The last morning of our stay in Shropshire was a story of ever-changing light. Setting off from the village of Hope Bowdler in cold, damp, overcast conditions, we drove the mile or so down into Church Stretton, where patches of blue sky were evident. By the time we were negotiating the steep hill up onto the Long Mynd, the car was bathed in bright sunshine.
As the single track road wound its way steadily higher, Our Lass suddenly stopped the car and pointed to my left. There, a few metres away, was a fox, busy hunting prey in the grass and heather. It wasn't too sure whether we were a threat or not, and would start to slink away but then return to whatever it had found.
As my camera was in the boot and our car was blocking the road, we continued on over a slight rise and found a parking spot. Now out of sight of the fox, we decamped, grabbed optics and I made my way cautiously along a sheep track back in the direction we had come.
Fortunately, the sun was now behind me, but not such good news, so was the breeze. Once in roughly the right area, I risked a peek over the ground where we had seen the fox. Sure enough, it was still there, rummaging through the vegetation in search of a meal. As it turned out, it wasn't important whether I was in lupine eye or nose range, when my camera shutter fired, my cover was blown. I managed two images before the fox, now alert to my presence, lazily wandered off, between some equally unconcerned sheep.
The country air obviously suited him. He was a very healthy individual in comparison to the urban foxes we see in MK.
After all that excitement, we returned to the car and continued to the top of the Mynd, which was rather busy for 10am on a Sunday morning. It is a popular place for ramblers, joggers, mountain bikers and horse riders, as well as those soaking up the natural history. Walking north along the ridge, we spotted a Red Kite, a few Buzzards, many Ravens and a flock of 200+ Golden Plover. These waders continued to circle overhead, their plaintive contact calls drifting in and out of earshot as they wheeled around and around. As the light continued to change with the amount of cloud cover, bright and blue one minute and then dark and foreboding the next, the plumage of the plovers seemed to dazzle and sparkle, allowing the birds to stand out against the sky, and then suddenly they were tiny grey dots, hardly detectable unless you knew where they were.
Looking east from the Long Mynd, we could make out ridge after ridge all the way to Abdon Burf, one of the Clee Hills, on the horizon. The mist and low cloud in the valleys added to a sense of otherworldliness, though the wild ponies in the foreground weren't too bothered at all.
It was with heavy hearts that we reluctantly headed back home, though I am sure it won't be long before we return to South Shropshire and its secret hills.