Hello, thank you for popping in. I'm sorry I've been away for so long. I haven't been very well - nothing serious, I haven't really been "ill", just laid low by a series of wintry bugs for six weeks out of nine. It began with a stomach bug which hung around for much longer than it should have done, there was a sore throat which kept me on painkillers for a fortnight and a cough which had me allegedly "sleeping" propped upright on the sofa for over a week. I saw the pharmacist and he said that all he could suggest was a cough medicine which would make me drowsy and it certainly saw me off to sleep quickly, but it didn't suppress the cough, which then woke me up. Managing pain is tiring in itself and the inability to sleep for more than three or four hours at night became quite debilitating. I've never known a spell like it before and it's left me quite feeble. Thank goodness it's over and Spring has sprung.
Last week I began to feel well again (although, to be truthful, I'm always a bit off kilter during Lent). The narcissi I planted in the tubs in my front garden have been flowering their heads off for a few weeks and the hedges are full of blossom. Bright, new, green leaves are opening on the trees and the landscape has woken up. I can't recall being so aware of April's ethereal beauty before and she has lifted my sunken spirits. I visited The Teacher on Friday and rather than driving home down the busy A roads I decided to take the scenic route along the B roads, it only adds about five minutes onto the journey and its really rather lovely.
I began by popping into the ruins of Haughmond Abbey, about five minutes into the journey. As soon as I got out of my car I could smell that the grass had just been cut, it's heavy scent instantly reminding me of sunshine and summer. I was the only person there and I wandered about for a little while before I went to pay my respects to St Winefride - you may remember that I visited her shrine in North Wales last summer. She was obviously greatly revered here as her statue stands beside those of such great figures as St Michael, St Augustine, St John the Evangelist and St Thomas a Becket. That's Prince Caradoc's head beneath her feet, he is being swallowed up by the earth and pulled down to Hell by The Devil (serves him right, he was horrid). I know that St Win looks a bit the worse for wear but she's been out in the elements for the last seven hundred years.
I was the only person there. I looked out across the fields towards Shrewsbury. The atmosphere was so very peaceful and I felt deeply affected by it. I sort of felt reassured that everything was going to be all right. I got back in the car and carried on driving along the B5062, past neatly trimmed hedges, blossoming trees and yellow fields full of oilseed rape. I drove through Roden with its vast, disused greenhouses which for decades provided tomatoes for the Co-op.
The road rounded a bend and I drove across a bridge over the River Roden. There is an eighteenth century mill beside the river which is now a B&B. There was nowhere for me to park so I couldn't photograph it, but here is an old postcard I found online. The building is much smarter now and painted white.
The river divides Roden from High Ercall (pronounced "Arkle"), a village which is mentioned in the Domesday Book and which has an ancient church, a manor house and almshouses, all visible from the road as I drove through the village. At the end of the village there is an old tollhouse which was probably built in the 1850s. Of course, it's a private dwelling now as we no longer have to pay to use this road, but even though it has been extended its original use is obvious, with its windows looking in all directions.
Turning onto the B5063, the next village I reached was Longdon-upon-Tern where the remains of Thomas Telford's eighteenth century cast iron aqueduct sit marooned in a field astride the River Tern, the canal which it used to carry being long gone now.
On the other side of the road, I glanced across the fields and saw The Wrekin, the familiar hill which lets me know that home isn't far away.
The whole journey took about half an hour. I wondered why I had never noticed before what an interesting journey it is, how many "sights" there are which tell the history of the area, and I reached the conclusion that it must have been down to my frame of mind, feeling really positive for the first time in months and the calming peace which had descended on me in the ruins of the Abbey. (Sorry, I've just read that back and realised that I sound a bit daft; perhaps I am!) Now, I must confess that I didn't take these photographs at the time - except the one of St Winefride - because there isn't anywhere to safely stop and park the car. However, I really wanted to show you why this journey is so special so on Sunday, when the Best Beloved and I were out, we came home along this road and he parked his tiny car in some cheeky places, hopped out and took these photos. Isn't he fab (sometimes)?
I'll be catching up with your blogs this week and will be back to tell you more about that aqueduct.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x