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Titter(stone) ye not, missus!
All Other Attractions in Shropshire
Member Name: davidbuttery
All Other Attractions in Shropshire
Date: 22/08/02, updated on 05/11/02 (703 review reads)
Advantages: Glorious views, Almost devoid of tourists away from the main road, Wildlife
Disadvantages: Almost no shelter - from rain or sun, Needs patience to get the best out of it - not for the easily bored!
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!).
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