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Close to the Edge at Diddlebury

Former drovers' roads link the crest of Wenlock Edge to the meadows of beautiful Corve Dale.

Distance 6.3 miles (10.1km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 689ft (210m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Mostly good but ford on Dunstan's Lane can be deep after rain, 10 stiles (8 more on Walk 19)

Landscape Wooded ridge of Wenlock Edge, patchwork of Corve Dale

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 217 The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge

Start/finish SO 479875

Dog friendliness On lead near livestock; notices warn sheep chasers will be shot

Parking Car park/picnic site on east side of unclassified road between Middlehope and Westhope

Public toilets None on route

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1 Turn left out of the car park along the lane. When you come to a junction, turn left again, signposted 'Middlehope'. Keep straight on at the next, signposted 'Upper Westhope', where the road becomes a track and soon bends left towards a house. Go through a gate on the right instead and along a grassy bridleway that soon enters woodland. Keep straight on at two cross paths.

2 The bridleway emerges into pasture; keep straight on along the left-hand edge to the corner. Go through a gate and turn right on a field-edge path, which soon becomes a wide track.

3 Having passed a cottage, and with a group of barns ahead, look for blue arrows that direct you sharp right. Keep left above Corfton Bache, a deep valley, until more blue arrows send you zig-zagging down into the valley. Follow it to the road at Corfton and cross to a lane opposite.

4 As the lane degenerates into a track, look on the left for a footpath starting at an iron kissing gate. Go diagonally left across cattle pasture to a prominent stile at the far side. Cross a farm track and walk to the far right corner of an arable field.

5 Go through a gate, then a little way along the left-hand edge of another field until a gate gives access to parkland. Head in the direction indicated by the waymarker. St Peter's Church at Diddlebury soon comes into view, providing an infallible guide.

6 Cross two stiles at the far side of the park and go straight on down a slope, to the right of a fence. A footbridge gives access to Diddlebury. Turn right, then left by the church. Join a footpath which passes to the right of the village hall, then goes diagonally right past the school, over two stiles and across fields to the road. Cross to the lane opposite, forking right after a few paces.

7 A footpath leaves the lane on the right, almost opposite Chapel Cottage. Continue up the lane.

8 At a junction with a bridle track by a sign for Aston Top keep left, still on the lane. After a further ¾ mile (1.2km), branch left on a byway, Dunstan's Lane (no signpost or waymarker). Follow it to the Middlehope road and turn left. Keep straight on at a Y-junction. When a footpath crosses the road, turn left into woodland. The path is signposted on the right, but not the left - the left branch is a few paces further on. The path leads through the woods back to the picnic site.

Wenlock Edge needs a book to itself, so all you will get here is the merest glimpse, but it should whet your appetite for more. This great tree-clad escarpment is one of Shropshire's most famous landscape features, partly because it plays a role in A E Housman's collection of poems entitled A Shropshire Lad and is also the subject of a choral poem by the composer Vaughan Williams. It is best seen from the west, appearing as an unbroken escarpment running from the Severn Gorge to Craven Arms. From the east it is more elusive, rising almost imperceptibly. Within a basic ridge structure, it seems to form a series of waves or steps, and consists for part of its length of two parallel edges, divided by Hope Dale.

Wenlock Edge was formed of Silurian limestone about 420 million years ago. Developing as a barrier reef in a tropical sea on the edge of a continental shelf, it was built up from the accumulation of sediments and the skeletons of marine creatures such as corals, brachiopods and crinoids. Earth movements and erosion then sculpted it into the escarpment we see today.

Most of it is wooded, and much of this is ancient woodland, growing on steep slopes where there has been continuous tree cover since the end of the last ice age. The dominant species is ash, which has a special affinity with limestone, but many other types are present. Beneath the trees are lime-loving shrubs such as spurge laurel, spindle and dogwood. The ground flora is rich and varied, especially along the rides and in newly coppiced areas, where flowers respond to the increased light by growing more profusely and attracting many butterflies.

In the past, the Edge was always seen as a valuable resource to be exploited. Timber provided building materials, tools and charcoal for iron smelting. Limestone was used for building, for making lime, for iron smelting and, more recently, as an aggregate. This latter use still continues and there are unsightly quarries between Presthope and Much Wenlock, where you can walk the ridge and look down on the unedifying spectacle of monstrous machines digging up Shropshire so that heavy lorries can carry it away. There's nothing like that on this walk, where the quarries you pass are small ones, long since abandoned and now transformed by nature into mossy, fern-filled caverns of green.

Where to eat and drink

The Sun Inn at Corfton is in just about every pub guide you can think of and has been voted best village pub in the county. It has a friendly atmosphere, a large garden with play area and its own brewery. It also acts as a useful tourist information point (a mini version of a tourist information centre).

What to look for

St Peter's Church at Diddlebury has a Saxon nave, its north wall constructed of herringbone masonry, which was the style favoured by the Saxons. The north doorway is typically Saxon, and there is a Saxon window. The tower also seems to be partly Saxon, though even the experts are unsure. Do go inside - very few churches of this kind survive in England.

While you're there

The Dower House Garden at Morville Hall, about 12 miles (19km) north east of Diddlebury, is a relatively new garden, begun only in 1989. Its ambitious aim is to tell the history of English gardens through a sequence of separate gardens in the style of different periods. It ranges from a turf maze through a medieval cloister garden and Elizabethan knot garden to a Victorian wilderness garden, to name but a few. Sweetly scented old roses are a particular speciality.

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