Monday 8 July 2024

Halcyon Days

What with my return to the rat race and the preparations for next week's flea market, I'm the first to admit that my travelogue is proceeding at a snail's pace. My mind boggles at the fact that it is now well over two weeks since we've waved the cowshed goodbye! No fear of our holiday receding into the mists of time any time soon though. Courtesy of the just under a thousand photographs I've taken and the effort I made to scribble a couple of lines into my dairy in the evenings, I'm able to relive it all, one perfect day at a time.

But time marches on relentlessly, and it's almost beyond belief that in just a couple of days it will be one whole month ago since we drove through the gates of Stonecroft, Vix and Jon's wonderfully eclectic home in Walsall, on Wednesday the 12th of June.  And before I go any further, let me tell you that their home is every bit as gorgeous as it looks on her blog, and more!

Here Vix and I are posing in their garden, with the famous Kinky shed in the background, at the end of an absolutely fabulous day.  Even the weather gods were on their best behaviour, with lots of sunny spells and - gasp! - highs of 17°C.

I'd been keen to visit the upcoming Victorian Radicals exhibition in Birmingham ever since I read about it at the end of last year, and Vix's posts about her visits (here and here) had whetted my appetite even further.  However, as we weren't all too keen to drive into Birmingham, there were some logistics to sort out first. In the end, we proposed to drive over to Walsall - about an hour and a half from the cowshed - and take the X51 bus into Birmingham as mentioned by Vix on her blog.

So, that was exactly what we did and, after a catch-up over coffee and making the acquaintance of the handsome William, we walked over to the bus stop and hopped onto the fairly crowded bus for the 25 minutes or so drive into Brum.

Here, our guides swiftly walked us through the hubbub of Birmingham's city centre to Victoria Square, where they introduced us to Antony Gormley's Iron:Man and the Floozie in the Jacuzzi, whose official name is The River, by Dhruva Mistry, apparently one of the largest fountains in Europe.

Walking around the corner to the Gas Hall's entrance, we obliged Vix by posing for the obligatory photo in front of the Victorian Radicals billboard.

I'm shamelessly quoting the museum's introduction to the exhibition on their website, to give you an idea of what the exhibition is about.

Three generations of British artists, designers and makers revolutionised the visual arts in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and his circle and the men and women of the Arts and Crafts movement transformed art and design.

Selected from the city of Birmingham's outstanding collection, Victorian Radicals presents vibrant paintings and exquisite drawings alongside jewellery, glass, textiles and metalwork to explore their radical vision for art and society.

Suffice to say that it was far too much to take in during one single visit. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't take nearly enough photos. Here are just a handful of the things that caught my eye.

Above, clockwise from top left: portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti - doesn't he have the most mesmerizing eyes? - by William Holman Hunt (c.1882), a selection of tiles designed ca.1863 by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, La Donna della Finestra by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1881), and Sigismonda Drinking the Poison by Joseph Edward Southall (1897).

I wouldn't have minded taking these embroidered purses and stunning jewellery home with me, although I think I might have had to share the latter with Vix.

Continuing with the favourites, below, from left: Beate Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (completed by Ford Maddox Brown, 1877), Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys (1864) and A Young Woman Holding a Rose by Emma Sandys (1870-72).

Flanking Vix with her fabulous Pre-Raphaelite style hair are two stunning paintings by Kate Elizabeth Bunce ( (1858–1927), an English painter and poet, whose work falls somewhere between the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts & Crafts movement. She was also a lecturer at Birmingham College of Art. 

On the left: Musica (1895), which you might recognize from the exhibition poster, and on the right: The Keepsake (1901). Apparently, the latter is based on a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, called The Staff and Scrip:

'Then stepped a damsel to her side,
And spoke and needs must weep:
'For his sake, lady, if he died,
He prayed of thee to keep
This staff and scrip.'

Below, on the right is a Morris & Co. stained glass panel depicting St Mark the Evangelist, designed by Edward Burne-Jones for Merton Abbey, London (1883). On the left is a rare survival of a full-sized cartoon - using an oil painting rather than the more usual charcoal and wash drawing on paper - by Burne-Jones (1859) for a window depicting the Annunciation.

Below, clockwise from top left: lead glass flask (ca. 1870) by Thomas and Elijah Barnes, Choosing the Red and White Roses in the Temple Gardens by Henry Albert Payne (1908-10), Fiammetta (Georgie Gaskin) by Arthur Joseph Gaskin (1898), Hope comforting Love in Bondage (1901) by Sydney Harold Meteyard, Victorian gown made from William Morris fabric, originally intended for upholstery and, finally, Vix and yours truly admiring the stunning Beate Beatrix! 

Although the first edition had long been sold out, we were thrilled to see that the exhibition catalogue was available once more, so that we wasted no time in purchasing one of these hefty volumes, which Jos carried around in an appropriate Victorian Radicals canvas bag.

Meanwhile, a mirror selfie revealed that I'm shorter than Vix! And that's Jon photobombing Vix and Jos in the snapshot on the left!

It was well past midday and our stomachs were definitely rumbling by now. Guided by Vix, we made our way to the New Street branch of Medicine, a bakery, café and art gallery established on the first floor of the building which was previously home to the Royal Society of Birmingham Artists. 

Hunger pangs sated, we walked around the corner to the cathedral to admire the William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones stained glass windows. 

They were installed in 1885-87 and 1898 and depict the Ascension, the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Last Judgement. 

Then it was back to the bus stop, where we had a bit of a wait until the X51 to Walsall rolled along. We finished the day with welcome cups of coffee, a tour of Stonecroft and, best of all, a peek inside the Kinky Melon tent. And exchanging gifts, obviously.

We were treated to handmade fabric tote bags full of goodies. 

Jos received a couple of naughty 1950s magazines, a Tala curry measure, a vintage Tala icing set, a fancy tea towel and two shirts, both of which he already wore during our holiday. 

My tote bag was filled with a gorgeous dress suit, two pairs of Snag tights - very welcome for these under par temperatures - two pots of Body Shop British Rose body butters and a handful of Ethiopian Honey face masks. When we met up a couple of days later, Vix also gave me a pot of Body Shop lip balm and Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan, which is currently awaiting its turn in my TBR pile.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye - although not for long! - and return to the cowshed. I wish I could say our return journey was uneventful but unfortunately road works and an unexpected road closure threw some spanners in the works. Needless to say that we were exhausted when we finally made it home.

We'd already made the decision to stay closer to home on Thursday, but it was the weather forecast for rain, wind and decidedly unsummery temperatures of 10°C which cinched the deal and saw us driving down to Attingham Park. Involving a drive of just over half an hour, this National Trust owned property has a Georgian mansion at its heart which is well worth a (re)visit.

As we'd slept in a bit longer and had taken our time over breakfast and getting ready, the morning was already quite advanced when we finally trundled up its long drive. I won't mention the fact that by then we'd taken a wrong turn twice and that our silly Satnav tried to take us to the exit rather than the entrance.

Upon arrival, we took refuge inside the extensive second-hand bookshop, where I serendipitously stumbled upon the Edward Burn-Jones tone. Four Hundred Years of Fashion, based on the V&A's world famous collection, also came home with me. Then it was up to the café for lunch, where I had a ham and smoked cheddar turnover, while Jos enjoyed his first jacket potato of the holiday.

Emerging from the café, we were dismayed to find that it had got even colder and, as the first drops of the forecasted rain were starting to fall, we ditched our plans to walk down to the walled garden.

Making our way towards the mansion, we were once again shivering in spite of wearing plenty of layers, in my case including a jumper and a cardigan. The volunteers inside the Entrance Hall (above, top right) had even closed the door to keep out the chill. 

There's a degree of trickery going on here, as the Entrance Hall is decorated with fake marble pillars and mock alcoves designed to look like three dimensional ones housing classical sculptures. The fireplace is topped with a bust of William Pitt the Younger, who was Prime Minister from 1783-1806, and who created the title Lord Berwick.

From here, we wandered from room to room, trying to keep one step ahead of a group who'd entered the mansion with us, some of whose members insisted on ruining the photos I was trying to make. Needless to say, much grumbling ensued, and there was nothing for it but to keep to details when my patience finally ran out.

Nevertheless, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the Picture Gallery until it was empty of the people who were milling about here. As apparently they were waiting for the guided tour of the private two-storey apartment in the East Wing, we could somewhat relate. The scene of last year's blogger meet-up, we'd done our fair bit of waiting around for our tardy tour guide back then.

When Thomas Hill, the second Lord Berwick, inherited Attingham Park in 1789, he also inherited a substantial fortune. As was the custom at the time, Thomas took part in the Grand Tour - a tour of Europe and Italy in particular - during which he purchased a great number of paintings and sculptures. As he needed a place to house his collection, he commissioned the architect John Nash to add the picture gallery in 1805. Nash's pièce de resistance was the sumptuous Grand Staircase (above, bottom right).

After touring the ground floor, it was time to descend to the servants' quarters "below stairs", where the kitchen, butler’s pantry, and servants’ hall can be visited.

Cook had just finished a batch of mince pies and surreptitiously dashed from the kitchen to get her mobile phone to take a photograph. Not surprisingly, she strictly forbade us to take a photo of her doing so ...

As there still wasn't any improvement in the weather when we left the mansion, we decided to have a cup of cappuccino and some shortbread and then call it a day.

By the time we'd stopped for a food shop at a supermarket in Church Stretton, it had begun to rain in earnest, and we'd barely made it inside the cowshed before all hell broke loose and we were treated to a veritable storm.

I'm happy to say that, although temperatures continued to be up and down, we didn't have a repeat of Thursday's atrocious weather. 

I'll be back with more later this week. Hope to see you again then!

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Highs and lows

Hello you lovely people! Are you ready for the second installment of my travelogue? I know I am! 

And we were definitely ready for another day of adventure on Monday the 10th of June, even if the weather gods once again did their best to dampen our enthusiasm. Although we were woken up by the rain pitter-pattering on the cowshed's roof, the sun was out when we finally set off to our chosen destination, making our spirits rise and our hearts beat with excitement!

For the third year in a row, we'd ordered a National Trust Touring Pass, which offers excellent value for money. The difference this year was that we no longer had to obtain a physical pass, which could only be done at a limited number of properties. Moving ahead with the times, the Trust had gone digital and entrance to any property was now through a barcode and/or reference number supplied to us by email.

This meant that we weren't obliged to go to Powis Castle to obtain our pass. So, what did we do? Exactly! Same as we did in previous years, our first proper day would be spent at the red castle perched dramatically on a narrow ridge above its world-famous terraced gardens.

The property is just across the border in Wales, and getting there involves a leisurely drive of about half an hour, the road meandering along the border, welcoming us to Wales one minute and back to England the next.

Walking up from the car park to the castle's courtyard, taking a shortcut across a grassy knoll rather than following the tarmacked path (boring!), we were escorted by one of the resident peahens and her brood of pea-babies!

Powis Castle was built in the mid-13th century by a Welsh prince - Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn - who wanted to establish his independence from his traditional enemies, the aggressive princes of Gwynedd in the North-West of Wales. 

The castle has been rebuilt several times and underwent intensive renovations by Sir Edward Herbert (1542–95), who acquired the castle in 1587. In the 18th century the title passed to the Clive family, although part of the inheritance stipulated that they should change their name to Herbert.

Further refurbishments followed in the early 19th as well as the early 20th centuries, the latter by George and Violet Herbert. Having lost both sons - in WWI and WWII respectively - there was no immediate heir to inherit the estate, which prompted George to leave the castle, garden and part of the deer park to the National Trust in 1952.

Potted history lesson done and dusted, it was time to descend into the garden and explore the first layers of the garden terraces. Although this was no less than our fifth visit to the castle, we were still mesmerized by the breath-taking panorama with its backdrop of rolling hills, made even more glorious by the dome of blue sky and dramatic cloudscape.

One of the garden's most eye-catching features are its cloud-like clipped yews which tumble over the terraces and date back to the 17th century. In late summer and early autumn the estate gardeners spend several weeks trimming the 14-metre high topiary bushes aided by a hydraulic cherry-picker!

A statue by the famous 18th century garden sculptor John van Nost, of Hercules slaying the Hydra or many-headed serpent, is taking pride of place against the backdrop of cloudy yew hedge.

As our stomachs had started rumbling by now, we interrupted our explorations by climbing back up to the Courtyard Café. Regally striding into our direction was one of the peacocks who rule the roost here. I wonder if it was Colin, Alan or Perry? Or perhaps one of the later additions to the menagerie, Mr. Humphreys or Captain Peacock? Whoever he was, he didn't stop to pass the time of day and nor did he oblige by fanning out his tail feathers.

The moody sky spoke of imminent rain and indeed, while I was safely ensconced into an alcove in the café there was a heavy downpour which made the people who were enjoying cups of tea in the courtyard flee inside for shelter. It was over in less than 5 minutes and in fact Jos, who was queueing for food at the time, hadn't even noticed.

After lunch, it was time for a walk in the wilderness. Or rather: Wilderness, with a capital W, which the wooded ridge opposite the castle is known as.

On previous occasions, we were thankful to take refuge from the heat of the sun by walking under the canopies of the great oaks and exotic trees in this informal part of the garden. Now, at a mere 12°C, we were shivering in spite of wearing many layers under our leather jackets. At one point, I was even lamenting the fact that I'd neglected to bring gloves!

Passing the stable pond and the plunge pool on our way to the pet cemetery on the highest level of the ridge, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a giant foot. This is the Patagonian Foot, which was sculpted in 1987 by Vincent Woropay (1951 - 2002). 

As directed by the nice chap at the garden checkpoint, we were making our way to the estate's latest attraction, an impressive tree carving skilfully created by the renowned local artist, Simon O'Rourke. 

We were duly impressed by the two friendly dragons - well, they're wyverns, actually - guarding two eggs from which their offspring are hatching. Both adults carry saddles on their backs, so that you can let your inner child take you on magical adventures.

As we continued our walk in the Wilderness, we kept catching glimpses of the castle perched on the opposite ridge. Then, after making our descent into the lower reaches of the garden, we arrived at the edge of the Great Lawn, offering a magnificent vista of the castle and its frothing layers of terraces. 

The terraces at Powis Castle are said to be the finest surviving example of a 17th century terrace garden in Britain. 

When George Herbert, great-grandson of Clive of India, inherited the title of  Earl of Powis along with the castle and estate in 1891, his wife Violet persuaded him to let her improve the garden. 

The Fountain Garden is one of the additions made by Violet, replacing a kitchen garden which she considered unsightly. On our previous visits, we thankfully made use of the pink and blue deckchairs bearing the National Trust emblem set out on the lawn here. This time around, they were conspicuous by their absence, so we sat down on a sheltered bench soaking up some welcome sunshine.

In 1912, Violet commissioned the spectacular wrought iron gates near the fountain garden as a present for George’s birthday. Above the gate is the Powis coat of arms, and surmounting each pillar is a wyvern (a legendary dragon-like creature), one of which is holding a severed hand in its mouth.

For those who are intrigued, the key difference is that a wyvern has two legs, whereas a dragon has four.

What comes down must go up, so eventually we had to climb up to the courtyard again via several seemingly neverending sets of stone steps. 

At the foot of the steps which lead from the Orangery Terrace to the Top Terrace (below, top right), we met the oldest peacock in residence, dating from the 1800s, cast in lead and with its tail feathers fully fanned. Having arrived at the top, two real life peacocks accompanied us on our way out.

After re-joining our car, we drove back across the border to England for a relaxing evening at the cowshed.

And look, I even braved the sub-standard temperatures to show you what I was wearing underneath that orange leather jacket!

Continuing with the highs and lows, we'd planned a day of charity shopping and sightseeing in Bridgnorth on Tuesday. 

This time, the weather gods tricked us into thinking it would a fair weather day by treating us to full-on sunshine from the moment we got up. More fool us, as we'd hardly started out on our 50-minute journey to our destination when the first drops of rain appeared on our windscreen.

Grey skies and sunny spells, with the odd spot of drizzle thrown in, would be our lot all day, and the prevailing blustery wind made sure that the mercury didn't climb higher than Monday's 12°C.

After parking our car in High Town, we trawled the town's many charity shops, searching in vain for some long-sleeved garments to join my meagre supply of cold-weather clothes. It was in the final shop that I came across this peasant-style embroidered long-sleeved denim blouse, which was new-with-tags from Sainsbury's Tu label.

Mission accomplished, we had lunch at the town's branch of Wetherspoon's, The Jewel of the Severn.

Bridgnorth, which lies in the south-eastern part of Shropshire, sits high on a sandstone cliff with spectacular views of the Severn Valley. The town is actually divided in two – High Town and Low Town.

Our first port of call after lunch was St. Leonard's Church, which stands in a peaceful close of its own at the highest point of the town. While I was taking photographs, Jos was already taking shelter from the biting wind inside the church porch. 

The red Gothic tower of St Leonard's dominates Bridgnorth's skyline. Inside, the church has the airy vastness of a cathedral. Seemingly medieval, it is in fact almost entirely a Victorian restoration. This is because disaster struck during the Civil War when St Leonard's was used by Cromwell's troops as an ammunition store. A cannon shot caused it to explode, and fire swept through the town. The church was repaired, and in the 17th century, the magnificent nave roof was installed. Most of the current church dates from the 19th century.

Eight sets of ancient donkey steps connect High and Low Town and we took the so-called Granary Steps leading down from St. Leonard's to the River Severn. 

We were sheltered from the wind here, so we ambled around the quayside, where I patiently waited for a break in the traffic crossing the Severn Bridge to take a photo of the iconic Ridley Seeds ghost sign.

Next on our itinerary were the sandstone rocks nestling beneath Castle Hill. These contain a number of caves, one of which is known as Lavington’s Hole, a 70 foot tunnel under Castle Hill dug by Colonel Lavington during the Civil War. Knowing that the Royalists stored their gunpowder in St Mary's, his aim was to blow up the church. However, the tunnel was never completed as the Royalists surrendered on the 26th of April 1646.

The tunnel's entrance is still on show today, but due to safety reasons it cannot be entered. Not that my claustrophobia would have allowed me to do so ...

What comes down must go up, part 2. But there was no way that we would attempt another set of those donkey steps! 

As the famous and much-loved Cliff Railway re-opened in March after having been out of action for 14 months, we were obviously raring to return to High Town in style again.

It might look quite steep - in fact it is one of the steepest funicular railways in Britain - but there's nothing to it really, even if going down is a bit more stomach-churning than going up. 

The railway operates two cars on parallel tracks. Connected by steel ropes, the carriages serve to counterbalance each other – as one rises to the top station, the other runs to the bottom station. 

I've made a little video while we were going up to give you some idea.

And surely the panorama which opens up when you're at the top, of Low Town and the Severn Valley beyond, is simply breathtaking ...

It was far too chilly to remove my jacket while we were out and about, but as I couldn't possibly leave you without showing my outfit, we once again briefly stepped outside when back at the cowshed.

I combined my groovilicious maxi skirt - last worn in May, here - with a pink cotton cable-knit jumper, a fuchsia leather belt and my wooden discs necklace from Accessorize. Even layered with a vest and long-sleeved t-shirt and with a cardigan worn on top, I was still feeling the cold ...

We had to be up early the next day as we had some very exciting plans ... but that, my friends, will be for next time.

See you soon!

Thursday 27 June 2024

Everything but the cat

Bess has been demanding cuddles and claiming our laps ever since we walked through our front door on Saturday evening! Here she is, making air biscuits and purring loudly, stretched out on my legs a mere couple of minutes after arriving home. I didn't even have the time to take off my shoes!

Although she was well looked after during our absence and received her daily dose of cuddles from our cat sitters, Maurice and Inneke, she had clearly missed us and was over the moon to have us at her beck and call again.  

And we had missed her too, of course, even if our holiday did offer plenty of distractions. In fact, it had everything but the cat! Oh, and decent, June-worthy temperatures! In spite of my holiday wardrobe catering for all kinds of weather, I didn't pack nearly enough cold weather clothes ...

After a fitful night's sleep, the alarm went off at 4 am on Saturday the 8th of June and just under an hour and a half later we started the first leg of our travels, which would take us to the LeShuttle terminal in Calais, where we stocked up on free snacks and drinks in the posh Flexiplus lounge before embarking.

Once in the UK, our journey went relatively smoothly, apart from a one hour delay between two junctions on the M40. We breathed huge sighs of relief when we were finally able to leave the motorway behind us and trundle along on minor roads towards our final destination. 

So, imagine our dismay when we found the final stretch of road just before the turn-off to the single-track lane leading down to our cottage closed due to roadworks! It was a good thing this wasn't our first visit so that we were aware of the existence of an alternative approach along another lane we'd always made sure to avoid before. And with good reason, it seems, as it was long, winding and very narrow with a distinct lack of passing places. 

The sun, which had been playing peek-a-boo all day, was now out in full force. Don't be fooled by the blue sky and cotton wool clouds though: they came accompanied with a blustery wind, which made the day's highs of 16°C feel quite a bit chillier. 

Wanting to stretch our legs after our long journey, we walked back up the lane, taking in the glorious sight of our little valley nestling below the dramatic heath and moorland plateau of the Long Mynd.

Apart from the rustling of the wind, the only sound is provided by a chorus of sheep. In spite of our cottage being a converted cow shed, we were actually on a sheep farm, and they, and random bits of their fleece, were literally everywhere!

Beyond a gate, a public right of way along an inviting looking sunken lane beckoned. Too exhausted for any further exercise by now, we retreated to the cottage but vowed to return and investigate the next day!

All traces of sunshine and blue sky had gone by Sunday morning, when we woke up to an utterly grey and dismal day, on which the thermometer failed to climb higher than a measly 13°C. 

Still recovering from our day of travel on hardly any sleep, nothing too strenuous was on our agenda  apart from shopping for food in the nearest town of any significance, the delightfully quirky Bishop's Castle. 

Getting out of our car, I instantly regretted not having packed any warmer coats than my orange leather jacket, as I was feeling the cold in spite of wearing a t-shirt, long-sleeved Breton top and cardigan underneath. So much for Summer weather!

While we were shopping at the small local supermarket, I was complimented on my outfit by a lovely lady who wasn't looking too shabby herself. We later ran into her again at The Poetry Pharmacy, where she and her friends sat at the table next to us. 

Situated in a beautiful, original Victorian building, The Poetry Pharmacy (linking 'cause I love) combines a bookshop, a centre for poetry and creative writing and a café which serves its own blends of tea and coffee, as well as a selection of the most delicious cakes. 

After literally walking up the high street - it has a gradient of 1 in 6 - our limbs and spirits were restored with flasks of the house coffee and a shared slice of Earl Grey and rose petal cake, which was utterly moreish!

The harsh wind had died down somewhat when we left the café, and lo and behold, there was the odd break in the clouds revealing tiny bits of blue sky. So, instead of sticking to our original plan to return to the cottage, we ambled down the high street, taking in some of the unusually painted and decorated façades which hint at the quirkiness of the town's residents.

Images of elephants are everywhere! 

The elephant is rooted in the history of Bishop’s Castle. During the 18th Century it was home to Robert Clive, better known as the infamous Clive of India, his emblem being an Indian elephant. Then, in the Second World War, several circuses moved their animals to Bishop’s Castle to avoid the air raids. The elephants were housed in the stables at the back of The Castle Hotel, and when they finally left, one of the elephants was left behind. Apparently, the animal continued living n Bishop’s Castle for many years and was often seen being walked through the town and the local lanes, which must have been quite a sight!

We stopped to buy some Welshcakes at the local Spar and  a jar of locally produced honey directly from a beekeeper who was planting up some hanging baskets in front of his house.

Then we continued past The Six Bells pub at the bottom of Church Street, its façade painted a very bright eye-searing orange which my outfit had problems competing with. Across the road, in the retaining wall of the churchyard, we admired the traditional red post box dating from the era of King George V (1910-1936).

We entered the churchyard through the exquisitely carved lych gate and found ourselves in front of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist. The massive tower is all that remains of the original church built in 1291. The rest of the church was destroyed during the Civil War in the 17th Century and was completely rebuilt in 1869-60 by Thomas Nicholson. The present building in Victorian Gothic style is spacious and well-proportioned.

By then it was going on to 1.30 pm and, the shared slice of cake soon forgotten, we were getting a bit peckish. But then we remember the Welshcakes we'd bought, swiftly tore open the packet and ate a couple while sitting in the church porch. 

I made Jos pose next to the other grumpy-looking bearded individual who was guarding the main entrance to the church.

Among the church's many interesting features are some fine stained glass windows including two Pre-Raphaelite windows in the prayer chapel. 

The one on the left is depicting the Good Shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, while on the right is Purity, represented by a woman holding a lily, a symbol of purity usually associated with the Virgin Mary. The dove in the centre represents the Holy Spirit descending from heaven. 


After buying a replacement for the depleted packet of Welshcakes from the bemused shop assistant at the Spar, we returned to the cowshed for a couple of hours of rest.

But that sunken lane beckoned so we dressed up warmly - I added a jumper on top of all the layers I was already wearing - and ventured outside.

Originally the lane was a relatively level grassy track running between stunted, bent-out-of-shapes trees festooned with rags of sheep's fleece. 

Together with the sky, which had reverted to the morning's granite grey, they provided a suitable backdrop to the dramatic Long Mynd landscape.

When the track started going downhill, it became quite stony and harder to negotiate, so we thankfully made use of our walking poles to keep our balance. Further down, there was also quite a bit of mud to deal with.

Apparently, the public right of way is an old drovers' road connecting Adstone (the hamlet where we were staying) with the hamlet of Medlicott, and requires crossing a shallow ford. 

Courtesy of the excessive rainfall, it had turned into a bit of a stream so that, in spite of the alluring path on the other side, we decide to give it a miss and call it a day.

But what a magical walk it had been, and what a wonderful first day of the holidays!

There's more, of course, much more, so I'm hoping that you'll join me again for the next episode of the travelogue in a couple of days!