Last weekend saw us walking once again amongst the hills of the Shropshire/Powys border area. Having spotted a good forecast, we tacked on an odd days holiday and made a long weekend of it. So, as well as time to undertake a few necessary errands and obligations, we had three days in which to walk the glorious countryside; nothing too strenuous but with a bit of ascent involved to keep legs and lungs ticking over.
Just to the north and east of Churchstoke lies a tightly packed cluster of four hills presided over by Corndon Hill, the largest and highest of the four. We had been planning a circuit of these summits for some time, and Saturday seemed the perfect opportunity to tackle this 9.00 mile jaunt.
Our first objective was Todleth Hill, a modest 310m top approached from the south. It was late morning and we could already feel the heat of the day building as we skirted the lower flanks then peeled away from the path to cross to the summit itself.
From here we could see the full extent of the walk ahead of us – Roundton Hill, Corndon Hill and Lan Fawr.
Picking up the route once more, we followed a brackeny path down to the car park for the Nature Reserve at the base of Roundton Hill. Although small in stature, the path to the 370m top is quite steep, traversing under the cliffs before climbing round the southern end and reaching the summit from the west. The all round views from here are pretty good considering it’s diminutive size, so we stopped for lunch and soaked them up.
Barely an hour gone, and we had knocked off two of the four tops. We dropped off Roundton Hill to join the lane, following it eastwards for about a mile as far as Corndon Farm where a track led through the farmyard and on to the side of Corndon Hill.
Just beyond the farm, we entered Access Land once more. The aim from here was to forge a line through the bracken to just below the scree slope, traverse to the right and then back left up to the south summit of Corndon Hill.
The plan worked perfectly, and pretty soon we were catching our breath and admiring the views. A maze of sheep’s paths had made reaching the bottom of the scree slope fairly easy, from where it was pretty straightforward to reach the top.
Striking first northeast, then northwest, we followed a fence along the edge of the summit plateau, crossing a couple of low knolls before reaching the true 513m summit, complete with trig point. Corndon Hill stands in some isolation so, on a reasonably clear day such as today, the views from the top are 360° - the Long Mynd and Stiperstones to the east, the Kerry Ridgeway to the south and across to Snowdonia in the west. Fantastic!
Leaving the summit, we followed the path down the side of a cropped plantation, crossed the track, and headed for the low bump of 426m Lan Fawr, our final top of the day, where we decided on a rest, and a doze in the sunshine.
Finally, we rejoined the track for the final stretch down to Old Churchstoke, a lovely, easy walk with wonderful views over the vale of Kerry to the Ridgeway and beyond. Here, we met the only people we had passed all day.
Overall, we did 9.00 miles with about 550m of ascent in around 4½ hours, including stops. It’s a fine little walk – ideal for a half-day outing, and I imagine good in winter, too – enough to work up an appetite for dinner and beer later on at the Three Tuns in Bishop’s Castle.
A somewhat different proposition today: after yesterday’s quiet outing, we chose to walk one of our regular circuits over the Long Mynd. On a warm, sunny summer weekend it was bound to be busy, so we set off quite early to beat the crowds.
After parking in Church Stretton, we followed the lane out of town before dropping down into Carding Mill Valley. Already there were a few people about, rugs spread on the grass in preparation for picnics and turning pink under too much sun. But most of the day-trippers were yet to arrive, so we scooted through and headed off up the valley while the going was good.
Today we were following the obvious path. However we couldn’t help but notice the plethora of minor paths that sneaked off up the surrounding hillsides and ridges, eyeing up possibilities for future visits. It was a steady pull up the valley, with views behind to Caer Caradoc, the Lawley and Ragleth Hill improving as we rose.
At the top, we stopped for a short break before picking up the wide track along the broad ridge of the Long Mynd. As we made our way towards the high point at Pole Bank we were able to enjoy views in all directions, including yesterday’s route.
By now, it was getting warmer and also beginning to get busier, with flurries of walkers, cyclists and day-trippers converging on the top. Then we stumbled across an organised MTB event. Unfortunately, much of our route coincided with much of their route – working our way down Minton Batch we were frequently strafed by bikers. To be fair, the majority were pretty polite, but there was no doubt who thought they had right of way and we were forced to step aside every few seconds to avoid being flattened.
At the bottom of the batch, we took a field path towards Minton – much quieter than the cycle-infested roads – shared only with a herd of D of E-ers. Letting them pass and bound off into the distance, we followed more sedately. Across the valley we could see the huge compound housing the race organisers and hundreds of participants, sunlight glaring off the assembled glass and metal. It’s the second time this year we’ve got caught up in an organised event. Still, each to their own – bikers have a right to enjoy the outdoors, too, and at least this way there are some controls in place.
Then it was along the lane to Minton where we stopped briefly to chat to a local who had been watching cyclists whiz by for hours. Finally, we left the bike route behind and wandered along the lane to Little Stretton. From here we picked up the relatively quiet hillside path back to Church Stretton in time for a well-earned pot of tea.
In hindsight, we should probably have opted for somewhere less obviously busy. But it’s a nice, familiar circuit of about 10.50 miles, easy to follow with the reward of good views and mainly easy walking.
For our bonus day we decided to explore the attractions of Clun, again following a route we had done before, but only once a few years back. At 8.50 miles, it was barely more than a half-day outing, but that suited as we had other stuff to do later.
We started early, parked in town by the bridge. Following a narrow lane (which proved surprisingly busy at that moment) we began to climb and could soon see back over the town. Carrying on, we passed through Woodside and on into Sowdley Wood where we took the higher path, cool and shady in the morning sunshine, rising gently past the highpoint of the walk at 380m.
Exiting the wood, we followed another track skirting high above the tiny hamlet of Cwm. We had last walked this little section as part of the B.C. Ring walk a couple of years ago, and remarked then just how quiet and off-the-beaten-track the place was.
At the road junction we forged ahead on a field path before descending alongside Purslow Wood towards an unnamed group of houses near Ladye Bank. Around us, we could here Buzzards mewing: sadly, though, we found a dead bird on the track as we walked by – I hope nothing untoward had gone on.
At the lane, we turned sharp left and picked up the track into Clunton Coppice – a Nature Reserve run by Shropshire Wildlife Trust – passing some beautiful, quiet houses on the way. These are the realms described by A.E. Housman as “the quietest place under the sun”. Then it was down the lane, between high, recently laid hedges, into Clunton.
Crossing the road, we picked up the field path running beside a deep-cut stream towards the farmstead of Stepple. By now, it was pretty warm – the warmest day of the three, I’d guess, with temperatures in the mid-twenties centigrade. Pushing through the meadowy grasses, we battled heat, pollen and vicious insects before giving a skittish herd of cows a wide berth.
At Stepple, we ran the gauntlet of sheep-pens before following the track westwards and crossing fields to skirt the northwest corner of Radnor Wood. We stopped for lunch in the adjacent field overlooking the Clun valley – a proper cereal crop, rather than meadow grasses, meant insect life was less of a nuisance.
The last mile or so back into Clun took us through more cereal fields and a gorgeous sunken lane before hitting the lane by the Youth Hostel from where it was just a few minutes into town. After such a hot outing, it would have been churlish to bypass the teashop, so we didn’t.
So, another very different walk showing yet another side to the lovely walking country of the area. Clear, well-marked paths make for easy going on a pleasant 8.50 mile circuit with no particularly steep sections.
All in all, three great days and three decent walks. Not bad for just “ticking over” as we set out to do.