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Up Jacob's Ladder to Rindleford

A spectacular combination of sheer cliffs and secluded valleys at Bridgnorth.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 540ft (165m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Steep and eroded in parts (beware landslips), 2 stiles

Landscape Wooded cliffs, bracken-filled valleys and mixed farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 218 Wyre Forest & Kidderminster

Start/finish SO 720934

Dog friendliness Generally excellent, but keep on leads in The Batch

Parking Severn Park, off A442 on east bank of Severn at Bridgnorth

Public toilets Severn Park, also Listley Street in Bridgnorth

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1 Cross the A442, turn left, then right, signposted 'cemetery'. At the cemetery take the adjacent footpath, climbing steeply. The gradient eases and you turn right on a fenced path into woodland, then climb again, to the cliff top. At the wood's edge, turn left to reach a waymarked junction at the top of High Rock.

2 Fork left, descending at first before the path (known as Jacob's Ladder) levels out to contour in an undulating fashion round High Rock and then Pendlestone Rock. At a junction, keep to the higher path which soon swings right. Leaving the trees behind, it passes Woodside farm, then merges with the farm access track.

3 Meeting a lane, turn right for a few paces, then left on a footpath. Pass a house, go through a gate into a field and proceed along the edge until a waymarker directs you diagonally to the far corner. Go through a gate and turn left through a narrow field. Cross a stile at the far side and keep straight on through a valley.

4 Meet a track at the far side, opposite a sandstone building, then turn right along a steep-sided valley. Reaching a junction, go straight on along a grassy path through bracken, leaving the main path, which bends right. Eventually you come to a junction with a sandy track beside the River Worfe.

5 Your onward route is to the right, but first it's worth a short detour to the left to explore the lovely hamlet of Rindleford. Resuming the walk, return to the junction and follow the River Worfe on the sandy track which soon swings right, then climbs gently out of the valley.

6 Turn right when you reach a lane, heading towards Bridgnorth, until a signpost on the left indicates a footpath along a field edge. This leads to the A454 and continues on the other side, past a housing estate called The Hobbins.

7 Turn right on another road, past Stanmore Country Park, to the A454. Cross to a footpath opposite, by Hermitage Farm. It runs to the top of Hermitage Hill, where you turn right through Hermitage Hill Coppice. As you approach the B4363, descend to a lower path to visit The Hermitage, then walk to the road and cross to a footpath opposite. Follow this along the cliff top to rejoin the path which descends past the cemetery to the A442 and Severn Park.

The most dramatic of Shropshire towns, Bridgnorth clings to the top of a sandstone cliff. Or at least High Town does - for Bridgnorth is two towns in one, with Low Town occupying the riverside. The two are linked by a modern road, seven ancient stairways, a cartway and a funicular railway. This has a gradient of 2 in 3 and has been operating since 1892. Until recently it was Britain's only inland cliff railway and it remains the only electrically powered one, with colliery-type winding gear.

It's often said that Bridgnorth, with its clifftop setting, resembles a continental town and if you do this walk you'll get an inkling of what is meant. It's only when you climb to the viewpoints on High Rock and Pendlestone Rock that you really get to see Bridgnorth in context. The modern town sprawls in the background, but the old town is distinct from it in a way reminiscent of many European countries. The Spanish, for instance, usually preserve an old town and build a modern one next to it, while here in Britain we knock it down and build on top. This is not the case in Bridgnorth. It does look almost continental from High Rock, perched on its cliff and watched over by its twin church towers. The red sandstone one to the north belongs to St Leonard's, the original parish church. During the Civil War it was used as an ammunition store by Royalist troops. When the Roundheads scored a direct hit, the ensuing fire proved disastrous. It was skilfully rebuilt, but is now redundant. The classical-style church to the south is built of white sandstone and dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. It was constructed between 1792 and 1794 to the design of Thomas Telford, replacing the Norman chapel attached to Bridgnorth Castle, and is now the parish church.

Bridgnorth's cliffs are formed from sandstone, a soft, easily eroded, easily hewn rock. The sandstone country of south Shropshire, north Worcestershire and south Staffordshire is riddled with caves, natural and man-made, many of which were inhabited until the 1960s.

This is not so grim as it sounds - caves are warm in winter and cool in summer. When equipped with electricity and piped water, they can be far more salubrious than some types of conventional housing. There are still plenty of former cave-homes in Bridgnorth, including some on Cartway which were last inhabited in 1856. Others beside the river have brick-built extensions, while Lavington's Hole looks like a cave, but is actually the entrance to a tunnel dug under Castle Hill by the Parliamentary forces during the Civil War.

While you're there

Daniel's Mill is a picturesque working watermill which has been in the same family for well over 200 years. The huge waterwheel was cast at Coalbrookdale in 1854 and is said to be the largest in England still in use for grinding corn. The mill, situated next to the Severn Valley Railway, is fun to visit. There's a tea room and you can buy stoneground wholemeal flour produced at the mill.

Where to eat and drink

Bridgnorth is bursting with appealing pubs, restaurants, bistros and tea rooms. A particularly friendly welcome is offered at the Severn Arms on Underhill Street, where tea, coffee and cakes are served in a geranium-filled courtyard. Dogs (in the courtyard only) and children are welcome here, and also at the Railwayman's Arms on Bridgnorth Station, a converted waiting room packed with rail memorabilia.

What to look for

The Hermitage is a series of caves gouged out of the sandstone. One local legend tells of its occupation in ad 925 by a hermit called Ethelred or Ethelward, a grandson of Alfred the Great. This may not be such an unlikely tale, for Bridgnorth was founded in 912 by Alfred the Great's daughter Ethelfleda, the Lady of the Mercians.

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