Tuesday 30 October 2012

A walk on the Mynd - and a view to the Urals -honest!

Having gawped at my old haunts in the Shropshire Hills from the Berwyn Mountains (see previous blog) in mid-Wales a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity, and a good excuse, to get out on them last Tuesday.  I had the car booked in for a service in the dealers in Shrewsbury.  The garage being 20 miles from home, and having a few hours to kill, I went off in the courtesy car to Church Stretton, that unspoilt lovely large village, or a small town if you are an optimist, at the foot of the Long Mynd.  Stretton is well worth a mooch if you get the chance.

The weather was pretty dire. Mild - good. No wind - good. Clag, clag, clag, clag - not good. But after wandering round the fabulous antiques markety - shopy type thing, and after finding the most brilliantest cafe hidden down an alleyway, for coffee and cake, I headed off to the closest thing that the area has to a honeypot attraction, Carding Mill Valley, to park the car and start my walk.

If you don't know it, and you have children and you are in the area, Carding Mill Valley is the place to go. It's brilliant for children in wellies. A gentle mountain stream to splash about in; sheep; a ford to wade through; the Lightspout waterfall just up the valley; and a good National Trust tea shop. And it is the start of a range of walks in great countryside which can be made as gentle and short as you like or, as much as the geography will allow, as challenging as you could want with children.

Carding Mill Valley above the touristy bits

So I set off in the clag up this lovely V shaped valley, following the good path, towards the moorland plateau that makes the top of the Long Mynd. I stopped to watch a couple of parties of school students doing fieldwork, measuring the stream and valley sides. Which took me back a bit to my very distant days as a geography student and to my almost as distant days as a geography teacher.  One of the most memorable fieldwork sessions I ever led, in about 1981 I think, saw one of my O level students, Alison Hall, disappear backwards into a five foot pot hole in the stream bed on a bitterly cold Easter day.  Oh how we all laughed, including Alison herself, who took the mishap in excellent heart.  These days I suspect the responsible teacher would have ended up with a writ for damages at worst; and a thump from an angry father at best.  And possibly both.

After just 40 minutes of gentle climbing I reached the top of the valley and emerged onto the plateau; 5 minutes later I reached the ancient Portway, a pre-historic track that runs across the top.

I photographed these sheep on the summit plateau as I couldn't see anything else

Following the Portway for 25 minutes saw me at Pole Bank, the summit of the Long Mynd. 516m above seal level if you are interested. The "seal level" bit in that last sentence was a typo, but I actually rather like it as a descriptor, so I am going to leave it in rather than correct it. Indeed, from now on " above seal level" will be my wording of choice when referring to the heights of mountains and hills. So much more poetic and accurate too.  The clag was even thicker on the summit, and there was nothing to see except the trig point. The views from here can be superb. On a clear day to the north you can see across the Shropshire - Cheshire Plain, right to the Pennines in Lancashire; the whole of mid-Wales is also on view, beyond the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill, as far as Cader Idris on a good day. Cader must be 40 miles away.  One day I  may blog about a walk up Cader I did at the age of 13 led, if I remember correctly, by one Chris Woodhead, who later became the notorious Chief Inspector of Schools, and scourge of teachers across the land.  Chris taught me at the Priory in Shrewsbury when he was a young and trendy English teacher.  That trip wouldn't have passed today's Health and Safety regimes either!  And to the east?   Well beyond the Shropshire Hills of Caradoc, Ragleth, Lawley, Wenlock Edge, the Wrekin and the Clee Hills you can, I have often been told, see the Urals in Russia.

Pole Bank, the top of the Long Mynd - not a seal in sight, for they are 516m lower down.  Of course they could be hiding in the heather.

Now there is the tiniest bit of poetic licence in this claim. But apparantly if you travel east from the Long Mynd there is no higher ground until you reach the Urals as you pass over the English Midlands, Eastern England, the North Sea and the North European Plain. So if it wasn't for the curvature of the earth, and weak eye sight, you could indeed see the Urals from this lovely little summit in Shropshire. And as a Salopian I am sticking to that story whatever anyone tells me. It's one to bore the kids with after they have walked up to the top. And goodness knows, I bored my two boys with that tale often enough when they were little.

Trying to spot the Urals through the clag at Pole Bank

The return was even quicker. I went down by the same route, although there are so many possible variations, the east side of the Mynd being bisected by a number of delightfully pretty valleys, separated by broad, heather and winberry covered ridges.  But today I had to get back to pick up the car and this was enough for me.  What better way to spend a couple of hours in the fog and drizzle if some fresh air is needed?  None that I can think of.  If you haven't visited Church Stretton and the surrounding area of South Shropshire do so.  You will not have any epics, but will not be disappointed.



  1. Nice claggy Welsh Mountain. Been up a few.

    1. Ah the clag in Wales. I always think it has its own special quality. A superior sort of clag to that found in England or Scotland. The Long Mynd, of course, is the English side of the border.

    2. But they blow it across to keep us out :-)

    3. Indeed. Far more effective than Offa's Dyke at stopping border incursions.

  2. I think you should try and fit Pen Guin on your next post. You could be onto something here.
    I’ve not done much in Shropshire but it’s a place i have often said we must do one day.

  3. A yes, Pen Guin. My Welsh tells me that must be the Hill of Guin, "Pen" being the old celtic word for "hill" and Guin being a corrupted spelling of the Welsh name Gwyn. Isn't it located near the village of Fessant in mid-Wales?

  4. I loved this post, David, and may well steal your excellent seal level and claim it all as my own. I'm that sort of bloke, really.

    Do you ever wonder what became of Alison Hall? Did she become a pioneering leader of canyoning in far off Borneo?

    This one really made me chortle! Thank you.

  5. Thank you sir. You are welcome to claim "seal level" as your own. Of course the ensuing legals will make Samsung v Apple seem like a minor disagreement between good friends....:) :) :).

    No, not heard of Alison Hall's progress through life but I can still picture her as she edged backwards across the stream, ruler in hand, measuring its depth every half metre, shouting out the depth for her friends on the bank to record - "3cm", "6cm", "9cm" "Arghhhh, gurgle, splutter, splutter". Her face was a picture when she eventually rose to the surface. She was a lovely girl and she really didn't complain at all.

  6. Great place to wander around. Hope you didn’t get lost in the fog? Something about the way it obscures the area is giving me the shivers. I really ought to get over my fear of these sights. It is irrational to say the least.

  7. Hi "The Camping Trail"

    It is a great place to wander around, and it's also got a very friendly feel to it. I doubt you would have the shivers there, in fog or on a clear day. If you are USA based do try to get over to the UK to do some hiking / backpacking - we have some fabulous places and the scale is normally very manageable and friendly....and there are no bears!