Another birthday has come and gone (the clue as to which is in the title) - which means this blog is now 11 years old. But before more of that, and what I've been getting up to since getting back to Switzerland, I still have some English adventures to recount, chief among them a trip to deepest Shropshire to spend a couple of days chez Bolty. It didn't get off to the best of starts: only a few minutes out of Sheffield, the train came to an abrupt halt, and eventually the guards came along the aisle, informing us there had been 'an incident' on the line. Ominous fears confirmed with the arrival of police and overheard snippets of their convesation. The train was packed, and very hot; I was lucky enough to have found a seat, but some, including J, were having to stand. An hour passed. The guards distributed bottles of water. J phoned Mandy to say we would miss our connecting train, but would ring again with updated plans once we had more information. One hour became two. Finally we were told that the train would return to Sheffield. Some 2 1/2 hours after setting off, we were back where we started, and waiting for another train. This got us to Stockport okay......... where we found that the next train to Ludlow had been cancelled! - in fact, ALL the trains on that route were cancelled, due to a problem with the line. What to do now?! I prospected about till I found someone to ask, and was told to get the next train to Stoke-on-Trent (due in 2 minutes), from there a train to Crewe, and there we would be able to get one to our final destination, Craven Arms. I raced back to the platform where I had left J, told him to get his shoes back on NOW (he had made himself comfortable on a bench), grabbed the rucksacks, and sprinted down the stairs, along the underpass, up the stairs onto the opposite platform just as the train arrived, and flung ourselves on. After that, the rest of the journey was positively peaceful. Stoke-on-Trent station was surprisingly attractive, much nicer than expected, and the wait not too tedious. A longer wait at Crewe, but I found the cafe remembered from the journey back from the Snowdon marathon and had an excellent tea. En route we rang Mandy again with the latest update, and when our odyssey finally ended at Craven Arms, she and Gerry were waiting on the platform to welcome us. Lovely to see them again! After a visit to the supermarket for supplies, we clambered into their chariot and were transported to Castle Bolty. The cottage was a gem, the setting in the Shropshire hills an escapist's dream, and the wildlife amazing - I've never seen such a popular birdtable! Dinner too was wonderful - thank you so much, Sir and Lady Bolty, for your warm hospitality. It was a very enjoyable evening.
After a good night's sleep, I wandered out into the garden still in my nightshirt, watched rabbits scampering about, and enjoyed the view of the surrounding hills. It was cool and slightly misty and utterly peaceful, except for the sound of sheep across the valley. What a wonderful start to the day! After breakfast, we migrated over to the house, and the four of us set out on a walk over to Clun, via fields and woods and country lanes. Lunch in Clun, sitting in the sunshine outside a cafe, each of us with a different kind of soup (there were 8 on the menu!), a brief diversion to see the youth hostel I once stayed at, many moons ago (not my happiest experience), then the gaunt ruins of Clun castle.