A walk on Hopton Titterhill, with dramatic views and charming villages.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 892ft (272m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Forest tracks and quiet lanes, some field paths, no stiles
Landscape Steep-sided hills between rivers Clun and Redlake
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 201 Knighton & Presteigne
Start/finish SO 348777
Dog friendliness Will love Hopton Forest, take care on road
Parking Forestry Commission car park in Hopton Forest, off minor road west from Hopton Castle to Llanbrook and Obley
Public toilets None on route
1 From the car park, return to the access track and take another stony track opposite, beyond a timber barrier and to the right of an information board. There are various numbered posts in the forest, marking points on the cycle trails. Ignore a path branching left at post 3 and continue along the main path to post 7. Take the second left, going uphill through beech trees and on along an initially grassy path through mixed woodland and plantation. Turn left at a T-junction, then right at the next junction, by post 10.
2 Fork left to climb the small, stony, conical summit, carpeted with heather and whinberry - the natural ground cover on the hill before afforestation shaded out most of it. Enjoy the marvellous view, then return to the main path, using one of several paths that radiate out in all directions from the summit. Continue in the same direction as before, descending now to meet a stony track by a pool. Turn left and ignore the very steep path (labelled 'downhill racing') which descends right. A little further on you'll come to a major junction. Ignore two paths branching left and continue along the stony track. When the track bends left keep straight on instead, down a grassy track, enjoying fantastic views ahead. Keep straight on at all junctions, then go through a gate at the edge of the forest.
3 Bear left to follow an intermittent hedge of hawthorn trees (and one oak) across a field. Go through a gate at the far side, to the right of another oak. Cross a cattle pasture, again to a gate at the far side. Turn left along the edge of the next field, on a track that becomes increasingly well defined as it descends to Bedstone. When you reach the village you need to turn left to return to Hopton.
4 Take the Hopton Castle road and you'll reach the castle itself before the village. Turn left at a junction by the castle, passing through the village. It Keep straight on towards Obley, then turn left when you come to the Forestry Commission sign for Hopton, following the access track to the car park.
This walk takes you across the top of a hill called Hopton Titterhill, but most people know it as Hopton Forest now because it has been almost completely afforested with conifers. Don't let that put you off, because there are also patches of beechwood, fantastic views, a Norman castle and two charming villages to enjoy. But it's important to realise that Hopton is a magnet for mountain bikers. There are trails here aimed at all abilities, from beginners to the most adventurous downhill racers. If that puts you off, avoid weekends. I've never met a cyclist on a weekday at Hopton.
When you reach the village of Bedstone it's worth having a look round first as there are some lovely houses here. There's a Norman church too, with a timber-framed bellcote and a shingled spire. It was subject to 19th-century restoration, but retains some original windows and a Norman font. Near by stand a few thatched cottages and a Victorian schoolhouse, while Manor Farm is a splendid timber-framed house, partly faced in stone in 1775. To the south of the village is Bedstone Court, a flamboyant black-and-white mansion of 1884. It was designed by Thomas Harris for Sir Henry Ripley MP and is said to be a calendar house, with 365 windows, 52 rooms and 12 chimneys.
The attractive little village of Hopton has only a handful of houses, most notably the timber-framed former rectory. The church is Victorian, built between 1870 and 1871, by the architect T Nicholson. Of Hopton Castle only the keep survives. but it's solid and substantial and enjoys a fine setting. It was built by the de Hopton family in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 14th century. During the Civil War it was held for Parliament, but taken by the Royalists after a three-week siege. Most of the defending garrison was killed and the bodies dumped in the moat.
You'll find nothing along the route, but you're not that far from the Crown Inn at Clunton. Or you could try the Kangaroo Inn at Aston on Clun, where there's also a useful village shop, the Hundred House Inn at Purslow, the Engine and Tender near Broome Station or the gorgeous Bird on a Rock Tearoom at Abcott.
Look under the conifers in the forest and you will see that for most of the year almost nothing grows there because the shade is simply too dense. But for a couple of months in the autumn you should see fair numbers of different types of fungi. The most striking species is the fly agaric, the traditional toadstool of children's picture books - bright red with white spots. If you see one don't be tempted to take it home for a fry-up because it is highly toxic. The harvesting of wild fungi has become popular recently, but you really do need to know what you're doing.
Just over the Herefordshire border is Lingen, where there is an interesting garden to visit. Lingen Garden has cottage favourites, alpines, a bog garden, scree beds, the national collection of Iris sibirica and much more, including a tea room. It's a nursery too, so you can buy plants for your own garden.