What can you do with two bored grandchildren during the Christmas school holidays when it’s not quite sure if it will rain and the wind is in enjoying a good blow? A quick rummage through that closet where you stuff everything you don’t need right now, but might someday, and the answer presents itself as two kites fall off the top shelf and you know the perfect place. Make the proposal, grab suitable coats and it’s into the car and off we go heading for the hills. The South Shropshire Hills to be precise and a little known, but long gone, lead and barytes mineral mining village called The Bog some 400M (1300ft) above sea level and situated just below a peak ominously named Devil’s Chair. Commercial mining was started there in the 1730s, but this once bustling village which boasted over 200 dwellings at its peak, but since the mines closed in 1922, there are now only a handful left and the old school building which has been converted into a visitor centre.
While nanny decamped into the centre for a coffee and cake and to rummage through the archives there to seek out some info about her ancestors, I unloaded the kites and headed with the intrepid flyers to a large flattish area bounded by gorse and broom bushes; passing the remnants of old buildings and old concrete foundations of unknown function set in the ground. After convincing the kids to unpack the kites, not an easy task in a strong wind, and in the best ‘Mary Poppins’ style launch them into the ether. The next task was to convince them that the kites would not get blown away if they let out just a bit more string to allow the wind to take hold and soar away. After a few crashes and rebuilds we have success and a pair of happy 11 and 7 year olds. Mary Poppins was proved correct, kites do have the ability to bring joy and a sense of achievement to the pilot no matter what the age, or their perceived coolness.
After about half an hour of happiness the chilling effect of the wind finally wins and we pack up the kites and go inside for a warming hot chocolate and some cake. Inside we quickly find nanny with her head buried in folders and books and she is soon introducing to the grandchildren their ancestors and retelling anecdotes about their great-grandfather, Jim, who worked in one of the mines when he left school at 14 and happened to be a pupil when the building was a school. They are particularly fond of the story of when Jim was told to go to a nearby spring (no running water on tap in those days) to get some water for the teacher’s morning cup of tea as punishment for some misdemeanour in class earlier. To get some revenge he allegedly peed in the bucket and smiled to himself all day as the teacher made brew after brew with the water without noticing the extra ingredient. This was years before the internet ‘discovered’ this elixir, proving that there is very little new under the sun.
With the chocolate and cake devoured we call it a day and motor back home happy and contented and surprisingly ready for dinner, a film and bed at a reasonable time. The simple things are frequently the best.