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Walking in Shropshire

The remote and romantic Shropshire Hills form part of the ancient border Marches. These Welsh border lands have been fought over and disputed throughout much of our history. Of course, no one disputes the border today, any more than they would dispute the beauty of the region and the rich diversity of it's landscape.

The complex geology of the area is largely responsible for the immense variety of the scenery which makes Shropshire so interesting and such a joy to walk. For example the Wrekin consists of ancient volcanic lava, whilst Wenlock Edge, just 30km south west, was once at the bottom of an ancient sea and is composed of carboniferous limestone. In fact Shropshire claims to be unique in the world, in having rocks from ten of the twelve geological periods within its boundaries.

The northern part of the county around Ellesmere was dramatically affected by being at the extremity of the ice sheets during the last ice age. Huge glaciers deposited the clay, gravel and sand found in these areas as they receded; but not before their awesome power had scooped out the depressions which today make Ellesmere a lake district in miniature.

There is diversity too, in the character of the county's towns. Ludlow, a delightfully rural market town dominated by it's imposing castle, retains much of the charm of a bygone age. It's beautiful black and white timbered buildings, so typical of Shropshire where oak forests were once widespread, can overwhelm the visitor with it's cosy atmosphere. But Ludlow is a thriving community and has earned itself a reputation as a gastronomic centre of excellence. Not that far away Telford is a dynamic modern town full of high technology industry built upon the foundations of the industrial revolution, which all began here at Ironbridge, now a World Heritage site.

There are endless walking possibilities within Shropshire's 5,000km of public paths, but the most important areas are the hills of the south west between Ludlow and Shrewsbury. Church Stretton, roughly in the centre of this area is an excellent base from which to explore the Long Mynd, a dramatic ridge of ancient heather clad hills which tower over the town. One of the most popular circuits climbs through the beautiful Carding Mill Valley, one of a number of ravines cutting through the eastern flank of the hills.

Other important hills include Wenlock Edge, Stiperstones, Clee Hills and Clun Forest. All offer spectacular open walking and panoramic vistas. The quiet, green valleys and Dales between these ranges are also beautiful walking country.

Minsterley and the Stiperstones can provide some dramatic walking. Plan an ivigorating walk from Minsterley (SJ 375049) mainly across heather moorland and some woodland and bog to reach the facinating Stiperstones at 560m elevation. The spikes of rock and crumbling scree are unique to the area, a geologists paradise. We advise you not to attempt this walk on midwinters night, as legend has it that the devils gather here to choose their leader who is crowned in the Devil's Chair. The southbound outward route is via Ploxgreen and Snailbeach and then, after passing Snailbeach mine, climbing towards the Stiperstones ridge. Continue south to the Bridges road car park, from where the northerly return begins following the Shropshire Way. Return via Eastridge Wood and Bank Farm. A walk based on this route will be about 19km.

Much Wenlock - Today Much Wenlock is an attractive little market town popular with walkers drawn by the beauty of the surrounding countryside and especially the spectacular Wenlock Edge limestone escarpment. The town has preserved much of its medieval character due to lack of development in recent centuries, the industrial revolution taking place in nearby Ironbridge having past it by, and several timber framed building of note remain. The 16th century black and white guildhall is particularly appealing and is still in use as a court and also houses the Council Chamber. Picturesque houses abound in Much Wenlock, especially those in the Bull Ring, and strolling through its charming streets the visitor experiences a pleasing mix of architecture from medieval through Georgian to Victorian.

Perhaps the towns most famous attraction is the ruins of the Priory of St Milburga originally established as a nunnery in the 7th century. It had a violent history being destroyed first by the Danes and later by the Normans and the ruins seen today date from a rebuilding as a Cluniac priory in about 1080, plus later additions. The prior's lodge, dating from around 1500, is the most impressive remaining structure.

OS Maps: Explorer™ 217, 241

A Walk from Much Wenlock [SO 623998]
This walk takes you through beautiful countryside, with an exhilarating climb up Wenlock Edge from where there are pleasant valley views. It also takes in a visit to the dramatic ruins of St Milburga's Priory. The route is a clockwise circuit leaving the town westwards towards Blakeway Hollow and then climbing to Wenlock Edge via Stokes Barn. The walk follows the Edge through woodland to Harley Hill and then Edge Wood. At a junction of paths shortly before Homer the route heads south east and follows paths leading to St Milburga's Priory, on the way passing the ruins of an old windmill, substantial school buildings on the right and crossing a dismantled railway track. From the Priory it is a short walk back to the town. About 3.5 miles.
Best Pubs for this walk
George and Dragon, High Street, Much Wenlock Tel: 01952 727312 (Good Pub Guide)
This pleasant and atmospheric inn dates back to 1700 and has a reputation among locals and visitors alike for excellent food and beer. Jacket potatoes, rarebits, ploughman's and tasty sandwiches are on offer, together with a good selection of main dishes.
Talbot, High Street, Much Wenlock Tel: 01952 727077 (Good Pub Guide)
Dating back to 1360, this inn was once part of Wenlock Abbey. There are several rooms with low ceilings and comfortable seating. The lunchtime menu consists mainly of standard bar food, but might include thai fishcakes, lasagne or steak. There is a little courtyard with tables and flower tubs for summertime eating.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks for Motorists - Shropshire, Staffordshire and West Midlands' by Roger Noyce



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