List 03 March

3 invigorating Shropshire walks

Rolling hills, wildlife-rich hedgerows, burbling brooks... Immerse yourself in Shropshire's glorious countryside on these 3 easy walks

1. The sleeping dragon: Pontesbury to Earl’s Hill summit

Shrewsbury and mid-Shropshire
Adapted from 20 Walks in and around Shrewsbury with kind permission from Shrewsbury Ramblers

The details: OS Explorer map 241 & 216; start at Pontesbury Hill Rd adjacent to School Rd. SO398061; 3½ miles (around 2 hours); strenuous: initially minor roads & open countryside then a sustained ascent followed by a steep but short descent, & on rough paths.

The walk: It's well worth the uphill scramble for the 360-degree panorama at the top of Earl’s Hill. Until the late 1800s this hill, sometimes likened from afar to a sleeping dragon, was the venue for popular Easter festivities – including a race down the hillside to the brook at its base. If the winner dipped the fourth finger of the right hand in the water it was said they would marry the first person of the opposite sex they next encountered.

1. Walk along Pontesbury Hill Road away from the church, following the road past the phone box and turn left at Birch Row, until you reach the ford adjacent to the Plough Inn. Don’t cross the ford but turn right up Whitwell Lane. Follow the stream past houses on the left and take the lane to the right until you reach a metal kissing-gate on the left. Go through it.

2. Walk along the hedgerow to the next metal gate and turn right following the waymark. Cross the field to the metal kissing-gate. Turn left, following the hedgerow on the left. Cross a stream and continue to pass through the metal kissing-gate in the corner of the field.



3. Turn right along the road until you reach a farm driveway on the left. Turn left and then go through a metal gate on the right. Follow the fence line on the left, staying in the field and following the hedgerow on the left to the metal gate in the corner of the field. Continue in the same direction through the field, crossing two stiles until you reach a stile in the left-hand corner, taking you to face the route to Earl’s Hill.

4. Cross the stile and walk towards Earl’s Hill. Cross another stile and footbridge until you reach the stile in the top right-hand corner of the field.

5. Cross the lane to enter Earl’s Hill Reserve. Follow the path up the hill, ignoring another path on the left. Continue to the top of the hill until there you see a stile and pine woods on your left.

6. Turn right up Earl’s Hill until you reach the summit, marked by a trig point. Take a while to soak up the extensive views from here. Looking north you will see Shrewsbury and notably the white Shelton Water Tower. To the east, The Wrekin and Buildwas Power Station. To the west, extensive views into Wales. Here you will see the outline of a hillfort which occupied the hilltop in the first millennium BC.


The Wrekin, with river Severn (Shutterstock)

7. From the trig point continue in the same direction to descend Earl’s Hill. Follow the path until you reach a steep descent to a stile at the bottom of the hill. Go over the stile and walk 10 yards to join a path. Turn left.

8. Follow this path on the eastern side of Earl’s Hill, through woodland. Continue walking in the same direction, ignoring footpaths to both left and right, to reach a metal gate. Pass through a further metal gate where you arrive at an open field with gorse. Go through another metal gate and continue in the same direction, heading for woodland.

9. Go through the metal gate on to a woodland track and continue until you reach Earl’s Hill car park. Go through the car park on to the road and turn right heading downhill for about 55 yards to a sharp left turn signposted, over the cattle grid. Head down the track to the hedge line, then turn right at a cattle grid through a metal gate, walking diagonally across the field to the kissing-gate. Turn right down the tarmac driveway to the road.

10. Turn left on the road, passing Mary Webb School on your right. Walk past the school entrance and continue to the T-junction at the bottom of the road. Turn left, arriving at the Plough Inn and the ford on your right, which you passed at the beginning of the walk. Cross the ford to the road leading back to the start.

2. Pole Bank, the highest point on the Long Mynd

South Shropshire
Kindly shared by Church Stretton Walkers are Welcome

The details: OS Explorer map 217; start at Church Stretton station. SO455936; 6 miles, following blue waymarks. Moderate (generally easy underfoot but with some scrambling over small rocky outcrops, so you’ll need a reasonable head for heights); allow 2–3 hours

The walk: Just a few minutes’ walk out of Church Stretton and you’ll find yourself in a timeless landscape of secretive valleys and bracken-clad moors, seemingly untouched by human hands. Keep going for big views over Wales and then a pleasing diversion into Carding Mill Valley with its National Trust tea room.


Carding Mill Valley in Church Stretton (Shutterstock)

1. Leave the station by the Platform 1 exit. At the main road, bear left along Sandford Avenue and take the first turning left into Easthope Road. Pass the public toilets and turn right into Lion Meadow in front of the Co-op store. The top of the road faces the Bucks Head. Take the narrow passage to the left of the pub and go through the iron gate into the churchyard. Bear right to the side of St Laurence’s Church and then bear left around to the main entrance before emerging through double iron gates on to Church Street.

2. Turn right and then shortly left between two tall gate pillars and enter Rectory Field through the wooden kissing-gate. Ignoring the steps at the edge of the wood on the right, climb up to the centre of the field, keeping the wood on your right. Where the wood swings to the right, keep close to it and make the steep climb towards a red-banded post and a kissing-gate at the top of the hill through which you should pass into Rectory Wood.

3. Follow the path in front of you as it leads down to another red-banded post. From this veer leftwards and keep to the left at the path’s next junction. This path borders a steep drop from which it is separated by a wooden guardrail fence. At the bottom of the descending path, cross the stream by way of the bridge (a recycled gravestone) and climb the path ahead to a kissing-gate.



4. Pass through a gate and at the Victorian reservoir, which once stored the water supply for Church Stretton, go straight ahead with the railings on your left. The reservoir is served by the aptly named Town Brook, a stream that will be your gurgling companion as you leave the railings behind and begin to follow the brook’s gentle upward course. Gradually, as you climb higher, the brook falls away to your left. Where the head of the valley comes clearly into view, and you can see a marker post on the top, take extra care as the path leads over small rocky outcrops.



5. For the final approach to the summit, the path follows a zigzag route, generally leftwards, to reach a pinkbanded post. Although you are now only a quarter of the way around the walk, the most physically demanding section has been completed. Turn right and follow the waymarked posts across the moorland for about a mile until you reach a tarmac road.

6. Turn left along the road for about 100 yards until it swings sharply to the left, exposing a rough track leading ahead and upwards.


Carding Mill Valley in Church Stretton (Shutterstock)

7. Climb the track to the junction with the Medlicott path (signed on a wooden post), turn sharp left and follow the path up to Pole Bank. At 1,700 feet this is the highest point on the Long Mynd. From here, on a clear day, you can see Cader Idris, the Clee Hills and the Brecon Beacons. Retrace your steps to the junction with the Medlicott path. Ignore the path to the right, along which you came, and walk straight ahead, eventually crossing the road at Shooting Box.

8. A post marked Carding Mill indicates the path straight ahead which eventually joins a broader track coming in from the right. Continue forward for about 300 yards to a major path junction. Here, bear to the right following the waymarked posts and, 20 yards further on, bear right again on to a loose stone surfaced track.

9. From here the route is clear. You are now on Motts Road which leads downhill eventually to a stream at a junction with a major path coming in from the right. Cross the stream and continue downwards into Carding Mill Valley with its National Trust shop and café.

10. Shortly after the café, take the track on the right that climbs diagonally up the hillside. At the top, turn left across the cattle grid and descend the Burway. Past the post box, bear left on to the grassy track. Then bear right just after a couple of large trees and pass a seat to reach a war memorial. Continue straight ahead down a grassy slope and a little narrow rocky path down to the road, bearing left to the crossroads. Cross straight ahead into Sandford Avenue and continue down to the train station entrance.

3. Wellington to the Ercall & foot of The Wrekin

Ironbridge Gorge & the Wrekin
Kindly devised for this book by Wellington Walkers are Welcome

The details: OS Explorer map 242; start at Wellington station ticket office. SJ651116; 5–6 miles depending on route chosen; generally moderate with steep ascents in places; allow 2–3 hours. For details of walk extensions, see the double-sided leaflet Maps of Wellington Historic Town & The Wrekin Forest Walks published by Wellington Town Council.

The walk: On this walk you’ll pass through ancient oak woodland and see evidence of 500 million years of history in the Ercall (pronounced ‘Arkle’) quarries. You’ll visit the foot of Shropshire’s beloved ‘little mountain’ The Wrekin, with optional access around or over it. You can also make a circular route extension to Limekiln Wood with its industrial heritage.

1. Take the road up towards the town, turn left and go through Market Square, keeping to the left of the black-and-white building (currently a branch of Subway). Walk along Crown Street, then carry straight on up Tan Bank. Cross Victoria Road and continue through the pedestrian access way into the next section of Tan Bank. After just over 30 yards take the brick footpath on the right. Cross the next road (Roseway) and take the rising footpath immediately opposite. Carry on past the allotments on your right and Sunnycroft on your left.


Gathering storm over the Wrekin (Shutterstock)

2. Cross Holyhead Road by the pelican crossing and head straight on to Golf Links Lane. Continue up the lane and pass under the motorway bridge. Immediately after the bridge, turn right to follow the signposted footpath through Ercall Wood. (Directly opposite this entrance you’ll find steps leading to a possible three-mile walk extension using a circular path through Limekiln Wood.)

3. Once in Ercall Wood, cross the footbridge and bear left into the main part of the wood. After a short distance the route forks right (following the mustard-coloured Wrekin Forest Trails waymark) and rises steeply. (For a gentler alternative bear left at the fork and keep to the wider main path which rises more slowly along the side of the hill. You will re-join the main walk at point 4.) 

4. Follow the main path where it opens out uphill, bearing left to join the ridge. Turn left along the ridge and take in the fine view over Wrekin Golf Club as you approach the top. (If you wish you could continue along the ridge for more views over quarries and The Wrekin, then return to the junction of the path just up from point 4.) The two routes recombine at the foot of the short sharp descent on the left. Continue straight on to follow the main route (or, from the gentler alternative, turn left). After a few yards the path will begin to swing right and descend. Follow the path downhill as it bends to the right and approaches our first quarry.



5. About mid-way down the hill you will come to a junction with a waymark on the left. The main route carries on down the hill but the short ‘mountain goat’ path on the right leads to a ledge inside the quarry and, above that, the base of the Ercall Geological Unconformity, where Ercall granophyre meets Wrekin quartzite and clearly marks a shift from volcanic to sedimentary rock. Be sure to turn around here for a special view of The Wrekin not many people get to see.) Upon reaching the base of the first main quarry you’ll find an interpretation board and a large stone inscribed with a poem. Looking up on a sunny day you’ll see the colourful rocks shining out near the top of the quarry face.

6. Continue downhill until you reach a pool on the left. Take the hairpin left at the end of the pool and follow the path uphill to the Dairy Pit, after which the path steeply descends to the Little Wenlock Road. Turn right at the road and follow it to the Forest Glen car park. Cross the road and continue on a few yards to the entrance to The Wrekin.

7. This is the main access point to The Wrekin, from which routes over and around the hill can be made. A straight up and down will add 3 miles and 800 feet to your walk, while a circuit midway up the hill will add 4 miles. Refreshments may be available at The Halfway House, which was being renovated at the time of writing. Continue along the road until you reach a footpath on your right (at a road junction, with a sign marked Uppington on your left).


View from the top of the Wrekin – should you choose to climb it... (Shutterstock)

8. Turn right along the footpath, follow the path around the reservoir with its views of the Ercall, and then turn right to reach Ercall Lane. Follow the road until you pass the Buckatree Hall Hotel on your left. Cross into the fringe of the woodland where you see a wooden footpath sign, turning left to head towards Wellington. Follow the paths that run alongside the road as closely as you can until you reach the motorway bridge.

9. Immediately after crossing the motorway bridge, turn left along the footpath which emerges at a small roundabout at the top of Hampton Hill (offering great views over north Shropshire). Take the road which descends steeply down Hampton Hill to reach Holyhead Road. Turn right, cross the road and turn left into Bowring Park (opposite the Red Lion pub). Follow the path to the main entrance (where there is a pavilion café) on Haygate Road. Turn right, heading towards the town centre and cross the road by the John Bayley Club.

10. At the junction, turn left along Bridge Road and walk until you reach the traffic lights. Turn right here, walking down Market Street (past the Pheasant Inn) and back to Market Square.

These walks were taken from Slow Travel: Shropshire (Bradt, £12.99) – get 20% off any of the Slow Travel books (including Peak District, East Devon and Shropshire) when you use discount code WANDERLUST buy your copy online now

Main image: Rural Shropshire (Shutterstock)
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