There’s a Point To The Map!

Most of the best walking days are up high but most not all. As with most things variety can ball important. So, yesterday saw me walking the Wenlock Edge from the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock to Craven Arms. This is a good day of walking, eighteen miles or so of reasonably undemanding walking _ the kind of walk that allows you to just chill out, contemplate life and take in your surroundings.

The ‘Edge’ is the first of three major ridges that the traveller encounters when travelling West towards Wales. Beyond the edge are the Long Mynd (often thought of as a mountain but really a ridge) and the Stipperstone ridge. Further West is the offer’s Dyke and the misty land of Wales where there be dragons.

I try and do this walk at least four times a year, once in each of the seasons for the different phases of the year bring out very different characteristics of the landscape. The short climb up to the ridge soon has the walker engulfed by the woodland that is a feature of much of this walk which can be broken up into three sections.

The first section takes a land rover track through dense woodland. This is a working landscape and you are more likely to come across forestry workers than walkers. In winter gaps in the foliage reveal fertile farming country on both sides of this narrow ridge. But in summer the foliage is dense and the walker is closeted by green. As the day warms the woodland smells are totally seductive. These are deciduous woodlands which reverberate to wonderful birdsong. You may be walking alone but you never feel alone.

After a while the track ends and leaves behind the undulating woodland walk for a disused railway line but one that is now encased in woodland. The tree line breaks now to reveal the glorious hill of Caradoc and the Mynd beyond.

The final stretch seems much seldom walked. Here the vehicle tracks give way to narrow walker’s paths that plunge back into dense woodland. On such a long and straight walk memory always plays tricks, so much so that I am never really sure where I am and can only judge progress through time. Eventually the track peters out and takes you down to a series of delightful country lanes which run on to Craven Arms. While actual location is sometimes hard to discern the route is pretty simple; you follow it to the end. There’s no need for a map once you’ve done its few times.

But not today. The Forestry Commission had moved in to thin the woodland. In all the years I have walked here I have become used to meeting and chatting to foresters in the early parts of the walk but I have never seen them on this stretch. New tracks had been bulldozed to give props access to the timber. Prominent signs asked walkers to follow directions and instructions. Suddenly my route was not so clear and my usual narrow path had gone. I only had my phone maps with me and picking a new route —  in full sunshine — along the lanes proved difficult. The easier choice was to drop down to the main road but the new forest paths deposited me further out that expected. And so followed a trudge along the main road. Depressing this but I convinced myself that it was good training for a future TGO where it is often difficult to avoid the A9.

No, if I had been carrying a map ….

… next time I will be!