the round of callow hollow on the long mynd

Wed, Aug 20, 2008

We were down for a relly wedding last week, staying with the in-laws near Telford, so before the rain came back on, I took the offer of a lift to Minton and walked back to Little Stretton, going up Packetstone Hill, round the head of Callow Hollow and down Round Hill and down the side of Callow. The weather down south has been pretty bad all summer apparently, unlike up here on Skye where we started off with 3 months of unbroken sunshine and no rain. It’s been the complete opposite on Albion’s Plain. Rain and floods all summer. It was Monday in Minton though and I headed up the rather steep slopes out of the sleepy wee village, into the tundra of the Long Mynd.

The path up Packetstone Hill

After a steep pull, it was fabulously pleasant walking on a very good path indeed, surrounded by masses of billberry and honey sweet heather. It really is a contrast to the stark rock of the Cuillin but I just love these big open skies and high moorlands. I could walk all day over them but you eventually come up against a road or a cluster of habitations. On the western horizon, great storm clouds marched across the land, dumping vast curtains of rain. A wind blown tree on the moor gave it a Pythonesque touch. All it needed was the tolling of a bell and a figure in flowing robes.

The walking really is pleasant in these parts although it was rather different to watch gliders just overhead as they swished past and banked steeply to plunge straight down the slope out of sight. Approaching The Portway path, which runs along the main, single track road at the head of Callow Hollow, I came across a fork in the path, not marked on the map. The map showed the path following the south bank of the reentrant, so that’s what I did and ended up in pathless, boggy and very rooty ground. It’s in these situations you realise why 1:25,000 is the norm south of the border as there are so many paths, walls, fences, dykes, trees and hedgerows everywhere and the 1:50,000 just doesn’t cut it as the detail isn’t there.

The path down Round Hill

You’d think the walking in these parts would be easy going but you’d be mistaken. I’d met this type of ground back in January on my Clee Hills jaunt, where instead of following the path, I got the compass out and navved through the clag and some very hard going ground. It was similar up on Packetstone Hill when I ran out of path. Very rough and deep heather, boggy and lots and lots of roots to trip over. It would be a different proposition walking across these hills without paths.

It was then that I realised some of the pressures put on campers in areas like this. When Darren started his legalise wild camping petition, I thought, well, how hard can it be? Just head up the hill and camp but as I waded through waist deep heather and willow it occurred to me that there aren’t that many wild camping spots that are hidden from either roads or habitation. Of course, there were fantastic camping spots but they were next to the road. I heard once that a bone-fide traveller can pitch a tent at the verge overnight but not sure if it’s an ancient law or just myth or whether I’d actually want to camp that near the road.

Church Stretton and Caer Caradoc from the top above Cross Dyke

After rounding Callow Hollow and having a look at a small forest not on the map, I headed off down Round Hill on a veritable grassy motorway and still not a person in sight. On down to Cross Dyke where you could certainly wild camp, although you’d be hard pushed for water. The slopes into Callow Hollow and Ashes Hollow are pretty steep. I nipped up to the cairn on the unnamed top above the bealach and again, it was hard going. The nearer I got to the top, the deeper the heather and the gnarlier the ground. I was lifting my feet almost above my head at one point to get past some particularly deep holes and heather! But the view from the top was worth it, with Caer Caradoc leading the eye across the plains to The Wrekin. I pronounce it “reckin” but the rellies jump up and down and say it should be “reekin”! Sorry, only getting my own back on their Gaelic hill pronunciation! I also pronounce Leominster as “lee-o-minster”. That really gets their goat up! Apparently it’s “lemstir” and I delight in saying “brid-gih-north” as there’s no “e” in Bridgnorth. Eccentric but fun!

Little Stretton

The path then heads north east round the side of Callow and down the balcony path to Little Stretton, where I was looking forward to a pint of real ale. Unfortunately father-in-law turned up just as I arrived, with nephew Joe (5) in toe who was soaked from building dams on Caer Caradoc so we had to just head back to the house of rellies.

Caer Caradoc and Church Stretton

I’d always wanted to wander on the Mynd and I’ve already got my next walk planned, when we’re down that way again. I’ll walk from Church Stretton over Caer Caradoc and come down to Cardington as apparently it has some fantastic real ales in a small Shropshire village. Just my kind of day out!

You can see all the pics here.

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