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In a Twist at Cleobury Mortimer

Hills, valleys and a crooked spire in the land of the Marcher lords.

Distance 4.8 miles (7.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 558ft (170m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mostly field paths across pasture, about 10 stiles

Landscape Pastoral country with secluded valleys and panoramic views

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 203 Ludlow or 218 Wyre Forest & Kidderminster

Start/finish SO 672757

Dog friendliness On leads almost all way

Parking Childe Road car park, Cleobury Mortimer

Public toilets Eagle Lane

1 Walk through the alleyway under the Talbot Hotel to the main street. Go down Eagle Lane opposite and, when the lane bends right, cross a stile into a field. Follow the hedge up to the top corner and go diagonally to the top right corner of the next field. Cut across the corner of another, then go diagonally across the next to meet the far hedge, in line with a solitary oak. Follow the right-hand hedge down to Rowley Brook and turn right to cross a bridge into cattle pasture.

2 Go diagonally right, climbing to the top of a rise. Cross a stile in the hedge, squeeze past another and go straight on by the left-hand hedge, along the edge of sheep pasture. As you go through a gate, a superb panorama of fields, woods and hedges presents itself, with all of Worcestershire spread out in front of you, rising to the Malvern Hills. As you go forward, Herefordshire comes into view on your right, with the Black Mountains marking the Welsh border.

3 Go down the next field, passing through a gate, then left on a track towards Reaside Farm. Pass between the farmhouse and its outbuildings, through a gate into a field, forward past an oak tree (complete with treehouse), then left down a slope. Cross two fields to a footbridge and cross the River Rea. Go to the far right corner of the next field and through a gate to join a track. Follow it for a few paces to an open gateway, then leave it, passing through a gap on the left instead. Go forward along a short grassy track parallel with a farm track then, at the end, go left along a leafy tunnel to meet a lane.

4 Turn left along the narrow, high-banked lane for nearly ½ mile (800m), until you can turn right on a stony track, which leads past The Rookery, then down to the River Rea. Cross the Rea on a footbridge to the right of a weir. This peaceful spot by the weir was once the site of a charcoal furnace, built in the 16th century for smelting iron ore. Go forward to cross a stone bridge and follow a track that soon curves to the left and climbs to pass Mawley Hall. When you come to a junction with another track, turn right past paddocks, then left at a footpath sign. The path descends to go round three sides of a walled garden, before reaching a junction where you branch right towards the river.

5 Having crossed the Rea again, keep straight on across sheep pasture, until a waymarker directs you diagonally downhill, back to the river. Follow it to a lane. You can take this back to Cleobury or, better still, look for a grassy bridleway on the left, climbing to the left of a stone house, then on through grassland and along a leafy tunnel. Once houses take over at Mortimer Hill, start looking for a path on the right that cuts through to Lion Lane. Turn left, following the lane to Church Street. Turn left again and cross to the Talbot passageway back to Childe Road.

It's hard to say whether Cleobury Mortimer is a town or a village. Once the stronghold of Norman baron Ralph Mortimer, who built a castle here and soon established control over much of the border country, it's certainly a delightful place. The Mortimers went on to rule the Marches for centuries, but their centre of power soon moved to Wigmore, then to Ludlow, and Ralph's castle at Cleobury was eventually destroyed by Henry II in 1155.

As you leave it behind, do stop occasionally to glance back at the view of Cleobury, set against the backdrop of the Clee Hills and dominated by the spire of St Mary's Church, which has a marked twist in it. This is due to the warping of the timbers and has admitted Cleobury to the membership of an exclusive club - the slightly bizarre-sounding European Twisted Spires Association. The only other British member is Chesterfield.

What to look for

Reaside Farmhouse is an outstanding early 17th-century sandstone building, with gables, a marvellous porch and star-shaped brick chimney stacks. The late 16th and early 17th centuries were periods of great prosperity when yeoman farmers all over the country built themselves fine houses like this.

While you're there

Neen Sollars, a village on a ridge between the River Rea and Mill Brook, lies south of Cleobury. There are lovely walks, substantial traces of the dismantled Bewdley-to-Tenbury railway (including a viaduct) and a 14th-century church with an exceptional monument to explorer Humphrey Conyngesby, who was born in 1567. Described as 'a perfect scoller? and a greate traveyler', he disappeared without trace in 1610. The monument was erected in 1624, by which time his family had obviously given up hope of his return.

Where to eat and drink

The Talbot Hotel welcomes children and dogs in the bar or the beer garden, and there are several other pleasant pubs in Cleobury. Sarah's Tearoom is very friendly and welcomes children and walkers, but not dogs. There are also some great shops such as Ashley's Cake Shop, Brown's Corner Bakery and the Top Nosh Deli.

Shropshire

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