At around 18.00 on Thursday, I returned home after a very long long weekend in Shropshire.
It was my first time camping alone for four nights and I imagine to get a lot done within the space of five days. In this post, I’ll run over the highlights of my trip, with more detailed blog posts to follow at a later date.
It all began with a decision on where to go on day one, Sunday…
A potentially-wet forecast was given and I was looking at a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the camp site from home. I could’ve made my arrival and pitched any time after 11am but, instead, I chose to drive the extra half-hour, all the way to Powis Castle in Welshpool.
This was one of the most northerly points of interest of my planned visits and it appealed more, to get it out of the way early, than to drive to the camp site, pitch up and leave again. At least, when I did arrive ready to pitch up, I could settle down for the evening.
I spent four nights at Foxholes Castle Camping, which is just north of Bishop’s Castle. I looked at a number of camp sites beforehand and believe I made a good choice, here. Not only was this site very ‘green’ and ‘eco’ but, even in August, it wasn’t overly busy (or noisy). Plus, I’d deliberately made an effort to camp in advance of the Bank Holiday Weekend that has now arrived. Rain had already started to fall by the time I came to put my tent up but even the sensation of soggy socks and shoes would not upset my weekend.
However, I do wonder if I can find a pair of ‘waterproof slip on shoes’ that might be ideal for middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet…
After what would become my only National Trust visit of the week, I took a trip in to Shrewsbury to find Go Outdoors store, where I purchased a vanilla desert and a spare gas canister, just so that I wouldn’t run out at any point, with a working Jetboil. This store’s a bit different to the one in Bristol, as you have to walk all the way through it before reaching the tent display area, hidden out the back like the gardening section at a DIY store.
On day two (Monday), I was preparing for my first ever walk in the Shropshire Hills. Ahead of time, I’d seen that, weather-wise, this day was likely to be the wettest of the lot. It began very grey and overcast and so, I made a decision… Instead of being a tourist and getting wet in the rain, I decided to embark on a walk around the Stiperstones area, taking my waterproofs, just in case.
On the way back from that walk, I stopped off at The Bog Visitor Centre for a cup of tea and cake – even with a working stove, a real mug of tea remains ever appealing – before another stop at Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle.
Tuesday was when I visited Ironbridge Gorge and left my walking boots in the car. It turned out to be a slight disappointment as two of the museums I really wanted to see were closed (one, I knew of, ahead of time). I spent a good few hours there, admiring much of the architecture, the riverside walks and a free exhibition. I’d like to return here next year, in the hope that all museums will be open.
You can buy what’s known as an Annual Ticket where, for £25, you can revisit any or all of the museums as often as you liked for the next twelve months.
Back at the camp site, I took a short ten-minute walk downhill, along the Shropshire Way and in to Bishop’s Castle. I was curious about the local town, its architecture, church… But I also needed to buy sandwiches for two upcoming walks and, thankfully, I found that this Spar shop (unlike my experience in Mullion, a month earlier) does stock a range of sandwiches.
Wednesday was a brighter day and, by far, the best of the week. This was when I did my second ever walk in Shropshire – beginning in Church Stretton, walking through Carding Mill Valley and then, climbing up to follow the Long Mynd… Outstanding. It will go down as one of the best walks that I have ever done and I honestly believe that anyone visiting Shropshire should at least visit Carding Mill Valley, if not to climb higher.
Before returning to my tent after that walk, I took a detour north to the site of Wroxeter Roman Village. It was interesting and not hugely expensive, being an English Heritage site. My National Trust membership runs until next summer. When that expires, I may consider a year with English Heritage – although, many of the sites within an hour’s drive of home are free to enter anyway… It would only benefit me on future trips away (particularly, to the north).
It rained then, through my final night and I awoke to a heavy mist all around. Those landscape and hilly views I had grown used to, were no longer present. I had a similar experience up in Derbyshire, last year. It looked likely that further rainfall was imminent and, after driving to the start point of my third walk in Burwarton (once I’d packed up everything, including my damp tent), I found that the mist was still as bad, if not worse.
So, I decided not to embark on a third walk as I wouldn’t enjoy getting wet feet, rained on or climbing hills with near-zero visibility. This walk will be saved for a future visit to the area, as I believe Brown Clee Hill is the highest point in Shropshire. Instead, I spent much of my day in the medieval town of Ludlow, which was only fifteen-minutes away. I still got rained on but also managed to visit the privately-owned Ludlow Castle and admire much of the timber-framed Tudor architecture to be found.
A few things I’ve learnt:
- I can survive four nights camping in one place, alone. I may stick to three-night solo stays in future, as I found things beginning to feel a bit too ‘familiar’.
- There is an art to ‘packing light’ that I am still practising.
- My sleep was terrible, perhaps even worse than at home. I put this down to my inexpensive roll mat and will look for an upgrade before my next weekend away. I’ll make this investment before seriously considering a pillow.
- Leaving on Sunday was a great idea, as I had plenty of time on Saturday to prepare for the trip and clean my flat (even though, I managed to leave my tub of pasta and walking socks behind…)
- Half of my tent pegs are now bent and I could look in to buying replacements.
- My current tent is okay. Being 6ft1in tall, I do have to lie diagonally across my “two-man” tent each night but I’ve yet to find anything affordable that might suit me better. Before heading to Cornwall last month, I discovered that Vango do a ‘plus’ version of my tent, with an extra space in between the bedroom and porch… I’m not certain if that would help me enough, either.
- Jetboil stoves are awesome! If Go Outdoors are still selling the MiniMo at £70, just buy one. I paid £110 for mine, only two-weeks before they went on sale but, it’s still a bargain.
- I need to leave my job and do something different.
I do not yet know whether I’ll have time for another escape in September… It currently looks like a busy month, for me. Early October is another possibility. But then, we’re talking about early nights (before 21.00), an expected drop in temperature and, depending on where I would choose to go, a lot of camp sites are only seasonal and will have closed until next year.
I’ll write about everything you see here, in more detail, over the coming weeks. In the mean time, I still have to close my Cornwall trip!