Cleobury Mortimer through the Ages

Cleobury Writers

Cleobury Mortimer has had more than its fair share of writers from, and writing about, Cleobury Mortimer as the following shows.

William Langland

In a summer season, when soft was the sun,
In rough cloth I robed me, as I a shepherd were,
In a habit like a hermit in his works unholy,
And through the wide world I went, wonders to hear ...

William Langland was an early Shropshire writer, and the author of 'The Vision of Piers Plowman'. He was born at Kinlet in 1332. A contemporary of Chaucer, he was a poet who used the alliterative blank verse that was derived from Anglo-Saxon poetry. His father owned some land and William, the second son, was destined to be a clerk. He was sent to the Austin Friars at the Woodhouses to be educated.
The Woodhouses Friary, which was two miles from Cleobury Mortimer, was a well-known foundation at the time, being the Austin Friars' second home in England.
When William learned to read and write he left the Friars and journeyed to London. This journey inspired him to write his poem, "The Vision of Piers Plowman", in which he describes how he rested on the Malvern Hills and visualised the kingdom as 'a field full of folk'. His writing depicted the life and thoughts of a peasant in the years before Watt Tyler's rebellion. Langland died in 1400, and during the 15th century his poem was copied by hand three times. It was not printed until more than a century after his death.
The spirit of Piers Plowman lived on in the religious earnestness of his successors. Langland bewailed the corruption of Mediaeval society, and reverted to the ideals of the past rather than those of the present.

Cleobury's Postman
Simon Evans came to Shropshire in the late 1920s for his health. He had been in the Great War and he says:
"Old iron had been dug from various parts of my body and wounds refused to heal. That new and awful curse of the war, poison gas, had left wounds upon my lungs. In 1926, after spending six months with other unfortunate ex-soldiers in a convalescent home on the South coast, I was advised to go and live quietly in a quiet place. A little walking was advised to strengthen my weakened legs, fresh air and rest were advised to strengthen my lungs."

What better reason can there be for settling in Shropshire and becoming a postman? I've met a number of people who have retired to Shropshire, and Simon Evans said it for all of them when he wrote:

"The knowledge that I was no longer a single cog on the wheel of a great machine but an individual in this wondrous pleasant countryside gave me a new spirit of calmness, a deep and quiet peacefulness of the inner self. A little of this peace of mind is worth a thousand so-called happy days."

Nowadays our postman does the rural round in a van, so probably he is not aware of the seasons as much as he would have been in Simon's days when on foot. His outward journey was one of about twelve miles.

"On a winter's morning when the air is clean and cold and the ground frozen hard I can enjoy good hard walking and the warm glow which steals over my body is one of the joys of life.
When a thick frost covers the countryside, every tree and hedgerow is a beautiful picture, every coppice and spinney is a miracle of delicate tracery.
Then comes the season of showers and sunshine. Often a rainbow's end lies across Abdon Hill and circles the sky like a great jewelled arm, and almost every morning the hillsides are dew pearled.
Summer follows on. Now I meet young and old at work in the hayfields, and the farm wagons carry great jars of cider slung beneath them.
When opportunity permits I walk along the cool brookside or near the Rea, chattering gaily as on he dashes and gurgles down the Valley.
Next comes autumn when Nature's promises are fulfilled; the 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.'
In the orchards surrounding the farmhouses the trees are loaded with fruit; occasionally a ripe apple or pear falls at my feet with a dull thud. As I pass the buildings I hear the gentle mooing and movements of the milking cows and the quick splashes of sound caused by the thin streams of milk quickly filling the milkers' pails.
How sweet is the morning air! How peaceful the countryside! At this hour (the morning at seven) and in this season, the only sounds are flight and calls of birds, the music of the wind in the trees and the splash and gurgle of the sparkling waters of the brooks."

I doubt if a postman has traced Simon's steps for many a year, but his route could still be traced today. Simon describes his route thus:

'A few minutes walk from the Village (Cleobury Mortimer)brings me to a point where I leave the road and take to the footpaths. In the fields the cattle graze contentedly. I think I could turn and live with animals, they do not sweat and whine about their condition, they do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.
My approach does not alarm them, even though my clothes brush them as I pass by, but, if I have a companion at my side they scamper away at once, they do not readily admit strangers into their trusting friendship.
Now I climb a broken stile and push through Musbatch Coppice to reach the mile-long path to Reaside Farm. Here I can swing away at a good pace. What a joy it is to be abroad on such mornings.
About this hour of the morning my time-table allows me a few minutes for a hasty lunch, but I prefer a pipe of well-flavoured tobacco and I consider this first early morning kiss from 'My Lady Nicotine' is her best and sweetest.
At any farmhouse it is possible to satisfy the most thirsty man, or party of men, for every cellar contains many tall casks of perry and cider and this is given away as freely as if it were water from the ever-flowing Rea.
Why are most farmers such quaint characters? Perhaps because of their independence. They wrestle with Nature for a livelihood. They buy and sell in the markets, sharpening their wits upon the wits of their neighbours.
At Detton Farm old Moses Cadwallader (almost as broad as he is tall) gives me a shout of welcome from his chair beside an open fire, where, in winter-time huge logs of wood crackle cheerfully. He calls for a jug of cider and while we quaff the sparkling liquid he listens to any news I may have, for a rural postman is expected to bring all the latest tit-bits of news.
In Harcourt Dingle, a mile or so nearer my journey's end I find that Boswell, the gypsy, has pitched his camp and will worry the farmers once again. His letters I must read at least four times and perhaps write his reply also.
Nearby I meet Will Link, the rabbit catcher, and yet again he tells me with all the force at his command why his old enemy Boswell should be forced to spend all his days on the heights of Catherton Common.
Higher up the Valley I hear Tom Bourne, the whistling ploughman, and perhaps meet Jonathan Budd, a hedger and ditcher and a great authority on wild life. No matter whom I meet in the lanes and fields I must pass the time of day.
After climbing Prescott Bank I like to lean upon the gate and rest awhile.

"What is life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare,
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows;
No time to see when woods we pass
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass,
No time to see in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.
A poor life this, if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."

Here before me is a view which should make all men stare and wonder.
The fertile Valley is stretched between myself and Abdon Hill. On a clear day one can see the purple heather capping the summit over 1,700 feet above sea level. Nature has decked the hill in most royal robes. Beneath the purple crown of heather are great shoulders of glowing gorse, then richly wooded slopes with here and there an open space where tall ferns grow and sheep graze. A little further are the hedged fields which were won from the hills by the perseverance of the farmers of other days.
When the sun shines upon this landscape it is a patchwork of wonder colour.
The open reaches of the River glint beneath the sun, and as we raise our eyes from the rich yellow cornfields the colours gradually change until at last they merge into one deep shade of purple upon the summit of the Hill.
While I stand and admire this glorious countryside a grey old crane flaps its way idly down the Valley following the course of the winding Rea and, in great contrast, a green-backed woodpecker darts past. The country children call it the laughing-bird because of its strange call which resembles a shrill laugh.
When my outward journey is ended I sometimes wander to farmyards and here I become one of good company discussing 'barrens' or 'a good half-legged 'un', or I hear why Tom the shepherd favours none but Clun Valley sheep.
At White Mill farm my journey ends, here I lunch, home-made bread and half a cheese, together with a jug of that most excellent cider known as 'rough-thorn' are brought on the table. After a rough but wholesome meal I make my way to the true end of my journey. Half-a-mile away, near the roadside, my distant masters have provided me with a hut which may be called a Post Office until three o'clock, here I am sometimes called upon to sell a postage stamp or I may be given an order for a gun licence.
Promptly at three o'clock I begin my return walk. At various points my whistle is brought into use, a warning to the few farmers and cottagers that His Majesty's Royal Mail is about to pass their way.
Now I can brook no delay. I collect their few letters, have perhaps a word or jest and on I go, for the Mail leaves that old-world village from where I began my journey even more promptly than it arrives.

Who of today's Shropshire Postman can boast of such a round?