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Drama at Clive and Grinshill

Dramatic cliffs and views, and memories of a disreputable dramatist.

Distance 5.2 miles (8.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 540ft (165m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Rocky, woodland and field paths, mostly well used, 5 stiles

Landscape Sandstone outcrop, old quarries and gentle farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 241 Shrewsbury

Start/finish SJ 525237

Dog friendliness They'll love Grinshill Hill, but under close control elsewhere

Parking Car park in Corbet Wood, next to Grinshill Quarry

Public toilets None on route

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1 On the east side of the car park a bridleway starts near a stone building. Join this and shortly fork right to pass below the car park. Go straight on at a junction, passing an old sycamore tree with an amazing exposed root system, then past a massive cliff-like slab of exposed rock.

2 When you reach a junction by another slab, keep to the bridleway (marked with a blue arrow), descending until you come to a point where a wall rises on the right, at right angles to the bridleway. Follow the wall up to meet the Shropshire Way, but don't join it. Instead, turn left by a post with carvings of a butterfly and a toadstool, and keep climbing to reach a viewpoint.

3 Turn your back on the view and go uphill to join a wide path. Follow this to the left and keep left at a fork. Continue climbing to reach the summit. After enjoying the stunning view, turn your back on it again and take the left-hand path. Keep left at a fork. The path joins a walled track (The Glat), which leads to All Saints' Church at Clive. You could just turn left here, but to see more of Clive, and perhaps patronise the village shop, turn right instead, then soon left on the main street and left again on Back Lane.

4 Turn right on a footpath, which begins as a green lane, then crosses sheep pasture to meet a road. Turn right past Yorton Station, then left under the railway and left again. Soon after passing a house called Fox Fields, join a footpath on the left and cross an arable field and then the railway.

5 Push through trees to meet a track. Turn right for a few paces, then left between two pools to enter parkland. Follow the left-hand boundary, passing Sansaw and going through an iron kissing gate next to a wooden field gate. Sansaw's garden wall now turns left - don't follow it but keep straight on to another wooden field gate. Cross a driveway and continue across more parkland to a road.

6 Turn left, then immediately right, towards Clive. Turn right opposite Back Lane on a walled bridleway, which passes below the churchyard and contours round Grinshill Hill to the Jubilee Oak and village hall at Grinshill.

7 Turn right along a track, passing the church to meet the main street. Turn left, then left again on Gooseberry Lane. Pass the village hall again (the other side this time) and rejoin the walled bridleway. Ignore branching paths, staying on the bridleway, which climbs to meet a walled grassy track. Turn right past houses.

8 As the track forks, go left and then up steps to cross a stone step stile. Walk uphill through woodland, soon bearing right and climbing steeply until you come to a fenced area. Turn right on a broad path to reach a junction, then turn left on a track, and left again at the road, past Grinshill Quarry to the car park.

The north Shropshire plain is broken at intervals by battered ridges of red sandstone rising dramatically above the sea of green lapping at their feet. Highest and finest of them all is Grinshill Hill, a craggy lump of rock held in the grip of gnarled Scots pines and graceful silver birches existing on the thinnest of soils. It's an exciting, almost Tolkienesque sort of place, with spectacular abandoned quarries and deeply sunken hollow ways.

On its slopes stand Clive and Grinshill, both built of Grinshill stone, which has been quarried since Roman times. The stone was used for some of the grandest Victorian building projects, including several railway stations, of which Shrewsbury is a superb example. It is still quarried today, but the modern workings don't impinge on this walk.

Clive is a particularly attractive village, with pretty cottages clustered below All Saints' Church. This is a Victorian rebuild, but is more than redeemed by the power of its setting in a steeply sloping churchyard, overflowing with daffodils in March and offering fine views. The tall spire is a landmark for miles around.

I must admit to a personal interest in Clive. In the Second World War my father was sent from bomb-blasted Manchester to the safety of his Uncle Jack's farm at Wollerton, near Market Drayton. Nearly 50 years later, researching the family tree, he discovered that Jack Wycherley was a descendant of William Wycherley, the Restoration dramatist and satirist who entertained the court of Charles II with his plays. His most famous work is The Country Wife (1675). Wycherley was born at Clive Hall (it's on the main street) in 1640. By all accounts, he was a dissolute rogue who chased young girls and shared one of Charles II's mistresses, Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland. Naturally we're all quite proud of him! He also married the Countess of Drogheda for her money and must have been gratified when she died a year later, leaving everything to him. But it didn't do him much good because the will was contested and the ensuing lawsuit bankrupted him. He was thrown into a debtors' prison which he endured for seven years until rescued by James II, who paid off his debts and gave him a pension. Wycherley married a young girl in 1716 when he was 75, but died 11 days later. His bones lie somewhere in the churchyard at Clive.

While you're there

Visit Moreton Corbet Castle (English Heritage). The keep of a Norman castle (c1200) stands beside the ruins of a magnificent house built around 1579 for Sir Andrew Corbet. Cromwell's troops besieged and slighted the two in 1644. They spared the church, which stands close by, completing a splendid group.

What to look for

A variety of birds inhabits Corbet Wood, including the tiny goldcrest, Britain's smallest species (except for the firecrest, the same size but extremely rare). The goldcrest is plump and short-tailed, olive-green above and buff below, with a distinctive black and yellow crown. Listen for a shrill, insistent zee-zee-zee call.

Where to eat and drink

The Railway Inn by Yorton Station is a very traditional, friendly pub but you can't take your dog inside. The Elephant and Castle at Grinshill was well regarded, but had closed at the time of writing. There's a good shop in Clive and, if you're travelling by train, you'll find buffet facilities on the Cardiff-Manchester services, but not on local ones.

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