A green and pleasant land

A Shropshire Lad returns…

Well we have been having a very nice time since I last wrote, exploring inland for a change. We sailed up to Caernarfon in the Menai Straights- Wales and left Hestur, snug for 2 weeks while we headed west to Shropshire – England to stay with Dans’ Parents. We were greeted into Wales by our very good friend Denise who we have done a lot of sailing with as crew on her boat over the years. She lives near by and buzzed down to see us when she heard of our arrival. Dans’s Uncle Steve was next to arrive and welcome us back to the British Isles. He drove over to pick us up and take us home to The Mill, Dans parents house, where he was staying while Ruth and Martin we away. The surprise: that we would be there when they got back the following day, nearly went to plan. It was indeed a surprise! However Ruth arrived back without Martin, as he had already launched out (in the Rolls Royce) for the Welsh coast to go and collect us. He was only half an hour away when we got him on the phone so was able to return before too many unnecessary miles. I got a ride in that beautiful car later on in the week though. It was SO lovely to see Ruth and Martin at the Mill, we had lots to catch up on since we last saw them in Antigua! And wonderful to see John, Dan’s granddad too, we hadn’t seen him for a year and a half. He had also sailed a route of the Atlantic in the late 70’s and so he was often in our minds as we visited the different islands. It was lovely to talk to him again about his trip and show him photos of ours. The Mill is an amazing place. It’s a restored watermill from the 1790’s, which was used to grind wheat from the neighbouring farms. Martin and Ruth bought the ruin of the mill, 10 miles south west of Shrewsbury when Dan was 7 and brother Nick: 5. It comprised of a brick roofless structure with ivy clawing up and through it aside the external waterwheel and fragments of the old wooden cogs and internal workings. Martin restored and extended the existing mill into a beautiful, fascinating and unique family home. He has since rekindled the waterwheel itself and is now generating electricity with it. The house is set in a wonderful garden built up by Ruth and Martin over the years. Ruth tends and works it sympathetically and impressively. It’s a beautiful arrangement of different areas and planting : little paths and terraces link together and are screened or highlighted by the trees, banks and walls. The stream which feeds the waterwheel trundles through the center of the garden, when its power is not being harnessed by the big black steel wheel on the orange brick gable end of the house. The stream first appears in the garden as it tumbles down a cutting in the bank, deep behind the ferns and woodland plants then reappears to lazily trail past the grasses and flowers overlooking it from the bank, then slips away under the grass bridge and off past Martin’s workshops. The vegetables and fruit are prize worthy and the flowers sweet and cheery. The big bright sunflowers all came to life while we were there, they gaze across the garden to the house. We ate lots of fabulous vegetables from the garden during our stay ( I love vegetables! ) There was a massive crop of whopping courgettes when Ruth got back from her week away, I made chutney from some of them. They also were roasted, stuffed and made into a delectable chocolate and courgette birthday cake for me by Ruth! I also made jars of green bean chutney, plum jam and red current jelly: one pan full a day. Dan did some work with Martin, who runs an oak timber framed building and restoration business called Heritage Oak Builders. He has some very interesting projects he is working on at the moment so Dan was delighted to be involved in several of these at exciting development stages. There was a windmill restoration (which dates from the 1700’s?) which Martin has been recently working on the rotating top cap of. It’s a very beautiful thing. Martin built the the roof of the windmill previously, its curved and clinkered larch, like an upturned boat. Next they will be installing the “sails”. There was also a job at a farmhouse ( from the 1600’s?). Martin and his right hand man, Richard are building a massive oak framed wing extension onto the front of the house, so Dan helped with that as they got the floor up in place. There was also a trip out to an old boat house to look at it for potential renovation. Dan really enjoyed getting involved with some practical projects again, and having some involved and interesting workshop time. At the weekend Martin, Dan and old friend John Hewlett ( Dan went to “mothers and toddlers” with John, a few years ago) (John now works in the Hydro electric business) worked on reengineering the main shaft bearing and final drive to the new generator on The Mill Waterwheel. Jenny, Johns’ girlfriend and I meanwhile had a super walk up over the Styperstones. A long hill to the east of The Mill with rocky tors dotted along its spine. It was a blustery day with sun and cloud chasing over the land. The hill was purple with blooming heather and fruitful blaeberries. Later we chopped the courgettes which would be come the chutney. Jenny found a puff ball on a later walk and we all had that the following day for breakfast, very good fried in butter and garlic! We spent a night with John and Jenny in their new house which we hadn’t yet seen. We had a superb curry cooked by them, in fact multiple curries! The house has a huge garden with great views sweeping down and across fields to open country side. The following day, instructed by John, we uprooted various things in the garden and chopped at hedges. Jenny was at work, I hope we targeted the right things?! We met Dans God Father, Dick and lovely Jeanie for lunch that day. We walked across fields on a footpath to the pub a couple of miles from John and Jenny’s house to meet them. It was a lovely afternoon, bright and breezy. We sat out side the pub and had an very nice afternoon catching up on each others news and had a very fine lunch. Nick, Dans brother, was able to join us one evening as he had been south, working near by. We hadn’t seen him since he came out with friends to join us in Madeira back in September last year, so it was so great to meet up again! Ruth had planned a mini christmas, since she had her two boys back, and together for a night. She had a goose for the feast, something Dan had been dreaming about during months aboard! I had a couple of rides on a very fine horse, Jill, who belongs to Ruth and Martins’ next door neighbour Linda. It was a thrill to get back in the saddle. Linda keeps her horses ( she has Jack and Jill, but Jack was away that week) between two fields so I offered to “help” her take Jill up the lane. Linda let me ride her, but in the process she had her foot trodden on, so not sure how much help I was?! She did invite me back for another ride however. What fun to be striding through the country side. It was my Birthday while we were at The Mill. We had a lovely day there and then in the afternoon we all set off for Wales to spend the night on Hester in Caernarfon. It was a super day. After very a good breakfast with Ruth and Dan, Dan and I had a walk up a nearby hill, Rodneys Pillar. It was chilly, bright and breezy, great views from the top, then we tumbled down to a country pub for a pint and a bite to eat. I inspected a section of the river Severn for a swim ( i always swim on my Bday) but it was thick milky muddy and cold, so we carried on back to The Mill for a dip in the pond! It was a beautiful evening as we drove into Wales. We drove through Snowdonia, down through the Llabmberris pass, stopping at an old hotel bar at the top for a drink, the Pen-y-Gurid. It had been an old climbers pub, with artefacts displayed; crampons, axes etc from several famous mountaineering expeditions and many signatures on the ceiling from climbers who stayed/ drank there during mountaineering trips in the area, including W.H. Tillman amongst others. We carried on down through the pass, passing climbing crags/ walls/ corners Dan and Martin knew from their relative collage days. And Ruth and I knew of them too! There was a a duet of head torches, like little frozen fire flies in the dark on one wall. Cars parked at the bottom on the road and climbers still milling about, we carried on. We had a very delicious curry in Llamberris, then carried on down to Hestur. It was damp and dark night, but we soon got snug aboard. We spent a few more days in north Wales then set off to sea, with our friend John Hewlett aboard. Those tales from the hill and sea coming soon…. g

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3 thoughts on “A green and pleasant land

  1. Very nice to see all the photographs; a green and pleasant land indeed.
    I hope you are readjusting to the briny !
    Enjoy onward journey,
    All the best, BP x

  2. I’ve just looked at the photos again after reading the blog: the amount of work is truly impressive: The beautiful roof of the windmill especially and the other structures. But also the wonderful garden which I’ve not seen for several years. It is flourishing and healthy. Yes, I see the backs of heads of the sunflowers as they all are looking, like an enthralled audience in the stalls, towards the backdrop of the house/mill.
    And not least the chutney, birthday cake and foraged puffball.
    All fabulous,
    BP x

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