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To the Manor Borne

Well we finally got to Wilderhope on the weekend of 8th October 2010, after a failed attempt last year. The hostel had been booked last September/October time but had to be cancelled as nobody had the weekend free. Ten of us set out Friday October 8th in three cars. Norman arrived by motorbike early Saturday morning having had his arm twisted to take up the offer of a free bed due to Boh not being well enough to go!

The hostel, a gabled Elizabethan manor, stands in Hope Dale, between Wenlock Edge and the Aymestry ridge. Described as one of the most remote and least spoiled valleys in Shropshire. During the early part of this century it was uninhabited, derelict and in danger of being demolished. Ironically its neglect and inaccessibility at that time saved it from the Victorian alterations undergone by many other Elizabethan houses in Shropshire. When the Cadbury Trust purchased it in 1935/6 major repairs and renovations were started with the aim of returning it to its original condition as far as possible. Its proposed use as a youth hostel was ideal since it involved no major structural alterations, beyond the addition of washrooms with showers and water supply.

Its main features are its imposing architecture and setting, with external walls of small uncoursed rubble with dressed quoins which are in some places up to four and a half feet thick. Interior walls are timber-framed filled in with wattle and daub, two internal staircases (servants where girls dorm was) and main staircase up to boys dorms are circular and each step being made from a solid block of wood. I found hanging onto the central wood crafted rail with both hands and ‘flying’ down the two flights quite irresistible!

From the outside its setting had an ambience similar to Wastwater hostel, but instead of a lake in front it stood high overlooking grass, apple trees and fields in the distance. The interior was reminiscent, I felt, of both Whitby hostel and Wastwater too re the beams, ceiling décor, smell and feel of old wood. There was even a deserted house martin nest in the large imposing dark wood porch …anybody remember Whitby Hostel?

Those of us who arrived early Friday evening strolled down the quiet track to the pub – about a mile I believe. The pub was very pleasant and Andy sampled the food to his satisfaction. Back at the hostel later, we found the kitchen was not designed for the use of lots of individuals doing different things! The dorms were large and I think ours was 16 bedded. In spite of original window frames being in place we were able to open ours at night and I think the ablutions even met with the approval of Dorothy.

The walk on Saturday was a circular taking in Wenlock Edge. The weather was the kind best left unnoticed – depressing and drizzly. It was a bit disappointing as we could not really tell we were on an edge due to being enclosed by trees/bushes/hedges etc. It was also very muddy underfoot. However Sunday’s weather was spectacular sparkly and cold and bright. Sunday’s walk took us out onto the tops with wonderful views of the Shropshire hills.

The staff have to be mentioned. A bit like faulty towers when it comes to organisation. In spite of wanting our orders for meals in early – they never knew what the menu was going to be until the same evening – 6ish. As we left on our walk we told staff there would be 7 of us eating and anything would be okay excluding offal especially liver or tripe. At which point the staff member shouted to the kitchen staff – cancel the liver …… and the tripe! They were a very good humoured bunch and there were some interesting alternative visitors too including two storytellers with quite a story to tell! Ruth got bored of sitting around quietly Saturday evening as there were two other groups playing games/cards etc who seemed to be having a great time. Ruth duly went over to one group and asked if she could join in their games and frivolity which she did. Overall it was an enjoyable weekend I think all would agree.

Tanners Folk

Well Dave you asked for it – here goes! A different perspective on the Tanners experience. Seven intrepid explorers left Leicester in two cars – but this time one car (ours) left about 3pm and the other Chris, Sonia, Judith and Alice left considerably later, well after 5pm. Funny thing is – we still managed to meet up at the usual pub for dinner in Dorking. We were just leaving – their meals were just arriving. We debated the benefits and losses of our early start!

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