After the (non) camping debacle, I’ve decided to resume the walk from an earlier point, abandoning North Shropshire in favour of a route through Cheshire into Staffs. The ‘blue remembered hills’ will have to remain as mere memories, the spur down to Whitchurch written off as a dead end, Shropshire conceded as an unassailable Eastern Front (the overextended supply lines, the beastly winters, the fierce partisans attacking without warning and melting into the tree line…)
For the first time I had lifts at either end and some company during breaks, thanks to Jennie. I picked the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm as the ‘restore point’, thinking that a second breakfast would be a good way to start. This second visit was very enjoyable, eating a crisp bacon sandwich surrounded by cyclists bringing a blizzard of logos.
And then walking again, along lush green lanes towards Beeston Castle.
After a brief pitstop with Jen, I headed down the hill towards the canal. For a few hundred yards I walked along the A49 (actually going north, thanks to the vagaries of navigation) – a road we have driven countless times, where I once received a job offer. Perhaps this revised route is truer to the spirit of the walk: treading the lines of travel made many times at speed in cars and trains.
The Beeston Castle Hotel was just open, so I nipped in for a half, finding it a pleasant place with a proper public bar.
Then I was back on the Shropshire Union Canal heading for Nantwich. This section travels through some lush countryside – today, lined with the white may blossom and cow parsley, it was a it like walking through clouds.
The canal weaves in and out of the A51. At one point a desire path led up a bank towards a Texaco garage – just the kind of place I needed last month on the way to Whitchurch, aka the Place of Dead Roads.
Stopped for a drink at the Barbridge Inn. I nearly shunned this place, with its Carling umbrellas and plastic treehouse, but it was quite nice. Jennie photographed me hiding from the Vitamin D, and I photographed myself in a blank sign / glue art exhibit.
(Another pub nearby was advertising a band called Beardsmith, which I imagined as a sort of British, greasier version of ZZ Top – but it’s actually the family name of a group with no facial hair to speak of.)
Then more quiet miles to Nantwich.
I was sorry to leave the canal, but glad to end up back on the public transport grid, ready for future trips, glad to see Jennie in our blue car. Interwoven journeys.
I saw a lot of dandelions today. At home I battle these plants with various ecocidal (and ineffectual) devices. I wonder why we don’t welcome them, the way the Japanese welcome the annual blazing wave of cherry blossom sweeping their islands: welcome the brightness of the flowers, the fantastic structure of the seedheads, the bounty of the edible leaves and roots, the inspiring example of their persistence and hardiness.