Finding my way out of the Welcome Break services, where the Days Inn I have spent the night in is, situated is no small task. The clear road markings are designed for vehicle drivers, not pedestrians and it takes a return to the shop to ask a local to get me out and a long mile a and a half along a fast road before I consider myself safely out of Telford and start to see signs of normality as I understand it
The first pleasant sight is a stream running beneath a small bridge as I turn to follow a road into the small town of Shifnall. I meet a man going the other way who is delighted to see me;
“We ‘re doing the same but in reverse” he says
It turns out he is walking to Asda in Telford; most pleased with himself for having the bright idea of walking though a bit concerned his friemds might call whilst he is out. Why is he so pleased? He has discovered it is not so far, a mile and a half, and that Asda are cheaper than the village store which doesn’t sell what he wants anyway. He asks where I have come from and when I tell him I am walking around England he is unable to register the fact, and continues to talk about how great an idea it is of his to be walking to Telford:
“it’s only a mile and half” he repeats, delight that it is so do-able written all over his face “and it’s Sunday and I’m not at work”
It is in this exchange that I have a reminder about the sharing of transition ideas, what people are ready to hear, and in what bite sized chunks they can take things in, and that for some people simply being heard is the best that we can offer, and I feel pleased that he has discovered walking; and not a little disappointed that it is the delights of Asda that have brought him out; and sad that the local shop is not being supported.
I have visions of Shifnall sporting one tiny village store and being a bit like all the villages that make up the Telford conglomerate; all housing to feed the industries, and no communities and no shops, so when I see the large and impressive Sst Andrews church and the ancient houses just by it it I am starting to feel quite outraged that this obviously old town could have been so vilified so ii am positively enchanted to discover it is a proper town, and not only that, but it has a short high street packed full of old houses, many Tudor, shops and hotels, including the once home of the famous king’s mistress Nell Gwyn. It is so nice to see a real town after walking the streets that link up the village conglomerate they named Telford with the M54 running straight through its middle cutting Priorslee in half, and not only that but a real old town that seems to be thriving that I am invigorated and happy for the day .
I have planned a route down lovely quiet back roads through many hamlets; my favourite walking nowadays, roads practically to myself and lots of little communities to enjoy, with pubs all along the way to choose from for lunching at. I am joined today, being a Sunday , by others, cyclists, including one on an amazing 3 wheel trike that sits so low to the ground its rider sits almost floor level, legs stretched out along in front of him, pedalling by moving his arms in circular fashion; he moves far too quickly for me to get a photo, and then passes me again returning a while later and still too quick to get a photo though this time he does call a greeting as he zooms past. How delightful; to see innovative people out having fun at no cost to the environment, or other’s expense, and keeping fit at the same time!
Lunch is at the Seven Stars at Beckbury; I am thrilled to discover in its pub sign the reason why my local in Totnes has the name it does; the 7 stars in Beckbury has its 7 stars drawn on its sign, in the shape of the constellation of the plough, and in case there is any doubt; a picture of a cart horse and plough beneath it!
From Beckbury the back lanes take me to Badger; though I don’t see any, and am more than slightly perturbed at the sounds coming from the woods to my right as i walk through – sharp noises of things being hit and a boy shouting in pain then another boy shouting
“ I’ll shoot you if you don’t stop”
And then more sharp noises of things being whacked and more shouting. I am tempted to call on the houses across the way to alert them but the noises die down and i wonder if it just boys being boys; amazing how the things t boys do always sound so aggressively unhealthy; wonder if they always have and it will ever change?
I pass an idyllic looking rush filled pond and thatched cottage and have difficulty in reconciling the two events.
The last stretch of today’s walk involves being skilful in reading my OS map and identifying what would have been the old road in from Worfield to Bridgnorth even though it weaves from side to side through the very fast and noisy A road from Wolverhampton to Bridgnorth. It is accomplished with less than 1 mile in total of walking along the A road verge and I am safely onto on the B road down into Bridgenorth.
A hairy corner where the pavement gives out on a blind bend; the epitome of poor planning by officials who have obviously never walked in their lives and I am through.
As I follow the road down the steep valley side of the river Severn to enter the town, on a little stretch that faces due south, I see, pick, and eat, my first blackberry of the autumn.
Once in Bridgnorth all my fears of having any expectations at all of it being a nice town, in case I am disappointed as I was in Market Drayton, are pleasantly dispelled. It is simply gorgeous; ancient old trading town; low town on the banks this side of the river, high town rising above it on the other it retains all the character it must have had when it was a principle staging post and trading centre on the Severn trading route between the north and Bristol, spices and groceries coming up and dairy, coal, and iron going south.
Bridgnorth is not only a town that is not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep steep hill with a castle on the top, it is also in a prime location for trading with a history of so doing to draw on. It isn’t a transition town yet….but it has everything going for it.
I am staying with my friends Rani & Robin Moulsdale, who have been retired some year s but who have a background in teaching and community, having lived in many intentional communities over their lives together and have a deep understanding of group dynamics and inner work. I explain what transition is and Robin tells me about Henry George and land tax and shows me an article he has saved from the Guardian by Phillipe Legrain (from his book “Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After the Crisis”) which explains this, the theory being that if we only ever had one tax, and it was for amount of land owned, and for nothing else, it would solve the problems facing our age, and we talk about why some people, including Churchill, have known that this is the only way, and yet people don’t hear or listen, and we start to talk about the inner transition that will be needed within us all before any real change can happen.