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How can one spice up a 300-metre tramp across a couple of fields and a mere 20m rise to the top of View Edge? Answer: drive in to the entrance to View Edge Farm to ask if it's OK to park there for 20 minutes. Before I can even open the gate to the house a man strolls across the yard and brightly asks if he can help me. His name is Evan. 'Oh, are you one of those hill baggers?' 'Yes, relative hills, Marilyns', I say. His housemate pal Neville then saunters over. On hearing of Marilyns there is a brief frown and a switch to defensive and less friendly mode. 'Like that chap I caught skulking across our top fields a couple of years ago,' he growls.
It's at times like this that I'm especially grateful to have six-year-old Jamie with me, as it helps people stay more mellow. 'It's OK,' chirps Evan to his mate, 'I've said it's all right for them to go across the fields to the hill top'. Neville comes with us in friendly enough mode, but giving me just a hint that he's escorting us so he'll know when we're safely back off his property. I deliberately continue being extra bright and friendly. By the time we get back to Evan in their garden, Neville has warmed up and is pretty friendly. They tell me about the trouble of getting water to a farm right on the top of a hill. One of the two barns houses lots of water tanks. They show me round the beautifully manicured garden and tell me of the previous owners Wilf and Joan, who'd created it. Wilf died in his 80s and Joan, then 79, could no longer cope with the wonderful garden so had to sell up. Evan and Neville moved up from Hampshire just a couple of months before our Marhof gathering at Ludlow in September 2003. A four-inch circular disc in the lawn is a cap to a 120-metre deep bore hole with a pump at the bottom below the water table. This water supply had failed shortly after they moved in, and they'd had the whole thing replaced at a cost of £4000. Even so there were times of drought when the water table dropped below the pump level, hence all the tanks in the barn. They show me an OS benchmark on the side of one of their barns. I ask if Jamie can use their toilet, and we're met by a horde of giant poodles in their porch. 'Let me get the dogs out of the way first' says Evan. There are eight of them and they used to be shown at Crufts. Unsurprisingly the house smells exceedingly doggy.
Thanking them for enriching our visit to View Edge, we drive west through Broome and Aston-on-Clun and north up a little valley to the village of Hopesay. I drive up a private track to Barlow Hill farm and park next to a barn with kids' bikes and toys scattered around. I ask a woman who comes out of the house if it would be OK to park there for a brief wander up the hill, then as an afterthought I ask whether the track is driveable any further up the hillside. As if bemused by my cheek, she answers in dazed autopilot mode, 'Yes I suppose you can probably get as far as the Shropshire Way, but there's lots of pheasants'. She's right. Driving up the track there are hundreds of birds all over the track, scurrying to get out of the way as I crawl along at snail's pace. Just about 500 metres from the farm we stop, turn and park at the Shropshire Way. Jamie and I tramp across the dry stubbly top of a sloping field with a few cows at the bottom, then feast on some blackberries before pushing through the bracken and scattered trees on the hillfort summit and little ridges of Burrow.
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