Saturday, August 20, 2011

The road from Bridges to the Stiperstones

After ten minutes the trees thinned out and they found themselves on the side of the mountain. The twins, who were in front, turned and looked down on the "Hope Anchor" lying below them like a little model from a toy shop.

"She's still there," said Mary. "Look, David, I think she's waving."

They waved in return, but David would not let them linger. He was not enjoying this journey very much for he was tired already and not very used to Sally. Also it was horribly hot and the path, winding steeply now between the heather, was treacherous with loose stones. And the flies were a torment to the three travellers as well as to Sally, who was fidgety and unhappy. Twice she tried to get rid of her burden by rolling and once she tried to turn in the track and go back. For a time it seemed as if the path was leading them away from the Chair and Mary complained that it was a magic mountain.

"Anyway," her twin said, "it's a beastly mountain, and I don't like it, and I wish we hadn't come. I hate it.... An' it's hot and I want three more ginger pops."

"Silly we were about Alpine guides," Mary added. "David, we're going to stop! We're tired.... An' it's no use you lookin' grumpy like that."

"Stranger!" said Dickie unexpectedly, recalling his recent experience of the cinema. "Say, stranger, we're quittin'! We're through," and they sat down in the heather."

Malcolm Saville, Seven White Gates, 1944
I don't agree with David Morton. The road up from Bridges to the Stiperstones ridge has long been one of my favourite walks. Yes, it is a hard climb at first, but after that you feel yourself being lifted up amongst the hills with little effort on your part.

But then I have never had to attempt it with a recalcitrant Welsh mountain pony and a pair or irritating nine-year-old twins.

I walked this road again on Saturday after leaving Bridges. The "Hope Anchor" of Seven White Gates, incidentally, is clearly the pub that is today called The Bridges.

It is easy to believe that the road, which today is metalled but largely unfenced, was in 1944 a stony track. And perhaps the grazing for sheep on either side of the road today was given over to heather in those days.

Except that when I heard Malcolm Saville's younger son, the late Revd Jeremy Saville, speak some years ago, he said that he was pretty sure that his father had never visited the Stiperstones when he wrote Seven White Gates and that its landscapes and character owed most to the novels of Mary Webb.

More about the great man at the Malcolm Saville Society website.

1 comment:

Wartime Housewife said...

Great photo - very atmospheric