Tuesday 29 December 2015

Carding Mill Valley

This year I discovered a great new hobby; reading negative TripAdvisor reviews of National Trust properties. 

I have come to the conclusion that 50% of the Terrible or Poor reviews of NT places are connected in some way to the reviewer getting the opening times wrong. We've all done it - the Scone Blogger's own sister once delayed us so much that the mansion we were visiting was shut by the time we got there. Did I go on TripAdvisor and blame the property? No I did not. Did I save £80 on Christmas and birthday presents for my sister that year? Yes I did. 

Another 20% of the Terrrible or Poor reviews complain about the parking, while 20% report that the place itself was fine, but it rained. 5% are annoyed that their dog wasn't allowed in. 

Carding Mill Valley in Shropshire falls into the final category - the 5% who complain that a place was too busy. Of course, saying somewhere was too busy is like giving it a five-star rating. 'It must be GREAT if it's that popular! And I'm not like all these misanthropic misery-gutses on TripAdvisor - I love my fellow man! Even when he waits in the food queue for 20 minutes and then starts asking the 17 members of his family what they want to eat. Yes, I love the general public.'

Carding Mill Valley

I obviously wanted Carding to be busy, because I decided to visit on a gloriously sunny day during Christmas week, when all the kids were off school. I knew it was a risk. The ever-present pessimist in me warned that the dreaded day might finally have come, the day when the tea room would be full and I would be forced to sit on a doorstep gnawing at a dry scone. 

But it didn't happen. Carding was busy but the cafe is one of those brilliant National Trust tea rooms that knows exactly what it's doing: serving a lot of people, as quickly as possible. It also offered one of the finest arrays of cakes I have ever seen at the National Trust. I had to force myself to choose the scone. 

Chalet Pavilion Carding Mill
The lovely tea room at Carding Mill Valley.
It was imported from Scandinavia, apparently.
The scone itself was very nice - it looked the part and it tasted good. And I got to eat it listening to Christmas carols next to a Christmas tree, which doesn't happen very often for obvious reasons. 

Carding Mill Valley Scone

Anyway. Having eaten my scone, I set off with all the other far better equipped people to explore Carding Mill Valley. As I puffed up the hill, I saw cyclists, caravans, children jumping across the stream, dogs jumping into the stream, sheep, fell runners, and a National Trust ranger in his Jeep. It was like I had been dropped into a National Trust Lego set. Naturally, I was a figure from a completely different Lego set, probably the I Live in a City and Work in an Office one, with footwear to match. 

Carding Mill Valley

The other thing that struck me about Carding Mill Valley was that EVERYBODY WAS HAPPY. They say that Christmas is a very stressful time and people are just one request to put the kettle on away from a stabbing, but I didn't see a single tantrum or hear any cross words. It was great. 

The one thing I didn't get today was much history about the area. There was a sign explaining that the remains of a 2,500 year old hill fort can be found nearby, but that was it. I didn't really mind though. It forced me to concentrate on the hills and the stream and the countryside. 

Later, I found this useful site that provides a lot of background, starting from the Bronze Age through Roman times to the carding mill that was built in 1812 to process local fleeces. It's well worth a read.

And so 2015 ends with another lovely mission on the National Trust Scone Odyssey. That's 43 visits this year. Only another 125 to go.

Carding Mill Valley: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
My desire to move to Church Stretton having walked through it: 5 out of 5

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