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Shropshire Hills, Shropshire

Those Blue Remembered Hills

Into my heart on air that kills, From yon far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those?

That is the Land of Lost Content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went, And cannot come again.

From A Shropshire Lad, A. E. Housman.(1859 – 1936)


When first travelling down the A49 from Shrewsbury to Ludlow, with the rolling Hills of the Long Mynd to the west and the Stretton Hills to the east I could not help but be reminded of the poem by Edward Houseman that first came to my attention when watching Dennis Potter's play of the same name about his early life as a Shropshire lad.

The Shropshire Hills are an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in Shropshire, England. Any traveller on the A49 from Shrewsbury to Ludlow can't help but notice the natural beauty of those heather covered rolling hills that cry out for further exploration. The AONB covers an area of 802 sq kms, and is bounded by the Stiperstones close to the Welsh Borders in the north west, the Wrekin close to Telford in the north east, the Clee Hills in the south east and the Clun Forest in the south west.

The only major towns within the boundary are Church Stretton and Clun although there are many pleasant villages and hamlets to be found within the Shropshire Hills including Craven Arms, Lydbury North, Bishops Castle, Acton Scott, Lower Dinchope to name a few. The Long Mynd and Stretton hills form the backdrop to the market town of Church Stretton, while Clun nestles in the rolling hills of the Clun Valley. Just outside the AONB boundary are the picturesque market towns of Ludlow, Bishop's Castle, Much Wenlock, Cleobury Mortimer and Knighton (just across the border in Wales).

The western edge is border country and centuries of struggle are etched into the landscape. Iron Age hillforts can be found on most hills including - Nordy Bank, Caradoc and Bury Ditches to name but a few. Offa's Dyke, the great 8th century earthwork, is at its best through the Shropshire Hills. Climb Llanfair Hill above Clun and marvel at how this mighty monument was achieved with little more than men and shovels. The medieval castles and fortified houses such as Ludlow, Stokesay and Clun also tell of the area's turbulent history.

With all this history and fantastic scenery it is no surprise that the Shropshire Hills are a favourite with walkers, equestrians and cyclists.

Walks include: the Offa's Dyke National Trail [some say the Shropshire Hills section are the best part of the 177 mile trail]; the Shropshire Way; the Kerry Ridgeway; with many more lesser known walks spread throughout the Shropshire hills. Indeed the towns of Church Stretton and Bishop's Castle have been designated "Walkers are Welcome towns" that highlight the excellent facilities on offer for walkers. A number of way-marked walks start from the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, taking in the beautiful countryside around Craven Arms. The Bog Visitor Centre has a number of easy to follow walks sign-posted in the Stiperstones district. The Carding Mill Valley near Church Stretton is a very popular walking destination, and The National Trust Information Centre has details of walks onto the Long Mynd and around the Stretton Hills.

Horse Riding: Shropshire is blessed with over 600 miles of byways and bridleways, crisscrossing their way through the countryside. The horse-friendly peaks of the Shropshire Hills compete with the north of the county where a varied lowland of canals, rivers, meres give way to the ancient hills of the Shropshire-Wales border.

Bicycle and Mountain Bike Trails: The Shropshire Hills and indeed the county of Shropshire offer many trails to please both cyclists and mountain bikers with choices from quiet country lanes and ancient market towns to the wild and Whacky mountain bike trails favoured by the crazy gang of mountain bikers. Some trails can be hilly yet easily achievable in a day. Others offer visits en route to a number of exciting attractions such as iron age hill forts, historic churches and medieval castles.

Nature lovers will appreciate the wealth of flora and fauna to be found within the Shropshire Hills. Most strikingly perhaps the purple heather on those blue remembered hills. But look out for the sparkling yellow flowers of bog asphodel, the delicate cotton grass and marsh violets which nestle alongside them. These upland areas are home to a variety of birds including red grouse, curlew, skylark and meadow pipit. Buzzard, raven and the occasional Red Kite can be seen soaring above the hills. The valleys and hillsides are a patchwork of small fields where you can still find wildflower meadows. Wood warbler, pied flycatcher and redstart may be seen in the summer.

Trees are another important feature of the Shropshire Hills. The area is a stronghold of the black poplar, one of our rarest native trees. A large number of veteran trees have been recorded in the area, providing ideal habitats for many rare and specialised invertebrates. Many of the rivers and streams are lined with alder and willow, which was traditionally coppiced for timber clog soles, firewood and charcoal gunpowder.

The Shropshire Hills are also renowned for their varied geology, which spans many geological eras; 700 million years ago to recent ice and river deposits. The fossilised seabeds of Wenlock Edge, the rugged volcanic rocks of the Stretton hills and the rounded sandstones of the Clun Forest, have created the character of today's landscape.

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