Sunday 13th November 2011
The Long Mynd & Golden Valley From Bridges – approx 9.25 miles
Ordnance Survey Explorer OL217 – The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge
Bridges – Coates Farm – Medlicott – Medlicott Cottage – Pole Bank – Shooting Box – Shropshire Way – Ford – The Port Way – Betchcott Hill – Golden Valley – Lower Darnford – Ratlinghope – Bridges
Bridges: Pub, Accommodation
Fine and sunny, warm but hazy and a cool breeze on the tops.
After yesterday’s Bah! Humbuggery, today was the day when we were to get our proper reward for running the Christmas shopping gauntlet – a super walk in great countryside with a bit of peace and quiet thrown in for good measure.
The forecast was good and we had decided we wanted to explore the Long Mynd again, but this time from the quieter western side. We left the car at Bridges, following the lane southwards towards Coates Farm and slowly climbing the valley side. Before long we could see back over the village.
From here, we could have taken the Shropshire Way over Adstone Hill – something we might do next time we do this circuit – but today we opted for the simpler route and kept following the lane, which is, in itself, a pleasant walk because the countryside is so fantastic.
Although it seems churlish to say so – it is November after all – the only drawback was that we were walking southwards, and the bright sun washed out the distant views to the Kerry Ridgeway beyond. From Medlicott, a hamlet consisting of barely more than a farm and a house or two, the route began to steepen as we made a more direct assault on the hillside.
Beyond Medlicott Cottage the track became rougher but the gradient relented a little and the summit ridge was within striking distance.
We were now getting more expansive views, but conditions were hazy especially to the south and west – Corndon Hill was barely more than an outline and even the nearby Stiperstones were all shape and no detail.
Last time we had walked this way, over this year’s Easter weekend, we did so in the opposite direction – nearing the end of day two of a 3-day route (described here). It’s surprising how different it felt this time – approaching from a different direction, at a different time of day and in a different season – although on both occasions it was unusually warm and sunny for the time of year.
On reaching the main ridge we took a slight detour to Pole Bank, the high point of the Long Mynd. We stopped for a coffee break and something to eat, watching as a steady stream of walkers and cyclists passed us by. I mentioned earlier about the west side being the quiet side of the Long Mynd (and will do so again later!) but it really is true, access and infrastructure from the Stretton side being so much more comprehensive.
But despite the relative crowds, a walk along the top is worth it because the views are superb. Even though it was hazy, the sight of rank upon rank of Housman’s “blue remembered hills” is more than enough to draw a wistful gaze.
Leaving Pole Bank, we walked north along the ridge picking up the line of an ancient prehistoric route, the Port Way. Like others in the area, it is referred to as a ridgeway and keeps to the high ground – in Neolithic times, when the surrounding countryside was more heavily wooded, these high trade routes were safer and avoided multiple river crossings. Later, many became used as drove roads.
Beyond the turn for Carding Mill Valley, things began to quieten down again. We continued to follow the Port Way, which now forms part of the well-marked Shropshire Way, turning northwest towards Betchcott Hill and suddenly leaving the moor for more agricultural land. Once again, we were on our own.
A low bank made the ideal place for another stop, so we did – eating the rest of our lunch and lingering over our coffee. In the distance we could see the northernmost tail of the Stretton Hills and the flat plain beyond. In better light, we may have been able to see the high ground of the Peak District.
Closer at hand was the valley of Darnford Brook, our next objective, surrounded by some of Shropshire’s most iconic hills.
Moving on again, we passed over the top of Betchcott Hill then – keeping to the Shropshire Way – left the Port Way, and dropped down, steeply at first, into Golden Valley.
By now, early afternoon, the sun was surprisingly warm, and the drop into the shelter of the valley had us rapidly shedding layers. In the glorious autumn light the valley looked more like the lower sections of a Pennine clough than of the Marches.
The path followed Darnford Brook, keeping a line a little way up the valley side. The going was easy, and gradually we descended to the wooded riverbank.
Before long, we had reached the lane and wandered the final few yards, past the Youth Hostel, back into Bridges. I said I’d do this, so here goes: this really is the quiet side of the Mynd. Between leaving the moorland and reaching Bridges we didn’t see a soul. But don’t go telling anyone about it, will you? Otherwise I might just have to kill you.
Now for the final part of our reward: the pub in Bridges has had a chequered recent history. At one time it was a well-loved venue, then it became subject to intermittent opening hours and an unusual concept of customer service that resulted in it closing down two or three years back. The good news is it is now open again, restored to it’s former glory; the better news is that it has been done by the Three Tuns Brewery and serves their superb range of beers.
To be able to sit outside after a wonderful walk in the sunshine, supping a fine pint of Ale in November – rewards don’t get much better than that! I might even be able to face up to more Christmas sho …….
Oh, no; hang on a sec. Let’s not get carried away, eh?