Well, I was in England and Wales too; for over three weeks. Horse and house-sitting in the beautiful county of N. Shropshire, near Oswestry, which is very near the border into north Wales. It was our privilege and pleasure to look after two lovely Welsh Cobs and three Welsh Mountain ponies, oh and one elderly ram as well, in exchange for our holiday accommodation! We are old hands at home-exchanging but house and pet-sitting was new for us. It involved more duties than we were used to during home exchanges. E.g: lawn mowing, mucking-out stables, mending and cleaning rugs, daily stabling, feeding and grooming of horses etc. Enjoyable, but quite a challenge to take on. While I grew up with horses and am comfortable with them, it was all quite new to Frank. But he took to the Good Life like a duck to water.
Leading horses through a swelling river
I love England (and Wales) in the spring. Birdsong, bluebells, balmy days, the trees coming into leaf, blossom falling and clear nights… But did we get that? Not on your nelly! A cold snap with hail and light snow at the beginning of our sojourn meant the horses had to come in at nights. Torrential rain meant the tranquil and pretty River Morda (which we had to cross in order to lead the horses through to their field) turned into a raging torrent coming up over our knees.
Gambolling lambs and blossom
But finally spring did live up the its poetic hyperbole. The last few days of our stay did give us beautiful weather. Let’s be honest, anyone going to England in the spring expecting only sunshine would be seriously misguided. Even though the weather went through its full gamut of changes which meant extra mucking out, feeding and stabling for the horses, we still had plenty of enjoyable days out. North Shropshire was relatively unknown for us, while we know Hereford and south Wales/south Shropshire pretty well, there were lots of cultural and natural beauties still waiting to be discovered in A. E. Housman’s Land of Lost Content.
Sightseeing highlights were:
- Pistyll Rhaedr Waterfall At 80m the highest single drop waterfall in the UK. Go on a weekday if you can and avoid the crowds.
- Seeing bluebells again after five years of missing them
- Hearing skylarks (extinct in NL) on a hack in the picturesque and undiscovered Ceiriog Valley
‘A little bit of heaven on Earth’ was how Lloyd George described the Ceiriog Valley.
- Erddig House. A stately home in Wales where the ‘master’ wrote poetry for each member of the downstairs staff. Picnicking in the Arcadian grounds next to the cup and saucer fountain with the bleating of lambs in the background. Heavenly.
- Visiting Chester, Chester Cathedral and ambling along the wonderful black and white timbered shopping ‘rows’
- Horse-drawn canal ride in Maesbury Marsh. He’s a Cracker! That’s the name of the strawberry roan horse who pulls the canal barge along the Montgomery Canal. We now follow each other on Twitter…
- Chirk Castle Magnificent medieval fortress of the Welsh Marches with lovely grounds to explore.
- Visiting the picturesque village of Knockin which of course has a shop named, well, can you guess? For non-Brits, a knocking shop is slang for brothel.
- Walking across Pontcysyllte aqueduct; admiring the dizzying views from the highest and longest aqueduct in Britain, and marvelling at the fact that the mortar holding the bricks together contains oxen blood.
- Leading the horses through the River Morda – see short film below.