Author Topic: Two High Bridges, some elephant grass and adventure.  (Read 530 times)

barewirewalker

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After a number of years I have returned to exploring the North East of Shropshire on the Staffordshire border. Basing a walk on the Wharf Tavern, Goldstone Quay, we decided to walk north up the canal towards Market Drayton, because there are two very high bridges, which had impressed us a couple of weeks earlier. That day the weather was rather dull and overcast, but this day was clear blue skies and when we entered the 2 mile long cutting, through the areas underlying bed of Sandstone. The sunlight was slicing through the tree canopy and playing on the magnificently towering arch of High Bridge. We passed under it, I was harbouring a strong desire to visit the top but the steep cutting sides made this a foolish notion. We walked on for quarter of a mile and when I pointed out a break in the cutting, Mrs BWW immediately understood. Aided by a few strongly rooted saplings, we gained the top of the cutting, but the spoil heap went further back from the field margin than I had anticipated, thick vegetation and a screen of bramble, then a deep but dry ditch started to erode my determination but despite the briars interlacing a 5 strand wire fence, Mrs BWW was undaunted, so I forged on. Eventually wriggling through the lower strands of the fence, we rolled out into a lovely, sun blest pasture to the surprise of a small herd of dairy followers, two septuagenarians giggling like teenagers.

It was an easy walk back to High Bridge , a field gate conveniently placed, we walked the field / canal boundary back to the track that led over the bridge, Mrs BWW immediatly brought out the coffee flask, as the first barge we had seen that day passed a 100 or so feet below us, just visible through the tree canopy. If you have clicked on the hyper link, you might notice that we were, then, off the righteous way. It was not my intention to give up the line of the canal, as there is another high bridge further north, looking at the map, I though it likely we would find a farm boundary fence on the west side, so we set off along the field boundary on the east side, this led us to a wet ditch, but an overgrown sleeper bridge was found a little way into the field, we crossed from a grass field into a wall of Elephant grass, but as the sleeper bridge, we had just crossed suggested that this was a shooting estate, the 10m field boundaries boosting the SFS earnings to 97 per acre, suggest unhindered passage around the field. My portion of tax and that of the fellow non landowners that goes towards this mitigates any guilt I might feel of straying off the righteous way.

We soon came to the other high bridge that seems to join land divided by the canal cutting at a farm called The Hollings, probable originally part of the Cheswardine Estate, which seems to have been sold up in the 1930's, though by the spread of elephant grass, the land ownership is large scale. Elephant grass is a 2 year growing cycle, I believe, good for large estates not so interested in more intensive agricultural management.
The Hollings bridge seemed to be used more frequently than High Bridge, we lingered a while on top and enjoyed the sensation offered by this structure, I pondered an anomaly the map shows, a footpath (RoW) that ends some 100yds or so short of this bridge at the county boundary. Anyone interested enough to look at the map shown by the link, will see the anomaly. I thought the footpath might have been a route to the canal towpath but the 1880 and 1900 OS 6inch per mile maps show a clear way to the top of the bridge.

We walked south on the east side from the Hollings Farm Bridge and at the field boundary found a Shrophire CC post, waymark, even a style pointing away from the canal, all quite new furniture, hoping others had used this way to link into the canal, we tried to rejoin the towpath.


We did not find a clear route through, though we landed in a muddy heap on the towpath after a broken branch, 4 ft slide and 6ft drop, Mrs BWW had my body to break her impact and fortunately no passing barges to witness our embarrassment.

Are these two bridges wasted infrastructure?


They are certainly a legacy, magnificent historical archaeology serving a very minor role in linking agricultural holdings, which probably use the highway network to move their heavy equipment around.

Taking a broader look at maps beyond the scope of Explorer and Landranger might lead to some interesting thinking, perhaps I will add to this later, my keyboard needs a rest or is it my brain.
BWW
Their Land is in Our Country.

barewirewalker

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Re: Two High Bridges, some elephant grass and adventure.
« Reply #1 on: 11:13:46, 19/10/18 »
I first heard the term Corridors of Countryside on one of the very early LAF meetings I attended. As a newcomer, I was loath make comment too early in the discussion triggered by a visiting dignitary, usually bought in by the county council to fill up the time of our four meetings a year.

There was I thinking, "Now we are talking sense", when I started to realise the discussion was about wildlife. Now if we were developing ideas on an Access Forum that is supposed to advise county councils we might have been discussing such magnificent structures as these two bridges, which have the power to draw the access network away from the ever increasing traffic in the highway network.

It is true that some of the routes captured by the 1949 act are shortcuts towards roads that were not so busy in yesteryear.

For the sake of a few field margins, tracks that have now been developed to service new farm structures, rights of way that seem to serve no purpose, this example could show how a whole cross country route from Uttoxeter to Oswestry could be as near a Pure Corridor of Countryside of 50 miles (as the crow flies) as is possible in our lowland countryside.

And this in a county so notoriously bad at allowing cross county routes that it's policy is to have a meaningless circular meander as it's flagship walking attraction.

Should the countryside access lobby groups be raising their sights from local squabbles about path blockages etc and start to collect evidence of the real flaws in our countryside network? Then amalgamate these into a true policy of improvement, it is perfectly obvious from this example that if England had it own version of the Scottish Land Reform Act that allows for responsible access, walkers could already be walking this route with no disturbance to agricultural practice.
« Last Edit: 11:19:37, 19/10/18 by barewirewalker »
BWW
Their Land is in Our Country.

barewirewalker

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Re: Two High Bridges, some elephant grass and adventure.
« Reply #2 on: 11:54:37, 30/10/18 »
Should Corridors of countryside be seen as a valuable asset? I the position of these two bridges are viewed on a road map. It will be seen that they are immediately west of the gap of countryside that exists between the metropolitan areas of Stoke and Stafford, the smaller urban area of Stone provides a transport hub, but countryside footpaths exist north and south of stone in an E 2 W direction and there are at least 3 off highway foot crossings of the M6, also foot crossings the N 2 S rail line.


It is unlikely that the the potential of this will be seen by any of the statutory organisations involved in understanding the development of our access network, because of the county divide. Individual walkers might, the distance between the M6 and the 2 high bridges overt he canal is 10-11 miles as the crow flies.


In the NE corner of Shropshire, there are a quantity of Rights of Way coming out of Cheshire, which stop dead as they meet the Shropshire border. There is a substantial area of the county without rights of way surrounding the Estate of the Heywood Longsdale family, it was a Heywood Longsdale  who was chairman of the Shropshire County Council through much of the 1960's at the time that the Definitive Map was being collated.



BWW
Their Land is in Our Country.

barewirewalker

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Re: Two High Bridges, some elephant grass and adventure.
« Reply #3 on: 12:09:35, 30/01/19 »
Last Monday we took a friend on a walk that Incorporated the two high bridges and the elephant grass. The route had to be cut down and this involved 2/3 of a mile of unpleasant road experience.
But there was a plus side, apart from the glorious weather sandwiched between several days of gloom, that of further discovery. I describe in previous post the struggle to reach the top of these high bridges and the curious anomaly of a right of way that stops at the Staffordshire/Shropshire border just 100yds short of giving access to the Hollings Farm bridge.

There did not seem to be a link into the canal towpath, perhaps summer vegetation obscured some signs, and I rather assumed that the reason for the way to the bridge provided by Shropshire in their interpretation of the Definitive Map, but not taken up by Staffordshire, indicated a way from that bridge towards the east. There would be a walkable route using field margins, farm tracks and rights of way that could extend the access through that part of Staffordshire all the way (11miles) to a farm service bridge over the M6, but that is by the way as winter has revealed more.

As we approached the Hollings Farm high bridge from the south, I spotted a trail up the side of the cutting. The first few feet was a mud slide, but it soon revealed steps. As the steps gave way to flat ground at the top of the cutting, the trail became no more than an animal track. Have badgers revealed a lostway or have members of the local shoot, topside, given away this old route by sending their retrievers down into the cutting for lost birds.

Our friend really enjoyed the sunlight on the top of that bridge, the contrast of a frosty late afternoon in the deep shadow of the ravine, gave us the perfect place to enjoy the last of our coffee before returning to the car at Tyrley lock.
Our first coffee break, on that walk, had triggered a conversation about special places and the uplifting experiences, that are part of the benefit of walking. This place was right on the right of way, a stile on the corner of a wood. I was led into describing some the many special places known to me. So later on that walk, I drew my companions off the righteous way by a few yards to a pool or pit (as known to me as a country lad). It was hidden from view by a screen of elephant grass, but clearly marked on the 1:25,000 OS map. Bracketed by two oak trees, one had the roots eroded away to make perfect seats, this was one of those places that could bring balm to the soul, with out chemical interference, yet I had to point out that we were trespassing in yielding to the  temptation of veering off the righteous way by 15 to 20yds.

A short distance further on, the original right of way had been rerouted around farm buildings, I have no complaint about this as the re-route is an improvement in quality of way, but the end of that footpath is on a main road. There are two logical destinations for that footpath and both could have been improved by simple additions to the footpath network. In the case of our intended destination 2/3 of a mile of busy road could have been avoided by walking the roadside field margins, where there was a natural place to put a stile under a tree, where no hedge could grow. If I were to walk that route again I would try to do this as we met at least 15 vehicles traveling at speed returning to the bridge that gave us access back to the canal towpath.

Are these examples of why the modern concept of countryside access should be moving towards the Scottish model.

BWW
Their Land is in Our Country.