One of the effects of high pressure over the UK, something we have not seen for a long time during this dull, wet and warm winter, is a lot of hazy sunshine. That was certainly the case when, just a select, small group of us set out to walk the 11.5 mile circuit incorporating The Shropshire Way, Offa’s Dyke and The Jack Mytton Way. It seemed like a good opportunity for me to don a pair of shorts and expose my legs to a bit of vitamin D.
Having circumnavigated the castle guarding the valley, the walk follows a brook across fields before it begins to climb steadily up a long ridge, from the top of which the whole of the South Shropshire countryside opens out before you. There are no towns, factories, motorways or lines of pylons to blot the undulating 360 degree view. The high pressure haze meant that the view disappeared gradually with distance. Dropping briefly we then climbed around the northern edge of Hergan where we joined Offa’s Dyke, clearly showing on the ground. Now, the landscape was more undulating.
You might have expected the dyke to follow the uppermost line of the hills but this is not the case here. I suspect that being positioned half way up the westerly facing slope, at its steepest point, provided the best vantage point for those wanting to keep the Welsh out. If it had followed the hill tops there would have been the possibility of surprise, as they tended to round off and not provide the full view that any defenders would have felt comfortable with. It was from this vantage point that we enjoyed a long, lazy lunch, in the sunshine.
Continuing south we descended steeply into the Clun Valley before climbing steadily up the other side. On reaching the top we left Offa’s Dyke and headed across fields of lambs and nursing ewes to pick up the Jack Mytton Way, named after an eccentric Shropshire squire of the late 18th/early 19th centuries. He was renowned for rebel rousing and for outlandish behaviour that privilege seemed to allow. His biography is a lot more interesting than this particular section of his trail, most of it being a quiet lane descending into Clun. Other sections are a lot more interesting and friendly on the feet.
As we walked into town we passed the church with its enormous tower, not in height but in girth. It was extremely impressive. The graveyard is dotted with headstones of long forgotten local people but there is one which belongs to playwright, John Osborne, who settled in the area, dying on Christmas Eve, 1994. He was joined by his fifth wife, helen Dawson, in 2004. Although he died penniless, he left an enormous legacy of outstanding plays that people of my generation grew up with.
In Clun, we were in time to visit the tea shop by the bridge for a Tardis-like pot of tea and the largest wedge of chocolate cake imaginable. It was a strange establishment that was part antique shop, part museum, as well as being a welcome tea stop. The warm weather had enticed hundreds of bluebottle flies out of the nooks and crannies in the crumbling fabric of the building and they lay dying on the shelf in the bay window. Get used to it, in a couple of weeks I will be picking flies out of my dal bhat in Nepal!