Posts tagged ‘Shropshire Hills AONB’

July 1, 2016

A foot in two countries – backpacking the English / Welsh border

by backpackingbongos

Planning a route for a hot and sunny late May Bank holiday can reduce a misanthropic backpacker to a mild state of panic. The roads would be at a standstill and the hills an awful tangle of humanity. I managed to hatch a cunning plan which involved leaving really early on a Sunday morning and doing a round of what I hoped would be a group of forgotten hills. It worked and by the time I got back to the car all hot and bothered the following day it was late enough to avoid the Monday homebound rush.

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49 kilometres with 1520 metres of ascent over two days.

The River Teme runs through Lloyney, but before this trip I would have been hard pushed to point out either on a map. Lloyney is a one horse village and the pub was not going to open until the following day. What it lacks in facilities it makes up for in easy access to a long undulating ridge of moor and pasture leading to the Beacon Hills. After a steep climb in bright sunshine I was able to enjoy a high level yomp along gorse covered grassland. The heat of the day was building and distant views were shrouded by haze, but on the hills a breeze kept me cool.

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The area surrounding Beacon hill is a lump of high undulating moorland. It gives extensive views and is unmolested by anything but sheep and buzzards. The grassy tracks enable you to almost float along.

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The major disappointment of the day came when a footpath through the heather failed to materialise. For half an hour I cursed the Ordnance Survey as I lurched through the deep and tough vegetation, my shoes snagging and socks being covered in prickly heather.

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A lane led me down to the village of Beguildy where I was looking forward to getting refreshments in the pub. Although a Bank holiday they had decided that they would close at 2pm and not reopen until 6pm. That was not much help to a thirsty backpacker with a rapidly emptying water bottle.

I was aiming for the Kerry Ridgeway for the night. The problem with devising your own backpacking route is that it is not always possible to join up all those green dots, especially away from the mountains. It was a long road bash to get to the River Clun. Thankfully the tangle of minor roads in this area means that there is very little traffic.

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I was getting tired so instead of climbing up onto the nature reserve at Rhos Fiddle I followed another lane towards the Ridgeway. As I left it and entered a forest I noticed all the bird feeders hanging from the trees. I was just about to pass a ramshackle caravan when I heard a shout in Welsh. The owner of the caravan came over to say hello and we spent a good half hour chatting. He was what you could call a ‘proper character’, living alone in his seventies, totally off grid and away from the world. I had to force myself away in the end or I would have been there for the whole weekend, the encounter left me with a smile on my face.

To the south of the Ridgeway is a large area of high unenclosed grassland, perfect for sheep but perhaps not ideal for a stealthy wild camp.

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In the end I found a lovely pitch hidden in a steep grassy side valley, a tiny clear stream bubbling alongside. It was a bit of a treat pitching on soft grass rather than rough moorland. I spent a peaceful undisturbed night, the only negative being the sheer amount of slugs that covered all my gear when I woke.

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In the morning it was a short walk to the Kerry Ridgeway where the wide track gave easy level walking and the hilltop position gave extensive views.

One of the highlights of the weekend came for me as I reached the edge of an unnamed valley. With the scenery exploding with green under blue skies and a warm sun it was a perfect place to stop and relax.

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I soon picked up the Offa’s Dyke long distance path that took me back to the car in an arrow straight line. The problem with this is that on this part of the trail it does not respect the contours. It is an endless procession of ups and downs, some as steep as any mountain path. In the heat it became rather tiresome, especially after I had to start rationing my water.

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For mile after mile it was up and down, up and down, before finally the River Teme was at my feet. I was glad to get back to the red-hot and stuffy car and a change of clothes. I apologise to the person whose house I got changed outside. I was grateful for the warm bottle of water that was waiting for me in the boot.

March 25, 2014

Shropshire Hills AONB – The Stiperstones, Corndon Hill and Heath Mynd

by backpackingbongos

I had planned to spend the weekend with my feet up doing nothing.  However the forecast was for the first warm weekend of the year.  There was nothing for it other than to pack the Mountain Staffy into the Bongo and head for the hills.  Shropshire is only a hundred miles from Nottingham, an easy drive if Birmingham was not in the way.  I had no real plans, a couple of hills and time to kick back in the van and enjoy a good book.

The Stiperstones – 536m

It is many years since I walked amongst the jagged tors on the summit of the Stiperstones. ¬†These rise like armoured plates on the back of a dinosaur from the broad heather clad ridge. ¬†It was early afternoon when we arrived at the car park, so I settled on a short circular walk. ¬†A low-level path followed by an exploration of the ridge itself. ¬†There are some great scrambling opportunities on the Devil’s Chair and I spent a while watching a group gingerly pick their way across the narrow ridge. ¬†With Reuben in tow I had to make do with a rocky perch to watch the world go by instead.

The last tor of the day was Cranberrry rock where we surprised a family who had scrambled up.  They did not expect to be greeted by a hound.  I have to say that I was impressed by the scrambling abilities of the two small folk, with parents happy to let them have a go.

By the time that we got back to the Bongo the car park was busy with people out for an evening stroll.  It would have been a good place to spend the night but I was keen on a bit of solitude, so the Bongo was headed in a westerly direction.

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Mitchell’s Fold stone circle and Stapeley Hill – 403m

A bumpy potholed track leads to a small car park a couple of hundred metres from the road to Priest Weston.  A perfect spot in which to sleep in the Bongo for the night.  Fortified by a cup of coffee I set off once more with Reuben, this time into the soft light of early evening.  The stone circle occupies an atmospheric spot with Corndon Hill as a backdrop.

The light was getting better and better as the sun began its descent towards the horizon.  The summit of Stapeley Hill looked like a worthy destination to watch the day fade into night.  On the way we passed a guy walking his dog on a flexi lead, Reuben also being on one.  Within a few seconds there was a tangle of dog and lead when Reuben got too enthusiastic with his greeting.

Back at the van I spent a comfy night with a good book and piles of food.

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Corndon Hill – 513m

I had left the privacy screen off the Bongo’s windscreen. ¬†This meant that I woke to a panoramic view from the comfort of my bed. Layer after layer of hills spreading into Wales.

The shapely cone of Corndon Hill has often caught my eye when in the area, one I have long been keen to climb.  The car park where I had spent the night was an ideal launching pad.  We did a short and sharp circuit taking in the neighbouring Lan Fawr.

Corndon Hill is a superb viewpoint, seemingly taking in half of Wales.  There is even a handy bench on which to take it all in. Definitely high on the list of hills with big views for little effort.  A spot for a mid summer bivvy maybe?

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Heath Mynd – 452m

I had planned to drive home after Corndon Hill in an attempt to miss the Sunday afternoon M6 rush.  However another shapely hill had caught my eye.  My map showed that it was Heath Mynd, located on a small parcel of access land.

I initially tried to get onto the access land from the north.  However the track that led onto it through pastures has a very large sign pointing out that it is private.  I was not in the mood for any form of confrontation so headed south in the van so attempt it from there.  The lanes were so narrow and knackered that I began to wonder if I was actually driving down a farm track at one point. Parking proved to be difficult, I eventually squeezed the Bongo onto a small grassy patch off the road.

The hill itself was a simple climb, initially through grassland before knee-deep heather on the summit.  It was surprisingly warm and I sat in a t-shirt to eat my lunch, Reuben enjoying the sun.

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Sadly I did get caught in the Sunday afternoon rush on the M6.  Worth it for a couple of unplanned days in the sun.