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Bedlam on Clee

A terrific walk on one of Shropshire's highest and most charismatic hills.

Distance 8.2 miles (13.3km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 1,330ft (405m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Good but rough, uneven and/or boggy in places, 2 stiles

Landscape Moors and upland pasture with industrial remains

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 203 Ludlow

Start/finish SO 595753

Dog friendliness Good, but keep under close control near sheep and cattle

Parking Car park/picnic site/viewpoint opposite turning for Kremlin Inn on A4117 on eastern edge of Cleehill village

Public toilets Cleehill village

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1 Walk up the track opposite the picnic area, towards the unusually named Kremlin Inn. Before you reach it, go through a rusty bridle gate on the left and along a track. After the first 220yds (201m), the right of way runs to the left of it, but can be very difficult - most walkers use the track.

2 Meet the radar station access road by Hedgehog House and turn right. Walk to the end of Rouse Boughton Terrace and go through a gate on the left to meet a track. Don't follow it; turn right along the edge of a pasture instead. Continue along the edge of the next field and through a gate in the corner to meet the Shropshire Way, which goes to the right. Ignore it and go straight on, cutting the corner of the field, aiming to meet and then follow the left-hand boundary after about 300yds (274m).

3 Continue in the same direction through the next field to the left corner, then follow a track down to cross Benson's Brook at a bridge. Climb out of the valley on a track which passes the abutments of a former tramway bridge (part of Bitterley Incline, but called Titterstone Incline on OS maps), before arriving at Bedlam.

4 Turn left into the hamlet, then immediately fork right past The Old Shop House and Hullabaloo House towards Titterstone Clee Hill. A gate gives access and a path takes you to the right. After passing a house, it cuts a broad swath through the bracken.

5 Leave this path when you come to Bitterley Incline again. Climb on to the embankment, joining the Shropshire Way. Continue uphill now towards the ruined quarry buildings ahead. Pass to the right of the main quarry, then go left to the top.

6 Just to the north of the trig pillar is a cairn, the Giant's Chair. Look north towards Brown Clee Hill to see Callowgate, a red-roofed farm at the northern edge of the moorland. Aim for this, picking the best way down the slope and then across the brackeny moorland.

7 When you reach Callowgate, leave the Shropshire Way and turn right by the moorland edge. Joining a lane at Cleetongate, turn right and walk to the village of Cleeton St Mary. Turn right past the church, right again past almshouses, then left on to the Random bridleway, which runs along the moorland edge. Keep just to the right of a fence, except where you need to cut a corner - it's obvious when you come to it.

8 When the fence makes a very sharp left turn, keep straight on to meet the radar station access road. Turn left to Rouse Boughton Terrace then retrace your steps to the start.

Locals say the view from Clee Hill is the finest in England and it's hard to disagree. After all, where else can you see from the Brecon Beacons to the Peak District, from Snowdonia to the Cotswolds? It's stunning. But before getting too carried away with the view, we need to sort out some names, which can be confusing in these parts. For instance, it's Cleehill village, but Clee Hill. However, strictly speaking, Clee Hill is just the area that is currently being quarried, north east of the village. The top is Titterstone Clee Hill. Naturally, not everybody calls it that - to many who live in sight of it, in Shropshire and neighbouring counties, it's just Clee Hill or The Clee.

And then there's Bedlam. The original Bedlam was the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem, a lunatic asylum (as they used to be called) in London. What few people know is that Bedlam is also a Victorian quarrying settlement on Clee Hill. If you can get hold of an old map, you'll see it called by that name, and if you go to Bitterley you'll see a road sign indicating Bedlam. Look at the excellent map displayed at Cleehill picnic site - Bedlam is marked on it too. Unfold your modern, state-of-the-art OS map, however, and you'll look in vain for it. It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Bedlam's residents don't like its name because of its associations, and would prefer to rename it Titterstone Village. The Ordnance Survey plays safe by not naming it at all. Still, it's reassuring to note that somebody in Bedlam has a sense of humour, as you will see when you pass Hullabaloo House.

There are other intriguing names on and around Clee Hill: Sodom, for example, but perhaps it's best not to inquire too closely into that. Random, Crumpsbrook, Hopton Wafers, Cramer Gutter, Rugpits, Titrail, Lubberland, Angelbank, Applecake Hill, Cadbury, Pastycraft, Hackenchop, Hilluppencott, Hemm and Hoopits all have their own charm. Many names relate to wildlife, such as Kitesnest, Hawkwood, Magpie Hill, Brown Owls, Lapwing, Foxwood and even Wormsacre. Others relate to the industrial heritage of the area. The bridleway you join at Cleeton St Mary, for instance, is marked on old maps as Limers' Lane, though it's often referred to as the Random bridleway nowadays because it passes Random.

Where to eat and drink

There are shops, a tea room/bakery and a chippy in Cleehill, and a café near by. The Kremlin Inn is a friendly pub that does hot food. Tea and coffee are served in the morning and much appreciated by walkers. Well-behaved children and dogs are welcome in the bar and the garden; keep dogs on leads.

While you're there

Visit Hope Bagot, a lovely village tucked away on the southern slopes of Clee Hill and approached along deeply sunken lanes. There are some fine Georgian houses, particularly Hope Court and the Old Vicarage, and a 16th-century timber-framed cottage. The small church is Norman, with a possible Saxon arch over the entrance to the vestry. An ivy-draped holy well in the churchyard is sheltered by a great yew tree, believed to be over 1,600 years old.

What to look for

This is a great place to see raptors such as the buzzard or the kestrel - watch the latter for a while and you'll understand why it is also called the windhover. You're also increasingly likely to see a raven or two. This impressive member of the crow family suffered a sharp decline in numbers, but is now making something of a comeback in the wilder parts of western England, including Clee Hill.

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