We planned to camp in Shropshire last night; I would have been walking on from Whitchurch today. I found a promising looking site on a Shropshire tourism web page, and rang the number given there to make arrangements a week or so ago. The conversation was fairly normal, with a few nonsequiturs which I ignored (something about them not having hubcaps…)
We went to the location given on the website, discussed on the phone and confirmed on Google maps and… nothing. The farm exists, with the right name, but no campsite and no people around.
So we came home.
1. Despite all the evidence I somehow messed up and went to the wrong place;
2. The campsite closed some time ago, the website hasn’t been updated, and I was speaking to someone with dementia;
3. As above, but (like a character in Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black) I was speaking to a deceased person.
I’ve decided to restart the route from an earlier point, avoiding Shropshire altogether, lest this strange county of nonexistent things proves to be a malign fairyland where centuries pass in days, devils transform the landscape overnight, and the answer to a riddle spoken on the road brings a dire transforming fate.
My reading of Shropshire Folk-Lore by Charlotte Sophia Burne suggests that the uncanny may be hard to avoid in these parts – someone once saw a huge funeral procession, rushing through ‘the hollow of the road’ on the Long Mynd, and the thought-forms of animals (such as ‘the know of a dog’ seen by a young girl in her yard) roam the villages. ‘Theers al’lay summat to be sid about theer’, always something to be seen: Shropshire dialect in Burne’s book resembling that of H.P. Lovecraft’s Vermont backwoodsmen: The Dunwich Horror replaying in an SY postcode.
I’ll head for the calmer spaces of Staffordshire, where the constant hum of the M6 keeps the supernatural at bay. And stick to Caravan and Camping Club approved campsites…
Rambling in Shropshire, not for the fainthearted.