Shropshire's Long Mynd

Long Mynd Walk - By Amy Porter

The Long Mynd is the largest, but not highest hill in the marches.  It stretches across 7 miles N-S and 3 miles E-W with an extensive summit plateau peaking at Pole Bank (516m).  Deep valleys (referred to locally as batches) cut through the landscape on the eastern side to create varied topography and niche habitats, whereas much of the west side is unbroken escarpment that follows the Pontesford-Linley fault.  Much of the hill is owned by the National Trust, who manage the upland and reduce the intensity of grazing.

The Long Mynd is a wonderful vantage point to observe the Shropshire Hills that surround it to the immediate east and west.  From the summit on a clear day, views stretch as far as Cheshire to the North, Stiperstones, the Cambrian and Berwyn Mountains and Snowdonia to the west, Caer Caradoc, the Lawley, Wrekin and Clee Hills to the east and towards Clun forest and Ludlow to the south.  Pole Bank trig point, well worth the visit, is accompanied by a lovely toposcope to aid you in identifying the distant landmarks.    

The Shropshire Hills are especially cherished by me, having been born locally and after living in various locations returning to my homeland some years ago.  As the area still remains relatively unknown in the grand scheme of UK hiking, there is enough variety to select quiet walks, where one can appreciate the hugely diverse geology, wonderful and rare wildlife species, upland plants, mosses and lichens.  As a mountain lover, Shropshire has a particular appeal to me due to its fascinating and diverse geology.  With rocks dating back to Precambrian times and rocky outcrops owing to periglacial formation during the Devensian ice age, the highest hilltops in Shropshire, with their isolated peaks of rock can seem like mountain summits.  Stiperstones, with its quartzite tors and the ryolitic rocks of Caer Caradoc are wonderful examples of this dramatic landscape that can be appreciated from the Long Mynd plateau as well as having an excellent network of trails and access themselves.  The Long Mynd alone has huge geodiversity, with shale, sandstone and siltstones containing fossilized rain prints, sun cracks and water channels called rills as well as Cambrian biota fossils.

This selection of walks is aimed to provide an insight into the best aspects of a hugely varied terrain.  The walks are not overly demanding, and alternative routes are detailed below. There is parking in Carding Mill Valley, which is free for National Trust members, or requires coins for the parking meter for non-members.  Alternative parking can be found in Church Stretton (see OS map).  There is a tearoom and toilets in Carding Mill Valley.  Lunch options include public houses and tearooms in Church Stretton, or public houses in All Stretton or Little Stretton.

This route takes you over a wide variety of terrain, through glorious batches and over the summit plateau of the Long Mynd.

From Carding Mill Valley, follow the ascent leading you around the east face of Bodbury Hill, and through the golf course gate.  The path is loose rock and shale though well maintained.  It is also worth noting that this is cycle path with a few blind corners, so take care!  Once you reach the cattle grid, follow the path to the right and continue towards Cwmdale.  Here, you will experience the first glimpse of views across Caer Caradoc.  Keeping Novers Hill to your right, follow the path uphill to the left of a white cottage.  On descent, take a slight left once you reach a cottage (ignoring the first way marker across the fields to your right) and then turn right to a 5 bar gate.  Follow the path to a well laid bridleway and turn left into The Batch.

Here, you can enjoy a varied landscape, with oak and hazel trees lining the bridleway.  The area has been recorded as a dormice habitat, so keen eyes can look out for nibbled hazel nuts.  The area is also subject to butterfly and moth surveys, with green hairstreak, brimstone and the well camouflaged greyling butterfly species to look out for amongst the tussocks of grass on the south facing slopes.   As you proceed you will pass two fields allocated for conservation grazing, where you will find the rare breed Hebridean sheep.  There are also semi-feral Carneddau Welsh Mountain ponies who contribute to the grazing management on the hill.  Crossing over the ford, take the steep path up to the right before you reach the modern house.  To the right is an excellent example of the geology of the area, with a steep outcrop of Batch Volcanics rock, containing bentonite and lapilli tuff, cleaved purple shales, sandstones and siltstones.


Above left: The Batch. Right: Conservation grazing Hebridean sheep waiting for supplementary winter feed.

Head across the boardwalk towards the guest house Jinlye, but bear left to Jonathan’s Rock. The rock was named after a Welshman who enjoyed many a walk through the batch with his beloved Megan, who lived in All Stretton during the 1800’s. The pair were a familiar sight, enjoying the views from the ‘Great Rock’ overlooking the valley. Upon Megan’s tragic demise, Jonathan, heart broken, would return to the rock and later his body was found there, and the rock and batch thereafter named after him.

Above: View into The Batch from beyond Jonathan’s Rock.

Jonathan’s Batch, below to the left, is a steep V shaped valley, with bracken covered slopes and an abundant stream leaving it boggy in places, and is therefore a path less travelled, which makes it the ideal nesting ground for summer migrating whinchats.  Beyond this point, the walk opens up into the uplands and you are surrounded by an open, extensive landscape.  Pause for a while here to look back across the fabulous views over the hills to the east, and look skyward for the pair of red kites that frequent the area.  This aspect is particularly beautiful at sunset, with the evening sun highlighting the undulating slopes of Caer Caradoc’s north westerly face.

Above: Semi-feral Carneddau Welsh Mountain ponies contribute to the conservation grazing plan on the Long Mynd. Behind from left to right, the Wrekin, Lawley and Caer Caradoc.

Continue the steady climb west until the well established path of the Shropshire Way is reached and turn left, sign posted to Pole Bank.  The way converges with The Port Way, a prehistoric ridgeway route, used by traders in Neolithic stone and Bronze Age tools, amber and salt as a route between the Lake District, Cornwall and Wales.  Proceed to Shooting Box and cross the road, continuing straight to the summit trig point, Pole Bank.  Large flocks of golden plover are a frequent sight in the uplands, flying in a tight formation with rapid, twinkling wingbeats, swooping low over the ground and performing a hypnotic aerial display.  The views on a clear day are fantastic, across the Betchcott Hills, rolling fields of Medlicott and the majestic Stiperstones in clear view.  Beyond, views are far reaching, with Corndon Hill and the mountainous regions of Wales on the horizon, a toposcope mounted here for clear identification. The summit plateau was largely featured in the film adaptation of Mary Webb’s novel Gone to Earth. Several novelists and poets have used the Long Mynd landscape for inspiration, including Malcolm Saville (Lone Pine series) and AE Housman’s deligthful poem Blue Remembered Hills.

Above: Ponies graze by the pools of the summit plateau by Shooting Box.

The track continues to meet the Burway Road.  Turn right and continue to Pole Cottage.  Behind the wooded coppice are several manmade pools originally intended as a decoy for wildfowling or water for cattle.  This is a niche habitat, with a wide array of mosses and rushes and the most likely place to spot sundew, the County flower of Shropshire, as well as a wide variety of dragonfly and damselfly, common hawker and beautiful demoiselle being examples.  Much of the summit plateau is covered by heather, and is therefore a blanket of purple and rose pink hues throughout August to September.  This does also mean that on warm days, the upland areas can unfortunately be awash with heather fly.  Red grouse were previously hunted here, with heather management plans now aimed at stabilising and increasing breeding pairs.  Backtrack along the Burway until the sign for Ashes Hollow low to your right before Boiling Well.  Turn right and begin the descent.
Ashes Hollow is one of the finest batches, with steep sides well decorated with rowan and hawthorn trees up to 100yrs old.  These trees are an important habitat for visiting tree pipits, redstarts, whinchat and stonechat.  There are wonderful rocky outcrops and winding steps through gullies towards the mid section of the descent.  This combined with the meandering stream that accompanies down the batch create a wonderful wildlife walk.  Mountain pansies and harebell are also a common site on the south facing slopes and grey wagtail enjoy following the water.  Ashes is simple to follow, with a track running down to Little Stretton.  It’s also a great opportunity to delve deep into the steep slopes, having enjoyed the open, expansive heather topped uplands.

Above: The stream accompanies you for the decent down Ashes Hollow.

Once you reach the grassy plain at the bottom of the valley, cross the small bridge by the cottage and turn left, crossing a stile and passing through a grassy field (also a campsite).  Across a further stile to the left corner of the field, you will see a ford and the road to Little Stretton ahead – make note of the stile to your left for your return journey.  If you choose to have lunch out, continue down the road until you reach the Ragleth Inn, or turn right to the Green Dragon a short distance away.  Backtrack to the ford and take the above mentioned stile now on your right and proceed up a steep ascent with a tree lined coppice on your left.  Towards the top is a fantastic example of the folding of sedimentary strata.

Above: Folds in rock of the Longmyndian supergroup.

Proceed to a farm gate and cross the fields at the foot of Ashlet Hill, which looms high to your left.  A faint track across the fields from previous walkers will lead you through a wooded walk to Ludlow Road.  Turn immediately left to continue along the track, which eventually leads to Cunnery Road and with the Long Mynd Hotel to the right, pass through the small carpark to the left and continue across Rectory Field to Rectory Wood.  The wood is a historic park, planted by the Rector, Professor John Mainwaring and developed (under the influence of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown) with an artificial pool and Gothic buildings, including an ice house and summer house, during the 18th and 19th century.  It is also a beautiful bluebell wood.

Above: The pool within Rectory Wood, with remaining Gothic arch. Further Gothic remains can be seen, along with the site of the ice house.

To the right of the pool, take the steep wooden steps up to join Townbrook.  Turn right and proceed to Burway Road, crossing over to a path immediately opposite which takes you past some houses and back down into Carding Mill Valley.
In summary, this is not an overly strenuous walk with only two short, steep uphill sections, some stream water to cross, the possibility of slightly boggy sections at the top of Ashes Hollow and manmade steps to ascend and descend.  It requires a relatively early start to reach Little Stretton by lunch time, or a packed lunch may be in order to enjoy along the way.

Long Mynd Loop: Bodbury Hill – The Batch – Pole Bank – Ashes Hollow Time: 4hrs 30mins
Distance: 10.7 miles
OS Explorer 217
Start: SO449944
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