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Stiperstones, Montgomery, Oswestry, Saturday 25 May 2013

June 30, 2013

“And so returning to the car at Snailbeach, I set off in the direction of Montgomery”

“…a written curse of a witch from Oswestry…”

Descent of the Stiperstones

Leaving our stuff at Abel’s Harp, we head out to the Stiperstones, which are truly magnificent – they appear on the horizon like something from Monument Valley. Image

Marvelling at the lack of visitors on a sunny bank holiday Saturday, we reach the top and climb up the largest Stiperstone (or Michael Stiperstone as we call it, congratulating ourselves on another masterstroke of verbal inventiveness).  We then record ourselves descending (I haven’t posted the video of my girlish attempts) passing a handful of sensible walkers with poles who look very smug – maybe it’s because they have one of England’s best kept secrets to themselves.

Back at Abel’s Harp we sit out in the sun and have a chat with Dave.  It turns out that the place used to be the Drum and Monkey,  where Eric Clapton and other “rock gods”, played in the 70s.  Re-tracing the steps of Blackwell in ‘Descent of the Stiperstones’, we set off in the direction of Montgomery, where we discover Bunner’s the Chandler – which is a real shop and every bit as wondrous as he describes.  We can’t find an oil painting by Mercy Rimell entitled ‘The Raging Ostler’, or a jigsaw of Nazi war criminals, but there is an impressive array of accessories for doll’s houses (including miniature bikes and billiard rooms), bits of metal of all sizes, a giant mallet (men with mullets, take note),  tweezers in the shape of geisha girls, and a pirate board game.

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Lynette McMorrough isn’t to be found (possibly out looking for tofu) but we do manage to pick up a jar of Swarfega.  Proceeding to the till, we worry that the girl is going to say “Ah – you’re not a pair of those Half Man Half Biscuit Bike tourers are you?  We get them in all the time.”, but she serves us without comment.

After lunch at the Dragon, which oddly has a swimming pool, we press on northwards on the A433 which is straight, flat, and fast, but takes its toll on both the soul and the arsal regions.  Somewhere near Oswestry, we’re accosted by a pair of grubby-faced urchins, who shout: “Are you off to Ozfest boys?!” and hurl at us the timeless quip that our back wheels aren’t going round.  (It turns out that James are playing at a festival called Ozfest.  As a teenager, I used to have one of their t-shirts with the flower on, so I can’t join in when Nick makes cruel jokes about Tim Booth).

ImageWe’re at the Hand Hotel in Chirk by six, with enough time for some R and R before dinner.  For Nick, this means a trip to the local aqueduct and the nearby MDF factory.  For me, lacking his interest in our industrial heritage, it’s a long bath.

In the evening, we watch the Champions League final.  Someone has thoughtfully turned off the ITV commentary, but some young people with horrendous piercings have put some truly horrible dirges on the jukebox, so we set them straight and give them the benefit of a musical education, from Kenny Rogers through to NWA.  Within a few minutes, the bar is cleared, leaving us to chat with the owner, a former sqauddie with a liking for Half Man Half Biscuit.

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