Saturday August 18th 2012
Edgton – Hazel Knap – Short Wood – Kempton – Shropshire Way (E) – Nichol’s Barn – Hopesay – Hopesay Hill – Terra Incognita – Shropshire Way (N) – Basford Bank – Edgton
It was a grey, overcast morning as we rolled into Edgton, a tiny village situated beneath the southern end of the Long Mynd, hidden at the centre of a web of narrow lanes. Flecks of rain dotted the car windscreen we searched for a parking space – luckily the Village Hall car park came to our rescue.
A few minutes later we were rising gently across the fields towards Short Wood, the views opening up to the northwest.
Soon we were skirting the southern edge of the wood on a path clear at first, but increasingly overgrown and indistinct. Fortunately the handrail of the trees made for easy navigation, particularly where the way markers performed a disappearing act.
Having crossed the ridge, the views were now open to the south and west where the distinct camel-hump of Burrow Hill dominated the foreground.
An overgrown, nettle-strewn copse proved tricky to negotiate until a rickety stile deposited us on to a clear track of limited headroom.
A little further on, the path cut into the trees. It was a warm, humid morning – especially under the trees – the kind of conditions that gave the thick undergrowth a distinctly jungle-y feel. Our route cut a feint line through head-high brambles and bracken, still soggy from recent rain.
Before long we reached a clearer track through the woods, and exited into the open once more. A handy tree-stump provided the opportunity for a snack break before we made our way down into Kempton, a tiny village straddling the B4385.
Here we picked up the Shropshire Way, heading eastwards. This route was now to be our companion almost all the way back. A clear, metalled track rose steadily out of the village – making for easier going and route finding – whilst behind us the views opened up once more.
At the brow of the hill, we took to the fields again. As we had found in Short Wood, this year’s warm, wet summer had encouraged hefty plant growth: both weeds and crops – seemingly equally rampant – lay collapsed in a soggy tangle across the path.
To our right, Burrow Hill rose steeply to its crowning hill fort, whilst ahead the more obvious tops of the Stretton hills were coming into view.
A steady descent brought us into the third village of the day – Hopesay. Quite by coincidence we passed a teashop. Should we go in? Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?
Two cream teas later, we were climbing out of the valley on a steep path that cut a clear swathe through the bracken up on to Hopesay Common. The view behind us – back over the village towards Burrow Hill - was worth the climb alone.
For the next mile or so, we were walking into the unknown. “Here be dragons,” proclaimed maps of old in the face of uncharted territory. There may well be dragons hereabouts – after all, we were close to the Welsh border – but there were none in evidence today: the Shropshire Way is well signed and clear on the ground and the turn northwards very apparent. We followed the handrail of a wire fence rising gently on a grassy path with fantastic views all round.
As we neared the road we passed a stile marked with the legend “The Moving Finger Writes” – a quote from one verse of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khyyam, and the origin of the title of Agatha Christie’s novel featuring Miss Marple.
The verse in full is:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Put simply: whatever you do in life is your own responsibility, and you can’t go back and change anything you later regret – so choose wisely! Quite what the connection is between the quote and the area (if any) I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting way of individualising a stile!
The final section of our route followed quiet lanes, still mostly keeping to the Shropshire Way. Since Hopesay the cloud had gradually been clearing. Now bright sunshine accompanied us as we trundled back into Edgton.
All in all, it had been a good walk: a little overgrown in places (especially Short Wood, where the sodden, head-high vegetation and muggy atmosphere made for an uncomfortable passage) but in the main offering varied going and some fabulous views given the relatively small stature of the hills we traversed (in particular those to all quarters from Hopesay Common).
We’d definitely do this circuit again, although we both reckon it might be at it’s best on a frosty, winter’s day – crisp underfoot, and with a light dusting of snow on the higher tops.
So, having writ, I’ll move on – without regrets!