Familiarity and The Inevitability of Change

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There’s nothing quite like a trekking or hiking adventure on unknown territory but sometimes a familiar walk — a long walk — is what the doctor ordered. Especially when the weather forecast is turning good!

Local hills can be superb not least — as I’ve said before — because you don’t need to worry about maps and navigation. A long walk over familiar ground give the time and space for observation, for taking in the minute changes of the seasons and landscape.

On this trip I headed out for a twenty mile or so all over really well-known land. Almost immediately I was reminded that I haven’t started this walk from this starting point for a few years. I took a minor road from the village centre and hoped over a style at the point where the houses end. This sin’t the most spectacular of walks but I always find it fascinating. A path cuts alongside intensively cultivated fields. Sometimes I find walking through a field of stubble, sometimes next to freshly ploughed land and occasionally through a field of maize that is taller than me. But today was something of a greater surprise.

I nipped over the style and — head down — headed off into a … small housing development! When did this appear?

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I trotted down the path on the right and immediately hoped over another style to find another small development.

These ‘in-fill’ developments are the result of the regional housing strategy that is designed to fuel the demand for property. There are lots of pressures for homes, not least in this area for reasonably prided housing for locals who have bene frozen out by the spreading of suburbia and the invasion of second home owners. A quick look around showed most of the house inhabited with owners at home. It didn’t look as if these were for locals; they had the unmistaken air of retirement homes.

Soon I was back on the field. Since the last time I was here footpath signs have been refreshed, styles refurbished and the routes generally tidied up.

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Despite this being a school holiday there was virtually nobody else out walking. I stopped to chat to a farmer who was busy erecting a new field fence. He warmly pointed out the correct direction of the walk. He’d only taken on the farm twelve months ago. He was hoping he could sheep out grazing on the ground soon. I realised the patch I’d been walking through was a bit scruffier than in the past. The sheep would soon tidy the place up a bit.

On the next step of land I felt disoriented. I’d been following signs for the Shropshire Way but these had taken me away from my usual route. This stretch of the walk is often a bit of a trudge, waling through ought woodland that is often soggy and waterlogged. A new path had been created to avoid the mud and let me on to a delightful woodland track, the path now immeasurably improved/

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As delightful as this woodland walking was it was a relief to climb onto the high moors.  The air was full of skylark singing. A gentle warm breeze floated from the  south west. My only company for this wonderful ridge walk were a few ponies and some sheep, the young lambs not at that age where they are curious and full of exploration.

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Finally, as I headed off the ridge I met a fellow walker. By now the clouds had burnt off and the sun’s shadows were lengthening. We congratulated ourselves on stealing some solitary time on these hills. 

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It was time to head back to the train station. The walk had been long enough to take in so much that you would miss on a route-march style trek.  The walk had been much improved by those little freaks that had been made to the Shropshire Way.

Sometimes the familiar ways are the best.

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