Much Wenlock, the priory and Benthal Hall.

October 26th.

Much Wenlock is a small and picturesque town in Shropshire, situated on the A458 road between Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth. Nearby, to the northeast, is the Ironbridge Gorge, birth-place of The Industrial Revolution with its deposits of coal, limestone and iron ore.
Our knowledge of this lovely little town has always been limited, sitting as it does on the road to Bridgenorth and all points west (including Wales). So, with our membership of English Heritage about to expire and the weather forecast being dry (although dull) we decided to pay a visit to the Priory ruins before visiting Benthal Hall in nearby Broseley.
The priory was an Anglo-Saxon monastery founded here in about 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia, whose abbess daughter Milburge was hailed as a saint. Her relics were miraculously (!) re-discovered here in 1101, attracting both pilgrims and significant prosperity to the priory. 
Following the reformation of the monastery, in the early 14th century, the priory church was lavishly and completely rebuilt, and today considerable remains are left of the 350-foot-long church.
Following the dissolution of the priory by King Henry VIII who wanted their wealth and vowed the power of the church with suspicion in 1540, several buildings, including the late 15th century Prior's House, were converted into a private residence and cannot be visited today.
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Having taken a few photographs of the priory ruins (in truth, the mown grass and manicured bushes do not lend themselves to origin photography) we were entertained for a further half-hour by a flock of siskins in the yew trees that surround the buildings.
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Siskin in Yew Tree.
With an hour to kill before Benthal Hall opened we decided to wander into Much Wenlock town centre and were immediately enchanted by the quiet streets and old buildings as well as some interesting shops.

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The Wenlock Olympian Games established by Dr William Penny Brookes in 1850 are centred in the town. (Dr Brookes is credited as a founding father of the modern Olympic Games, and one of the Olympic mascots for London 2012 was named Wenlock after the town).
Further exploration then revealed the old railway line (now part of the Olympic Running Route) and station: clearly we shall have to return and explore further. (Wenlock Edge is also not far away).
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A visit to the Information Centre which was open (!) provided us with ample walks leaflets. So, finally we set off for Benthal Hall and were treated with some sunshine at last and a lovely view of the old church with its newly renovated sundial.
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My attention was immediately drawn to cast iron head ‘stones’ - this one commemorating the ferry-man (or troman) - who died in 1761; note how sharp the letters still are in this cast iron and call to mind how worn a typical stone would be of this age. Presumably the head ‘stone’ is set next to the church due to his importance to the local community.

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I was impressed by the ancient dove-cote in the grounds, complete with white doves. Benthal Hall itself is a lovely limestone building and worth exploring.
The autumn colours were enhanced by Autumn Crocuses growing under the trees in the grounds (which photographed best when the sun was behind the clouds due to their subtle colours). We shall visit this lovely National Trust property again next springs wild flowers in the church-yard and nearby fields are said to include many orchids.
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Autumn Crocus.
Perhaps we shall finally manage to walk Wenlock Edge before the autumn colours are finished!

A New Beginning?

Well, that done it...

I am now writing on a new MacBookPro - and yes it was more expensive because I waited until after that damn speech!

err - where is the ' key????

The new iMac (to arrive on November 8th) will cost £300 more as well! So much for caution!

O well; at least this machine works - properly - boots up in 6 seconds from 'off' etc.

If it wasn't for a monumental cock-up yesterday while backing up the last Lightroom Catalogue I would be posting new pictures now. (I cannot believe I did something SO stupid).

Don't ask.

I did manage to put this picture onto Flickr this afternoon - seemed appropriate with it's time theme....

Time and tide wait for no-one... IMG_2638

A Siege of Cranes and a Spring of Teal...

At this time of year one can come away a tad disappointed from Slimbridge WWT as the Swans, Pochard and Pintails have not yet arrived.

However, a sunny day beckoned abd there is always the chance of something....

As expected, the lakes and ponds were somewhat `quiet` but the male teal shone beautifully in the Autumn sunlight and those stars of conservation, the European Cranes performed to perfection: at one point there were TEN of these majestic birds in view at once from The Zeiss Hide! A siege (or herd or sedge) indeed...

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The views of pairs of birds calling and dancing in front of the hide will take a long time to forget (or surpass).

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Successes like this give one a little hope for the long-term future of our wildlife...

A Brief Visit to Upton Warren.

Now that Autumn has well and truly arrived I felt a visit to The Christopher Cadbury Reserve at Upton Warren (our local patch in fact) was in order (and a free cup of hot chocolate from Webbs Garden Center over the road was also an added attraction)!

We didn`t know what to expect (if anything) now the Avocets are long gone but were royally entertained by up to eight common snipe on The Moors as well as a Green Sandpiper that came close to the hide.

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The visit was nicely rounded-off then by one of the several Little Egrets who flew in front of the hide to do a spot of fishing (without much success as it happened).

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And then - that hot chocolate....

Rutting Deer at Attingham Park.

Just a brief entry today regarding our visit to Attingham Park, a National trust property near to Shrewsbury.

The main reason for our visit was to collect some Medlars for making jelly but the deer park is always worth exploring and today was no exception with the fallow deer rutting. It is always interesting to watch the males strut their stuff (apparently ignored by the does) and occasionally `inspect` the ladies to see if they are ready....

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The extensive open woodland provides an excellent habitat for sparrowhawks (photographed last year): on this occasion a female was observed flying overhead while being mobbed by crows.

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Great Central Railway Autumn Gala

Steam galas at the GCR are always worth a visit due to the intensive operation that is possible on this unique 8-mile section of double-track railway.
Our preferred spot tends to be the station at Quorn as the field used for car-parking is so convenient. Also, good views of the trains are possible from the station surroundings including the road bridge.

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A freight train approaches Quorm and Woodhouse Station.
The Traveling Post Office (TPO) is worth watching here as well as `letters` are dropped and collected from the line-side. The train is only traveling at 30 mph (they used to travel - at night - at up to 80mph) but it is still an awesome spectacle as the train hurtles past.

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A successful drop-off of letters.
The road-bridge at Loughborough Central also offers good views of activities although high walls and obtrusive housing development can detract from the experience.

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From the road bridge at Loughborough Central.

In conclusion, this railway does not offer as great a variety of `views` as some, but the double-track operation certainly provides plenty of entertainment.