On the Wildside: Cathedral is well worth a visit

Litchfield Cathedral
Litchfield Cathedral

I was invited to spend my Christmas on a narrow boat on the Shropshire Union Canal.

She is moored in beautiful open countryside with panoramic views across the Staffordshire and Shropshire countryside.

On Monday, December 22, I travelled across to Telford by rail an interesting journey as the terrain changes so. After a 30 minute journey by car, we arrived at the mooring. There was a very strong wind and the water, instead of gently moving was whipped up into actual waves!

The boat is well tethered so I had no qualms about being “cast adrift”!

The weather improved and we had sunny days and frosty nights. My friend was so kind and took me, by road, to a number of the villages that I usually see from the canal.

One such place was Great Haywood where the Trent and Mersey Canal joins the Staffs and Worcester Canal. There is a wonderful old packhorse bridge spanning the junction and accessed through the boatyard.

We walked the tow path and entered the grounds of Shugborough Hall, now owned by the National Trust. It is where the River Stow and Trent meet. The bridge that spans the water is Essex Bridge a very attractive medieval stone structure built for horses and pedestrians and still used for that purpose today.

Christmas Eve dawned cold and bright with a beautiful sunrise. Litchfield Cathedral was visited, a very interesting building and its surrounding properties fascinating.

The Cathedral houses part of the “Staffordshire Hoard”, it was really amazing to see gold used and fashioned exquisitely so many years ago.

My friend had arranged for us to attend the Midnight Mass service in the church at High Offley which stands on the hill top that we see from the boat.

Being a crisp clear night we walked the mile or so to the church. Although there was no moon, there were millions of stars twinkling, almost magically.

Before entering the church we took the time to look across the countryside, all the little villages and in the distance Newport, Market Drayton and in the far distance, the orange glow of Telford.

The church itself was most interesting with its arched braced roof and exposed stone walls. I feel compelled to learn more of this building. The village itself seemed to comprise of farms and associated cottages, no village centre. The churchyard was well kept and sheep are used to keep the grass cropped in summer.

We were made very welcome, the service was well attended and at well past midnight we walked back with the myriad of stars still twinkling.