The idea for this excursion started with a conversation between Robert T and myself.We were both really interested in visiting Shrewsbury especially as we could have free travel on the Heart of Wales train.
I therefore decided to add it to our events programme to see if anyone else was interested, and if not, Robert and I agreed just the two of us would go and have a jolly good time!!
As it happened a trip to Shrewsbury caught the attention of many others, not just from our West Wales group, who wanted to join us.
I contacted Peter from the local LGBT group there, who kindly offered to give us a tour of the centre of Shrewsbury on the afternoon we arrived and also to lead a walk for us on the Tuesday at Pontesbury and the Stiperstones.
I arrived at Swansea train station on the Monday morning and got on the waiting train where an expected "mystery shopper"--none other than David White, was already on board.
At the next stop Robert T joined us and further down the line Robert and Dafydd boarded but had to stand for a while, as lots of people had got on the single carriage train, and quite a few were already standing by this stage.
The five of us had a lovely ride all the way to Shrewsbury--four hours from Swansea.David hadn't been on this line before so I was pointing out interesting areas and stations on route.
At Shrewsbury we walked through the main street to our bed and breakfast accommodation (a BIG well done to Robert for finding this really great place) to drop off our bags and then we made for the nearest coffee shop, for a well deserved caffeine fix.
We then met up with the others who had travelled from all different directions and with Peter who lived locally, making lucky thirteen of us, to have a history tour--or a magical mystery tour??!!--of Shrewsbury.
Bill offered to be back marker and off we wandered.
After a short while, our back marker Bill, and also David, disappeared into thin air, almost like a scene from an Agatha Christie novel!!
We continued with the tour which lasted over two hours with Peter showing us lots of different buildings with bits of interesting history along the way.
We walked down this street and up another, and then taking a right or left turn down many of the lovely passages and alleyways, off the main streets.
There was red brick everywhere which was so pleasing on the eye, and most if not all of the old buildings were in pristine condition.
He pointed out some places that we might like to return to at our leisure.
Towards the end, we walked beside the River Severn which floods regularly and you could see the flood levels clearly marked on some of the brick walls nearby.
We eventually returned to our respective b and b's for a short rest before we were off to the restaurant, where twelve of us assembled for our evening meal.
This turned into an excellent choice of venue with some delicious food on offer and the interesting chatter flowed freely.
At the end of a lovely evening, most of us retired at a decent hour to get as much beauty sleep as possible for what was going to turn into a strenuous walk the following day.There were a few exceptions who went on to party the night away, but I won't name names!!
The following morning we said our goodbyes to Robert and Dafydd who were stayng just the one night, and then set off for the bus station for our bus ride to Pontesbury.As we approached the village Peter pointed to a very steep sided hill and said that we had to climb it to start our walk.
Some people thought he was joking but after waiting for a few latecomers who didn't appear, sure enough we set off at an almost vertical angle up the side of a wooded hill.
David had offered to be back marker this time which did bring a chuckle from some, remembering he had got lost the day before, but in fact David did a good job, closing gates and making sure we were all in tow especially when we had to try and up the pace towards the end of the walk, when the time for the last bus was looming and we were still high up.
Anyway back at the top of the first hill the views were well worth the effort and we stopped for a short while at the trig point taking in the wonderful scenery.
After an up, there's always a down, but this wasn't too bad and we meandered through fields and greenery until our lunch stop which was on the side of another hill.
After lunch there was a series of fields, tracks and lanes and then suddenly in the distance we could see the Stiperstones.
Most of us were really flagging by this stage as it had been quite a long, strenuous and at times difficult walk.I blame Peter's long legs, which seemed to take one stride for everyone else's two!!
We did decide later, after the pain was a distant memory, that we never would have seen such lovely countryside without Peters hard work which we all really appreciated.
As we neared the Stiperstones the mist had descended and out of the mist came the three latecomers who had had a lovely adventure of their own.
With Peter looking at his watch for the umpteenth time we all managed a last gasp effort and eventually descended down to the welcome sight of the Stiperstone Inn where everyone needed a refreshing pick me up,after such a long and exhausting trek.
Luckily our bus stop was opposite the pub and at the allotted time we all managed to shuffle across and catch the bus back to Shrewsbury.
We had decided beforehand that that night we would eat in our b and b, so we assembled later that evening to sample an excellent selection of food.
At various times there were exclamations of oohs and aahs from first one person and then another, flexing their muscles and feeling some aches and pains as they moved.
Everyone agreed what a lovely few days we had had, made extra special by the bonus of the dry weather.
That night we said our fond farewells to the people staying elsewhere who would be making their own ways home the following day.
David, Liz, Robert and myself took Peters advice and the following morning, climbed--ouch!!--up to a high point and sat on a seat taking in some great views down over the whole of Shrewsbury.
Soon it was time for us to go our separate ways with Robert and I enjoying the Heart of Wales train back to Swansea.
It is always very satisfying to get good support for events, and especially so, for "awaydays."
It's also really lovely to meet up again with people from other groups who have joined us in the past, and this was the case here.
It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves.
Thanks to everyone who came, for their good company and their appreciation for all the hard work I had put in, ensuring all went perfectly.
I'll let you into a secret, hot off the press . . . . . already in the planning is next years Heart of Wales train "awaydays" to Church Stretton--see you there.