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Local Directory

Two Walks from Cardingmill Valley

 

WALK 1 - A Ridge Too Far

Author -- Barbara Vickery
Start -- Carding Mill Valley -- Top Car Park
Finish -- Church Stretton -- Burway Road
Route -- Cow Ridge -- Burway Hill
Time -- 1.5 hours approx

If what you're after is a gentle morning or afternoon stroll at a leisurely pace -- then this is definitely not the walk for you. This walk is all about the maximum effort in the minimum time -- so if you're not into steep ascents and even steeper descents, I shouldn't bother reading any further, as this walk has plenty of both to get the heart racing and the legs trembling. If at this point, you're still with me however, -- good for you, as you are about to embark upon a challenge that is well worth every ounce of sweat!

You can do this walk any time of the day but I especially like it really early. Not only does this mean that I'm back in Church Stretton in time for a leisurely breakfast - with the whole day still ahead of me, but also that I get to appreciate the Long Mynd's misty morning magic and stillness.... which is, at this time of day, quite extraordinary!

We begin our adventure in Carding Mill Valley, at the top car park, where you turn into the path leading to New Pool Hollow....but only for a few yards because now you come upon Cow Ridge on your right. This is a mean looking, rocky ridge that leads your eye up and up to a clear rocky outcrop at the top. If you think it looks a hard way up -- you're absolutely right -- it is. But the good news is that it won't take you very long. Give yourself 20 minutes to get up -- with a few stops on the way of course to admire the stunning views (and catch a breath). Although there are clear paths going either side of the ridge, my advice is to stick with the left hand path initially, until you meet the Pipe Walk path which crosses over Cow ridge -- thereafter I try to stick to the actual ridge line as much as possible, which although tougher underfoot gives you that sense of being 'on top' all the time. ('Course this isn't always possible early morning as you will almost certainly encounter a few dozy sheep who may either be too sleepy or just too plain stubborn to move out your way). Whichever route you take, there's no way you'll avoid a scramble -- so be prepared to use your hands to get up the first part of the ridge.

Once you start getting higher, you begin to appreciate why I like this walk so much -- the views of Carding Mill Valley are stunning -- little wonder that it is our most prized tourist attraction. It is breathtaking and can be appreciated all the more when it's not heaving with people as it so often is later in the day. Higher still, Church Stretton and the Stretton Hills come into view and at the rocky outcrop which marks the top of this ridge, you can see as far out as Ironbridge and the Clee Hills. By now your heart should be pumping so take a breather and congratulate yourself on having climbed one of the toughest routes up the Long Mynd. This is a great place to just 'contemplate' -- especially in the early morning stillness where the only sound to disturb your thoughts is likely to be an occasional grouse call. Did you know that the National Trust count these birds every year? Teams of dedicated volunteers comb the hills -- literally at the crack of dawn, listening for the call of these very elusive creatures -- actually seeing one is an added bonus!

The next stage is a doddle -- along a very obvious track that swings to your left towards the Burway in the distance. This is Long Mynd walking at its most delightful -- gentle path through masses of heather and whinberry, (did I mention the odd clump of bracken as well? ... hey, nothing's perfect in this world!) The path eventually reaches the Burway near some loose soil banks that the NT has recently constructed. Now I'm sure I can hear the purists among you shuddering at the thought of walking on tarmac -- but fret not, because there's a perfectly lovely, wide, grassy path on the left alongside the road - just follow this until it eventually becomes a narrow track through the heather and bracken. It's still pretty clear though so you can't miss it...just keep the road on your right. Eventually this path begins to veer away from the road towards a slight hill on the left and then swings round back down again to the Burway. I have sometimes encountered overnight campers on this path, thinking that they had the hills to themselves -- (so if you find any stray tents and feel tempted to shout 'BOO' as you go past -- go ahead, they shouldn't be camping there anyway!)

So, here we are, after another 15 minutes easy walking, back at the Burway again, and our path lies directly opposite on the other side -- (fanatical purists at this point can extend their walking pole to its greatest length and pole vault across...the rest of us mere mortals however will just have to take to the tarmac).

As you turn left into the path on the other side, you'll notice a hill looming ahead in the distance. This is Burway Hill and is visible from many points on the Long Mynd -- where it sometimes resembles a tiny pimple. Today however, I guarantee that it will seem more of a carbuncle to you -- as that is your next destination. You've been taking it easy long enough now -- time for some more effort, so get yourself psyched up as you approach Burway Hill. You will notice when you get there, that the waymarked footpath points to a gentle-looking route to the left of Burway Hill. Hold it .... not so fast! Sure - you can wimp out and take this easier route if you like -- or you can do it the hard way (which is what this walk is all about isn't it?), and go straight up! (And in case you're wondering about going 'off path', I have checked with the NT that it is OK to recommend the tougher route up!). A word of warning about this path however....it's slippery - in any weather, but especially when it's dry. Loose soil and scree are not surfaces which provide good grip so -- be careful!

The benefits of going up the hard way are that you not only get to feel 'on top of the world' by walking the ridge (which you miss completely if you follow the waymarked path), but you also get to see the awesome views down into Devil's Mouth and Townbrook Hollow. Take your time walking the ridge and for heaven's sake - only go near the edge if you have a head for heights! It's a long way down....

Now just when you begin to think the worst is over -- you actually encounter the toughest challenge in the whole walk -- coming down off Burway Hill! This is a very tricky business indeed as it is extremely steep in places....so be warned that you will need to take your time and make use of your walking pole. The path is pretty obvious along the top and leads you directly towards an edge where the path down has been badly eroded by generations of walkers whose boots have worn actual 'steps' into the ground. You can choose this way if you like, (and I've done this bit by the seat of my pants usually), or you can move slightly to your left and go down the hill where the slope is gentler and is still grassed so the purchase is better, then rejoin the main path at the bottom.

Follow this clear path up the next hill and you'll start to see Church Stretton below you. In my view, this is the best view of Stretton from anywhere either on the Long Mynd or the Stretton Hills. This is because you are practically above the very centre of the town -- with Russell's Meadow and Sandford Avenue directly below you. From this point on, the path becomes rather more indistinct but my advice is to keep left...where more than one path appears, choose the left one. If you keep walking in the direction of Russell's Meadow, (the large green field in the centre of the town below), you won't go far wrong. (Have I mentioned the rabbit holes by the way? -- there's loads of them on this hillside so watch where you put your feet!). Keeping on downhill, you'll come across a large patch of bracken ahead -- keep left of this to discover a more obvious path leading down, again to the left, which finally brings you out right at the base of the Burway, in front of the large stone outcrop which is such a feature of this location.

By now your knees will probably be killing you -- but you're in luck because there's a seat at the bottom where you can sit and contemplate your remarkable achievement -- or maybe plan what you're going to have for breakfast -- just a short walk further down Burway Road!

Go on -- indulge yourself -- you've earned it!

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Walk 2 - Pools and Pipes

Author -- Barbara Vickery
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1.5 hours

On a hot sunny weekend, most people might seek to avoid Carding Mill Valley on the grounds that it is jam-packed with people enjoying a day out. But have you ever asked yourself just why this valley is so popular? Is it because there's plenty of easy parking? Is it because there's a safe, shallow stream for the kids to play in? Is it because there are decent loos and a great little tearoom for refreshments? Or maybe because there's a shop full of wonderful gift ideas? Well there's no doubt that Carding Mill Valley boasts all these facilities - but you can't get away from the indisputable fact that it is also by far, the most dramatic and picturesque of all the Long Mynd Valleys. Wandering through this glorious landscape, with its steep intersecting slopes, deep-cut side valleys, streams, pools and waterfalls, it is easy to imagine that you are somewhere in the Alps. (Not for nothing has this area earned the nickname of 'Little Switzerland') And very tempting it is too, to follow in the footsteps of most serious walkers and climb up into the surrounding hills, but you must curb your energetic tendencies because our walk today is an exploration of the length and breadth of the delightful 'inner' world that makes up Carding Mill Valley. Indeed, this series of monthly walks would not be complete without a closer inspection of the one valley that really puts us on the map!

So lets start at the lower car park. Even getting to this point, (walking into the valley from the Shrewsbury Rd), the scenery is spectacular - dramatic slopes on every side and a gentle stream on the valley floor. I can remember my very first Xmas in Church Stretton when it snowed on Xmas Day and Boxing Day. Overnight, these hills were magically transformed into a winter wonderland full of kids (old and young!) - having the time of their lives tobogganing down the snow-covered slopes. It looked exactly like a Christmas card! This valley has certainly seen its fair share of action. Do you remember the elderly gentleman who took a wrong turn on the Burway and ended up taking the direct, but somewhat unconventional route straight down the steep slope, to the tearoom? You wouldn't forget a sight like that in a hurry!

Continue up the valley past the NT Tearoom. If, like me, you are an early riser, this won't be open yet but you can anticipate its delights at the end of your walk. Pass by a rather ugly block of flats on your left, which used be the actual Carding Mill that the valley is named after. There's no time or space to fill you in on its history here but you can find out more at the end of the walk when you visit the Tearoom. Cross over the footbridge at the stream, and walk up to the top car park. Did you know that this used to be a swimming pool - and not that long ago either? In fact you can still see the depth pole at the far end of the car park. Can't you just imagine how glorious this must have been when it was full of water, surrounded by these slopes? I wish I'd seen it in those days.

Our path crosses the stream again - take the first bridge on the left going up towards the reservoir. This is New Pool Hollow and it follows a narrow stream along a wide valley floor with the grandeur of Cow Ridge on your right. Walk on until you reach a steep grassy slope in front of you. Getting up here used to take a bit of effort but recently, the National Trust have created a magnificent set of stone steps on the left which makes the climb a whole lot easier. Since I was among the volunteers who helped to build them, I always enjoy overhearing people's comments as they use these steps -- most are complimentary and many think that they look really natural -- as indeed they do.

Once at the top, take some time to admire the old reservoir that unbelievably, used to supply the water for the Stretton community. We've long outgrown it now of course but thank God it is still here - noone has thought to concrete over it, so we can still appreciate its peculiarly eerie beauty, (particularly on a grey, misty morning). I would love to stand in the tower that marks the centre of this pool as this is especially evocative, and often think it a shame that you can't actually get to it. Of course, I'd also probably de-rust the entire structure and paint it lilac or bright pink - to really make it a feature - but I realise that wouldn't be to everybody's taste!

Take the bridge to the left of the reservoir and cross over the stile, up the set of steps (wooden ones this time but also erected by the NT), into the small woodland area that lies behind New Pool. This wood is regularly maintained by the National Trust, whose volunteers can frequently be seen working here, (although I seem to remember that our last work visit was brought to a halt by a pair of nesting ducks!) The path runs along one side of the reservoir and back along the other. But when you get to the central point by the weir, you'll notice a stile into the valley beyond. It's well worth detouring a little way into this. Indeed, you can actually follow the right hand fork of this valley right up to the plateau of the Long Mynd - but that's not our intention today. Do I hear a sigh of relief ? You will be pleased to hear that this walk is strictly low-level stuff.

I like this little valley. It has a quiet, 'undiscovered' air about it and would be a great place to come to be by yourself for a while. Retrace your steps over the stile into the wood again, and continue on the route around the pool to the other side emerging back onto the grassy plain in front of the reservoir.

Our path now follows ahead of you to the left. This route is known as the 'Pipe Walk' - so named after the large pipes which you will notice buried in the hillside as you walk its course. Once upon a time, these pipes carried water from Lightspout Hollow into the old reservoir. Of course they aren't used today but the name has stuck. Take care on this path as it is very narrow in places and has a sharp drop on the right side. Halfway along, the path crosses onto Cow Ridge and out of New Pool Hollow before swinging left and back down into Carding Mill Valley proper. You now walk above the valley floor on your right, until the path finally descends to the stream where the valley forks into Lightspout Hollow (on the left) and Motts Road (on the right). Both these routes lead to the top but I haven't forgotten that I promised you only low level walking, so our path today lies to the left. I like to think that the lower reaches of Lightspout Hollow, up to the waterfall, are still contained within the 'inner world' of Carding Mill Valley.

This path can be tricky underfoot as it is quite rocky and uneven in places - but it is well worth the effort because it leads to the only real waterfall in the whole of the Long Mynd. The narrow gorge-like valley somehow draws you in, so that you feel as if you are plunging deep into the unknown - the sides getting rapidly steeper until you suddenly emerge at the dramatic full stop that marks the waterfall. At certain times of the year, this can be a raging torrent where you can't hear yourself speak. But I've also seen it completely frozen over - a silent spray of icicles that sparkle in the sunlight. It doesn't matter what season you visit, you'll find something to delight you here.

Take a few moments to have a look at the incredibly natural-looking steps that the NT created here to open up the valley beyond the Fall. (I've spent many hours on my hands and knees here, sweeping these steps free of loose debris in order to reduce the risk of slipping!) On another occasion, you might choose to continue up here into the upper reaches of Lightspout Hollow - but today, we retrace our steps back along the valley floor to the junction with Motts Rd. Re-cross the stream here and return via the lower path that runs along the bottom of Carding Mill Valley. Just after the upper car park, you'll notice a rocky ridge on your left. This is The Pike - a very descriptive name for a great ridge climb. From here you can get to the Golf Course and also onto Bodbury Hill for a look at the old Iron Age Hill Fort which tops this. But I suggest that you keep that for another occasion, as the NT tearoom should be in sight by now and I'm sure that you must be feeling in need of a cuppa and a slice of well-earned cake!

Barbara Vickery