Monday Meditation: An Autumnal Walk in the Park

29670864_UnknownA few weeks ago, we had to return a couple of items to a clothing store in the town centre and I realised it was near the vast Telford Town Park. I have never been there because it is huge, nor had I previously been able to manage the slightly uphill walk from the car park to the children’s area, which in the past would have been the part we would be visiting. It was an iffy sort of afternoon, it had all the appearance of being fine and unthreatening when we set off, but by the time we left the store it looked like it could turn at any time. We decided to risk it.

I wasn’t feeling great that day and was lacking in energy, so we took our time meandering just far enough to feel the sun on our faces, take some uplifting photographs and enjoy the peace and the autumn colours. The experience was eye-opening. I never knew this oasis existed in the middle of this urban conurbation. I was only aware of it as a venue for mass Bank Holiday events, mostly aimed at teenagers and young adults.

There is a small lake just inside the park and I was delighted to see geese, ducks and swans either snoozing on the banking, gliding over the morror-like surface or – in the case of the geese – apparently having had a bit of a tiff and taking time out!

I love the reflections. It was a huge privilege to witness this family of cygnets enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

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The goose on the right looks in a real huff and none too pleased at my appearance! I abandoned the notion of any type of mediation. He didn’t attempt to wander off though and I stood watching for quite some time.

The mallard, however, was to all intents and purposes, having a siesta, but as I drew closer I realised he had his beady eye on me and was watching my every move. He did not twitch or flinch or show any signs of being disturbed by my presence and allowed me to take several photos. I felt humbled and honoured to be given this opportunity to be so up close, to see the textures and colours of his beautiful plumage. I seem to get on well with ducks!*

Eventually, we walked slowly away and sauntered around the play area. It was a school day, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. These are extensive grounds but I only saw a tiny portion. I was tired and it started to drizzle so I just took a few photos of the trees, the magpies and a beautiful sculpture comprised of assorted shiny metal leaves:

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I am ashamed to admit I almost laughed at the quote. For anyone who knows Telford, it has been the butt of jokes since its inception as a new town comprising mainly industrial parks, ugly modern buildings and roundabouts, similar to East Kilbride in Lanarkshire and other New Towns. It was built to provide a hub for several outlying smaller towns surrounded by the beautiful Shropshire countryside. However, I looked around me and shed my preconceptions. I turned a blind eye to shopping centre (mall) at the far side of the lake, with all its junk food outlets and gaudy hoardings, and looked at the wonderful undulating landscape of the park, extending further than I could see with its woodland areas, lakes and abundant wildlife.

It had given me a couple of peaceful hours in the company of waterfowl and birds, amongst autumnal colours of every hue. I was sad to leave and go back to the car, but it was getting late and the light was fading. It was beginning to drizzle. I made a mental note to come back in the summer when body and blooms are at their best.

*Monday Meditation: A Study in Perseverance

Copyright; Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: We Finally Discover Shifnal Millenium Sensory Garden

When I wrote this post, I didn’t realise that it would be Invisible Disabilities Week when it was published; as someone who has spent her entire adulthood with an invisible disability, I am pleased to highlight a community sensory garden we discovered on one of our many meandering drives this summer.

29398928_UnknownSome time ago, I wrote about unplanned detours while travelling through our local Bermuda triangle (see below for links). On our first detour, I had noticed some public gardens. I thought we could take my elderly mother and I wanted to check it out to see if it was easily accessible, as I hadn’t been able to see an entrance. I didn’t know the name so hadn’t attempted to look it up. I knew it was near the railway bridge and a little terrace of cottages, how hard could it be? No matter how many times we tried to retrace our steps on the way to other nearby destinations, we could not find it.

This time, however, we made a special trip to find it once and for all. Having Googled ‘public gardens, Shifnal’, I came up with Shifnal Millenium Sensory Garden. We looked at the map, noted the street and off we went. I wasn’t at all sure this was it, but thought it was worth checking out anyway.

 True to form, despite having directions, we went around in circles several times before spotting it. We had been looking for gates and a car park, but there aren’t either. You have to park on the street, which is not ideal when the gardens are structured for people with mobility issues, sight or hearing impairment. It’s a busy road and there are few spaces, with no drop down pavement. However, it was a weekday when we visited, and therefore quiet, so we had no problem parking.

29399792_UnknownThe gardens are a community initiative, locally funded and run, quite small but having the appearance of being much bigger as they merge seamlessly into the vast grounds surrounding St Andrew’s church, which comprises lawns, the cemetery and woodland. In fact, the church had provided some land for these award-winning  gardens.

The old church surrounded by tall trees makes a stunning backdrop when you first enter the gardens:

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Inside the entrance, there is a sensory map:

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It was late summer when we visited and a warm but cloudy day, so the gardens are not really shown to their best advantage in the photos. There were mainly large, showy, bright yellow, pink and red begonias in raised beds and hydrangeas in shrubby areas, other wilder and darker wooded glens, tall grasses and ferns. The geraniums had finished flowering, unfortunately. The pathways were either grassed, pressed pea gravel, or block paving, easily accessible for wheelchairs or people with walkers or sticks. Occasionally you come across a sculpture.

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There is a peaceful air about the grounds; there are benches where you can sit and listen to birdsong or watch well-fed, healthy-looking squirrels migrating from the churchyard, digging up acorn stashes or chasing each other around trees.

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The church grounds are vast, with silver birch trees, oak and yew, Scots pine, hollies and conifers. Some of the older areas of the cemetery are overgrown and unkempt, a haven for wildlife, while other parts of the grounds are immaculate and surround a beautiful Anglo-Saxon church, which unfortunately was locked when we were there so we couldn’t take a look inside.

We intend to return next summer to take a proper look inside this ancient village church, but for now here are photos of the exterior:

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We spent a long time here, until late in the afternoon, each with our own thoughts, meandering about the old graves, around the church, under the trees or just sitting watching the squirrels. We could hear a lot of birds, the trees were so tall though that we couldn’t see most of them, but it was lovely to sit with eyes closed listening to such a melodious soundtrack in this woodland oasis just yards away from a busy road.

Monday Meditation: Stunning Stained Glass in a World-Reknowned Medieval Shrewsbury Church

Monday Meditation – A Stroll Around Hodnet Hall Gardens

An Impromptu Mother’s Day Adventure or How We Survived the Vortex that is Our Local Bermuda Triangle …

Ducks, Daves and Detours

 Copyright:  Chris McGowan

Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

Believe it or not, these are the grounds of our National Sports Centre at Lilleshall where Olympian gymnasts and archers, and professional footballers train. Not a bad place to work and train, eh?

It’s in a beautiful setting, I love the trees, especially this majestic cedar tree. It is stunning close up and the glade that it forms with the tall pines is home to lots of squirrels, rabbits, birds, pheasant and the odd fox and badger. We have brought friends and family, young and not so young, here to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in all seasons, even on Boxing Day!

The estate was originally in the demesne of Lilleshall Abbey but fell into private ownership during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monastries. For part of its history it was owned by the Dukes of Sutherland and the second duke’s wife played a large part in the architectural design and landscaping of the estate.

In 1949, The Central Council Of Physical Recreation bought the hall and several thousand acres of land and it has been used as a sports centre ever since. The future Queen Elizabeth II opened it in 1951. The entrance gates are replicas of those at Buckingham Palace.

The England football team trained there for two weeks before the 1966 World Cup – the fresh air and stunning views obviously did the trick!

I thought I would share a few photos from our recent visit.

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The view from the terrace

The water gardens are between the formal hedged garden and the woodland

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These water lillies looked like they were really enjoying the sun

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These are grapevines growing over the path

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There are several follies around the grounds.

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Count the chimneys – we got to at least 40! Imagine having to light all those fires and clean them after, not to mention the chimneys themselves. This is the side of the hall.

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At the far end of the estate there is a pet cemetery, one area for dogs, one for cats, some have their own headstones, some share them with others; there is even a memorial to a Russian wolfhound called Czar, who was given to the Marchioness of Stafford by Czar Alexander II in 1836 and lies buried alongside – but a little apart from – the other dogs and cats, as befits his aristocratic status!

I tried to take some video of our walk through the trees for a friend who could do with some sunny smiles, but finished up with a lot of footage of feet and pink knees! Apparently when I thought I was recording, I was in fact on pause and vice versa. Unfortunately when we tried to rectify this on a second visit, the rain came down and it doesn’t show the grounds at their best. Because we’d had storms in-between, the ground was too wet to retrace our steps (there used to be a canal system running through the estate, built to transport coal and limestone to and from local mines, and parts of it are very marshy, even in the summer). So I present to you some photos of sheep in a neighbouring field!

There is a lot of excitement around at the moment over the impending visit of the medal-winning gymnasts, who are currently having some much-needed chill-out time first.

Copyright: Chris McGowan