Today was a very very very long walk in the woods. I started by heading up to Wenlock Edge, which is an 18-mile long limestone ridge which runs from near Craven Arms to Much Wenlock. Although the rain had stopped, it was still very wet and muddy underfoot, and when I got up to the top of the ridge it was beautifully misty.
Wenlock Edge is full of fossils, a reminder that this whole area was once underwater in a primordial sea; I saw nobody at all for nearly the whole 18 miles and it was very easy, wandering through the huge mature trees, to feel that this was a very ancient place. The ridge itself was very easy walking, if a little boring; an 18 mile stroll through woods, with very limited views beyond the trees. Still, they are very nice woods and there were lots of wildflowers in the gaps.
Eventually the trail emerged into some fields, with nice views of the valley and some very beautiful cow parsley, before heading back into woods.
I opted to walk the second part on the disused railway line, much scorned in the official trail guide for being fast but monotonous, but actually a decent way to cover ground with some occasional good views of the Wrekin valley. The last part of the ridge, just before Much Wenlock, climbs above an ugly quarrying area, enlivened only by another ‘leap’ spot, this time a Major Smallman (also, like Wintour on the Offa’s Dyke path, escaping Civil War pursuers).
A quick saunter through Much Wenlock (very pretty, full of ancient half-timbered buildings and a surprising amount of bunting) and then through some more woodland, with the remnants of old quarries now overgrown with vines.
The last part of the route descends from the ridge via what felt like hundreds of steps, all carefully engineered to be slightly longer than one natural step – by the time I got to the bottom I was hobbling slightly, but my spirits were lifted by reaching Ironbridge and the beautiful bridge itself.
Highlights: Leaves silvery with moisture; lunch on the damp edge of a field, looking out over the valley; sunlight filtering through beech and birch leaves; a woman in a beautiful red and gold sari on the bridge looking out over the river.