Lost in the south Shropshire hills,
A sleepy, quiet land of farms and tea rooms,
No longer the violent borderlands,
Uneasy, restlessly awaiting
The imminent arrival of Welsh raiders.
A land made incongruous by its contrasts:
Undulating fields, green pasture, streams and forest
Torn apart by steep-sided, forbidding highland escarpments.
One minute: a sunny picnic, the next:
Darkening shadows and the wind’s icy blast.
So, a land of cake and castles
Loved by walkers for its perpetual delights and challenges,
On a typical changeable summer afternoon.
A drive to ‘The Bog’ Visitor Centre,
Tea in the chapel of an extinct mining village, long gone.
Friendly, informative staff gently tickle our curiosity
With informal seating amongst local books and gifts,
Rediscovered children’s books by Malcolm Saville:
The story of mischievous evacuees during World War Two,
And Nipstone Nut Cake decorated by the sepia smiles of grime-faced lads.
My overactive imagination began to frack
Into a thin vein of silly boyish humour:
New products for the gift shop: –
Devil’s Chair Croissants, Long Mynd Loaf, Wenlock Hedge Cake,
A ‘poisonous’ winberry blue cheese called Hemlock Wedge.
Heading up through the heather, past Hebridean sheep,
The sultry afternoon heat turns into lemon drizzle.
Pushing on towards Cranberry Rock,
Picking our way over sharp sugar-stone cubes,
Manston Rock’s crenellations are surrounded by quartzite crumble.
Finally the clouds flash and thunder thumps the ground!
I shelter from the driving rain beneath a tall Stiperstone,
A precarious, monolithic monument
Petrified in layers of calcified… sponge?
A last forkful of memory amongst the disordered crumbs on a childhood plate.