Clun Mill, Shropshire

18th - 20th November 2005


  Clun Mill was a destination we had been to several times in the past.  On this occasion, this was the last hike for the year 2005. It was also kind of Eva, of the Spanish contingent, to offer to prepare a typical Spanish meal for the occasion. She and Alfred organised all the ingredients necessary for a Tapas evening. Everyone chipped in to share the cost over and above the usual fee for a typical weekend.  Prior to the event, I had suggested to Eva that we have some music of Spanish origin.  As a result I packed in a small "ghetto blaster" with two detachable speakers, which also included a CD player.  

Clun Mill Youth Hostel, a restored watermill; Bracing ourselves for the chill outside the Youth Hostel.


Upon arrival, I found the hostel locked and devoid of any of our contingent (though a few recognisable vehicles were parked outside) save a solitary message on the door which read: "key in the usual place - Bob Gaskell".  Huh?  where was that? How on earth would anybody who had just joined the club for the first time know where that was? At a complete loss, we drove down into town to what seemed the most likely pub where we might find them.  There we met them, somewhat unperturbed. The 'usual place' turned out be under the spare tyre fitted to the rear of John's Rover. Obviously!    

Setting out; Passing the ruins of Clun Castle.


  We eventually managed to get in after driving back to the pub once more, which may have been the White Horse, a 17th century listed building. At least there was time for a late round. Back at the hostel, people continued to arrive until midnight. Clun is a small town in the district of South Shropshire. The town lies on the River Clun, from where it gets its name. It is the smallest in Shropshire and is smaller than many villages in the county. It is also the only town in Shropshire never to have had a railway line or station. The Youth Hostel, a restored watermill, is referred to as Clun Mill.  

Lagging behind as usual, taking photos and tuned in to Planet Rock; Breathtaking Shropshire beauty.


Frost covering the landscape like a light dusting of snow.


  On a previous visit to this hostel, our resident musicians Dave and Rob had gigged despite the fact that the lounge, with its stone floors, was relatively small, especially after having set up the 'stage' amplification. I cannot recall whether it was on this trip or the previous one, but we had a good laugh when Bob Smith's bright red, fancy sports car wouldn't start and he had to suffer the ignominy of having a group of us push start his car. Bob, his usual amicable self, took it in his stride, thanking us profusely and grinning from ear to ear. So on this occasion I was sharing a bunkroom with a group of compatriots.  

Eva taunts the bull (cow?) but it fails to "see red" - those spikes are for skiing, Eva.......; Stunning view down a hillside along a typical hawthorn hedgerow.


  The next morning, after breakfast, we were greeted by a chilly yet clear conditions, the landscape covered in a severe bout of overnight frost, that resembled a light dusting of snow. It provided an interesting perspective to the countryside. We set out past the old Clun Castle ruins and the cricket field, Vanda and I nearly losing the rest of the mob.  The castle was originally established around 1100 as a substantial  motte castle with two baileys. A motte-and-bailey is a form of castle. Many were built in  Britain and France in the 11th and 12th centuries, especially in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Shropshire, in the West Midlands of England, which borders Wales to the west, is one of England's most rural and sparsely populated counties.


Hedgerows are a distinctive trademark of the English countryside.


The motte is a raised earth mound, like a small hill, usually artificial and topped with a wooden or stone structure known as a keep. The earth for the mound would be taken from a ditch, dug around the motte or around the whole castle. The bailey is an enclosed courtyard, typically surrounded by a wooden fence and overlooked by the motte. By the 16th century Clun Castle had fallen into disuse, and the castle passed to the crown. It is owned by the Duke of Norfolk and is managed by English Heritage. A hedge is a line of closely spaced shrubs and bushes, planted and trained in such a way as to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area. Hedges, especially those used to separate a road from adjoining fields or one field from another, and of sufficient age to incorporate small trees, are also frequently known as hedgerows. Many hedgerows separating fields from lanes in England and the Low Countries are estimated to have been in existence for more than seven hundred years, and some are even older. Charles the Bald is recorded as complaining in 864, at a time when most official fortifications were constructed of wooden palisades, that some unauthorized men were constructing haies et fertés – tightly interwoven hedges of hawthorns. A hedge (Dutch: haag) gave its name to the city of the Hague in the Netherlands – Den Haag, or more formally 's Gravenhage in Dutch, meaning "the Count's hedge" (i.e. enclosure).


  Despite the sun being out, some frost still covered the ground in shady areas, in the late afternoon towards the end of the walk. Daft as a brush as I am, I had brought along a small portable DAB radio with headphones, so that I could listen to an interview Rick Wakeman conducted with fellow musician Steve Howe, on the program he hosts on digital channel Planet Rock on Saturday mornings. Wouldn't have missed it for the world. The main church in the town is St George's Church, which is south of the River Clun. Dedicated to St George, it has a fine squat Norman tower typical of border churches. 

It's late afternoon and yet some frost still remains; A forest of trees conspicuous amidst the rural grassland.


Shropshire is one of England's most rural and sparsely populated counties. Quite why this remote, rural county on the Welsh border became the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution is mystifying to many people. The reason, however, is mainly due to Shropshire's diverse geology. Shropshire is the "geological capital" of the UK, as just about every rock type in Northern Europe is found within its borders, as are coal, lead, copper and iron ore deposits. In addition to this, the River Severn flows through the county and has been used for the transportation of goods and services for centuries. The Ironbridge Gorge became a focal point of new industrial energies in the 18th Century.


Spectacular rural South Shropshire hillsides bathed in bright sunshine.


    We re-entered the town passing the church and over the 14th century pack horse bridge that crosses the river connecting Saxon Clun to Norman Clun, giving rise to a local saying: "whoever crosses Clun Bridge comes back sharper than he went". We trudged up the High Street, turned off, making our way back to the Youth Hostel. After a shower, we all lent a hand, preparation of the Tapas requiring painstaking patience. But with Eva directing proceedings with an air of calmness that typically escapes Ramseyesque TV celebrity chefs complete with inflated egos, oft prone to flagrant tantrums and foul language.

Down a dirt road bathed in sunshine; Cows and calves having a fine time of it!


The long and winding road, tra-la-la!


  People were having a good time and I am certain that the fruit punch prepared by Eva had something to do with it. I had brought along music by Lila Downs, a Mexican singer gifted with an incredible vocal range, plus up and coming world music artists Gotan Project, nominees at the BBC Radio3 World Music Awards. Eva and others seemed well pleased with the choice, judging by the positive comments, though, it subsequently transpired, did not please "all of the people all of the time", as the adage goes, demonstrating, at the very least, that the best of intentions may often not be appreciated.  

St. George's church with its Norman tower; View down the High street towards the bridge across the River Clun.


Coming from someone I understood to be fluent in French, from whom I expected a greater level of subtlety than may usually be associated with your average cultural ignoramus, I was dumbstruck when confronted with an outburst of coarse Anglo-Saxon profanity: "What the f--- is this crap music", he uttered? Gosh, just I was expecting something really profound!  Besides this, I was plagued by a mysterious individual playing silly buggers with the volume control whilst I was assisting in the kitchen. Every time I turned my back, the volume dropped. Eventually I discovered the identity of the pesky interfering sod. When I was "reliably" informed (picture a deadly serious expression, if you will) that the sound levels emitted by this rather puny sound system were, wait for it, "equivalent to that of a Jumbo Jet engine", I could not believe my ears! Was this a silly hallucinatory voice inside my head? Oh, I thought, he must have had some of Eva's delicious fruit punch too!  Chill-out, damn it!  Aaaaargh!

The food went down a treat and Eva had earned the accolades bestowed upon her. The festive mood continued and whilst seated, Eva had each and every one of us create a sentence in Spanish. Putting on my best possible Spanish accent reminiscent of Manuel in the legendary Fawlty Towers series, I came up with: "For you, I weel keella the bull", which didn't quite fit the bill, I guess. John Adams then set up his karaoke system which was to provide the entertainment for the rest of the evening. Given the "sound" technical advice I had been given earlier in the evening, I asked myself the question: "Can someone turn the volume down, please"?



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