Outdoor Discoveries

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

A trot around and over Caer Caradoc

25th November 2010

Since I first glimpsed the hills around Church Stretton while en route to Abergavenny for a day of walking around there, Shropshire’s hill country hasn’t seen that much of me. Whether it’s because I have failed to find ways of extending my explorations from those visits that I have made or there is another explanation, it’s a part of the world that I reckon needs more of my attention.

After there is a copy of Cicerone’s guide to the area sitting on my book shelf and it was from this that the idea of a walk around and over Caer Caradoc was put my way for something to made of it the Sunday before last. That it’s a short hop within a proverbial stone’s throw of Church Stretton at a time of year when days are short added to the appeal of the idea. It also meant that a later start than might be ideal did nothing to spoil the afternoon that it occupied for me.

Though the forecast was more hopeful, the day was to stay cloudy until the sun found a western gap in the cover late in the day. As it happened, it seemed that the North Wales were doing rather better with catching the sun than where I was spending my time. Nevertheless, I putting any such galling thoughts out of my mind to enjoy what I had.

Travel arrangements meant a stopover in Shrewsbury and I took to take another little poke around the town. From a previous quick taster, I wasn’t ignorant of its attraction with quite a few pretty old buildings around the heart of the place. This time around, I stayed near to the train station to gawp at Charles Darwin’s old school, now a public library, and to sample a little of the town’s castle. A bit more sun and blues skies would have made the place that little bit harder to leave while convincing me that popping down there for a few hours would be no waste of time.

Though skies were brightening, I stuck to my plan and I was soon to find how useful near to Church Stretton Caer Caradoc was to be. After crossing the A49, I picked my way through streets to make for what once was the road to Cardington and there even are Cardington Way markers on the route too. Part of what seems to have been the course of that old thoroughfare is now a sunken passageway hosting a stream. The right of way doesn’t use this but leaves the tarmac roadway leading to New House Farm to follow the hedge that is by its side. Not unsurprisingly given the often wet autumn, the going was soft and muddy underfoot, something that wasn’t unexpected anyway.

It didn’t took long for me to pick up the old track where it enters the field and follow it into the dip between the wooded Helmeth Hill and the bare Caer Caradoc. Staying with the track, I went around underneath the slopes of Three Fingers Rock, having some easy height gains as I did so. Here, immersed in rolling hill country, it was hard to believe that civilisation, a railway and a busy modern road weren’t at all far away.

Seeing a path rising up the hillside before me, I left the track to pick my way to the top of Caer Caradoc. What the hills of South Shropshire lack in height, they compensate in having steep sides and Caer Caradoc is no different. It was a matter of letting the summit come when it did and stopping whenever more level ground allowed. The sun was struggling to get through the cloudy layer without much in the way of success; if it had done so, copious amounts of photographic activity would have ensued with hummocks like Hope Bowdler Hill, Robin’s Tump and The Wilderness (not as wild as the name suggests, incidentally) featuring in resulting photos.

The 459 metre high top of Caer Caradoc was once a fort and you might see why it would be secure if you ever walked up there. To my eyes, the old ramparts weren’t so obvious though I was later to see the signs of an old ditch. The name comes from a Celtic chief who fought the Romans only to lose and fall into their hands to get carried to Rome; apparently, he possessed enough guile to ensure that he and his family didn’t meet a sticky end at the hand of his captors with his living out his days in that foreign land to die a natural death. Today, the hill is seemingly well frequented though, as I found, not so much as to deprive anyone of peaceful relaxing moments survey the surrounding panoramic views. It was from here that I spied sunlit Welsh hills beyond the Cheshire Plain while making such neighbouring hillocks as The Lawley.

Caer Caradoc Hill, Church Stretton, Shropshire, England

On the way down, I went around the smaller Little Caradoc though that involved a little diversion from what might have been my intended route back to civilisation. That deviation was well worth it with only passing dog walkers to disturb my reverie while I took a breather after the steep descent from Caer Caradoc. Then, I needed to regain some height before picking up the path that was to take me along the lower slopes of Caer Caradoc while losing height all the while. It was while I was trotting along here that I spied the prospect some late evening sun before it did come my way. When it did come, hillsides were pleasingly lit though its time of arrival meant that it was short-lived. That wasn’t to be a cause for complaint since it was the icing on the cake for me.

More steep descent lay ahead of me before I was to drop down to the dip between Caer Caradoc and Helmeth Hill. Some of these was to be well eroded too so I took a slight deviation from the direct route so as to be on more trustworthy ground. Before that was to pass, I was tramping along a path that reminded me of a similar approach that I took to walking Place Fell near Ullswater earlier in the year.

Once down in the dip between the two hills, it was a matter of retracing my steps to return to Church Stretton’s train station in fading light. When I set foot on tarmac again, street lights had come on but there still was some light in the sky. A tempting public footpath diversion was discounted in favour of being sure of my route and I was at the train station with enough time to spare for a spot of grocery shopping before staring my journey home.

One thing that I suspect after this trip is that I shouldn’t be devoid of ideas for further walks in the area. After all, repeating the walk when there is more sun is one option and more hills are there to be walked too. For instance, I quite fancy reaching the top of The Lawley and seeing how things look from there. After that, there’s another route that has come to my attention since the walk: The Ancient Portway, a hike from Church Stretton to Pulverbatch and Pontesbury. This would be a day long affair for the full route but it could be cut short at Pulverbatch if needed. It’s a refrain that I may repeat too often but it’s best to leave anywhere with more things to be doing on any return but it’s true of my wandering around Caer Caradoc. All in all, it was a satisfactory afternoon out of doors and in an are that wasn’t overrun with folk either. With that, there can be no complaints and there is always that Cicerone guide should these possibilities be exhausted.

Travel Arrangements:

Bus service 130 from Macclesfield to Wilmslow; train from there to Church Stretton with a change in Shrewsbury; train from Church Stretton to Crewe with a change in Shrewsbury, bus service 38 from Crewe to Macclesfield.

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