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S hropshire is a county bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Our visit was centred on the southern part of the county, which has no large towns, and a landscape differing greatly from that of North Shropshire. The area is dominated by significant hill ranges and river valleys, woods, pine forests and "batches", a colloquial term for small valleys and other natural features. Farming here is more pastoral than in the arable land found in the north of the county.
Map of Shropshire
Set in a peaceful Shropshire valley near the Welsh border, Stokesay Castle was built in the 1280s by the rich wool merchant Laurence of Ludlow. It's one of the finest surviving fortified manor houses in England. Today it forms an picturesque ensemble of 13th-century towers, a magnificent great hall and 17th-century gatehouse, which is the only substantial addition made to its fabric since the late 13th century. The Castle is in the hamlet of Stokesay, just south of Craven Arms.
- Almost everything visible at Stokesay today was built in the 1280s and 1290s
- The only substantial later addition is the picturesque gatehouse, built in 1640–41.
- Among Stokesay’s many treasures are its medieval staircase and tiled floor, and a richly carved 17th-century chamber (the Solar).
- In the Great Hall, unchanged for more than 700 years, the timber staircase has treads cut from whole tree trunks, They show the carpenters' mark from 1291.
- In the 19th century the castle was sympathetically repaired and preserved thanks to the enlightened efforts of early conservationists.
Tour of Stokesay Castle
- The 17th century Gatehouse
- The 17th century Gatehouse
- Looking back to the Gatehouse
- The Great Hall 1
- The Great Hall 2
- Ancient staircase
- Great Hall sketched by by Frances Stackhouse-Acton in 1868
- South Tower 13th century
- Picturesque doorway
- Solar 1
- Ornate overmantel carved with fruit, flowers and figures in the Solar
- Solar window
- Solar window 2
- View from above taking in the parish church and the beautiful landscape beyond
- Roofscape from the upper floor
- An expectant robin in the tea garden
- What's keeping you?
- View from church
Two Great Walks in the Hills
Stiperstones and Carding Mill Valley & the Long Mynd
- View fron the Stiperstones 1
- Deceptively easy start on the upward trail
- Rocky path 1
- Upward trail 1
- Upward trail 2
- Wild cotton
- Upward trail 3
- Nearly there
- Views out to the Long Mynd
- Shattered Cambrian quartzite at Stiperstones
- Manstone Rock, the highest point on the Stiperstones ridge
- Manstone Rock
- John on the top on the top of Manstone Rock
The Stiperstones is a quartzite ridge, Quartzite is rock formed some 480 million years ago during the last Ice Age when the summit stood out above the glaciers. So it was subject to constant freezing and thawing which shattered the quartzite into a mass of jumbled scree, surrounding several residual rocky tors. The summit ridge is crowned by rugged, jagged outcrops of rock silhouetted against the sky. Manstone Rock is the highest of these at 536 metres (1,759ft), and is topped with a trig point. The Devil's Chair is the largest and best known of these outcrops. It's a great place to view the Shropshire Hills, particularly the Long Mynd to the east and beyond. The Stiperstones is a haven for wildlife, with birds that are normally associated with upland areas, including red grouse, Eurasian curlew, peregrine falconand the rare ouzel. The Stiperstones rocks are easy to get to as there is a car park not too far from the summit. Stiperstones is classed as a Marilyn.
We were lucky to have a beautiful day to do our walk up from the car park. At the start it's a wide, grassy path so you could be lulled into a false sense of the terrain, Very soon, though, it becomes increasingly rocky and much steeper. The views on all sides, though, are spectacular and the whole experience is full of interest.
Church Stretton to the Long Mynd
We followed a beautiful woodland track up from Church Stretton to the Carding Mill Valley on the Long Mynd, which is a heath and moorland plateau that forms part of the Shropshire Hills. This area has many miles of walks and drives. We chose to drive on from the National Trust cafe at Carding Mill across a spectacular section of the Long Mynd, where we paused to admire the hang-gliders taking off. Our memorable (and somewhat hairy) route down was via a very steep twisty road to the Horseshoe Inn at Ratlinghope, then back to the campsite via Bishop's Castle.
Walk from Church Stretton to Carding Mill Valley
The Priory Ruins
An Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded here in about 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia, whose abbess daughter Milburge was hailed as a saint. Her relics were believed to have been re-discovered here in 1101, attracting both pilgrims and prosperity to the priory. By then Wenlock had been re-founded by the Normans as a priory of Cluniac monks.
The Norman chapter house, built around 1140 as the "business" centre of the monastery, where the monks and the prior met each morning to discuss affairs, and administer penances for disobedience. Today, you can still see much of its elaborate stone carving, with interlocking round arches on multiple carved columns. The Cluniac monks were known for their preference for decorations of this sort.
An impressive feature of the cloister is the most unusual octagonal lavabo, the huge water vessel built around 1220 and used by monks to wash their hands before eating in the nearby refectory. It is embellished with 12th-century carvings, depicting Christ and the apostles, Free-standing lavabos of this kind are rarely seen in the United Kingdom.
Some Towns & Villages we visited in Shropshire
Our Campsite in Shropshire
We very much enjoyed staying at this beautifully kept, adult-only site on the border of Shropshire and Powys. The facilities are excellent and the setting is most peaceful, yet is within easy reach of many beautiful towns, villages and countryside.
View from our Pitch
Site Maintenance in progress
A Marilyn is a mountain or hill in the British Isles (including Ireland) with a relative height of at least 150 metres (492 ft). The name was coined as an ironic contrast to the designation Munro, that is used of a Scottish mountain with a height of more than 3,000 feet, which is homophonous with (Marilyn) Monroe.
It would seem obvious to think of Clun as a village, but it has the distinction of being granted a very early town charter in the 14th century. It was also mentioned in the Domesday Book. There is archaeological evidence of habitation 5000 years ago, with Neolithic and Bronze Age tools on display in the town’s museum. Overlooking the town is the ruined Borderland castle, perched high on 2 ice age mounds with the River Clun running past it,
The narrow 15th century stone packhorse bridge divides the town in two, the ancient part on the south and the newer Norman town on the north.
The oldest part of the town is by St George’s Church. It was inhabited very early, perhaps by Bronze Age people; the churchyard indicates pre-Christian inhabitants and worship. The Celts probably also worshipped on this spot, thus the origin of the name. There was also thought to have been an Anglo-Saxon church on the spot. Today’s church is Norman and of great size and it sits high on a hill looking down to the River Clun, the Castle and the two halves of the town. There are ancient yews on the churchyard, which is allowed to remain as a wild flower space.
“Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun are the quietest places under the sun”
Glimpses of Much Wenlock Town
The 16th Century Guildhall
Much Wenlock is a picture-postcard town, full of timber-framed buildings, attractive shops and interesting sights. The town grew up around the priory and by the medieval period had became wealthy. This prosperity can be seen in the many late medieval and Elizabethan buildings around the town. Edward IV granted Much Wenlock a charter in 1468 and, after the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII, the burgesses built the Guildhall on High Street to serve as a court room and later as a council chamber which is still in use.
Ludlow has more Michelin Starred restaurants than any other town in the country, but food isn’t the only reason to visit Ludlow. It was famously described by John Betjeman as "the loveliest town in England". There are over five hundred listed buildings, mainly Georgian or half-timbered, a magnificent castle and a most interesting parish church. The name of the town is believed to derive from two old English words "hlud" (meaning loud and describing the river) and "hlaw" (meaning hill), so "a place on a hill by the loud river". Ludlow and its castle are perched on a cliff above the picturesque River Teme. Ludlow was carefully planned by the Normans and the rectangular street plan can still be seen in the medieval heart of the town. There has been a market in Ludlow for over seven hundred years and it remains one of the main attractions.
We were charmed by the small market town of Church Stretton and its old buildings on the main street. The town was nicknamed "Little Switzerland" in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods for its landscape, and it became a health resort.
The parish church of St Laurence is especially interesting; the present building dates from the twelfth century and even has a remnant of its Anglo-Saxon origins: a stone carved fertility symbol called a "Sheela na gig" on one of the outside walls! However, it was clear when we ventured inside that it has a very lively, forward-looking community. We were lucky enough to see the installation of a newly carved oak altar by the man who made it.