Thursday, 15 February 2018

Riverside Holiday Let, The Old Vicarage, Stokesay, Shropshire

Last September we wanted to spend a couple of weeks around Shropshire, an area that we had never visited.  After searching the internet to booked a Holiday Let through Sykes Cottages.

Our booking was for Riverside Holiday Let, at Stokesay on the A49 with easy access around Shropshire.  Our accommodation was on the second floor of the annex to the Grade II listed former vicarage that the owners Karen and Elwyn live in.  We had our own private entrance to a utility room where we could leave our coats and boots, with stairs up to our accommodation.

The accommodation was well equipped, light, with plenty of space but warm, with its own heating controls.  We moved the table and chairs to under the window as it turned out to be a good place to sit and have meals watching all of the wildlife that visited the garden below.

A lovely touch was some homemade chocolate cake waiting for us to have with a cup of tea after our journey, thank you Karen.

The bedroom with another lovely view of the garden from the window.

The bed was large and very comfortable.

We spent our first evening in with an M&S Meal for Two, which we ate looking out at the garden watching a Rabbit munching on grass, a Black Bird tugging at a worm and Great Tits and Blue Tits hopping around in the trees.  It must be quite a job to keep the lawn looking as good as it does, as several time we spotted Grey Squirrels burying their nuts in there.

Apparently this black cat does not belong to the owners of the holiday let but has taken to coming over for a spot of lunch and then sitting guarding the gateway in return.

This seating area was for us to use and was quite a sun trap, when the sun shone, which proved to be a nice place to sit with a coffee or tea on our return after a day out.

The grounds here are set over 6 acres and you can wander around them, some are split up into paddocks to accommodate the cows and horses, so you must be aware of what may be in the paddock you are entering and keep all the gates closed.  At the far end you get a glimpse of the Weir that is on the River Onny that runs along part of the boundary of the site.  At one point during our stay we spotted a couple of Heron flying along the river and you could hear Ducks using the river.

I really liked the pattern the rings created on this old tree stump.

If you look carefully you can just make out Stokesay Castle and Church nestled behind the trees.

There were quite a few of these plants growing along by the water, looking them up I think they are Indian Balsam, which is native to the Himalayas, it is recorded that it was first sown in England around 1837 and is now established in the wild.  Due to its rapid growth it is now becoming a pest as it is suppressing the native plants.

We had been out and about for several days so we spent one afternoon in the garden.  We had been to the next town Craven Arms to a lovely supermarket there called Tuffins.  It had a lovely butchery counter, bakery, groceries, household items, a large frozen food section and a garden center.  We picked a few local items and some from Wales to have for our lunch out in the garden.  The items included Devon Duck Pie (with gammon, pearl onions, broad beans, fennel, sage, clementine and honey), Mature Cheddar with Pickled Onions from Snowdonia Cheese & Co, Welsh Chilli Chutney, Jam Welsh Cakes, Malted Grain Cobb we also brought some Ardannes Pate and and some Hilltop Lavender Honey.

It was lovely to sit outside having our lunch and watching the birds, bees and butterflies.

Some of the Butterflies we spotted were the Red Admiral which is a common visitor to English gardens, here it is sitting on a Begonia flower.

Here you can see the underside of the Red Admiral Butterfly, the colors are very different to its showy open wings.

This butterfly with its scalloped wings and furry body is the Comma Butterfly.  Their color helps them to hibernate amongst dead leaves.

There were also several Bees and other nectar collecting insects buzzing around.

Other birds we spotted during our stay included my first sighting of a Nuthatch, spotted on the bird bath just as I was opening the bathroom blind, we spotted one more or the same one the day before we were due to leave.  Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robins, Black Birds, Song Thrush, Buzzards flying around overhead, Collard Doves, Crows, Egrets down by the river, Magpies, Wrens flitting around and Dunnocks.  We also sat watching a Pheasant strutting its stuff one morning while we were having breakfast.

Useful web addresses:

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Church Stretton and Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire

Having arrived at Church Stretton, which was just down the road from where we were staying in Stokesay, we walked through the market town, but possibly due to the time of year, and it not being market day, there was not really much to see so we headed up Cunnery Road, as we knew The Long Mynd Hotel was up this road and we thought we would get a view across the town.  Unfortunately the views were obscured by trees and so we didn't get to see much.

We did however stumble across Rectory Wood and Field the sign at the entrance said the layout of the area was inspired by Capability Brown who was a friend of the then owner James Mainwaring in around 1775.  It gets its name from formerly being part of the grounds of the Rectory here in Church Stretton.  There were several paths that you could follow that took you in circular routes around the wood.

Between the trees you could just about make out Church Stretton nestled in the valley.

Back down in the village the Bucks Head public house stood below the tower of the St Laurence's Church.  The nave of this church dates from the 12th Century.

The Bucks Head public house was first licensed as in Inn in 1700 and today incorporates the old Manor House which stood next door which also dates to the late 1600's early 1700's

From here we got back in the car and drove the short distance to Carding Mill Valley owned by the National Trust.  The walk from the carpark into the heart of the valley follows this small stream passed some houses and the coffee shop/restaurant and gift shop.

There was a sign warning us that we were about to cross a ford, we were surprised when we got to it how fast the water was flowing despite how shallow it was.  You can already see the rolling hills of the Valley rising up in front of us.

I got the feeling we were being watched and then this sheep popped its head round the tree trunk.

Looking back down the track that we have just come up, already you can see that we are climbing up.

At the carpark we had picked up some Walk Cards, there were three in total:
Walk 1 New Pool Hollow, 1km, 1/2 mile, 30 minutes.
Walk 2 Lightspout Waterfall, 2.5km, 1 1/2 miles, 1-1 1/2 hours.
Walk 3, The Burway Loop, 8km, 5 miles, 2 1/2-3 hours.

We started off with Walk 1, the first point of interest is New Pool Hollow, named after two early mill pools.

Away from the trees you really start to see the valley in all its glory, with its rolling hills and beautiful colours, especially as the sun is shining for us at the moment and we have some blue sky.  Walk 3 takes you along these hills and whilst we were walking we could just about make out people up there, looking like little ants on a massive ant hill.

This made me smile, it was not a very warm day, but the sun had come out and these sheep had already decided to lay in the shade.

Ok onward and upward towards the Reservoir our destination on this walk.

There was a sign by this ring of standing wooden poles telling you about the old Hill Fort that stood on top of the hill to the right of us.  Unfortunately it is difficult to make out where it is now due to the trees.  In this shot with the people making there way back down the track you can get a sense of the scale of the scenery here, it is really impressive.

Here you get to see the curve of the valley that we are walking in.

Now the steep climb up the stoney steps to the reservoir.

We are up quite a height now.

This reservoir was completed in 1902 and can hold 12 million gallons of water.  The reservoir was built at a time when Church Stretton wanted to grow as a fashionable spa.

We headed back down the track we had climbed up to the fork in the track and then started to head along Walk 2 towards Lightspout Waterfall.  Looking around us we were starting to get slightly concerned at the build up of the heavy looking clouds, looks like we could be in for some rain.  This part of the walk you can either go along the flattish path along the flattest part of the valley or hug the edge on a narrower path.

The path is getting steeper now, as you look back to where we have come from you can see the climb.

Ok at this point I admit that I am no mountain goat and I am already starting to struggle with the uneven surface and the climb, the clouds ahead are looking threatening and we still are only just under half way to the waterfall.  Ian has gone up ahead to see what it looks like around the other side of the hill that is jutting out in front of us.


Unfortunately we have decided to turn around, Ian said the path was getting steeper and more uneven and would be slow going and it looks like it is going to rain.  The rocks and stones that we are walking on are quite slippery now let alone when they get wet.

We had just made it back to the coffee shop/restaurant when it started to rain and it came down hard and did not let off for the rest of the day, so we made the right decision.  Oh well maybe another day we might get to the waterfall.

Useful web sites relating to our visit:

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ludlow and Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

I had read a lot about the town of Ludlow, but our visit there left us disappointed, it may not have helped as I had woken up with a cold this morning.  Arriving in Ludlow it was market day and quite busy.  There were some interesting food shops around, which Ludlow is famous for, this Cheese Shop particularly caught my eye.

The courtyard of the Rose and Crown, possibly the oldest pub in Ludlow, with records showing that there has been an ale house on this site since 1102.  Currently it is owned by Jules Brewery of Market Drayton.

Tucked away between some buildings I spotted this blue plaque, which reads "Ludlow Civic Society - The Conduit.  A water supply point, given to the town in 1581 by Sir Henry Sidney, was moved here from the High Cross in 1743."  A conduit is a channel used for conveying water.

The Feathers Hotel has a very impressive and ornate frontage.  It was constructed in 1619 for a local Lawyer Rees Jones, who was part of the Council of Marches.  Its name comes from the Prince of Wales feather motifs carved into the wood frontage.

We then headed to Ludlow Castle, which had just opened up its doors again to the general public after hosting the Ludlow Food Festival for the last few days.

The original castle was built between 1086 and 1094 by Roger de Lacy and has been added to over the centuries.  It is currently owned by the Earl of Powis and the Trustees of the Powis Castle Estate.  There is a plaque on the gun that is positioned at the entrance to the castle which reads, "Captured 1855."  The gun is a 26 pounder Sevastopol Cannon, many of these cannon were captured during the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856.  The captured cannon were sent and presented to many cities within the British Empire.  Sevastopol is the largest city on the Crimean Peninsula and a major Black Sea Port.

Our first glimpse of the Castle as we walk from the visitors center at the main entrance.

Here you can see the bridge which crosses the moat to gain access to the inner bailey.  It is said that the moat has always been dry, filled with brambles and thorny bushes to make it difficult for enemies to cross.

This entrance is called Sidney's Gateway, named after Sir Henry Sidney who lived in the castle from 1559 to 1586.  He was the Lord President of the Council of the Welsh Marches for 22 years.  The crest above the arch shows the Sidney Coat of Arms and also Queen Elizabeth I's.

Some shots from the interior of some of the buildings.  This section of ceiling looks very impressive, I wonder what that vent hole could have been for?

There is also a large fireplace in this room.

Ok, who took the roof!!

Some of the windows still have glass in them, others around the castle would probably never had glass just wooden shutters to try and keep out the cold and winds.

From up in Mortimers Tower you get a good view of the castle.  Between us and the edge of Ludlow you can just make out to the right the buildings of the Outer Bailey which once contained a porters lodge, a prison and a stable block, which today contain a shop and gallery.  The building to the left is the Castle House which now houses the offices.

Here we are looking beyond the Castle walls to the surrounding countryside.  The River Teme runs through the trees down below us here.

One of the narrow, steep, spiral staircases that you can venture up, and back down again.

Mortimers Tower was built in the 13th Century by the Mortimer family, who were the current owners of the Castle, after Roger de Mortimer married Joan de Geneville, who was heiress to the castle.  In 1306 Mortimer was very powerful but also unpopular and was tried for treason as he was accused of being involved in the murder of King Edward II, he was hanged in 1331.

All around you you can see where sections of walls and floors are missing.

We are now looking through one of the larger windows that looks out into the heart of the Inner Bailey.

Here we are looking at the range of buildings at the rear of the castle which would have contained the Solar Wing, Great Hall, Great Chamber Block, Garderobe Tower and Tudor Lodgings.  The circular building to the right of the photo is the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.  The chapel was built in the 1100's and has an unusually round nave, which is all that now remains.

Doorways always give you a good sense of the thickness of the walls that surround you.  They also can be quite decorative.

They also make for interesting frames for your photos.

Another of the beautiful views across the surrounding countryside.

The remains of a fireplace with its chimney still hanging in there.

Here you can still see the remains of one of the ornately carved wooden window shutters.
Also again here you can see just how thick these walls are.

The craftsman ship of these old castles is something to admire.

We are up at the top of the castle now with some impressive views of down below.

Here you can see Ludlow stretching out in the distance.

The tower of St Laurence's Church in Ludlow trying its best to stand above the height of the castle.  It is a member of the Greater Churches Group and is the largest parish church in Shropshire and is described as "the cathedral of the Marches."  The church was established as a place of worship by the Normans in the late 11th Century.  The church was rebuilt in 1199 and has had several alterations over the years.