|One of the restored rock houses at Kinver Edge|
|And the remains of another - literally carved into the rock|
But here it Kinver it rears up high into the air as we meet a massive sandstone ridge that towers around the local countryside. The village church standing high above the canal is an impressive sight but just a taster; the real hills are beyond.
Unsurprisingly Kinver and its surroundings are something of a tourist attraction – and have been for over a century. Way back in 1901 the Kinver Light Railway opened and brought thousands of trippers from the industrial grime of the nearby Black Country. Over 15,000 of them came on one Bank Holiday Monday.
The tramway is long gone but plenty still arrive today – though, as we discovered on our last visit fie years back, the village doesn't pay them much heed. Last time we arrived on a Saturday and found all the shops shutting up at 4pm; this time we came at 3.55pm on Friday and found the same thing! Only the Co-op and Spar shops disregarded the curfew.
|Kinver's pretty High Street where every day is early closing day|
We headed upwards, out of the village, and kept going...and going until we were sure we must have gone wrong and then spied a distant car park sign for the Holy Austin Rock Houses.
These remarkable houses – there were eleven of them clustered together, built in three levels as well as alongside each other – were quite literally carved into the soft rockface. Need an extension? Just carve another room out!
They date back to 1770 but were at their peak of occupation when homes were short for workers at the local Hyde Ironworks. When that closed, families gradually moved away but the last two houses were occupied until the 1950s. After that they fell into disrepair and eventually so dangerous that there was serious talk of them being demolished.
|The restored Victorian parlour in the rock house|
There's not a whole lot to see but what there is was fascinating. Life was simple then, it centred around the kitchen-parlour, heated by a large wooden range which of course also cooked the food and heated water. The range, incidentally, was made in Tipton by Charles Lathe & Co. It is exactly the model originally used in the house and was tracked down in a local reclamation yard. Beyond the parlour lies a simple bedroom, no bathroom of course and candles and there are oil lamps for lighting. The houses had no electric but they did have water and even, remarkably, got town gas by the end. Outside each had its vegetable gardens.
|At its centre, this fine range|
|Spectacular views are all around from the top of Kinver Ridge|
|The camera gives only a feeble impression of the scale of the views|