The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
The Shropshire Monsoon
August Bank Holiday saw us heading for the village of Clun in Shropshire, just a stone’s throw from Offa’s Dyke. The hostel at Clun is one of the oldest in the YHA network and over the weekend they were celebrating their 80th birthday.
We arrived at various times on Friday evening in time for a cup of tea and to compare route times before climbing to our beds. Many thanks to Caroline and Barbara for making up beds for late arrivers, Ali and Yasmira. The boys weren’t nearly so charitable.
Saturday dawned as a pretty nice-looking day, but with a dire forecast. We made the most of the sunny start with a magnificent walk from the hostel up the Shropshire Way to the bronze age earthworks at Bury Ditches. This hillfort, dating from the first millennium BC, is not only a brilliant viewpoint, it has truly impressive overlapping banks and ditches – still vast even after nearly 3000 years. We paused by some well-placed picnic benches and contemplated a sunny first-lunch, just for the sky to darken with the rapidity of a horror movie. The heavens opened with a vengeance and the rain absolutely hosed down. We couldn’t get our waterproofs on fast enough. About ten minutes later the rain paused, but only for a couple of minutes before the next wave came in. Having hoped to see a panoramic view of the Shropshire hills, we ended up with a birds-eye view of storm front after storm front rolling our way.
Descending from Bury Ditches, we found brief respite from the rain and a chance to dry out a little in a nearby pub. Several beers and coffees later, we had to go back out on the trail, but by this time the worst of the weather had passed. However we still arrived back at the hostel with enough wet gear to severely over-load the rather inadequate drying room.
Luckily Sunday was the calm after the storm. Our gear was still a bit wet, but at least we had the chance to dry it out in the sunshine on the trail. Today we started out with a visit to the beautifully sited castle at Clun, then headed out on the Shropshire Way in the other direction to join us with the Offa’s Dyke path. Offa was a powerful Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia and opinion is divided about whether the dyke was defensive or more of a political statement, but the mound and ditch follows much of the border between Wales and England.
The views were amazing and Sunday’s lunch was a far sunnier and pleasant experience. It almost seemed a shame to head back to the hostel so early, but the 80th birthday celebrations were beckoning – along with a hog roast, cake stall, local ice cream and live music. Hard to resist.
The YHA definitely picked the right day for their party as bank holiday Monday was a softer, drizzly version of Saturday. As we were all on our way home, there was a parting of the ways as some headed for Stokesay Castle, others the bright lights of Ludlow, and Dave, Ali, Tom and Yasmira to Titterstone Clee Hill and the Kremlin (Shropshire’s highest pub). A slightly damp end to a fabulous bank holiday weekend.
Having gone on about our Olympic exploits last month, September saw Marion, Dave P and me awarded medals for completing a 25 mile cycling course covering the isolated Essex island of Foulness. Foulness island can be quite hard to get on to, as access is controlled by the MoD. All participants in the ride had to have their entry number prominently displayed, and naval cadets counted us onto the island and later counted us back off again.
Besides the MoD, there are about 200 residents on Foulness, but (largely due to the presence of the MoD) the island has a very rural, last-century feel. There is a lovely little museum on the island, which we paused to visit whilst stopping for tea. This had loads of agricultural memorabilia, plus artefacts found in the creek mud (a bottle marked 'Hannington' – any relation Trevor?). The most striking section was that on the 1953 floods. Whilst not seeing the terrible loss of life that Canvey witnessed, the communities were devastated and dykes and farmland poisoned by salt for months.
Having had a wonderful cycle ride in blazing sunshine, been educated at the museum and enjoyed a very tasty sausage roll, I’m not sure I really deserved a medal!
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