Lost in Shelfield Space

On the road from Wootton Wawen to Morton Bagot, there is a beautiful section of road. The land falls away on the left, running steeply down to a stream in a valley, rolling gently up to another ridge about a mile away. On the right, there is a section of woodland, and on the left, lush green fields bordered by hedges. Just past the woodland, a narrow single-track lane runs down into the valley, and crosses the stream at a spot where a few red-brick farm buildings are clustered. Vintagely charming exquisiteness.

The signpost at that intersection points to Shelfield. I’ve passed it quite a few times in my cycling over the past two months, and each time I promise myself that next time I’ll take that road down into Shelfield, and break the spell. I’ve never yet managed to do so. Until today. Except that I was coming past the area on a different road entirely – from the direction of Aston Cantlow, on the B4089. I saw a sign for Shelfield and Spernal, and instinctively took it.

Having passed a sign heralding the start of the village of Shelfield (but not seeing any inhabitable buildings), I noticed an old sign for Shelfield Green, and followed that. This proceeded to twist in an unexpected direction, and the more I expected to turn a corner and see the stream and the ridge, with the lane leading up towards the Morton Bagot road, the less the countryside looked familiar. I then saw another old sign for Shelfield Green, and started to get suspicious.

Whipping out my phone, and opening up my tracking app, I discovered that my worst fears were realised – upon entering Shelfield, my GPS had suddenly stopped working, and the comforting red line denoting my progress halted abruptly at a spot I knew I’d passed a while back. It was obvious what had happened – I’d passed into another dimension, one where GPS doesn’t work, where the landscape is from the 1950s, and where all roads lead to Shelfield Green.

Normally, I’d have a look at the sun, figure out my direction from that, and head in an appropriate direction. But the weather had turned the sky the colour and opacity of Tupperware, and it was impossible to discern where the sun was. All I could do was keep going and hope that I’d escape the clutches of what was rapidly reminding me of a Doctor Who episode.

Finally, after a mixture of keeping on and going back, and passing another two Shelfield Green signs, I found myself back on the B4089, and thus knew the way to Wootton. A close shave, and a dramatic escape. Which left me only with two questions – why, out of hundreds of modern roadsigns in the area, the only old cast iron ones surviving are all pointing to Shelfield Green; and where the devil is Shelfield Green?

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3 Responses to Lost in Shelfield Space

  1. Brad Nixon says:

    Nick,
    There are some wonderful English place names here. Primarily, the name “Bagot.” Bagot is the name of a now-endangered breed of goat, which seems to be closely identified with Morton Bagot. One thinks, of course, of Tolkein’s naming of the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins as “Bagshot Manor.” Probably he (consummate linguist that he was) had the same word in mind. The Wikipedia listing gives a few more details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagot_goat. The name “wootten” is widely used throughout old England, deriving from Old English for “by the wood.” Thank you.

    • Nick says:

      Indeed – I intentionally left those in there as a teaser for you. And because both places get a mention in the Domesday book…

  2. Jill says:

    Loved it.
    Look out for that signpost up ahead.

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