A road through the Shrop­shire woods

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JU­LIAN GLOVER

I find the land of lost con­tent, west of the Clee Hills in the Shrop­shire, that poet A.E. Hous­man wrote about. It is deep Eng­land, thick with trees, stone-built farms that look like forts and tracks in gul­lies cut by an­cient feet.

The vil­lages here in the West Mid­lands have rhyth­mi­cal names such as Boul­don, Peaton and Cock­shut­ford or the sim­ple Heath, where there is now no vil­lage at all, only the pure Nor­man chapel stand­ing in grass with its long old iron key on a hook out­side. It was built for a set­tle­ment lost at the Black Death. Few sounds here are un­nat­u­ral; you hear bird­song more than cars or planes.

I am rid­ing my horse James, with two friends on Cassie and Ru­bin, along paths burst­ing with net­tles. We scram­ble over streams and slip­pery red mud on to the Brown Clee Hill by Nordy Bank, where our horses nib­ble at turf on Neolithic ram­parts.

There is no bet­ter way to get the feel of a place than to be above the ground but trav­el­ling slowly enough to sense changes you miss in a car. The park­land of the Bur­warton Es­tate gives way to the fringes of the Mid­lands, where we ride through wheat fields and eye up hunt jumps be­fore we climb into the marches, head­ing for friends who live out­side Craven Arms, the only town to be built by a rail­way junc­tion named af­ter a pub. At friendly Tug­ford Farm we sta­ble our horses and our­selves, and com­mis­er­ate with Cassie, who has been dis­grace­fully kicked by her friend James as they race around in cel­e­bra­tion at eating the green­est grass of their lives.

Amid all this — cas­tles, half-tim­bered barns and big old inns that line the turn­pike road from Much Wen­lock to Lud­low — there is power, too, in the flashes of failed moder­nity. On Ab­don Burf the hill fort was quar­ried away a cen­tury ago and the re­mains of the ca­ble rail­way that car­ried off the hard black stone still lie rust­ing.

A coun­try lane in Shrop­shire

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.