The Shropshire Hills are found in the south of the county and are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy hill walking rather than rocky mountains. Our family walks covered three of the main areas, The Long Mynd, Wenlock Edge and Stiperstones.
1. The Long Mynd
Probably the most popular walking area in Shropshire, The Long Mynd (meaning long mountain) is a moorland plateau around 11 km long.
We followed a circular route from Church Stretton up towards Carding Mill Valley. Much of The Long Mynd is owned by the National Trust so there’s a visitor centre, tea room and toilets. The downside is a strung out car park which blights the valley. I appreciate visitors need to park somewhere but it felt out of place given the surroundings.
I’d chosen a slightly longer version of the National Trust 9 km Burway Loop walk. This waymarked trail was busy with lots of dog walkers, families and runners.
Along the way the kids saw a rope pull strung up the hillside so we detoured for them to have a go. All went well until the eldest fell in the mud and had a sense of humour failure!
It’s a beautiful walk up the valley onto the plateau of the Mynd. Our route took us over heather clad hills and joined with the Portway, a 5000 year old trail once used by Neolithic traders to reach Shrewsbury.
The highest point on the Long Mynd is the 517m Pole Bank. The toposcope identifies the various hills and as it was a relatively clear day we were treated to excellent views across Shropshire, the Brecon Beacons and the Malvern Hills.
From Pole Bank we walked downhill through the valley of Townbrook Hollow. This was my favourite part of the walk as the change in scenery from open moorland to a rugged valley was completely unexpected.
Our path wound down through woodland, past a small reservoir. Just before reaching Church Stretton we found a huge tree. So huge that even three people joining hands couldn’t stretch around half the trunk!
2. Wenlock Edge
The limestone escarpment of Wenlock Edge runs between Craven Arms and Ironbridge. Our 9 km circular walk started from the National Trust car park just outside Much Wenlock.
Our outward route took us along a broad muddy bridleway through Blakeway Coppice, an area of woodland on the scarp face of Much Wenlock. We were treated to occasional views through the trees and some strange sounds which we eventually attributed to farm animals.
Presthope NT car park marked our halfway return point and the start of several interesting features. We followed steps down into the disused Knowle Quarry and found an information board detailing the local geology. A little further on a bird hide overlooked some well used bird feeders. We sat for a while, watching the woodland birds flitting between the feeders, enjoying their cafe.
The Shropshire Way joined our path as we traversed alongside Lea Quarry. Limestone isn’t extracted here anymore so the signs warning of detonation times are superfluous. However the quarry is now a timber storage and wood chipping facility. As evidenced by the screeching sound of logs being fed into the huge chipper.
Towards the end of we stopped at Major’s Leap viewpoint. This is named after Major Smallman who escaped from the Roundheads in the Civil War by jumping his horse over the edge. His horse died (and supposedly its ghost haunts the area) but he was saved by falling into a crab apple tree. We had a quick peek over the edge; it’s definitely a long way down!
Our visit to the Stiperstones didn’t have the most auspicious start. Heavy rain and a flat tyre meant we started out much later than planned. On the positive side, most of the rain had cleared by the time we reached our starting point, the Bog Visitor Centre.
The Bog Visitor Centre is housed in a Victorian former school and was once part of a village with more than 200 buildings. The area was mined for lead and barytes but nowadays feels remote and peaceful. Although the centre was packed with wet cyclists eating homemade cake and taking advantage of the heating to dry off.
Due to our flat tyre we only had time for a short walk so took an out and back route from the Bog Centre up to Manstone Rock. The Stiperstones offer a different walking experience from elsewhere in Shropshire. It’s quite rocky underfoot but if the rocks don’t trip you up the heather will! For this reason the walk is best for families with older children.
I originally planned to walk to the Devil’s Chair rock formation but we settled for the trig point on top of Manstone Rock instead. When I say ‘we’ I actually mean everyone in the family apart from myself. I chickened out of the final scramble on slippy rock up to the trig point itself.
Although this was only a short walk it provided views galore. We also startled a couple of grouse which flew up in front of us as we walked. It would have been the perfect shot into the sun if I’d actually had my camera ready!
- The Shropshire’s Great Outdoors website is a great resource for walkers and cyclists.
- The Bog Visitor Centre is open 7 days per week from the end of March to the start of November.
- During the summer season (May to September) a shuttle bus operates around the Stiperstones and Long Mynd. This gives walkers flexibility to choose linear routes along the hills; we’d have certainly used this if it had been operating during our stay.