My conclusions were that after money had been spent, we weren't exactly welcome there, which is a shame because the scenery and terrain especially out towards the Wrekin was actually quite appealing.

TTFN, Rick (no, not Dave).

P.S. This article may induce involuntary laugher; the side effects are splitting, but short lived. Not for distribution in Much Wenlock.

References: † I am joking in good spirit. § Oh, don't be gullible! * Possibly a Shrew.

...and here are the photos












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