The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Big Mose might sound like a gangsters hideaway, but it was in fact a charming farmhouse buried in peaceful Shropshire hills. Set in the grounds of Dudmaston House, walks from the bunkhouse took you through the tree-lined estate to the distinctive toot of steam trains on the Severn Valley Railway. Walking along the riverside was a delight. Twisty ancient oaks, old mine workings, a rather lovely café in the Countryside Centre and a bewildering number of ducks. Naturally we found the time to also spend a day pootling up and down on the steam trains. It was on a stroll between stations that we discovered the reason for all the ducks. Vast numbers were being released for “sporting purposes” and those we saw were just the lucky survivors. From a footbridge we had a grandstand view of the sporting dogs leaping into the fast-flowing river to retrieve ex-ducks.
Bridgnorth also proved to be a great day out. A beautiful town with gorgeous half-timbered buildings, a funicular, a Telford church, a precarious slice of castle left leaning after the civil war and even an outdoor gym. With it being New Year’s Day there was no way we could pass by without testing out the equipment! What a fabulous start to 2019.
Tired of London, Tired of Life
Thank you to John for a fascinating walk round the City of London. We started off in Fleet Street, an area made famous by the newspapers of the eighteeth century onwards, but which was probably started by an apprentice of Caxton’s setting up a printing press there in 1500. The literary link was confirmed by a blue plaque to Charles Dickens, and just round the corner was Samuel Johnson’s house. We bagged Somerset House and the Nelson staircase, which was rather magnificent, then the Savoy hotel – the only road in England where you legally drive on the right. By the time we got to Trafalgar Square we started to hear the rumblings of the no Brexit protest, but it didn’t detract from John’s tour. In fact we were so engrossed it was hard to work out where the time went. We did get up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, but then we ran out of time. Dave and I took a few minutes the see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, but the rest of the tour would have to wait for another day.
The Shades of Viriconium
Following a busy year of sightseeing and hiking in 2018, and of course the grind of everyday work, it was so nice to get away after Christmas for a few restful days in historic Shropshire.
One of many splendid days out was a morning was spent strolling around the ruins of Viriconium, the city at Wroxeter founded by the Roman invaders to give the local Cornovi tribe a civitas to bring them the benefits of Roman civilization – law, literacy, warm baths and gymnastics (and also to make a base from which they could be taxed, conscripted and watched more easily). It was a little eerie to walk through the remains of the baths and basilica and to think of the men and women who had been the patrons, moved in one or two generations from a Celtic Iron Age into the luxuries of the Mediterranean world transplanted here to the cold lands at the fringes of the known world. As a boy I had read of Agricola who features so heavily in the accounts of the Roman conquest of Britannia, and it was reflective to think that he himself had walked in this town. Interesting also to think that this may have been the last fading outpost of Romanitas in Britannia as the Dark Ages closed in, trade routes atrophied and the lamp of learning died away. This is the world of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dawn Wind, where the battle-battered Owain stumbles eventually into the ruins of Viriconium to meet the waif Regina scavenging in the crumbling buildings of the abandoned town.
There was lots to see and do in this part of Shropshire. I greatly enjoyed the New Year there and thank all who came for their warmth, hospitality and camaraderie over the holiday. I think another visit to Shropshire is a must in 2019.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer