About 50 Walks in Shropshire
Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Shropshire features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.
The book features all the practical detail you need, including:
- fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
- clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
- every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
- annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
- summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.
Sample walk: All around The Wrekin
- Distance: 8.5 miles (13.7km)
- Minimum Time: 3hrs
- Ascent: 1,585 feet (483m)
- Gradient: 2
- Difficulty: 2
- Paths: Woodland footpaths, urban streets, quiet lanes, 7 stiles
- Landscape: Hills and woods on the edge of Wellington
- Suggested Map: OS Explorer 242 Telford, Ironbridge & The Wrekin
- Start Grid Reference: SJ651113
- Dog Friendliness: Dog heaven, except on firing days (see note below)
- Parking: Belmont or Swimming Pool East car parks, both on Tan Bank, off Victoria Road, Wellington
- Public Toilet: Victoria Street car park, between bus and train stations
Those who live in Shropshire know that The Wrekin is more than just a hill. For all true Salopians it is a sort of focal point and symbol of Shropshire, the embodiment of home, a sentiment implied in the traditional toast 'To all friends around The Wrekin'. Although it reaches only a modest 1,335ft (407m), its splendid isolation makes it seem higher. This illusion is strengthened by its shape: while basically a whaleback, it appears conical from certain angles, like a mini-mountain, giving the impression of an extinct volcano. It isn't, though it is volcanic in origin, an eroded remnant of a vast chunk of rock thrust to the surface around 700 million years ago, putting it among the oldest rocks in the world.
If that origin seems a bit mundane, you might prefer the alternative provided by local folklore, which tells of the giant Gwendol Wrekin ap Shenkin ap Mynyddmawr (or the Devil in another version) who was on his way to Shrewsbury to dam the River Severn with a shovelful of soil. He met a cobbler who guessed what he was up to, showed him the sackful of shoes he was carrying and told him he had worn them all out trying to find Shrewsbury. Frustrated, Gwendol dumped his shovelful on the spot, sparing Shrewsbury from flooding and creating The Wrekin. (It didn't work, however - Shrewsbury floods nearly every winter.)
The return leg of the walk takes you through The Ercall Nature Reserve. The Ercall (pronounced 'arkle') is a small, steep, wooded hill important for its geology as well as its woodlands and wildlife. Much of The Ercall is composed of Wrekin quartzite, a hard, white, crystalline rock around 535 million years old. There are also older volcanic rhyolites, and within these there is what geologists call an intrusion of granophyre, a fine-grained granite formed 560 million years ago. The great engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) used Ercall granophyre when he resurfaced the Roman Watling Street to create his Holyhead Road, on which the modern A5 is based. Stop to read the information boards in the nature reserve to learn the geology and ecology of The Ercall.
- Walk along Tan Bank away from the town centre. Cross Victoria Road and go forward a little way, still on Tan Bank, before turning left on a path just after the police station. Walk to New Church Road and turn right. At Holyhead Road, turn left, then cross to Limekiln Lane, noticing the Old Hall School (built in 1480) on the corner. Soon the slopes of The Wrekin appear, as Limekiln Lane heads under the M54 into open country.
- At the end of the lane, go straight on into Limekiln Wood; the path leads along the edge of the wood at first. At a junction, keep straight on, then after a few paces fork right into the heart of the wood. Ignore branching paths, sticking to the well-trodden main route. At the top, bear right. Pass some boulders in the track, descend to a junction and turn left. Go left again when you come to a road.
- Turn right on the access road to Wrekin Farm. When you reach Wenlocks Wood, leave the farm road, turning right on a field-edge footpath which heads towards The Wrekin. A stile soon gives access to its eastern slopes. Go forward a few paces, then turn left.
- Branch right where a signpost indicates a permissive path. Follow this round the hill to a cross path; turn right and climb a steep, eroded track up the ridge. Continue over the summit, past the telecoms station, and follow the main track down. When you glimpse a house (Wrekin Cottage) through trees on the right, look for a path descending sharply back left. Follow this down as the gradient eases, fork right then in a few paces turn right near the wood's edge.
- Meet a lane and turn right to a T-junction. Join a footpath opposite. Skirt a reservoir and glimpse a second before meeting a lane. Turn left. As you draw almost level with Buckatree Lodge, turn right into The Ercall Nature Reserve. Pass a pool on the right and then an impressive former quarry on the left. Soon you reach a junction: ignore a path doubling back left and go forward a few paces. The main track swings left and climbs to the ridge top.
- To visit the top of The Ercall, turn left; otherwise, go right. A fairly level stretch is followed by a steepening descent, where the path forks. Go right and soon join a lane which passes under the M54. Keep straight on to Holyhead Road. Cross to a footpath opposite. When you reach a road go straight across to another footpath, then turn left on to Tan Bank.
While you're there
Visit one of the National Trust's more unusual properties. You'll pass close by it when you cross Holyhead Road towards the end of the walk. A Victorian suburban house called Sunnycroft, it is typical of many built for prosperous professionals and businessmen, and has survived largely unaltered, its original contents still in place.
Where to eat and drink
Wellington's compact, bustling town centre has a good selection of cafes and pubs. The White Lion on Crown Street is a traditional pub, over 400 years old, with a brand-new kitchen serving up good home-cooked food.
What to look out for
Limekiln Wood is full of intriguing humps and hollows, overgrown now by ferns and ivy but still hinting at its former role as a quarry.