Saturday 31 March 2012

A Circuit of the Stretton Skyline

Distance: 28km; Ascent: 1350m; Overcast with occasional drizzle and a cold light wind; Solo

Lynsey's Shropshire backpack earlier this month had reminded me that I would like to go and explore those hills myself sometime.  So having discovered that Church Stretton is only 1 hour and 20 minutes away by train, I planned a long day walk to take in the majority of the Stretton Hills.  Therefore after catching an early train from Stockport this morning, I set off walking from Church Stretton station at around 8:15am after a quick breakfast of Eccles cake and milk from a nearby garage.

View NE back towards summit of Ragleth Hill
The recent spell of dry sunny weather had unfortunately come to an end, with the sky completely overcast and the cloudbase was at around 450-500m.  After crossing the A49, I began to ascend first through a housing estate and then on a footpath rising steeply through the woods.  Eventually the angle eased and I was soon walking along a pleasant grassy ridge to the sound of birdsong.  I reached the summit of Ragleth Hill (HuMP), my first hill of the day, at 9am.  There were good views across to the Long Mynd from here, and I could easily pick out my planned ascent route.

The Long Mynd and Little Stretton
After a few more hundred metres of ridge walking, the ridge abruptly ended and there was a steep descent down to Little Stretton and the busy A49.  The village pub looked temping as it proclaimed to sell Wye Valley beer, which from past experience is very tasty!  However it would have to wait as I still had a long way to go, and besides it was only 9:30 in the morning!

Small Batch corrie
I left Little Stretton past a small campsite, which seemed to be quite popular this weekend, and started climbing on a good path above the valley and corrie of Small Batch.  After skirting round Callow and Grindle, the ground eased and there was minimal ascent as I skirted Round Hill to pick up a wide grassy path through the heather.  Soon I reached the minor road that runs along the Long Mynd, which seemed to be very quiet today.  After passing Pole Cottage, I forked left on a broad path to ascend to Pole Bank trig point on the summit of the Long Mynd (Marilyn, Dewey), which I reached shortly before 11am.

Summit of the Long Mynd
From the misty trig point I followed a broad well-maintained path north east and soon started to pass several groups heading the other way, the first other walkers I had seen since leaving Church Stretton.  After crossing the minor road, I continued to follow the Shropshire Way north east for just shy of a kilometre before forking off right onto another bridleway.  This next couple of kilometres was the busiest section of the walk, meeting several cyclists, many walkers and a couple of horse riders. 

The mist was slightly disorientating at times and I had to make sure that I didn't drop too far down into Jonathan's Hollow to avoid reaching the A49 too far south.  Instead I crossed a minor road just to the south of Plush Hill before continuing to descend the grassy hillside.  Soon afterwards I found a sheltered spot and stopped for a quick lunch of cheese and pickle rolls.

I soon left the open access area and began following footpaths across the farmland, interspersed with a level crossing across the railway line and re-crossing the A49 again.  At Comley, I began the ascend up the interesting ridge of The Lawley.  This was an interesting hill, which formed a well defined SW-NE ridge.  Once up on the ridge, I was intermittently back in the mist before I reached the summit of The Lawley (HuMP) at around 1:30pm, complete with a nearby weather vane and the remains of a trig point.

Weather vane on the summit of The Lawley
After a quick break out of the wind, I retraced my steps for just over a kilometre back to the road, which I then followed for a few hundred metres to reach the start of the path up my next hill, Caer Caradoc.  This began with the steep ascent of Little Caradoc, from whose summit there were good views ahead to Caer Caradoc, whose lower slopes were covered in sheep.

Caer Caradoc Hill
I pressed on to the summit of Caer Caradoc (Marilyn), which I arrived at around 2:40pm.  The summit was relatively flat, with several rocky outcrops dotted around so I visited them all just to be certain I had climbed to the highest point!  By now it was evident that I wasn't going to make the 3pm train, which to be honest I hadn't really expected to anyway!  So I stopped for a break in the lee of one of the rocky outcrops.

Summit of Caer Caradoc
The remains of an old hill fort were evident in places near the summit and it was also rumoured that there was a cave somewhere up here too, but I didn't go investigating.  I headed southwards along the ridge past several interesting rocky outcrops along with a paraglider that was complaining about the wind and hence was struggling to get launched.

Rocky outcrop on Caer Caradoc
I soon left Caer Caradoc hill and descended towards my final hill of the day, Hope Bowdler Hill.  I crossed a green lane before ascending up a good path to join the ridge just to the west of Willstone Hill.  The ground was easy going and I was soon on the summit of Hope Bowdler Hill (HuMP).

Summit of Hope Bowdler Hill
There was a pleasant ridge to the SW of the summit, which I followed for around a kilometre, before dropping steeply down to the road.  I opted to follow a minor road down into Church Stretton rather than the B4371, which was busy with little space for walkers.  I arrived in Church Stretton at around 4pm, with enough time to buy a paper and some cake before heading to the station for the journey back home.  It had been a very good day's walk, although it was a shame about the weather, and I definitely plan to return to the Shropshire Hills at some point.


  1. The Shropshire hills are great! We go fairly frequently - I haven't done the route as you have here, but have travelled quite a few of the paths you must have used.

    Good stuff!

    1. Yes, I agree that they are great! I was very impressed with them and wondered why I hadn't bothered to visit them before, given that I've been within two hours drive of them for much of the last 12 years!

  2. Yes, we "rediscovered" them about 4 years ago, and have been visiting regularly (if not that frequently!) ever since.

    Not only is it a beautiful area, it's one where finding a bit of solitude is still possible - increasingly a rarity!

  3. Looks like a grand route and a nice mixture of landscape and villages, didn't realise it was so close by train!