Shropshire in Springtime, on a walking weekend with your bestie. What’s not to like? Gails diary from the weekend is great. We want to go to Shropshire.
Meg and I are on a long weekend away, with just our dogs in a little cottage in a Shropshire market town. We are fully armed for fitness and for pleasure. The first, requires our Fitbits glued to us night and day, along with sturdy, well worn-in walking boots, a healthy cookbook that requires no more than one pot – or two at a push and the sort of comfy, windproof clothes that can almost be worn in bed and out. We’ve also stocked up on a decent amount of Lidl Prosecco at only £5.99-a-bottle (*) – there’s only so much fitness we can apply ourselves to.
We are so happy to be away from the rat race. And I’m quite happy to be away from Harry. He’d sent me a text saying he’d won the lottery and would that help. ‘April Fool’ I texted back. I’m not stupid.
The three-hour drive along virtually empty winding country lanes was a pleasure. I love seeing fields packed with sheep and skipping lambs, cows and horses. With a lovely gentle spring sun warming us up, it was almost totally relaxing. I say almost because Meg has an irritating habit of screaming ‘red light ahead’, from at least half-a-mile away. It always makes me jump.
We gossiped for England as we sailed through the beautiful countryside and the dogs cuddled up in the back.
Day one was full of brilliant sunshine. We got up bright and early at 9am. It should have been earlier and by the time we’d sorted ourselves out, breakfasted and read an actual paper, we put out boots on at 11am. Armed with a map which we had poured over the night before, we sallied forth, keen to get some exercise. In fear of easily getting lost, we’d drawn a big red line along the eight mile circular stretch we were aiming to cover. What could possibly go wrong?
If you’ve never been to Shropshire, it is a very well-kept secret which most people by-pass. It is like stepping back in time to rural England with little noise, a lot of friendliness, yummy pubs and antique shops you can really pick up a bargain in. And, of course, the 5,500 km of walkways across many areas of outstanding natural beauty. I know I’m sounding like someone from the Shropshire Tourist Board but it is absolutely true. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.
We’d packed out water bottles, sorted out our phones to alert us when to drink and added a few goodies for lunch – healthy veg and fruit snacks, including my homemade hummus along with plasters and paracetamol. Walking brought out the girl guide in me, although I’d never been one and neither had Meg. We were more inclined to chase boys than chase badges to sew on uniforms.
We wandered through the town, its many antique shops calling us but they would have to wait. The map led the way and our Fitbit (+) step counts were rapidly increasing as we climbed out of the town. We passed the busy cattle market with all the bellowing animals, yells of the farmers and incomprehensible rapid shouting of the auctioneer. We oggled at all the swish country houses with floor to ceiling glass windows and beautiful gardens and in 30 minutes, were on top of the picturesque valley with verdant fields stretching as far as the eye could see.
The dogs were in companionable sniffing heaven, heads down and tails up. We felt much the same, keeping a good eye on our maps. There is something about walking that is conducive to talking. It’s so easy looking at a landscape and putting your life in perspective. Meg and I have a lot of life to look back at, and it’s so good to get away with someone who knows you so well you cannot possibly ever fall out with.
We’ve had the odd flare-up but it’s always been easy to sort out. We appreciate our long history together and the laughs along the way. Thirty years. Our Pearl Anniversary. Meg laughs at this and says ‘Pearls before swine,’ as we pass a field full of snuffling Tamworth pigs with their red hairy bodies and curly tails wiggling as they line up for their backs to be scratched. They have such human eyes.
We thought we’d be on our own but there were a lot of walkers striding parts of the Shropshire Way. It seemed we were all wearing the same uniform of sturdy yet on-trend walking gear with the odd bobble hat. Apart from a couple of blisters, we escaped any need for medical assistance. We revelled in our own company and that of the many birds that serenaded us on our way. The dogs were exhausted and when we returned home all they wanted was to eat and sleep. We were starving so head to the Three Tuns pub. Checking the Fitbits we smugly noted we’d beaten our record in steps today and used up a vast number of calories. Apparently, we’d also plus consumed a very good level of water.
We order a very lovely fish pie with a shared bottle of wine as a well done for our achievement. I would have been happy to finish the meal with a cup of tea. However, Meg said that was boring and ordered bread and butter pudding. So I caved in and had double-chocolate ice cream with chocolate brownie. A calorie nuclear bomb. But we had been very, very good.
Over supper, we discussed our next days’ adventure. The 12.3 miles of Oswald’s Trail looked interesting. It followed the ancient 642AD Battle of Masefield between Anglo Saxon kings and Oswald of Northumbria. According to the guidebook, Oswald was killed and one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by a raven. That tree became a source of miracles and Oswald was named a saint.
We meant to get up early but again by the time we dressed, breakfasted and put on a beef casserole for dinner we stepped out of our front door at noon. Regardless, we trudged to Old Oswestry Hillfort – the Stonehenge of the Iron Age with panoramic views across Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire. We felt both energised and infinitesimally inconsequential in the midst of such antiquity. It made us appreciate our comfy lives, plus we were very glad we didn’t live in an age before dishwashers, kettles and central heating.
‘Bleep, bleep,’ went our phones and we drank again. Normally, we wouldn’t be downing water like this but it was good for us. We felt clear-headed and thrilled to be in the middle of beautiful nowhere and having a wonderful time. The only downside was the number of loo stops behind trees, but that was a small price to pay.
Returning to base, we ate our delicious casserole with Prosecco and no pudding. The dogs practically passed out and we weren’t far behind. We thought we’d feel really stiff but it must have been the good boots, the good beds and good conversations because we felt full of the joys of spring. And nurofen (~). Of course, our older limbs need a little help but only a little.
Tomorrow, if the dogs don’t moan too much, we’ll be attempting twenty miles and eating at least ten fruit and veg in the day. Oh, and a bottle of Prosecco in the evening.
(*) – other Prosecco is available
(+) – other step counters are available
(~) other non steroidal anti inflammatory medication is available. Please read the leaflet and discuss with your pharmacist before taking.