LEJOG23: Knighton to Craven Arms

Today was Jenna’s day to accompany me. We arrived at Knighton bright and early only to discover that nowhere was open for breakfast before 10am. Instead of hang around we constructedi a breakfast out of the best the local cost cutter had to offer-pork pies, muller fruit corners and nescafe to go. Not the best foundation for a day of walking, but better than nothing.

The start of the day involved going upwards via a series of steep hills. The previous day I had been like a machine when ascending, but today I was slower due to having to carry my fullp ack, only using one pole (Jenna was usin the other) and the more intense sun. It was quite a work out and I was dripping with sweat, but I felt good for it once we were at the top.

The tops of the hills were covered in pine plantations, and we made our way in and out of the man made forests for
most of the morning and lunchtime. There also appeared to be lots of horses and horse related stuff such as stables. It all felt very alpine. Jenna got to stroke a Pony and managed to restrain herself from making a joke about how it was one of the only animals that would be jealous of the size of my legs.

In the afternoon we dropped back down into the low lands. At one point a farmer had cleverly sprayed weed killer in a straight line across their fields to help direct walkers along the right of way. It looked like an extension of the yellow brick road.

Althrough out the day I had been heading for a tea shop mentioned in my guide book. The plan was to have a cream tea before jenna had to leave to go back to london. It was risky plan building up our hopes in this way as such amenities are prone to closing down and no longer existing. When we finally got there we weren’t disappointed. In fact, it was one of the best tea shops I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a few!). It’s called Rocke Tea Shop and is decked out in a full-on retro overload. The waitresses looked like servents from an Edwardian stately home and even the toilets had scratchy old toilet paper, as well as the softer more modern kind (sometimes authenticity has to take a back seat to comfort).

After a cream tea we parted in a unintendedly over-dramatic fashion, both having to walk opposite ways along the same road to get to our different destinations. I felt a bit like the littlest hobo, always having to move on.

There rest of the day involved some very bad directions from my guide book which were just plain wrong and suggested that either some very big changes to the rights of way had occurred since writing or that possibly the author hadn’t actually visited stoke wood (just outside craven arms) himself.

I managed to follow the wrong path through stoke wood and then had to rectify the situation by wading through the undergrowth for ten minutes to did the right track. It was ok but a little tiring and I was very pleased once I emerged from the wood to the spectatcular few of stokesy castle, a very medieval looking building which still retained the wooden overhanging sections which make such buildings look so old and organic.

On the way to my pick up point I passed the Shropshire discovery center. Throughout the day it had become apparent that a lot of time and money has been spent on maintaining local footpaths and promoting the area, which I thought was a worthwhile investment. There was something quite lovely about the ‘big hills’ landscape and I was looking forward to seeing more the next day. At the discovery centre I noticed the remains of an arts project had been taking place. Natural detritus such as seeds, leaves and petals had been laid out ok the concreate floor in a variety of patterns. Somebody had written in charcoal “to capture in time that which is transient in space”. It made me think of how the changing of the seasons and landscape was such a real and yet intangible thing-you couldn’t capture it in a single image because a single image couldn’t describe the changing patterns of colours and forms that contained the true beauty of nature. I liked to think that these people were attempting to describe these patterns through the careful and precise placing of different elements next to each other. As I ruminated on this, lost in thought, I managed to not look where i was going and almost trip ober myself, knocking over a load of carefully positioned twigs in the process. Oops. I hope the patterns didn’t have too much significance, as otherwise I’d just imadvertantly ruined somebody’s masterpiece.

I was being looked after that night by Di and Peter, the parents of Nick (my boss who had the cottage in cornwall i visited in my first week) who live in Ludlow which is very close to my route. They were incredibly hospitable and I am most grateful for their help. I also got to see loads of baby pictures of Nick, who looked like a very happy, smiley child. I was incredibly taken by the lovely tartan dungerees he was often wearing at the time and think that people at work should petition him to wear them round the office. It would be great for morale!

Once again I fell asleep while writing my blog, tired but contented from the days activity. I was looking forward to tomorrow, a day spent walking along the wenlock edge escarpment which promised fantastic views of the surrounding hills around. Brilliant!

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