Monday, October 31, 2011

GUEST POST Why you should visit The Bog

Paul Davis on a good year for a unique visitor facility in the Shropshire hills

The Bog is a small village at the foothills of the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, 1300 feet up in  the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There’s not a lot here other than fantastic views, peace and tranquillity, great walks, rich natural flora and fauna, and The Bog Visitor Centre.

The Bog Visitor Centre is based in an old school that opened in 1839 for the local mining community, at one stage the village had over 200 buildings and was a prosperous centre for lead and barytes mining.  The mine closed in the 1920s, and as buildings gradually disappeared the school eventually closed in 1968.

After a period as a field study centre for schoolchildren, in 1996 the old school was taken on by a group of local volunteers as a Visitor Centre. Electricity arrived about 5 years ago, along with inside toilets, and as part of the atmosphere the gas lights have been retained – probably the only visitor centre in the country not lit by electricity.

The centre is staffed entirely by volunteers from the beginning of April through to the end of October – 7 days a week during any school and public holidays and from Wednesday to Sunday the remaining time.  People travel from far and wide for the delicious cakes made by a group of locals – and the portions are very generous.

The volunteers are very knowledgeable about the area, and there are many resources like previous census returns and school records for those trying to trace ancestry. Malcolm Saville and Mary Webb set some of their novels around here and display boards show explanations and conversions of place names from fiction to reality. Other boards explain the geology, history and myths of the area.  In addition the centre sells locally made handcrafts, cards, pictures and other gifts, all made within 10 miles.

Last year the centre welcomed over 17,500 visitors and this year looks set to break this in the normal opening, with an influx of visitors on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 November for the Christmas craft fair (10 a.m. - 3 p.m)

There is a large car park and numerous waymarked walks start from The Bog, some of which can be found through the Shropshire Walking website. These include the Flenny Bank walk and the Mucklewick walk, which head off on the relative flat. Other walks start going up or along the Stiperstones, including the Stiperstones Stomp.

Dogs are welcome at the centre, and even can bring your own packed lunch. Though the Centre will not not be open regularly again until the spring, there is a chance to visit it for the Christmas craft fair this weekend.

I suggest you take it - I recently spoke to a couple who had come 55 miles just for the cake!

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