Mucklewick and Stiperstones

Thursday 13 September: a cool fresh day on Shropshire’s wild western fringe – this weather is great for a walk in these quiet (apart from the gunfire) hills. From The Bog, we’ll head for Mucklewick Hill (whose summit may be lower than our starting point), then down to Nind and up past the shooting range, where it sounds like they’re playing with their rocket-propelled grenades today. After a late lunch below The Rock (imaginative names in these parts), we’ll follow the ridge northwards, past the Devil’s Chair (he’s not sitting today, fortunately), before dropping back to the start, for tea and cakes at the Bog Centre (was the walking just an excuse?).

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Bog, Black Ditch and Black Rhadley

There’s barely a cloud in the blue sky – it’s a day that’s too good to waste. We’re off to The Bog, for a walk along the southern ridge of the Stiperstones to Black Rhadley, and when we get back, the Bog Centre is open for tea and cakes. What more could one ask? That was intended to be a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway: “peace and quiet” – and yes, we had that too. Despite the weather being unusually good, we saw hardly anyone else on our walk, the shooters at the range were quieter than normal and even the dogs in the kennels failed to disturb the calm (there must have been others about – the cakes had nearly all gone!).

Bog Visitor Centre

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Mucklewick mud

Friday 10 Nov: One of us felt we should visit the Christmas fair at the Bog Centre – it would be quieter, perhaps, than the Saturday and Sunday. While we’re out there, a walk would be in order – it’s bright and breezy, with plenty of sunshine and just the odd spot of rain in the wind every now and then. We set off with no firm route in mind, and ended up with a route that was decidedly unfirm. The last few fields were seriously soggy – it was “pick your way very carefully” territory. If the Christmas fair was relatively quiet, the walk was even quieter – we saw no-one from leaving the Bog until we returned a couple of hours later. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else on Mucklewick Hill. I’m not complaining…

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Kites and alpacas…

It’s busy on the Stiperstones this afternoon – lots of black sheep, at least two red kites, a grouse, a good number of alpacas and several llamas. There were quite a few people too, in the more popular parts – something to do with it being half-term, and the weather fine, clear and sunny? Young parents and children, a largish party armed with pointy sticks and a large group of – were they schoolteachers? Our greatest fear was that they might arrive at the Bog before we did, and that it might be packed anyway. Our fears were unfounded – just a medium-sized group around one of the tables, and it seems one of us knew them all anyway, so that was OK. The tea and cakes were, as ever, excellent (and well-earned, of course).

The Bog visitor centre

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A short walk on a long day

It’s the longest day of the year today – it has been one of the hottest too, though we managed to keep comfortable on a very pleasant short walk at the south end of the Stiperstones ridge, with a visit to the top of Black Rhadley. It was (relatively) cool in the woods, and on top there was a good breeze blowing. We celebrated with half a punnet of English strawberries (we’d eaten the other half at lunchtime!) – best strawberries I’ve had for many years too. There are other berries up here. The birds have obviously been eating something bilberry-coloured – but it will be a good few weeks before they’re ripe. In between the baby bilberries, we spotted interlopers, which I reckon were crowberries. Didn’t try them… We certainly wouldn’t have tried the fine fungus we’d found in the woods earlier. A common earthball with a stalk? Is there such a thing?

The tea / cold drink and cake at the Bog Centre were good, as ever.

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Black Rhadley

The beginning of April marks an eagerly-awaited turning point in the South Shropshire calendar – the Bog Centre opens up for the season. That fact (with its implied prospect of excellent cakes, scones etc.) was the clincher when I asked my friend where he thought we might go for today’s walk.

Before we can enjoy those refreshments, of course, we have to earn them, and we haven’t even had lunch yet. Black Rhadley, overlooking the river West Onny as it winds through the Linley Hall estates, should be a suitable spot. It was, too – extensive views in all directions, and wonderfully quiet – just the birds, and there’s that curlew again. Lunch over, we head northwards along the Stiperstones ridge, as far as the head of Perkins Beach, where we turn back toward The Bog for tea and Stiperscones.

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Stiperstones in October

We’re walking the length of the ridge, from Snailbeach to the Rock, on a fine autumn day with the promise of some sunshine. The starting point is significant – one of our objectives is the Bog Centre for tea and cake – if we’d started there, it might have been closed by the time we returned (and that would never do!). So we’re heading out past Lordshill chapel and the Hollies, and two-thirds of the way around this very enjoyable route we come to the Bog, feeling suitably peckish. We return by the paths skirting Perkins Beach and Crowsnest Dingle, back to Snailbeach past that very fine octagonal chimney high up in the woods. And yes, after a dull start, the sun did shine, though it looked like we’d seen the last of it when we arrived back in Snailbeach. We hadn’t, of course – inevitably, it shone brightly while we drove home, floodlighting the autumn trees against a dark sky. Wonderful – but no photos.

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Wall to wall

That’s what the forecast said about the sunshine – we had to go… Stiperstones in April – warm sunshine, cool air and a pleasant breeze, perfect conditions for a walk on this rocky ridge. We started at the Bog car park – so that we could end at the Bog Centre (tea and cakes again). If we walked to Snailbeach, along the hill-edge paths, we could come back up through the Hollies and follow the ridge. The now-obligatory red kite wheeled over the far hillside, and a little later, a rarer bird, so to speak: a red grouse stalked carefully along just yards from the path. We’ll sometimes hear them up here, gurgling comically and telling us to go back, but this one remained silent. Minutes earlier, we’d noted how quiet it was. He must have heard us…

The Bog Visitor Centre

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Mucklewick in May

Sounds charming, doesn’t it? We started out from The Bog… It was warm, clear, sunny – beautiful! Gone are the pastel shades of the winter months – it’s all in technicolor today.

We leave the Bog car park by the new path beside the road, heading north-east on a walk that would be south-west of our starting point. There’s method in our madness – we’re avoiding a short stretch of path that can be seriously muddy. Later, as we descend from the ridge, a fairly comfortable rock beneath The Rock provides us with table and chairs (I exaggerate) for lunch – a near-perfect spot, away from the wind (a light breeze, very welcome later in the afternoon) and the gunfire. It’s not the quietest part of the county…

Quiet tracks (on the opposite side of the ridge to the shooting range) and a very minor road take us down to the West Onny valley, then via Nind back up onto the hills. Mucklewick Hill is another pleasant spot (enjoying that breeze now) for the last of the day’s provisions before, after a short descent, the long gentle rise to tea and cakes at the Bog Centre (highly recommended!).

The Bog Visitor Centre