By Julian Hadley
On Saturday 25th August 2018, as part of the continuing OWG 4th anniversary celebrations, Angela, Nicole and I visited Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses. On this occasion, there were just the three of us, but we still had a really nice day.
For anyone that may not know, Kinver is a beautiful village, west of Stourbridge and north of Kidderminster, perhaps best known for its rock houses.
Well, after a bit of a disjointed journey, courtesy of my trusty sat nav, we arrived at our destination, and set off, eager to scale the dizzying heights of Kinver Edge. (Incidentally, I myself hadn’t been to Kinver for six years, and I had forgotten that parking for Kinver Edge is free. Another bonus).
We’d opted to follow the woodland trail, as this was apparently the shortest and least strenuous. Hmm, I think this was a case of famous last words. That said, it wasn’t too bad, though the trail was quite steep in places, so it might not suit those with mobility issues.
Our route was well marked and led us along some nice, shady paths and as one would expect, through plenty of greenery. Like Sandwell Valley, plenty of conservation work has been/is being done, and it was nice to see that here too — the off-trail areas had been allowed to go wild. At one point, a series of basic hides had been put together with fallen branches, so presumably, that was a good spot for wildlife. I myself didn’t see any, but who knows how many pairs of beady eyes were watching us from the dense undergrowth.
Soon enough, we reached the top and marvelled at the view. You can see for miles, in almost every direction. For those who like to know which way home lies, a compass type beacon has been provided for your convenience. As one would expect, most local towns were pointed out, as well as a few places that are a bit further away. Even New York was featured, though I think that is a bit too far for a Saturday hike.
After a short break for lunch, we followed a gentle path up to the famous rock houses, and for the first time in my life, I was able to go inside. As a boy, I visited Kinver several times with my Grandfather and had seen the rock houses when people were still living in them. I suppose I thought that inside they were the same as any other house. I was very wrong. It was like a trip back in time. The rock houses, or cave houses, were cut into sandstone, which was formed roughly 250 million years ago when the entire region was a desert, a desert which presumably encompassed nearby Bridgnorth, which is hard to imagine, given the green and pleasant landscape of today.
The houses (currently owned and maintained by the National Trust) were known to be occupied as early as the 1700’s and were described by one of the earliest visitors as being very clean and comfortable, and having modern conveniences. But of course, back then, little basics like electricity and flushing toilets didn’t exist. Yet despite that, these cave houses had plenty in their favour. For one thing, having no gas, electricity or running water meant no bills. Also, they were cosy; being solidly enclosed made them warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The typical form of heating was a cast iron range, which doubled as a cooker, and given the location, they had no shortage of firewood. The houses typically have one general living area and one bedroom, both spacious. Looking around, you can see little niches or alcoves cut into the walls, which were probably for candles. I don’t suppose for one minute that it would suit everyone, but I would happily live there. If you haven’t been, it’s worth seeing.
After our visit to the rock houses, we headed into Kinver for a look round. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a lovely place, but there isn’t that much to see. We did, however, find a great little antique shop, hidden away in a side alley – the proprietor of which was a retired firefighter from Rowley Regis. It really is a small world.
Angela treated herself to a few books, including a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, dating to the 1800’s, and we all got to see a small collection of blades, including a Scottish basket hilt Claymore, though unfortunately, it was a replica. Still a beautiful piece, though.
We concluded our little ramble with a visit to a local pub, the Plough and Harrow, just on the High Street. We were all very good and had soft drinks (honest guv), and Angela sampled one of the speciality pork pies. I hadn’t been in that pub since 1988, and while it had changed a bit, it still managed to keep its traditional appeal.
As usual, there were a few comical moments that are worthy of a mention, but since they all focus on one certain group member, I will not name names.
Things got off to an encouraging start when a certain someone mentioned that they could identify any of the snakes we might encounter, including the adder, which apart from being venomous, it has a very distinctive pattern.
A little later, following our visit to the rock houses, this same someone went on a scrumping spree through a nearby orchard, swiping at least two apples, supposedly to see if they will grow when planted in a garden.
Last, but not least, this certain person recounted a little ditty, “sit in a hole and suffocate a mole, in an English country garden.”
Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.
So, there you have it, another adventure crossed off the list. And since we’ve still got a little bit of summer left, there is plenty of time for another. All suggestions welcome.