Saturday, 25 April 2015

In Border Country

'No ten mile walks over Dartmoor for you,' said the physiotherapist, 'Not yet, anyway. But you can absolutely do some short ones. Little and often.'

So since the estate agent was showing some people around the house on Saturday morning, I decided to vacate for the greater part of the day.  In readiness, I leaved disconsolately through my beloved Pathfinder Guides. It's a bit of a comedown to be ordered all the way back to the easiest, green-graded walks.  But although I'm limping less and my stride is longer, my poor arthritic knees have come out in sympathy with my recovering ankle and actually, yes, I know the physio is right. 

And I found one I'd wanted to do for ages, starting at Newland in the Forest of Dean.  So that's where we went for my first bout of walking rehab.  

Newland was founded around 1200AD, when land was cleared in the Forest for a new settlement.  Its church, All Saints, dates from that time and we headed there while waiting for the pub to open. 


There were lots of examples of the Ugly Cherub School of Headstone Carving in the churchyard, including this one grappling with what I think is an egg-timer ...


  When shall we three meet again?


... and even a modern specimen.  (Rest in Peace, Jake.)


Inside, lots of interesting stuff but a dearth of information about it and the church.  There were a couple of tombs with effigies from the 14th and 15th centuries, and a couple of altar tombs with no particulars about them at all, sadly.  I did learn, however, that the woman who had this beautiful window made on the cusp of the 20th and 21st centuries in memory of her husband died unexpectedly on the day it was to be dedicated, and so, several months later, the dedication was made to both of them


Best of all, though, I liked this brass of a helmet, crest and figure of a mediaeval miner with a hod and a pick-axe.  I've seen him variously described as holding a candle in his mouth and stuck to his cheek with clay.  What a desperately hard life that must have been. 


Next stop, the Ostrich Inn which has an illuminated collection of ostrich eggs I myopically mistook for skulls at first glance.  The staff were happy to accept well-behaved dog owners on leads, and served us an excellent lunch.


Then we were off on our walk through the churchyard and down a very steep hill called Savage Hill, which made me laugh as Hill is a family name.  


We then walked down through Astridge Wood and whilst, unlike in the Forest proper, it wasn't thick with bluebells, it was pretty enough. 


I spotted one or two Early Purple orchids as well.  


Once through the wood, the views down ... 


... and up the valley were beautiful.  Just over the hills on the far side of the Valley Brook lies the River Wye - indeed, the brook is one of its tributaries - so we were well and truly in border country. 


It was an easy and very pleasant walk around the head of the valley ... 


with watchful ewe and lambs ...


... geese and goslings, which, thankfully, we didn't have to pass  ... 


... and this stag leaping a fence. 

There was also a less pleasant pheasant farm and a sewage works, but hey, this is the countryside.  


Lovely as the walk was, I did get tired and I was relieved when the tower of All Saints Church came back into view.  

It was only then that we realised our route took up back up Savage Hill ... but we made it. Good training for Dartmoor later in the year.  












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