We left home just after midday on Saturday hoping to arrive at the campsite less than two hours later. We were doing ok on the motorway, and then Dervla decided that she’d obviously been far too well behaved in recent weeks and from Worcester that we’d best take the scenic route. Still, at least we got to see southern Shropshire. Lots of it.
We’d booked a pitch at Botvyle Farm, a small Camping and Caravanning Club site two miles north of Church Stretton. It has separates showers and toilets and an indoor kitchen area complete with a fridge, washing machine and tumble dryer so for £8 a night is an absolute bargain. Oh and it has views like this.
When we arrived there was only one campervan at the site, and they very much kept themselves to themselves. In fact they watched telly all night. I don’t quite see the point of traveling to places like this if all you’re going to do is watch Strictly, but each to their own.
After a bit of faffing we eventually managed to erect the borrowed tent, and with our accommodation sorted we donned our walking boots and set off up Caer Caradoc Hill for a late afternoon stroll. Up being the operative word. The pull up to Little Caradoc certainly got the old heart pumping, and by the time we reached the summit we felt as if we’d definitely earned our fish and chip supper. From the top we followed the fence around the nose of the hill and Three Fingers Rock, ending up back where we’d started two and a half hours earlier.
I had no idea that the scenery in this part of England was so magnificent. I knew that there were hills here but had no idea that they were steep enough to get such a good workout, or that they were so beautiful and peaceful. We only saw one other walker, and he was sat taking in the view at the top of the hill, so we unanimously decided that we’ll definitely have to spend a few more weekends out this way given that it’s so close to home, and there are plenty of campsites.
Back at camp Dervla was given very specific instructions to take us to the Church Stretton Fish Bar. Fortunately it was open, otherwise I may have had a mini hissy fit on the pavement, and we were served quickly. We were as content as pigs in mud – sat on our very old picnic chairs, wearing duvet jackets and woolly hats whilst eating fish and chips and drinking red wine out of tin mugs. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. And the outdoors life is definitely for us.
We brewed up just before it got dark, and sat silently gazing at the stars. Once lip reading had become nigh impossible we retired to the tent. It’s supposed to sleep three people but there’s just enough room to sleep the two of us comfortably, allowing room for me to get in and out for the inevitable loo stops without disturbing Rich too much. I could still hear the murmur of traffic from the A49 but given that I slept with ear plugs this didn’t cause a problem, and I know that I’m a lighter sleeper than most.
Sure enough I was up and down what felt like a zillion times, and no doubt really annoyed the campervan occupants with the glare of my head torch. After about two hours sleep it was time to venture into the shower block. Rich swears blind that his shower was red hot. Mine wasn’t. So I reckon that he used my share of hot water too. Still, at least the cold water woke me up.
After another brew and breakfast of muesli and long life milk we packed up the slightly soggy tent and fired Dervla up for today’s special event – a trip to The Rushbury Pig for a ‘Meet the Pigs!’ course 🙂 She still managed to overshoot the smallholding by about 500 metres. But I know that she means well. The courses are run by the lovely Sam Jones, who incidentally used to run for England, and her husband for Wales, so they’re super fit, and absolutely lovely.
We were taken down to a wooden cabin at the bottom of the cabin and fed tea and cake, followed by a thirty minute introduction to pig keeping essentials. Then we were let loose on the piggies. Ginny, a gorgeous Kune Kune had literally given birth to some piglets five days earlier and as she’s so gentle and mellow didn’t mind us cuddling the ones that were happy to be cuddled without squealing lots. I’m not the biggest person in the world but even I felt like a giant alongside them. Ginny, the mummy, was of course big pig sized, but as she’s partially sighted and recently diagnosed as deaf, she’s not prone to rushing around and so didn’t pose a hazard to Rich’s balance.
I had to resist the urge to call the piglets ‘little sausages’, as they’re so cute and squidgy and that’s what I normally call cute and squidgy things. The adults pigs are less squidgy and certainly harder to pick up, but after driving us over the orchard Sam had us learning to move the pigs using white boards, or the far easier method – holding a food bucket and shouting “pig, pig!” For the chance of an apple they’d follow you anywhere.
Being introduced to Ecky – the dad of the piglets, was one of the many highlights of the course. Ecky is a boar, but has a face like a polar bear. Sam had asked me to measure his girth and length so that we could estimate his weight, but the only way he’d stay still was with his head in a food bucket. He shares the paddock with Ginger, a rescue sow who’d unfortunately been badly treated at her previous home, but is now doing well. And the two of them quickly rolled over for tummy tickles. It was so therapeutic to be able to spend time playing with them and meeting their basic needs. I didn’t think of anything other than pig so as stress relief goes, it’s way up there.
We ended the course by collecting apples from the orchard and watching each of the pigs take their ‘prize’ and find a quiet spot to savour it, as if it were very expensive caviar. Once everyone had been fed we went back to the cabin for another cuppa and slice of cake, and of course for a final cuddle with the piglets. Rich assured me that he didn’t pull any of their tails but I did hear a few squeals so I’m not entirely sure that I believe him. Sam explained that pigs don’t like overbearing people, which is why they’d responded well to us, and also that contrary to popular believe pigs are very clean animals. They will never go to the toilet in their sleeping areas, and if they do have large bedrooms, will create an ensuite!
The two hour course turned into 3.5 hours but we said our goodbyes at 1.30pm and assured Sam that we’d not hidden any piglets in the boot of our car. We ignored Dervla and headed south through Herefordshire, stopping for an all day breakfast at a 50’s style diner just outside Hereford. I can’t remember the last time I had an all day breakfast. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever had one, so that’s yet another first. It wasn’t particularly healthy or gourmet but it was cheap and filled the spot, and saved a long wait to be served in a gastropub.
We arrived home just after 4pm, and spent the rest of the evening talking about the piggies. We’re desperate to have creatures of our own but want to have the space to do it properly. We don’t want to be one of those owners who keep a micro pig in a flat with no garden. That’s just cruel. Sam was an excellent teacher and we thoroughly enjoyed the course, so much so that when we are ready to buy some pigs we’ll go back for more intensive training. One thing’s for certain though. If I have to take them to the abattoir, I’ll be going veggie again!