Those blue remembered hills: Cardingmill Valley
Into my heart an air that kills From yon far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those? That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again. A.E. Housman
The hills of Shropshire are part of my own childhood memories; my grandmother lived in Shrewsbury and we visited regularly. There were often family picnics in nearby Cardingmill Valley, and a recent mini holiday in the area gave me the opportunity to rediscover this beautiful spot.
A brief history lesson
It’s perhaps hard to imagine that these wild-looking hills have any association with human industry, beyond perhaps sheep farming. But the clue is in the name. In 1812 a carding mill was built in the valley. Carding is the process of combing fleeces, to prepare them to be spun. At first the wool, once carded, was sold to the women of the local villages who would spin the yarn in their own cottages. But in 1824 a George Corfield bought the mill and expanded it. He built a factory there and installed spinning jennies and hand looms to manufacture cloth. However there wasn’t the concentration of woollen industry activity here that was found elsewhere in the country, such as Yorkshire’s West Riding. So George diversified into clothing manufacture.
The 1880s saw him diversifying further, making ginger beer and soda water in one part of the factory, and setting up a tea room in another. People in Britain were starting to use the new-found wealth and leisure time that industrialisation had brought them to explore the countryside. Church Stretton, at the foot of the valley, was developing into a spa town, marketing itself as ‘Little Switzerland’.
Meanwhile a reservoir had been built in Townbrook Hollow, and a later one followed in 1902 in New Pool Hollow. The mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory was turned into an hotel and café. Later it was converted to flats; and a ‘Chalet Pavilion, was imported from Scandinavia to be used as a tea-room for day-trippers. Tourism was firmly established as Cardingmill Valley’s main industry!
The valley today
Today the valley is protected by the National Trust, who charge for parking (£5 all day in 2021) but not for admission. In return for your parking fee you get well-maintained walking trails; rangers on hand to answer questions and deal with litter (an unfortunate necessity); and a small visitor centre and café. There are a number of marked trails ranging from easy strolls through the valley to lengthy hikes on the hills.
New Pond Hollow
With limited time we settled on one of the shorter trails, to the reservoir at New Pond Hollow. This is a gentle climb up a side valley, with a flight of steps cut into the hillside just before arriving at the reservoir.
Once there we decided to lengthen our walk a little by following the path along one side of the reservoir and through the woods above the stream that feeds it. We crossed the stream higher up and found that the path then emerged out into the open for the return stretch. Here are some of the photos I took on this pretty walk.
I also shot a few clips of video in an attempt to capture the tranquillity of this place. Do please watch with the sound on!
Back at the visitor centre we rewarded ourselves with ice creams before we had to leave to continue our journey to Shrewsbury. It had been a brief but lovely visit to my own ‘blue remembered hills’.
I visited Cardingmill Valley in July 2021
I like Shropshire very much and we’ve been talking about going back, but the gods have been against us ever since. Cardingmill Valley is one of those places we haven’t got to yet and this has whetted my appetite even more. Fabulous post as always Sarah
Thank you very much Malcolm 😊 I highly recommend Cardingmill should you make it to Shropshire – beautiful landscape, lots of walks for all abilities, tranquil setting just to sit and picnic if you don’t want to walk.
Whether I make it there or not Sarah at least your post has shown me what I missed 🙂
It looks like a lovely location for relaxed walking and hikes. I enjoyed hearing the relaxing sounds of the stream as well. Quite meditative.
Thanks Amanda, it is exactly that – and I was so pleased the sound of the stream came through properly on my video so others could enjoy it 🙂
Lovely shots, Sarah. This is a favourite Farrell haunt, though we’ve not haunted it for a long time now, despite proximity.
Thank you Tish 🙂 It’s strange, isn’t it, how a local (ish) place can be one you return to regularly, and then suddenly it drops off your radar for a while and you don’t get around to visiting again for years!
We have walked to that reservoir a few times, it is lovely. And your video is great.
Thank you Jude 🙂 I was pleased with how the video came out, especially the sound – it really does conjure up the feeling of being there!
Life...One Big Adventure
A lovely day out and a lovely stroll. You just can’t beat the ‘green’ of England. Mel
Thanks Mel, and you’re right – there’s something special about the greens here 🙂
An ice-cream seems like a great idea right now, Sarah. It’s hot here! I spent a beautiful couple of days at Church Stretton a few years ago and a highlight was definitely walking Cardingmill. And meeting lovely Tish 😍💕
You could send a little bit of that heat over here please Jo – we’re having a very disappointing July 🙁 🌨 Good to hear from you – how are things going, apart from the heat?
Well, I gather it was a good May and June- you are in England, you know! Doing battle with a new laptop, Sarah, so I have a q now but have misplaced many of the symbols. Every comment is a memory test…
May and June were patchy rather than great, I would say! And I know what you mean about a new laptop – last time I changed I kept deleting things without meaning to!
Looks like a beautiful place – I’m sure we would enjoy some of those hiking trails! You’ve taken pretty pictures of the flowers on your way 😊.
Yes, I think you would like it here – although only picnics are allowed, no BBQs 😂
Haha 😅 … well, a picnic every now and then is not too bad.
What a lovely area, Sarah! I know the phrase and the poem because Rosemary Sutcliff’s memoir has that title.
Ah yes of course – and also the play by Dennis Potter. It’s very often quoted I think.
Maybe not in the US, though.
Very true – and not everyone knows Rosemary Sutcliffe, although ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ was on every school reading list when I was young!
I’m sure most people in the US don’t know her but I somehow found her many, many years ago. I love her books.
That’s beautiful – despite its proximity, we’ve actually spent very little time in the English countryside although it’s something we know we must do and will enjoy. Apart from a night or 2 in the Cotswolds and a washed out trip many years ago to the Lake District, most trips to the UK are to visit family so we don’t get to see much outside London… We’ve often said that we’d go over but not actually tell anyone… except now I’ve the blog of course so no more secrets!😅 😂 🤣.
It’s lovely to have the chance to relive your memories….
I know what you mean Marie – we’ve done relatively few trips in England apart from our regular visits to Newcastle to see my husband’s family. We always said we’d save it until we were too old to fancy travelling further afield! But Covid has forced us to bring that forwards and to start holidaying at home 😀
Manja Mexi Mexcessive
What a beautiful, serene region, fully unknown to me. I can tell how the visit calmed you. Just what we’d all need. I can imagine that growing up in a place like this has a lasting effect. 🙂
I loved visiting but I know what lasting effect growing up here would have had on me – boredom!! I’m a city girl and although it’s beautiful here I wouldn’t want to live here for sure 😆
Manja Mexi Mexcessive
Yes, I suppose the point (of life) is to be able to choose, and move between the two. I feel the burden of the lack of mobility. Probably we are do. I lived in the (small) capital city for 43 years and then moved to rural Tuscany. My father would say in the middle of nowhere. Well, there are nutrias… And just today they found beavers too.
Wow, beavers! There is talk of trying to reintroduce them here in England but many farmers aren’t happy at the thought of them blocking or diverting streams.
What a lovely place to spend childhood times with your grandmother. We don’t really know this area but it looks a lovely place to hike. Interesting history too with the mills. Not been to West Riding in Yorkshire but my Aunt used to have a pub in East Riding and I used to go and stay there. Michaela
It’s a lovely place for walking and there’s something for everyone in terms of length and difficulty. Shropshire is a very under-rated county. Staying in Shrewsbury for a few days I rediscovered that, and my husband discovered it, as he’s never been there before.
Fantastic to re-discover a place with your special person 😍
I’ve just looked up Carding Mill Valley on the map. I don’t know why I’ve never been there — perhaps because it would be just a bit to far for a comfortable day trip from Birmingham. We used to visit places like Kidderminster, Bridgnorth and Ironbridge nearly every summer, but they’re all a bit closer.
It’s do-able from Birmingham I reckon, but yes, a bit further than Kidderminster for instance. We drove past there on our way up from London and it was probably another 45 mins or so beyond.
Hi Nemorino, which part of Birmingham are you from? I am a Brummie too . Michaela 😁
Don (aka Nemorino) can explain in more detail himself but although he’s lived in Brum he’s not from there – he’s an American and now living in Germany 🙂
Yes, he has been in touch 🙂
Hi Michaela. Actually I’m not a Brummie, but an American living for the past half-century in Frankfurt am Main, Birmingham’s German partner city.
In the 1990s, when both cities still had money in their budgets for exchange visits, I used to bring groups of adults from Frankfurt to Birmingham in the summers. This was a cooperative project between us (the Frankfurt Adult Education Centre) and the Brasshouse Centre.
When I was in Birmingham I always stayed in Moseley and spent many an evening at the Prince of Wales, which I’m told is now more up-market than it was twenty-five years ago.
Oh wow, Moseley is not that far from where i am from. Born in Bourneville, my Nan was an original Cadbury Girl all those years ago. I must adm, Cadbury chocolate is the best in the world 😁
We considered touring Cadbury World (which was new at the time) with one of our groups, but for some reason it didn’t work out. But I have since been to similar places in Cologne and Strasbourg. https://operasandcycling.com/the-secrets-of-chocolate/
I have not visited Cadbury world either but having lived on the Cadbury estate and having my my great great Grandfather being George Cadburys first foreman we have so much family history in Bournville. I was Christened in the church on Bournville Green and have so many memories in the area 😊
Definitely an amazing place to spent hours and hours. Seems to be tranquility at its best!
Thanks Teresa 🙂 Yes, a very relaxing spot to unwind in!