Archive for the ‘Shropshire’ Category

More New Places – High Vinnalls   14 comments

This Marilyn bagging is becoming addictive, not in a completist sort of way (I have zero chance of ever finishing them even by country) but in a desire to explore new corners of my local parts of South Wales, the Marches and Shropshire.

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After my walk the previous day I was up late and wasn’t planning a walk but the weather looked like it might deliver some decent sunshine between the showers so I headed out on a whim. Another new summit, this time High Vinnalls from Overton Common. The woods at the Black Pool car park are crossed many numerous trails and it was a pleasant walk up through Haye Park Wood. When I emerged from the trees the sun came out and the views were sensational.

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These shots were taken from the curiously named Climbing Jack Common.

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The equally curiously named Titterstone Clee Hill with its radar dome really stood out in the sun. For some reason it remained in the sun pretty much all day or at least whenever I glimpsed it.

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Seen here with its less dramatic but higher neighbour of Brown Clee Hill.

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In no time at all I was on the summit of High Vinnalls and the views were superb. Sunshine looking east towards the Midlands, dark and stormy towards the mountains of central Wales.

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The forest doesn’t reach the top so the views are wide and expansive. It really is an exceptionally fine summit and not one I ever knew was there even though I drive past it regularly heading north along the A49 in Shropshire.

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It was also remarkably quiet, just a handful of folks out for a Sunday stroll with a variety of bouncy dogs.

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A view to South Wales and the Black Mountains. The pointy peak on the horizon just left of centre is Ysgyryd Fawr.

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And across the Marches to the Malverns.

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There seemed to be plenty of paths and options to make a good circular route. I chose to walk along the top of Hanway Common.

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Before heading down towards the pretty village of Richards Castle. I used to get very excited as a kid to see any place name with the word “Castle” in it figuring every one would have a castle. They rarely do or at least nothing more than an old motte and bailey (historical speak for a mound and a ditch). This is all Richards Castle has sadly.

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What I did get were some stunning rainbows including a double one below that I only noticed when I looked at the photos at home.

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A walk along the muddy lanes was just as enjoyable in the late afternoon light.

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This ruined old barn catching the sun also caught my eye.

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As I reached woods where the car was parked the sun came out delivering more glorious autumn colours and rainbows.

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As it was a day not meant for stopping (it was cold and windy on top and very muddy lower down) I’d covered over 6 miles in just a couple of hours

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Yet another new hill and yet another good one. Long may the Marilyn’s rule!

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Churchstoke Hills   8 comments

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Not sure if this collection of high ground has a name (doubtful as hardly anyone seems to have heard of them) so I’m calling them the Churchstoke Hills as that’s where we parked for the walk.

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They are fairly prominent on the skyline from the Stiperstones and Long Mynd and look good on the map so worth a trip out to try and fashion some kind of circular walk

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Heading out on some fairly vague paths, our first target was Todleth Hill. The path skirted across the slopes but we were on access land so we walked top to the top. A very fine top with expansive views across Shropshire and Welsh borders

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The paths were thin and little overgrown in places but easy enough to follow to our next target of Roundton Hill.  It’s small, perfectly formed and brutally steep

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For such a diminutive hill it packs a punch of crags and steep slopes and takes a bit of puff to reach its summit

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Excellent views from the top made it worth the effort

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A panorama shot looking at the rest of our route

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Our next target was the highest point in the “range” of Corndon Hill. Only 500m high it’s lower than both the Stiperstones and Long Mynd but as its steep all round it has higher feel both looking from a distance and when you’re on it

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We had a brief stop on the lower slopes as we could see a nasty looking shower heading in which duly hit us for our walk across the top.

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Lots of paths on the open access land and some sensational views across the surrounding hills and over to the Cheshire plain. A bit wet but a price worth paying for the clear air and sunny spells you get between showers on days like these

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It rained for longer than we’d either liked or thought, probably the best part of an hour so we didn’t linger on the summit

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We quickly dropped down to the lower paths and noted that the hill of Lan Fawr just off the right of way was also on access land and looked rather good so we went to the top

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Despite the very obvious storms still scudding across the borders we caught a lucky break and had a late lunch on the top in glorious bright sunshine

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We found a spot looking out to the west and could pick out most of the main summits in Snowdonia (that weren’t obscured by rain storms)

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There were dark clouds moving across the horizon and not wanting to push our luck decided to head down

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The views were still magnificent and a stretch of green grassy path studded with gnarled tress was especially stunning

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This section was just a pleasure, easy angled walking on soft grassy paths with expansive views and most of the route to ourselves

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We caught another couple of brief showers and I managed to fall a5rse over t1t off a stile into a field but otherwise an uneventful return the car

 

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A respectable 8 miles  and well over 2000 feet of ascent for such small hills

Churchstoke

I’ve had designs on a walk in these hills for a few years now and never quite made the effort to actually make it happen. It rewarded the effort

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Having made the route up as we went along it became a fine circuit that I’m sure will become a regular outing such was the quality

Shropshire Heatwave on Stiperstones   16 comments

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After my Arans trip I headed back to Shropshire for a meet up with THO ready for a walk the next day. Quite by chance we found the Brow Farm campsite near Ratlinghope. A real find, pretty basic but a wonderful open field and relaxed atmosphere. The D of E groups were a little noisy after hours but no harm done and a site I’d love to go back to. Especially with the excellent Bridges Inn just down the road

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We had a fine meal and a few beers over a catch up in the sunshine. I’d been looking forward to a couple of cold ones throughout my hot walk in the Arans

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We met more friends for breakfast back at the Bridges Inn on Sunday and set out to repeat a walk we’d done on a very dark, very humid and very wet day in August a few years ago.

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It was pretty hot this time but thunder clouds were replaced with abundant blue skies and no army of flies that plagued us on the previous attempt

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Our route took us up onto Linley Hill

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With great views across to the south end of the Stiperstones ridge

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Along through Nipstone Woods where we found this line of sheep sheltering from the heat of the midday sun

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I really like this grassy meadow just before the main ridge. The grass has always been long when I’ve walked through and it waves in the breeze in a mesmerising way

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The main ridge seems completely out of character for the rest of the rolling green fields and heather moorlands that characterise the rest of the Shire

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It bristles with rocky outcrops and tors, most of which require a little scrambling and a head for heights to reach

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The Trig Point is perched on top of Manstone Rock and further along is the Devils Chair, both of which providing some entertaining rock scrambles

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A well earned snack break between the two

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THO showing off his rock skills on the Devils Chair ridge

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I’ve read that these are the hardest English summits and whilst it takes only mild scrambling to reach the top, I can’t think of another summit in England where the easiest route is harder than these. Possibly Parkhouse Hill in the Peak now its open to the public

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We did have a plan for a mid-walk beer but in the heat we couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the village and back up again (when there was a pub conveniently placed at the end of the walk!)

Instead we took a walk over the un-named hill to the east and very fine it was too

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The views across the northern half of the Shire were mighty fine, all rolling green fields and small hills, some wooded, some grassy

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Earls Hill in the distance really caught the eye and more ideas for further exploration of this fine county were planned

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A walk along the road (and through a farm yard with the most extraordinary collection of clutter that included a tank!) brought us back to the cars, a cold drink and to head back home after a long, varied and very fine weekend of walking. This one was around 11 miles

Stiperstones

 

A Shropshire Bimble   6 comments

Now here’s a rare treat. A blog post write up within a day of the actual event itself. Can I keep this up? Unlikely as I’m off to the Pyrenees next week for some walking so no doubt I’ll be way behind again for the rest of the summer. I’ll enjoy this moment of freshness of memory while I can.

Despite a promising forecast it was chucking it down when we met up with Uncle Fester and surprisingly (as they said they couldn’t make it) The Hard Man and his apprentice LAC. As luck would have it we’d planned a hearty breakfast at the excellent Lazy Trout cafe on the A49. We spent a happy hour looking at the rain outside while scoffing and it had stopped when we finally arrived in Cardington to begin the walk. Our route was to take in the splendid isolated ridge of The Lawley and finishing over Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hill

The first part of the walk required linking together several footpaths across the local fields

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As you can imagine this involved fields of long wet grass, overgrown stiles and herds of aggressive cows. What fun!

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The views made up for it as the weather began to brighten and we could see our three target hills in the distance

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The walk through Birch Coppice Wood in the dappled sunlight was particularly fine

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We emerged at the far end of the wood to some fine views of The Lawley

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Its a splendid grassy ridge. Not especially high but as it sits on its own, rising from the southern end of the Cheshire Plain its very dramatic. After another bout of field bashing including some electric fence malarky we were on our way to the summit

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Not for long though. We’d been walking non-stop for  3 hours so it was time for rest. A nice cuppa was well deserved and would have been thoroughly enjoyed if I’d managed to remember the stove 😦

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Still the grass was comfortable and a chill out was enjoyed by all

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On to the summit where we enjoyed a lively debate about the pending EU Referendum

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Alas the EU regulations that have blighted our country also seem to have dictated that hills in Shropshire must conform to a minimum steepness of “bloody steep”. Those unelected bureaucrats from Brussels! (This is my attempt at political irony – I’m voting “Remain”) 🙂

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Poor Uncle Fester was struggling with this steepness rating and we needed a stop halfway up Caer Caradoc.

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At the top the weather was exceedingly fine so we sat again. Its a real mountain in miniature as are many of the Shropshire Hills. Possessing rock tors, crags and brutally steep slopes on all sides. Diminutive in altitude it may be but everything else says “mountain”

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The way down was as you’d expect from a Shropshire Hill – steep. My knees were suffering with the long bouts of flat walking so having climbed back up to the col on Hope Bowdler Hill I decided to leave the out and back to its highest point for another day. The view from the top of Willstone Hill across to the Brown Clee and Titterstone Clee his (Shropshires highest points) was excellent.

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We had thought of extending the walk but time was pressing and the pub in Cardington had a beer with my name on it

The Lawley

A very respectable 11 miles with an even more respectable 3000 feet of ascent. Not bad for these small hills in rural Shropshire. Very fine walking indeed

More Shropshire – Stiperstones   18 comments

You don’t get a day’s walk in Shropshire for ages and two come along at once.

 

Me and TBF were minus our kids, TJS was in Iceland and TJF was, well, I honestly can’t remember. Enthused by the excellent day we had around Church Stretton a few weeks before I decided to go back to the walk I’d proposed in the first place.

Being a long ridge surrounded by rural farmland, Stiperstones doesn’t lend itself to a circular walk very easily. After a lengthy period browsing the web and poring over maps I settled on a route from Bridges

Stiperstones

9.2 Miles

We parked up at the pub with a faithful promise to fulfill the free car park bargain in return for spending some money with them

The first couple of miles was over uncut fields and wet grass. I’m not a huge fan of walking through these sorts of areas. Paths are often poorly signed, overgrown and hard to find. Walking can become a chore. We had a few such moments as we passed by Kinnerton Farm and Birchope on our way to Linley Hill. The views across to the tors of the ridge were great but the walking was pleasant without being anything special.

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Linley Hill itself was a rather thistle clad mess of old dead trees and sheep sh1t. It looks good on the map and the views were fine but it’s not really worth the walk to be honest.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

Once we started to descend the steep slopes towards the main part of the walk things picked up. The grassy slopes on the way down were charming and as we climbed onto the ridge we entered the heathland and its broad grassy paths. The views across towards Heath Mynd and Corndon Hill were excellent.

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stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

We’d been walking for a while so lunch was called for. We scrambled through deep heather and rocks to the top of the Rock House hoping for a flat grassy spot. Alas the all we found was more deep heather and rocks. We found a decent perch on the rocks with an expansive view and settled in for a lengthy pause. My mind was tracing routes on Corndon Hill and looks a real cracker. Another one for my book.

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stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

Moving on we found the ridge to be as wild as the Rhinogs. I wanted to stick to the high ridge assuming there would be a path but it was just deep heather, very deep heather and yes, more rocks. A few hundred yards of that was enough and we were back on the lower path.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

The walk along to Nipstone and then through the charming Nipstone Wood was grand. The wood was dappled with sunlight and the meadow beyond a profusion of wild flowers in the wafting grass.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

Climbing up onto the main ridge we began the exploration of all the tors that litter and mark the ridge. It feels oddly out-of-place to see large outcrops of rock on a wild heather moorland and then look across arable fields to the chimneys of the power stations in the Severn Valley. Squint your eyes and it could be somewhere much higher and much more remote. I loved it.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

What I didn’t love was the path, or at least my knees didn’t. It’s like a cobbled street without the mortar. Really difficult to keep a steady pace with constant twisting of ankles and knees. The views of the surrounding countryside and the tors more than made up for that. Past Cranberry and Manstone Rocks, each very impressive in their own right we reached the Devils Chair, supposedly the hardest summit in England.

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stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

I took it direct from the south and it’s a pretty impressive knife-edge of rock with some exposed positions and delicate moves. Probably a grade 2 Scramble and it was a delightful little route. Somewhat disappointingly you can pretty much walk up from the northern end to the highest point so in terms of a summit I think the “hardest” claim might be stretching it but thinking again I couldn’t come up with any English summits that are anything more than a walk to the top as it’s hardest route. I’m sure someone will tell me different. Still, it’s a marvellous little spot and we had it to ourselves.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

We turned off before the Shepherds Rock and headed down over the pleasant fields and past the Hollies Farm to pick up the long road back to Bridges.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

My knees don’t like road walking and after the cobbles on the ridge it was a tortuous walk. A shame as most of the lane was a lovely and deserted. More surgery on the horizon I fear

Back at the pub and it was gloriously sunny. We made good on our promise and enjoyed a beer and scampi meal outside the pub by the river.

stiperstones, shropshire, bridges, kinnerton, birchope, linley hill, nipstone rock, manstone rock, cranberry rock, devils chair, hollies, shepherds rock, rock house

Had I not had other commitments I’d have been there now. It was stunning. Nothing finer than a pint and some pub grub after a long walk

Six go mad in Shropshire   4 comments

It’s been a plan for a while now to have meet up for a day walk in Shropshire as its kind of in the middle of where of few of my old University chums live. After much debate we settled on what I consider to be the classic round of the Shropshire Hills that surround the town of Church Stretton. There are several other routes and at least 3-4 days worth of walks in the area so further visits are required but this one serves as a fine introduction.

 

We met in the splendid if grossly overcrowded Cardingmill Valley (before the crowds had really gathered) and set off.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

The valley has several offshoots and options. We plumped for the one containing Lightspout Waterfall, and very fine it was too.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

The top of the Long Mynd is a rather bland and featureless affair I find so after a brief walk along the Shropshire Way (and some inadvertant off-piste through the heather) we plunged down into Ashes Hollow, the finest of the valleys that rend the eastern side of the Long Mynd. Unlike Cardingmill, it’s quiet and unspoilt by tourism until you reach the small campsite at the entrance. Narrow with it’s little babbling stream (and middle aged babbling walkers!) and small waterfalls, it’s a priceless gem.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Bouyed by this fine stretch of walking we decided to celebrate in Little Stretton with a pint in the beer garden to fortify us for the steep climb up Ragleth Hill.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

It’s another fine hill with a brutally short and steep climb to the top. The grassy walk along it’s summit ridge was a delight.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

What the Shropshire Hills lack in altitude they more than make up for in numbers and the regular ups and downs. After Ragleth Hill its down and then along the slopes of Hope Bowdler Hill (saved for another day) to the area’s crowning peak (although not the highest – that belongs to Pole Bank on the Long Mynd), Caer Caradoc. This traversing path was especially fine with Caer Caradoc looming in front and looking very much higher than it’s modest 459 metres.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Another steep climb and a wander around the summit earthworks and we crested the top. The views to the north across the Cheshire Plain and west towards Snowdonia were especially fine. It really is a mountain in everything but height. It looks like one and it certainly feels like one when you’re on the summit with it’s broad ridge and rocky outcrops. Another for my upcoming book “Small Hills with Disproportionately Great Views” (working title) 🙂

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

The view south was a little more worrying. We’d dodged the showers pretty well all day but now it looked the end of the world was heading our way. Dark clouds billowed and boomed towards us and we donned waterproofs expecting a real soaking to finish the day.

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

Shropshire, Church Stretton, Cardingmill Valley, Long Mynd, Ashes Hollow, Little Stretton, Ragleth Hill, Hazler Hill, Hope Bowdler Hill, Caer Caradoc Hill

It never came. Almost without noticing it seemed to pass by. By the time we’d traversed the fields and reached the car it was pretty much wall to wall blue skies. A pretty long walk in the end at over 12 miles

Church Stretton

We bid our farewells and ended a great day on these small but perfectly formed hills

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