A walk along a tiny stream in a deep valley in our Shropshire Hills seemed most inviting on a warm May afternoon, so we set off for a half hour drive from home to Cardingmill Valley at Church Stretton. Much of the countryside here is managed by the National Trust so at weekends the valley gets too busy for our liking. Hence we chose midweek for our stream side walk, and found a few cars and people close to the Visitor Centre but as we left that behind we were almost on our own.
The wide valley where we joined the tiny stream looked most inviting with its steep slopes running up the tall hillsides towering overhead, all topped off by a clear blue sky. We hoped to see different birds here in this upland habitat and a scarcity of plants but those we see should be interesting in how they adapt to their environment.
We were heading for a narrower side valley called “Light Spout Hollow” where if all went well we anticipated discovering a waterfall. So the first section of our walk along the Cardingmill Valley the path was relatively wide and even and the climb gentle. Looking up the slopes towards the sky we searched for the Buzzards which we could hear mewing overhead as thye wheeled in the thermals. But these are steep head-spinning slopes so it was a matter of glances of these wide-winged soaring birds of prey. It was easier to appreciate the hovering hunting tactics of the Kestrel hunting on the lower slopes.
The extreme winter conditions here become apparent in a variety of ways. The huge boulder has been split in half by repetitive freeze-thaw action in successive winters – such nature power. Trees are sculpted by the weather into natural bonsais which create dramatic silhouettes on the horizon.
The effects of the weather varied from place to place and from slope to slope. On one side of a hill Birches grow in abundance but just turn a corner and the hillside is empty of trees bar one lone stunted Birch.
The stream changed character as we moved up the little valley with miniature waterfalls, rapids and swirling deeper pools, until finally we reached our goal – the main waterfall. Here we stopped for a well-earned rest and to take in the atmosphere and views, and enjoyed our usual outdoor victuals of fruit and coffee. The boulders which we rested on were slippery and shone from the action of resting walkers’ bottoms.
Here at the top we listened to the constant songs of the birds and tried to identify those fast flyers over our heads. Wheatears, Stonechat, Whinchat and Pipit. On our way back down we concentrated on finding the wild flowers that managed to find a foothold or sheltered place.
What an enjoyable walk, wandering up valleys with just birds and sheep as company. We must return in the Autumn.