Farmer Phil and the Long Minge

AD3F56BD-87F2-4B50-9265-4706EB93FEA0_1_201_aWe parked up in Church Stretton in the rain, I had to buy a t-shirt as i’d packed my bag with a hangover and wasn’t sure if I’d bought any of the correct clothing, my hat was missing too, with my clay pipe badge as an adornment; it could be in the car, in the house, my mind is so scrambled after the weekend excesses that maybe going back to work on Wednesday will bring some order back to the shelves in my head which have been rearranged when I wasn’t looking.

It seems that whenever I organise a camping trip it seems to rain, remember Beddgelert? This time my Kent friend and I, (we’ll call him JP to protect the innocent) took off to Shropshire, specifically the Long Minge. I’ve driven over it many times, usually one the way full of the joys of expectation of a camping trip with friends and kids then usually on the way back with a car full of wet camping gear and the potential of developing “The Fear” come Monday Morning. This time was different, we were walking and we were camping somewhere I only have an idea about, and only a fundamental idea of its location, having booked just before losing signal and not really being capable of listening to directions when given them over a poor phone line, or any phone line if i’m being honest. Things generally just seem to fall into place, one day they won’t and it’ll be a shock, but for now all I had to do was turn right out of the pub on the Shrewsbury Road and lookout for a letter box, the rest was just noise.

We started following the ancient track, Motts Road up the far too steep for me, Carding Mill Valley, a narrow ascent with uneven stone underfoot and more than a little rain in the air, my glasses were soaked and I couldn’t see, and according to the weather app at 11am there was a 46% chance of rain, we took those odds, who makes these things up? As the afternoon wears on into night the probability of rain falls to zero, until midnight where it picks up once more, best get the tents up before midnight then. Putting up a tent in the dark and the rain may be enough to push me over the edge to call a taxi to take me back to the car where we will have to sleep. So onto Jack Mytton Way, towards Shooting Box, a brief stint on the Port Way where we took a wrong turn and corrected to The Cross Britain Way which took us to our destination. But after an enjoyable 8 mile walk, passing with little event but glorious chat we arrived at the Bridges pub, a familiar haunt where a couple of years ago I got to join the Morris men in their stick smashing, bell ringing dances, there were no Morris today, just a sweaty cycle club of various shapes and sizes squeezed into matching lycra of their club.

Having been given the name Farmer Phil in a chat with the pub and a truncated phone call with someone associated with said farmer we made out for his place, our bellies full of baguette and beer, sloshing around and giving me that slightly pregnant feel where I have to lean back slightly as a counterbalance and to calibrate my centre of gravity. Farmer Phil’s farm, it turns out, hosts a festival every year, apart form this one because of the clusterfuck we find ourselves embroiled, when will this anti-party virus ever end? So seeing a container with

“Farmer Phil Sez Geddon Moi Land”

emblazoned in bubble writing on the side of the cargo container led us to believe we were in the correct place, and having had to walk up a really steep driveway we met his missus. Half his age and full of swearing living in a shack next to the good house. The whole farm was littered with cars, but the broken types, the ones left to rot in the slim chance that parts can be salvaged. Farmer Phil was the local man to dump stuff on, he had plenty of space and the yard was full of activity of an undisclosed sort. They’d only opened the camp site about 5 weeks before due to the festival being cancelled and we were the only people there; 2 very small 1 man tents in a corner of the field, near to the toilet blocks but not too near that the foxes might come and snuffle at our tents whilst going through the overflowing bins. I’d say the campsite probably needed “work” if i’m being perfectly honest.

Over the course of the day we’ed been keeping an eye on the probability of rain forecasted by the Bods at the Beeb, and let me tell you that 27%, 80% and 67% rain all sound pretty similar when you’re in a tent not much bigger than a coffin, like being in a plastic bag type coffin. Kept me awake during the witching hours from between about 2;30 and 4;30 I reckon, I crawled out twice to have a wee, both times the Long Minge rose above and in front of our tents like a frozen black Tsunami.


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