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Location Information

More detailed version of the story

More background Information

Suggestions for Illustration Discussion points

Location Information

caves in the park The town of Bridgnorth in the south-east of Shropshire lies where the A458 Shrewsbury to Stourbridge road meets with the A442 Telford to Kidderminster road. The town is probably best known for being the terminus of the Severn Valley Steam Railway. There is no modern rail service. Buses are frequent, click for further information.

Bridgnorth is a bustling town with all amenities.

More detailed version of the story

Lightening the Load

Now if you've ever been to Bridgnorth you'll know just how steep the hill is that leads from the low town to the high town. Walking up that hill is bad enough, pulling a weight up it is an awful task, and trying to drag a load up that hill when there's a witch trying to frustrate you, well that's just too much.

In the old days, years and years ago, when carters came to make deliveries to the castle, they took one look at the hill and gulped. They drove their horses for all their worth up the hill past the caves but no matter how hard they tried the horses would stop half way up the hill, right next to a cave where a little old lady lived.

Well you might think that was just a co-incidence but the carters didn't. This old lady was a funny old crone, a real loner. She dressed all in black, had a hooked nose and a croaky voice that sounded like a rusty hinge. Those carters started talking and tongues started wagging, word went around that the old lady was a witch and she was hexing the horses, freezing their hooves and not letting them by.

What do you do when faced with a witch a-spelling you? Do you tie her to a ducking stool? Well, maybe not. Who knows what revenge she might exact. Do you give up and run away? Not if you want to make money on your load. It was cash on delivery after all. All that's left to you is to swallow hard and knock at the witch's door and try to make a bargain. And that's exactly what the carters did.

To start with they offered the old lady money, but no she said that wouldn't do.

"What do you want?" they asked, "We'll give you anything, just ask."

She didn't hesitate, quick as a flash she said. "I want half your load."

She wouldn't be swayed, that's what she wanted, that's what she'd have. It didn't matter whether the load was gold and jewels or muck and dung, half the load was her demand and that's what she got.

So, dear reader, the carters went back to their carts and took half the load and gave it to the old lady and miraculously their horses began to move, albeit slowly, up the hill again. It was definitely magic, they thought, the old lady had lifted the hex. Now they knew she was really a witch and they'd not been mistaken.

There was never any quibbling; the old witch became a rich witch who always lightened every carter's load.

But before we end there is a postscript to this tale that maybe we ought to tell. After a long happy old age the old lady died, but her hexes obviously lived on. Those carters' carts still stopped half way up the hill next to her cave. The carters were amazed but in the end they found a way around their problem, they left half of their load at home. After paying that fitting tribute to the grand old dame she let them pass all the way up the hill to the castle. Honour was satisfied.

So if you are planning a visit to Bridgnorth, just you remember, travel light, leave half of your luggage at home.

More background Information

What's left of Bridgnorth Castle The market town of Bridgnorth is divided in two, not only by the River Severn which runs through it, but more dramatically by the valley's sandstone cliffs, 100ft high. Bridgnorth's Low Town and High Town are linked by a choice of routes: there are seven sets of steps, a funicular cliff railway and the Cartway - the steep sloping street that is the subject of our story.

In the seventeenth century - when most goods moved by river and the River Severn was amongst the busiest waterways in Europe - Bridgnorth was Shropshire's main port and had three dockyards where barges and frigates were built.

We suggest you start at the Severn Park in the Low Town. There is a children's play area, where children can 'let off steam' after the journey to the town, picnic sites and places to eat nearby.

From here you can make your way into the High Town - and the easiest way to do this is by the cliff railway (there is a charge per person) click to visit their website. This is an experience not to be missed; there are very few cliff railways in the country. Bridgnorth's will take you up 111ft (37m) in a 201ft (37m) journey. You can return to Low Town later via the Cartway to see the site of the witch's cave.

The Cartway is a very steep hill, the route taken by carts and wagons between town and port. The buildings along the way were shuttered, to protect windows from being broken by jostling horses. Six to eight horses were needed to pull a stagecoach up the hill. Just below the Wesleyan Chapel is the house where the last donkey-man in Bridgnorth once lived. The donkeys were stabled out in the back yard and he would lead them to work each day through his living-room out onto the Cartway. And of course there are the caves. Although these are now bricked up, their outlines can be clearly seen. They were indeed homes for many families until the mid-1800's.

On a spur of hill in the centre of the town is Bridgnorth Castle - or rather the Norman keep tower, all that now remains. It is well worth a visit. The tower leans at an alarming angle, allegedly resulting from attempted demolition after the Civil War. The surrounding formal castle gardens give fine views over the River and railway and much welcome seats!

For information on the Severn Valley Railway please click here to go to their website.

Bridgnorth Tourist Information Centre is at The Library, Listley Street, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, WV16 4AW telephone: 01746 763358.

Suggestions for Illustration Discussion points

Illustration 1:
Do you think the cart is heavy to pull?
Is the horse working hard?
What do you think is in the sacks on the cart?

Illustration 2:
What do you think the lady in the pointed hat is saying?
Why have they tipped up the cart?
Is the cart the same as the cart in the first picture?

Illustration 3:
Has the carter made all his deliveries?
Is the man wearing the same clothes as the man in the last picture?
Is the horse the same?

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