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WEEKLY BLOG EPISODE 96 | (NO) VIEWS

In this episode of my weekly blog, written while I munch my way through a couple of delicious chocolate chip cookies I received in a hamper from my employer this week, I bring you musings on walks with and without views.

No Views from The Wrekin

On Saturday I headed up to Shropshire for a long-due catch up with good friends Sarah and Katy (who you may remember from my GetOutside Activity Challenge). I tend to meet up with Sarah somewhere in Shropshire as it’s about halfway between where we each live (last time we wandered around Lichfield), which is as good an excuse as we need to explore somewhere new.

This time around we met up at The Wrekin, a 406m hill close to Telford, just off the M54. It might not be very high in comparison with other hills and mountains across the UK, but given that it’s sat on its own in the landscape, it’s quite an iconic hill. And it’s one I don’t remember visiting before. There’s loads of interesting geographical and archaeological features to see, and plenty of walking options.

Apparently, thanks to its position, you can see 20 counties from the top. Blake Moor in Yorkshire (73 miles away) and Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons National Park (66 miles away) are apparently visible. Alas, not on Saturday. Far from it – we could barely see any of Shropshire from the summit, which was completely in cloud. Although I’m reliably informed that the idea you can see Snowdon from the top is a myth, as that would be geographically impossible thanks to other things being in the way.

A Very Wet Walk

Thankfully, both Sarah and Katy know to pack a complete change of clothes when they hike with me because the rain tends to always show up. We knew it wasn’t going to be the best of hiking days, with light rain and low cloud on the cards, but I have to admit the sleet and hail was a little uncalled for.

Sarah and Katy looking…

Rather than doing the seven-mile loop we had earmarked, which would have passed the Needle’s Eye and other rocky outcrops on the hill, we decided to simply go straight up to the trig point and back, about three miles in total. We might be hardy souls prepared for the conditions, with plenty of wet weather experience between us, but sometimes you have to make a good decision to make sure the day remains fun.

Despite the weather, and the lack of views, we had a great morning, and it set us up for lunch perfectly. I’ve left The Wrekin on my to-walk list as I’d love to see more of it – or any of it, in fact.

With Gravy for Dipping

Clearly, I can’t go out for a catch up with friends without finding somewhere for lunch. Given that Telford centre is basically a massive indoor shopping centre (no offence Telford, please do correct me if I’m wrong), we were pleased that Google threw up some other options.

We chose The Green Wood Café in Coalbrookdale near Ironbridge, an independent coffee shop and café along a little lane and surrounded by trees. Their focus is on sustainable and inclusive food – the predominantly vegetarian menu (with plenty of vegan options and allergies catered for) gave us a hard time choosing what to eat. There were breakfasts, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, and of course cakes.

I went for the “Festive Toastie”, recommended by the people at the table opposite, which was nothing short of genius. I know, high praise for a sandwich, but it was absolutely delicious. A toasted sourdough roll filled with traditionally festive veggies (mine had carrots, sprouts, cabbage, maybe some parsnip if my taste buds weren’t deceiving me), a stuffing mayo, carrot and cranberry sauce, and a pot of gravy for dipping. And not just a little pot of gravy, oh no, a big cup of gravy, plenty for my sandwich as well as the side of hash browns I couldn’t resist ordering as well.

I never was a very good food photographer.

It tasted so good, it was exactly what I needed after getting so wet, and I couldn’t not talk about it in my weekly blog post. Honestly, one of the best sandwiches I have eaten in a very long time. I would return to The Green Wood Café just for this sandwich (sadly I suspect it’s a seasonal special), and will be recreating it at home next time I have roast veg leftovers.

The café is easily walkable from Ironbridge (we parked in the Dale End pay and display car park), there is seating indoors and outdoors (with blankets provided outdoors, which I was grateful for), and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to eat in the area. I’ll be back!

The Iron Bridge at Ironbridge

Once fed, we took advantage of the drier afternoon and had a wander into Ironbridge. Often heaving with people, it was nice to wander without the crowds, the wet weather is good in some ways!

Of course, the iron bridge here is not just any iron bridge, it’s the world’s first, built in 1779. This area is now considered the “birthplace of the industrial revolution”, thanks to Abraham Derby perfecting smelting just up the road (up near The Green Wood Café). The bridge is said to be the catalyst that accelerated English engineering forward, and lead to cast iron quickly becoming a common large-scale construction material.

It is a really beautiful bridge. High above the River Severn, you can walk over it and under it. But it’s not the only interesting feature of this little village in Shropshire. Having seen the New Coracle Shed next to the café, it was nice to see the original Coracle Shed just up the river from the bridge. This is the last Coracle Maker’s shed in England, and is now a little museum to this old craft. I quite fancy trying a coracle out, I wonder where I can borrow one?!  

Sarah, Katy and I have not caught up in-person for far too long, and it was so good to meet up to stretch our legs, lungs, and smiles. This is what I hope much of 2022 will be like.

Blue Skies over Cleeve Hill

Having had no visibility from The Wrekin on Saturday, I was delighted to wake up on Sunday to the most glorious clear skies. My church runs monthly Sunday morning meet-ups on the hill, which are always lovely. And just like the weather had been a challenge up in Shropshire the previous day, today it was something to delight in.

Everyone else had the same idea, of course, and it was quite busy on the hill with golfers, families, canicross runners, and everyone else. It’s good when it’s busy, it’s fabulous to see so many people making the most of the countryside on our doorstep and spending some time outside. But it’s also what makes me want to walk just a little bit further than everyone else, to get some space away from the crowds.

We weren’t up there long, just over an hour or so, but it was such a great way to start my Sunday (and get some of those all important steps in). I said last week how much I like spending time up on the hill I can see from my house, and I really mean it. There is something so special about being stood high up looking down over the place you call home. If I end up walking up there every week this year I would be quite happy, it’s got such a great network of footpaths, with views in all directions, and even when it’s busy as it was this weekend, it’s not difficult to find some peace and solitude.

Ten Thousand Steps a Day?

In my last weekly blog (read Weekly Blog Episode 95), I mentioned that I am aiming to push my average daily step count back up towards the 10,000 it should be this month. I started off well, easily managing over 10k steps each day at the start of the month.

I’ve certainly been reminded this week how hard 10k steps a day is when working traditional full-time hours from home in winter. Walking takes time. Time which is well spent, I know that for sure. But time which I don’t always have.

Even with a short walk before starting my working day and a 40-minute walk at lunchtime (accompanied by my audiobook), I’m not getting up to my target most working days. I could head out after work, but I’ll be honest, my body and often my mind are done by 6pm. I know I need to get my activity in during the day, but that is taken up with enforced sitting of computer-based working.

Those weekend miles are certainly helping make up my weekday shortfall, so far anyway. Even in just a couple of weeks I’ve re-learnt the lesson that to use walking for fitness I have to plan specific walks and reasons for walks, and make an effort to put my boots on and head out with intention.

I am still struggling with my energy levels and the B12 and Iron saga isn’t over yet (read Weekly Blog Episode 91), so I am being mindful of that and not pushing myself too much. This isn’t a must-get-10k-every-day challenge, it’s about upping my average and using walking as part of my route to better fitness and personal happiness. Increasing my steps is about helping me to increase my energy, and hopefully come the warmer and brighter days, I’ll be back to where I want to be again.

Inspiration for Local Walks

You know I love a walking guidebook, and so when the postie brought me these two books by Cicerone this week, I was very excited indeed. I have had the Cotswolds and Brecon Beacons ones since we moved to this area (a gift from friends before we left Lincolnshire), and they’ve been very well used. I’m very happy to add Walking in the Forest of Dean and Walking in the Wye Valley to my collection.

These two books were a gift from Cicerone, who publish loads of books like these designed to help people explore here in the UK and further afield. The “Walking in the” series are all about day walks, these two examples have 25-30 walks, each doable in anything from an hour to a day.

The great thing about books like this is they are always sat on the bookshelf waiting, so anytime I find myself with a day or half day available for walking, and want someone else to do the route planning, I can choose a ready-made walk. These Cicerone books are also quite compact, meaning they are not too onerous to carry on the walk itself.

I noticed on the website this evening when I was grabbing the links for my weekly blog, that you can also choose an ebook version if you prefer. This is a great idea if you’re travelling, or following a long distance trail, and just want to access the instructions on your phone.

I’ve earmarked a walk for Saturday, and am already looking forward to exploring some new-to-me places on foot over the coming weeks and months. I’ll let you know what I find.

Even better than me receiving these books to help me explore close to where I’m living, is the fact that I get to give away one of them to one of you. Watch this space for a giveaway, probably early in February – make sure you’re following me on Instagram to hear first.

Photo taken from Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds AONB.

It’s so nice to start this year with a couple of weekly blogs which feel like they’re very me – about going walking, the thoughts I have while walking, and planning for more walks. I hope that as 2022 goes on I’ll find the time and energy to catch up on some of my other promised posts, including on our mini overland adventure in Iceland and my UK Coast to Coast hike. But in the meantime, thanks for reading my weekly blog posts, and I look forward to seeing you back here again next week.

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