- Day: 33 – Friday 16th June
- Started at: B&B in Craven Arms
- Finished at: Lower Hill Farm, nr Much Wenlock
- Miles: 15.5
- Miles from LE: 410.5
- Duration: 10hrs (8:30-18:30)
- Trig points visited: 0
- Ales imbibed: 0
Full of a breakfast of orange juice, coffee, cereal, a croissant and a fry up I headed for the supermarket(!). Needless to say I didn’t buy a lot. On the way out of Craven Arms I passed this obscure place – unfortunately it wasn’t open.
The day started like any other and I headed up on to Wenlock Edge – a straight 18mile escarpment heading NE, perfect. Plus with the weather starting to heat up it was nice to be in the shade of trees for the vast majority of the time. Around 1pm I came to a clearing with a picnic bench and view so I thought I’d take a break although I wasn’t yet hungry. I stared at the view and began to contemplate when all of sudden a mix of emotions stirred up from within and I burst into tears. Firstly, having just completed my 400th mile (1/3rd down) I wasn’t celebrating, instead I was getting daunted about what was to come; ‘you mean I have to do what I’ve just done again, and then again?’, plus what I’d done was the ‘easy bit’, up ahead are the Peaks, the Pennines and then there’s Scotland. Am I going to be able to cope? Secondly, I noticed that it didn’t feel like a holiday anymore, over the last week or so I’d been pushing myself to go further or rush faster to my destination of the day, which I had just realised was sucking all the fun out of it and making it more painful physically. So I pledged to:
a) be kinder to myself – I messaged a good friend at the time saying ‘this is hard’ and in a kinder way she said ‘yep duuur of course it’s hard, what did you expect?!’. So I won’t be hard on myself just because I’m not the well-oiled walking machine that I thought I would be by now,
b) take each day as it comes and not worry about what lies ahead (I certainly had this attitude to begin with, I just needed to regain it), and
c) allow time to stop and smell the roses (or whatever else might be on route e.g. a view, a point of historical significance or general interest).
The rest of the day passed without much to speak of. Despite being on an escarpment the trees blocked most of the views and I would be stopping at a campsite on the Edge so the terrain stayed the same all day. I was however rewarded with a good sunset.
- Day: 34 – Saturday 17th June
- Started at: Lower Hill Farm, nr Much Wenlock
- Finished at: Coalport YHA, nr Ironbridge
- Miles: 10
- Miles from LE: 420.5
- Duration: 6hrs (10:00-16:00)
- Trig points visited: 0
- Ales imbibed: 1x Moretti Lager, 1x Guest Ale
With 10miles to do today, my new mindset and the prospect of the hottest day of the year so far, I ambled along the rest of the Edge and down into Much Wenlock (home of Dr Brookes creator of the modern Olympics). It was a bustling Saturday morning and I soaked up the atmosphere (including some live jazz trumpeting) whilst enjoying elevenses.
Wedding bells played me out of Much Wenlock and on the outskirts of town 2 young teenagers came past on bikes, I leapt out of the way apologising for taking up most of the narrow lane and they slowed down for a brief chat. Our interaction went something like this:
Teenager 1: “Do you need help with directions? Are you just touring the area? Coz I think there’s a path through there that takes you back.”
Me: “No I’m fine thanks.”
Teenager 1: “Where are you walking to?”
Me: “Over to Ironbridge.”
Teenager 2: “Woah.”
Teenager 1: “Wow, ok. I cycled to Briesley(sp?) once.”
Me: “Right, ok. (Trying to sound impressed – having no idea where this place is or how far it is.) I’m actually walking the length of Britain.”
Teenager 1: Various exclamations.
Teenager 2: “WOOAAAHH, no way?! So where did you start?”
Me: “At Land’s End, in Cornwall.”
Teenager 2: “What? Cornwall? And you’ve walked to here? Woah!”
Me: “Yep and I’m going up through Scotland.”
Teenager 1: “So are you doing this for charity or summink?”
Me: “Nope, just because.”
Teenager 1: “Ok, alright, well good luck.”
Teenager 2: “Yeah good luck!”
And off they went. They were very polite and intrigued teenagers and I like to think that they rushed off home to tell their parents excitedly that they just met someone walking LEJOG. Who knows? Perhaps they just grunted when their parents asked what they’d done that day, but just maybe I’ve inspired them to go a little bit further than Broseley next time (which is about 4miles from Much Wenlock).
I then took minor roads to Ironbridge to avoid fighting through overgrown field edges which I find very energy sapping when it’s this hot. The iron bridge was stood in all its glory over the Severn Gorge, and as the guidebook accurately puts it; ‘the motorway bridge over the Severn estuary seems a world away’.
The last mile or so was along a disused railway and I met a couple of ladies who were training for their Coast to Coast walk which they’re doing in July. They only had tiny packs, so I offered to swap if they wanted to do some ‘real’ training. Sadly they declined but the ensuing conversation did make the last bit go quickly. So quickly infact that I overshot the bridge to my youth hostel my half a mile! I crossed the river and trudged back gasping for a nice cold shower and beer.
- Day: 35 – Sunday 18th June
- Started at: Coalport YHA, nr Ironbridge
- Finished at: A Farm
- Miles: 14.5
- Miles from LE: 435
- Duration: 10hrs (9:00-19:00)
- Trig points visited: 0
- Ales imbibed: 0.5x HPA
After a very sultry night – the big old industrial hostel building has no air con and only tiny windows – I set off to walk up alongside the Hay Inclined Plane; used to move boats and materials from the Severn to the Shropshire canal where 27 locks would otherwise have been required. I wasn’t concentrating and the first half an hour was frustrating as I got immediately hot and sweaty traipsing around fields with cows trying to find my way. Back on track I again opted for minor roads in favour of getting my legs stung and scratched up along overgrown paths.
To cope with the 30’C + heat I took a few extra long shaded breaks in the middle part of the day. I was in no rush as I’d been warned by Ronnie and Julie that the next campsite was not great – being right on the A5 – so I took my time. I also carried extra water and discovered that the simple method of dousing my clothes really worked in cooling me down. The highlight of the afternoon was that during one break I was treated to a free air acrobatics display at a nearby air show:
I arrived at the campsite thinking that it wasn’t as bad as they had made out but once I’d showered in the ramshackle facilities and gone to bed with my head about 5m from the busy carriageway, I decided they were right and it was crap. I got up in the morning and walked out without paying – gasp!
I cannot wait to the get into proper walking country and away from this flat and rather dull walking. I’m sure there are some lovely parts of Shropshire to explore, but these are definitely connecting days.