“ Please suggest your favourite attractions, which you’d like to review of course! Anything goes: e.g. a sight, a museum, a theme park, a castle, or any other places of interest to you. „
There are many beautiful sights to visit in Shropshire, but one that's close to my heart is 'The Wrekin'. For those of you, who haven't heard of it, firstly let me tell you a little bit about it.
The Wrekin is arguably the most famous landmark in Shropshire, it is made up of a cluster of small hills and one big one that stands over 400 meters high. Which borders Telford and Shrewsbury, and is very popular with tourists, and hikers because of the stunning views that can be seen for miles around once you get to the top, and on a clear day you can see up to 15 different counties
The Earliest mention of the Wrekin dates back to 855, as it was entered in a late eleventh century Worcester chartulary. Since then there have been many tales told about the Wrekin and how it got there. Myths have been recorded telling us that it was built by a giant who disliked Shrewsbury; The Giant in question was a Welshman who dug a spade full of soil and planned to dump it into the river seven, flooding the town.
However, whilst slogging across the Shropshire hills, this giant lost his bearings and having only got as far as Wellington stopped for a rest. He then fell asleep, and his spade tipped over and the soil landed in one big pile, this since then has stayed there and that's how the Wrekin got there. Of course these are only folk-law tales, to which none of them can be proved.
In fact though the Wrekin is made up of volcanic rock, although it is not a volcano. No-one knows exactly where the vent was that deposited the molten rock and ash that made up the Wrekin many millions of years ago. It is, however, very close to the Church Stretton Fault, a dormant fault in the earth's crust. When this fault was active there would have been many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the area.
The name 'The Wrekin' is also used to refer more generally to the part of East Shropshire around the towns of Telford and Wellington, within sight of the hill. The area is rich in geology and is one of the birthplaces of industry: Ironbridge Gorge is just to the south of The Wrekin hill. Woodland covers much of the hill, the area around the hill and into the Ironbridge Gorge area too.
I have been up the Wrekin many a times, since I was little and love the thrill of getting to the top just to look at the sights.
Many people use it every day, and it makes a great day out. It can take anything from half an hour to a couple of hours to get up there depending on which route you take, the owners have mapped out specific routes some hard and some easy, the main path is gravelled, grass, and stones but there are some steep areas to tackle.
Half-way is a small cafe, which sells drinks, ice-creams, and small snacks, to hungry and thirsty walkers.
Over the last five years, the Wrekin has been in and out of the press, due to the owners wanting to sell it. Which basically meant that all its historic nature would be destroyed as they where wanting to sell it off into 8 plots, and local people where worried that it wouldn't remain a public landmark.
Locals started a 'Friends of the Wrekin' project and aimed to raise money in order to buy it, and even got a £200,000 lottery heritage grant. But it still wasn't enough for the one million pound asking price, today is future of the Wrekin is still up in arms.
JRR Tolkein (author of 'The Lord of the Rings') used to enjoy walking on the hill when he lived in nearby Penkridge. As he said it brought inspiration to his writing.
In my opinion the Wrekin is one of my favourite landmarks in Shropshire as it brings so much grace and elegance to the county.
**** STOP PRESS AGAIN - 05/11/02 **** As things have turned out, the comment below was overly gloomy. Thanks to a convoluted last-minute deal between the 6093 (approx.) interested parties, the First buses now mostly run from Birmingham to Ludlow (though there are often two-hour gaps), and there are through tickets available onto the 492 Ludlow - Hereford service. The famous non-stop Birmingham - Hereford run, though, about the last vestige of the old pre-deregulation long-distance country services in our neck of the woods, is now nobbut a memory. (Political interlude: all this could have been avoided had the utterly stupid ban on cross-subsidy not been in place. Someone please tell the OFT that unbridled competition is not always a good thing. Give me a stable monopoly any day in this area.) **** STOP PRESS - 27/08/02 **** Well, so much for the good bus link. First buses are to curtail almost all 192s to the Birmingham to Kidderminster section from 1st September, and the council still doesn't seem to have a clear idea of what to put in its place, as there are no other buses on the Bewdley to Ludlow stretch. There are other services from Ludlow to Hereford, but that's not the point - a sensible, single bus is now to be replaced by three, probably run by three different companies who will refuse to co-ordinate ticketing and timetabling. We need proper reregulation of buses, and we need it now. People will lose their jobs because of this change - where was the statutory 8 weeks notice, eh? I suppose because a portion of the service is staying, there's a loophole, but ever since First dropped the Midland Red name their service has dramatically worsened - if they were a rail company, they'd lost their franchise. It's an utter disgrace. *** END STOP PRESS *** Clee Hill - to be precise, Titterstone Clee, as there is a companion (Brown Clee) further to the north - is both one
of Shropshire's most well known landmarks and one of its hidden treasures. The A4117 to Ludlow pushes along its side, and on a fine summer's day the verges are crowded with both families and working drivers who find it a fine place to eat their lunch, and to admire the excllent view across archetypal English farming country to the west. I mentioned the A4117, and this is by far the easiest way to get to Clee Hill. From the Birmingham side, travel along the A456 until just after the Wyre Forest (which is worth a visit in its own right), and turn right at Far Forest. The road then drops steeply (1:10 and more in places) to the hamlet of Hopton Wafers (where there is a handy pub - the Crown), where it begins the long haul up to Clee itself, climbing something like 800 feet in the process. From the west, aim for L udlow, then follow signs for Kidderminster and Bewdley. Clee Hill has a great advantage for those of us who can't/won't/don't drive in that it is easily accessible by public transport. First (previously Midland Red) operate the 192 service, which runs between Birmingham and Hereford, via Halesowen, Kidderminster, Ludlow and Leominster (though few services do it all in one go - many stop at Ludlow). The journey takes around two hours from Birmingham and an hour from Hereford, and a Day Rover (which also lets you use other First buses, and has no peak-time restrictions) is £4.60. Three stops are of interest - Doddington, on the eastern fringe of the hill, "Hints Turn" right in the centre, and in the west, there's a stop on the edge of Cleehill village itself (which for no apparent reason is spelt like that, with "Cleehill" as one word). The last bus back to Kidderminster leaves at just after 7pm - Hereford services stop quite a bit earlier, so watch it! In good weather (which doesn't necessarily mean blazing sunshine; the air is often clearest just ahead of an approaching front), the
views are spectacular. The best place to see them is from the thoughtfully provided toposcope, which can be reached by a rather indistinct grassy path (it is signposted, but not very well) from the cattle grid at the western end of Cleehill village. It's quite nicely drawn, and it's pretty easy to match the diagrams with the real hills. The Malverns are the most obvious landmark, protruding from the otherwise gentle Worcestershire landscape around 20 miles away, but cast your eyes rightwards, towards Wales, and some rather more serious peaks come into play. There's oddly-shaped Skirrid, about 40 miles distant (a good check of visibility); and in excellent weather you can even glimpse the Black Mountains, all of 60 miles away. While you're at this end of the hill, note the information board put up b y the council. Among other things, this tells you that only those with commoners' rights may go off the paths on the hill, but provided you're sensible you won't be challenged for doing so - I'd done so for twenty years before I even realised I "shouldn't"! (In any case, the Right to Roam Act, when it passes, will provide for commonland access.) Also at this end of the hill is Cleehill village itself. Passing through at speed in a car, it looks like a godforsaken hamlet with several boarded up shops and no sign of life, but in fact it's bigger that it appears - the settlement spills down the hillside for some distance along the Tenbury road, and there is enough business to sustain a decent chippie! Some distance out of the village towards Ludlow, a thin road (easy to miss) heads almost straight up the hill, through the old quarrying houses of Dhustone ("dhu" means "black"), to a car park near the summit, something like 1500 feet above sea level. The views from here are even more beautiful, but it's not a place to be in the depths of winter unless you know exac
tly what you're doing - I was up there on Christmas Day last, and it was bitterly cold, with lying snow and a howling wind almost strong enough to knock you over. And there are plenty of unexpected pits - quarrying is still active on some parts of the hill - to fall into! We're a bit of a long way west here, though, so let's get back to the cattle grid (stopping at the Post Office for some chocolate or the like!), and get moving. Walk along the right hand side of the road, as the gravel verge is quite wide and smooth, and there are no houses to interrupt the view. Before too long, you'll see a lane running left up the hill (to the working quarry, and eventually to a definitely off-limits MOD listening station), on the corner of which is a large white building, which - though it doesn't advertise the fact bey ond a small placard - is a cafe. It always looks closed, even when its open, so you'll have to go and try the door to find out. Now the road falls away slightly, and curves pleasingly around an outcrop of the hill. As you cross the bridge over a little stream, beware of the vast flocks of sheep, who are rather less inclined to get out of the way - of anything! - than those in some other places. Also note the hollows scoured out of the hillside on the left. We now come out into more open country - Clee Hill proper, if you like - with rough grassland punctuated at frequent intervals with clumps of spiky gorse, sheep and large lichen-covered boulders. As you might have guessed, this is a visible reminder of Ice Ages past, when glaciers covered England as far as the south Midlands. Before too long, you'll reach the Hints Turn - advertised as "unsuitable for wideloads[sic]", and this is an important place to remember, as it's the only bus stop on the open hillside (buses stop here going both ways). If you stand in the bus stop itself, be very alert, as the bus will suddenly appear over
a blind crest - shame if you're looking at something else at the time! However, if you stand on the small rise by the Severn Trent building, you can see across to the west as far as the cafe, and as a guide a bus appearing there will take just over a minute to get to you - enough time to get into position to flag it down properly. This is a good place to strike off up the hill, so let's do so, following the wooden fence of the ST enclosure along a thin and gorse-infested path. Before too long, you'll notice that the hillside contains quite a few fairly regular bowl-shaped depressions of varying size - these are the remnants of "bell pits" used by quarrymen in the 18th and 19th century. You never quite know what you'll find at the bottom of the larger ones, so look before you leap! Some are simply grassy; so me are full of rocks and stones; some are packed with nettles (ugh!); some are filled with reeds - which of course is another reason to be careful, as they're likely to be marshy and soft. The bottom of a large bell pit is a slightly eerie place to be - it's very quiet, despite the distant roar of the A4117, and there's virtually no wind. As the hill faces south, there's also usually no shade, so do watch the sun - *strong* sunblock (at least factor 20) is the order of the day! Hidden away in a bell pit, though, especially one higher up the hillside, is an excellent place to encounter buzzards and kestrels, of which there are many on Clee Hill. It's always a thrill when, after waiting heaven knows how long in increasing deperation, you hear a "whoosh", and a buzzard, with prey dangling from its talons, flies over not twenty feet above your head. If you stand up and look up the hill, you can also often see them - singly or in pairs - circling over the ridgeline above: it's a glorious sight to behold. Kestrels are a little easier, as they like to hover above roads, and the A4117 is no
exception. But don't get too excited about every big dark bird - most of them are ravens! As I said earlier, gorse is something of a feature on Clee Hill, and it provides a habitat for many smaller, though still interesting, species. Spiders by the score can be seen in summer - and the sunny rock faces are a great place to see the armies of the tiny red mites usually known (inaccurately) as money spiders. Spiders (true or otherwise) may or may not be good for your financial well-being, but try not to annoy them too much, as when cornered they do occasionally bite, and such a nip generally itches like hell for a while. The gorse bushes are also handy hiding places for rabbit holes - Clee's bunnies seem a rather shy lot, and you won't often see them, but their droppings are everywhere, and there are so many holes as t o be quite a major hazard for the walker - a twisted ankle, though very unlikely to be dangerous here, is a right pain. Grasshoppers, too, despite the profusion of actual grass on the hillside, often decide to be a bit perverse and sit in the shade of a gorse branch. When you reach the top of the hill, you'll see that it forms a plateau that stretches away northwards. It's not that interesting a walk, so instead have a glance to eaither side. In the west is a white farmhouse, guarded by an extremely well trained black dog, which unlike so many of its species doesn't hurtle up barking to anyone within 400 yards of the place, but instead stands guard, alert but unmoving, at the head of the house's driveway, making it quite clear that only friends will pass. If only all owners taught their dogs as well. Talking of which, this is - as you might have guessed - not a place to walk your dog, unless you're prepared to keep it on a short lead the whole time. As everyone knows, a dog found worrying sheep may be legally shot by a farmer - and the law is certainly enforced on Clee Hill. It'
s probably better not to take your dog at all - and anyone leaving their animal in the car on a hot day (no shade, remember) probably deserves to be shot as well! Making our way a little further eastward along the slopes, we come to a large expanse of reeds. This area is to be approached with a little caution, as depending on the weather (not just today's, either) the ground can range between anything from slightly spongy though firm moss through squidgy, puddly marsh to full-scale bog. Unless you're reasonably well attuned to this sort of thing, some local knowledge will be helpful. I don't want to make it sound like Dartmoor, though - you're not going to get drowned here! We're almost at the eastern end of the hill now, and the road is noticeably dropping from the heights it attained before. In front of you is t he village church of Doddington, which marks (along with the ubiquitous cattle grid) the eastern outpost of the wild hillside. Only a few miles beyond (though a tough walk - remember Hopton Wafers?) lies the pleasant village of Cleobury Mortimer, with an interesting range of locally-owned shops and some pleasing, though not spectacular, architecture. It's time for me to take my leave of you now - I hope you enjoyed your brief stroll along Titterstone Clee. For such a well-known landmark, and considering how many people stop by its side, it's really quite extraordinary how devoid of people some of it is - it's unremarkable to walk on the upper slopes for two hours in the height of a Sunday afternoon in midsummer and not encounter another living soul (sheep excluded, of course!).
Dawn breaks in North Wales on this New Year’s Day to a beautiful clear blue sky. Its cold and very icy but the layer of snow, which has fallen over the last few days presents a picturesque scene normally reserved for the January page of the calendar. A morning walk in the country beckons, the ideal opportunity to blow away the cobwebs from last night’s party and regain some semblance of fitness before my return to work tomorrow. My wife is the only one brave or foolhardy enough to come with me, so leaving the rest of the family we decide to drive the short distance over the English border to Ellesmere, a pretty little Shropshire market town dating back from Saxon times, with its old streets, mellow Georgian houses and half timbered buildings which is home to Shropshire’s miniature ‘Lake District’, famous for its nine small lakes which are truly rich in bird life. Parking the car alongside The Mere, the largest of Ellesmere’s lakes, we are surprised how busy it is. You expect it in the spring and summer as its very popular for fishing, boating and picnicking, but having said that, its one of those select places which look beautiful and is popular whatever the weather. The differing light conditions and seasons react with the changing nature of the trees and moods of the lake to provide totally different experiences each time of the year you visit. Taking it easy first of all, slightly concerned about the effect eight solid days of eating drinking and being merry may have had, we walk along the front of the Mere, the touristy bit, the nice parkland to the left leading to a childrens’ playground and pleasant woodland walk and the boating and fishing landing stages to the right along with well placed benches which allow opportunities to feed the many birds with specialist bird food sold, but not on this bank holiday, at the little kiosk on the roadside. The Mere is partly frozen over, and it i
s amusing to watch the coots skating along the ice and tumbling into the water in search of food – rather like the penguins in the The Blue Planet. Covering 116 acres The Mere is the largest of the seven lakes formed about 10,000 years ago, when the Ice Age was ending and water collected in the deeper hollows left when the glaciers melted. Like the other lakes, its rich in bird life at all times of the year. A large notice board provides information on the names and description of the birds, which inhabit the lake, including mallards and tufted ducks, great crested grebes and coots, moorhens and dabchicks, black headed gulls, swans, Canada geese, willow warblers, chiff-chaffs, green woodpeckers and jays. We recalled an earlier visit in the summer months when we saw brilliantly coloured kingfishers swoop over the area just beyond the car park, where a sign warns that the water is 30ft deep, in search of water insects, tadpoles and small fish. We’d looked at the herons through binoculars set up in a bird watching area in the Visitor Centre. Growing to a length of more than 3ft, these beautiful birds nest on an island in the lake quite close to the shore. It was fascinating to see the adult birds feeding their young in the nests with frogs, fish and insects. I have to admit I’m no bird watcher but I was enthralled and impressed by the winter visitors to the Mere. Talking to a chap who looked like a ‘twitcher’, he told me he’d seen shovellers, wigeon, goldeneye, teal and cormorants already that morning and pointed some of them out to us. He said the Mere was a very important area for this country’s bird life and in previous years he had seen slavonian grebes, pomarine skuas and long-tailed ducks, all of which, it would seem are quite rare visitors to these shores. He asked us if we had ever seen the Mere ‘breaking’ and went on to explain that during calm settled weather the water
becomes cloudy as countless millions of blue green algae rise towards the surface. This natural phenomenon is seen on very few lakes in Britain, because to attract the algae the water has to be abnormally rich in nutrients. ‘Breaking’ is apparently a local dialect word derived from a brewing process. When the brewers’ wort comes to the surface, during fermentation, the brew is said to be ‘breaking’. This concentration of nutrients is a major reason why the huge populations of birds are attracted to the meres. The fresh air has already started to work, it was a beautiful day starting to warm up a little and so we decide to extend our walk. Initially we decided to walk around some of the other lakes. There’s a lovely walk, which takes you round the three main lakes, all of which have something different to offer. We walked along the road to Blake Mere which is my own personal favourite because it has an air of mystery about it which reminds me of my school days when I read Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’ for GCE. For some reason the passage when he crosses the lake in a small boat after dark with the frost twinkling in the trees has always been one of my favourite extracts of poetry. Blake Mere may be nothing like it in reality, but in my mind it fits the bill, particularly today when as Wordsworth wrote, the trees ‘tinkled like iron’. In the summer kestrel can often be seen here, but today the lake was eerily quiet. So quiet in fact that we never reached Cole Mere, which is the second largest and is home to the local sailing club. Its gradually being colonized by reeds and rushes on the edge of the mere and snipe can usually be seen in the marshy area beyond the club house. Instead we decided to walk back into the town, window shop in some of the traditional shops, particularly a quaint little delicatessan, which has all manor of unusual and local fare, until we got to
the canal basin. This really is a magnificent part of the Shropshire Union Canal arguably one of the most pleasant and picturesque canals in the country. If we had continued our walk to Colemere we would have used an 87 yard tunnel, which shows the difficulties that faced the canal builders of the early 19th century. What eventually developed into the Shropshire Union network of canals began as a plan to link Chester and the Mersey to the Severn at Shrewsbury, to provide transport for the flourishing coal and iron industries. Like many other schemes conceived during the heady years of canal mania, this one was soon altered when it became obvious that an economic link with Shrewsbury would serve no useful purpose. As a consequence the canal was diverted to Whitchurch via Ellesmere and the stretch, which starts in Llangollen is incredibly scenic traveling over two huge aqueducts at Chirk and Pontycysyllte. The whole length of the canal including the basin at Ellesmere has been admirably restored to its former glory, and we made a mental note of a canal walk sometime in 2002, preferably in much warmer conditions. The effects of the previous evening’s celebrations had now worn off so we took the short walk back into town. Having had a pleasant walk and much needed exercise, we returned to the car and headed for home. Normally we would pop into the Bridgewater Arms for lunch but new year’s resolutions still intact we headed for home, a glass of port and the remainder of the Christmas Cake. A good start to the New Year, Ellesmere is a lovely place to visit. Put it on your list for a day out in 2002.
Hawkstone Park is a half hour drive north of Shrewsbury, located in English Heritage grounds. There is a large hotel and two golf courses in the centre of the park but for most the major attraction will be the Follies where the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed. The Follies are a historic fantasy world of cliffs, caves, grottoes and secret tunnels. If you take the magical Mystery Tour you will be told to expect a three hour wander - it will most a little less than that I expect but it will be very magical. One of the many places said to be the final resting place of King Arthur, it was visited regularly by the Duke of Wellington and it's not difficult to see why.
the shrewsbury fair is held every 6 weeks in shrewsbury (surpirise) in a place called the quarry opposite royal shrewsbury school. The fair is quite good and fun to go to in all respects. Although there is only a few rides it is still a good laugh. The rides included are a sort of ride where you stand up in a cage and are spun round and round and round. A disco dancer, and bumper cars. Once you are sick of the rides you can retire to the spacious park to lie down or browse around *(if your interested in gardening)!!!!! The fair is quitwe cheap at just 50p a ride, and is well worth a visit. If your in shrewsbury when its being held then go, its fun fun fun fun!!!!!
If you are travelling in Shropshire, there are many places to visit, too many to write about in one go. But here are a few of the places you could look at. Shropshire is mainly a rural area, and there is plenty of open space and pretty countryside if you want to get away from it all. On the other hand, if it is shopping you love, Shrewsbury is a wonderful town to spend a day, with it's ancient timbered buildings well preserved it embraces the old and the new comfortably. It has a good range of shops, and eating (and drinking) places, you can even dine on a riverboat! Take a look at St Mary's church, it is not used as a regular place of worship now, but it is beautiful, and it's spire can be seen miles away. There is the Norman Castle to walk around too. Every August Shrewsbury hosts the annual Flower Show, and it has become a regular trip for people from far afield. Be warned, Shrewsbury is not a flat town, and to see it all involves walking up some steep pathways. You will probably have to resort to parking on one of the multi storey car parks, and there is also a one way system in operation in the town. Or alternatively, use the park and ride scheme, I have found this very useful. Another very interesting place is Ironbridge, as you probably know the worlds first iron bridge is here, built in 1779 by Abraham Darby. It gets busy in the summer, and as there is only one road through Ironbridge you will sometimes find yourself dodging the tourists as you drive through. But I would be horrified to think you would drive through without looking around!!! The best place to park is at Dale End Car Park, or The Wharfage Car Park, you do not have far to walk back up to the bridge, as it is only a small place. Small but oh so interesting, it is full of little pathways upwards, and along each little pathway or road, are cottages and little houses (some very small) some with terraced gardens, some with hardly any garden at all. There are some mo
re noble houses, built for some of the Masters during the Industrial Revolution, some of these are now Guest Houses, and offer a fascinating base for a weekend break next to the River Severn. Also in Ironbridge, there are a few little shops, and the Merrythought Teddy Bear factory, with it's own shop next door, avoid if you are on a budget! Also The Ironbridge Gorge Museum, which is on the Wharfage, and the Blists Hill Museum (in the form of a Victorian Town)just outside of Ironbridge. Then there is Coalbrookdale, with it's old Forge and interesting history, it is adjoined to Ironbridge. A little way downstream is Coalport, with the China Museum, and some nice riverside pubs to stop at for a drink or even a meal. There is a pub called The Boat which often gets flooded when the river bursts it's banks there, if you go on a Thursday night you will be able to listen to an assortment of folks playing Irish music, and very talented they are too! It is a very small pub, and sometimes it's standing room only, but in summer you can sit in the garden and watch the river. There are several other pubs on the river banks, so you won't go thirsty! The reason a lot of the buildings are small scale in this area is due to the fact that the whole place is in a gorge, and development is limited by the constraints of nature (thank goodness). Back through Ironbridge again, and across the river is Much Wenlock, where every summer it holds a Charter Day, when the townsfolk dress in period clothes and hold a period market. Wenlock Abbey is worth seeing, and so is the whole of the town, again, timbered buildings and full of character and history. The Long Mynd at Church Stretton, a good place for walking or a picnic, you can park at the bottom of the Mynd, in Carding Mill Valley, and sit by the stream, there is space here for children to get rid of their excess energy! Or if you have nerves of steel, you can drive over The Long Mynd, its a
bit of a drop on one side, but we have driven up there and parked at the top, the views are stunning! Lastly, I will mention Telford, a new town (well relatively new) where the parking is free! There is an Ice Rink, International Centre, Cinema, Bowling Alley, Bingo, large Shopping Centre, Hotels, Railway Station, Town Park, Cherry Gardens, Lake, Pubs and Clubs (phew). It is a very nice, modern place, very near to places like Ironbridge and Much Wenlock. Well worth a visit, but I must warn you, if you are going to Telford there are lots of roundabouts :-) That is all I will subject you to for the moment, but there are lots more places in Shropshire worthy of a visit!