Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Ironbridge to Upper Affcot

The limestone escarpment of Wenlock Edge flows like a wave across woods and open fields. Its distinctive shape graces the water bottles back in the office I spend my working days in; a life I can barely remember. Today it provides an obvious route for approaching the Welsh border.

With all the potential accommodation options along the Edge closed for the winter, I set out knowing that I would have to tackle the whole thing in one go, despite continuing leg pains and the strong winds that were forecast. At breakfast I tried to avoid the various colds in the room as the news talked about the winter vomiting bug that was taking hold of the country. Avoiding these viruses is essential if I am to complete the walk and return in time to resume my job in that faraway office.

Crossing the wide iron span of the famous bridge, a faint rumbling became louder as I headed upstream. Through the trees I began to make out the tall concrete expanses of cooling towers. Torrents of water were falling into troughs at the base of these majestic structures; an impressive sight.

A number of paths up the hill looked reasonable; I followed the buzzard shaped waymarks since they seemed to know where they were going. This took me to the pleasant little town of Much Wenlock, where I got lost. Soon realising I wasn't on the Edge, I cut back to the ridge and was soon strolling in light drizzle past a large quarry with a bright blue lake.

I then chose to follow an old railway line that runs along the bottom of the woods, which offered the promise of easier miles. Returning to the top when this was no longer practical, I became aware of another wooded wave rearing up behind the one I was riding the crest of. After the flatlands, the dramatic scenery was inspiring and certainly took my mind off the rain showers, the trees protecting me from the worst of the wind.

Following the Edge was now fairly simple, as I slowly got damper from the rain and from negotiating the huge pools of mud horses had churned up. It was also a lot further that I thought and I was relieved to drop off the edge down a huge sunken mud slide and cross grassy fields in the fading light to a roadside inn. A deep bath was a luxurious surprise as I relaxed in anticipation of easier days to come.

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