Caer Caradoc, Ragleth Hill & Hope Bowdler Hill

13 11 2016

Sat 22 Oct 2016
A while back, I was sent an HF (Holiday Fellowship) brochure for walking holidays, a good many of which were in areas of Britain we haven’t visited. Richard was keen for us to go somewhere different so we had a browse through and agreed we’d try Church Stretton in Shropshire for our first HF holiday to see whether we liked the setup of the holidays.

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Caer Caradoc – R Wood

Photos my film and Richard’s digi (marked)

We arrived at The Long Mynd Hotel on the Friday night – this huge old hotel is now owned by HF and was superb. I’m sure we had one of the best rooms – we wondered whether they gave the best rooms to folk new to HF Holidays – if they did, it certainly has encouraged us to go with them again sometime. That and we found the setup of the holidays was really good.

Our hotel room faced south across the valley with superb views to Ragleth Hill and also the southern end of The Long Mynd. As the hotel is high up the valley side on the slopes of the Long Mynd and the season was autumn, the view was probably about the best I’ve ever had from a hotel anywhere.

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R Wood

The holiday was full board with great breakfasts, nice 3 course evening meals and a packed lunch for the daytime. Our first evening had a short welcome talk before the evening meal which we duly attended. We’d booked on the holiday as self-guided as we normally don’t usually like walking with groups unless they’re regular hillwalkers as we often find the walks slow and halting – we generally don’t stop for much when we’re out unless the weather is superb.

However, during the welcome talk, the three walking guides outlined their routes. The easy walk was of no interest to us as it would be at far too slow a pace and we need more exercise than that nowadays to keep mobile. The middle one was quite a bit better… when the third guide stood up and outlined his ‘hard walk’, it was the two hills we planned to do on the Sunday plus another hill – Ragleth Hill which we’d been admiring from our room window. A quick whispered discussion and I decided to put our names forward for that walk on the Saturday as we’d been given a voucher to go on a led walk if we wanted to.

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Ragleth Hill – why not!

The next morning, I was chatting to our guide as we headed down a lovely track through the woods below the hotel to Long Stretton village, and found he’d not only lived in my village for quite a while but also on my street in the house I’d looked at buying before I bought my current one!

Just opposite one of the pubs (which was luckily shut otherwise we’d have lost Richard!) we turned off down a lane towards the busy A49 road. After crossing the railway we reached the road which fortunately wasn’t too busy at that time on a Saturday morning. We all dashed across and picked up a footpath more or less opposite signposted for Ragleth Hill, our first objective.

The hill was a pretty steep ascent but I plodded very steadily up and my chest was actually okay (but I have just had a course of steroids). The hill should have been a superb viewpoint but unfortunately the morning mist was right down and we couldn’t see anything. Along the summit ridge it was absolutely freezing as we’d picked up the bitter wind which had been blowing all week. As we’d reached the start of the ridge we were fascinated to see the whole area was covered by spiders webs which were soaked with dew and mist and looked great. I persuaded Richard to take a digi-photo…

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The hill was a really pleasant ramble along its long ridge and we were just sorry there were no views either side.

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We reached the far end and descended back to a little lane past a tiny farm in a lovely location. Just as we set off for a footpath to descend through the woods, we bumped into the farmer and his son who’d come along to try to convert the gate into the woods into a self-shutting gate as they said people kept leaving it open. I was surprised at how strong their accent was – they almost sounded like West Country folk – it was a proper country accent!

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If you’re going down here, shut the gate please!

We descended into the top Eastern end of Church Stretton and followed a pleasant street on the edge of the town to the B road which heads to Hope Bowdler village. Across the road was our second objective of Hope Bowdler Hill which has a superb rock tooth at the end of the ridge called The Gaer Stone which Richard and I had to have a scramble up.

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Gaer Stone (above) Looking Back to Ragleth Hill (below) both R Wood
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the-gaer-stone

The ridge was a another lovely walk and we soon reached the summit in slightly better conditions – we could now see most of our surroundings – unfortunately, our next spectacular hill was still in the mist.

We headed down a steepish path on slippery grass to a little valley behind Caer Caradoc which was trying to clear the mists. As we approached the hill we crossed a lovely bridleway track which I was hoping we were going to take to reach the very end of the southern ridge of the hill as that was where the tor of Three Fingers Rock was.

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both photos R Wood
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Unfortunately, we headed straight across and up the side on what I’d call a ‘shortcutters path’ – the type used by people who can’t be bothered with the beauty of the hill and just want to get their summit tick! I diverted off left to a steeper section near some crags…

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R Wood

Richard and I both headed slightly back down the ridge to take photos down to Three Fingers Rock but it was pretty murky – we both vowed to do the whole ridge on another occasion along with the next hill of The Lawley which looked a cracker.

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We’d arrived on the ridge not far from the summit between two interesting rocky areas with clambery tors on them. Me and Richard had a clamber up most of them but declined the route to the very top of the hardest one as it was too slippery.

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me heading off determinedly (R Wood)

We then rejoined the group who were sat having their dinner.

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Our arrival point on the ridge…

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we called this ‘the Dog Stone’

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but it was too slippery to reach the top!

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sometimes misty, sometimes clearer…
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We hadn’t bothered with sandwiches as I don’t eat bread on the hill – I think it just makes you thirsty – I also don’t need as much as a sandwich on a hillwalk. I had two of the handy snack-packed cheeses which had been available amongst the packed lunch selection and a couple of biscuits. A warm coffee was most welcome – as was the shelter of the tors.

After our break, we all headed up the short route to the summit and Richard and I plus another guy in the group had a little tour of the rings of the summit hillfort. I liked this little green tarn…

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We were soon heading back down and around the east end of the hill where a lovely flat track took us through pretty woodland and then back down to the A49.

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Three Fingers Rock from below – R Wood

After we’d crossed the A49 and the railway track, we arrived in the village of All Stretton. From here there were nice tracks along the valley bottom to take you back to the hotel but our leader had a longer route planned for us up a side valley and up and down the valley sides.

We first of all set off up the Batch Valley – this looked quite a nice valley and we’d like a look further up there next time. There were lots of mountain bikers heading out of the valley. We then took a track through a narrow valley behind Nover’s Hill which had a few houses hidden away in a lovely spot.

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Back to Caer Caradoc – both these photos R Wood
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Following the track around the next hillside we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a golf course – this is apparently the oldest 18 hole golf course in Britain and the third highest. No balls whistled around our ears and we soon reached a track heading round the corner and down through some woodland – this ended in the famous Carding Mill Valley where a Victorian cottage industry sprang up around wool processing.

By now Richard and I were starting to flag a little and, when one of the ladies called for a break to visit the facilities there, we asked if we could just head back to the hotel which was around the end of the next hill. Our guide said that wasn’t a problem so we took the raking path out of the far side of the valley.

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Carding Mill Valley – R Wood

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track about to meet the road – R Wood

After crossing the Burway Hill road and continuing the path, we found we were where we’d been exploring the night before when we’d gone for a stroll from the hotel.

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R Wood

For a minute we thought we were lost as we had two tracks to choose from but saw the old wartime bunkers we’d visited the previous evening. We knew the way back from there and were soon back at the hotel for a hot bath and a restful evening in good company.

Stats: 11.5 miles, 2800ish feet of ascent

On the Friday, before we went to the hotel, we visited Bishops Castle – a delightful little town where Richard wanted to sample some of the local breweries’ fare. Just opposite one of the pubs was this superbly-painted block of 3 houses – I got Richard to take photos…

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You can’t beat a bit of individuality! 🙂

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14 responses

14 12 2016
Sartenada

Awesome landscapes and beautiful architectural photos.

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14 12 2016
mountaincoward

Wales is a really beautiful country 🙂

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28 11 2016
McFadzean

I love those houses n the last few photos. They are really great. Shame about the golf course, though, even if it is the oldest in Britain. Strange game.
What I like about this area is that it illustrates that you don’t need to go to the Lakes or the Highlands for some decent walking – it’s all around us, more or less.
Cheers, Alen

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2 12 2016
mountaincoward

It certainly is in Britain – that’s why I haven’t felt the need to go abroad for many years now (since I had to stop going to the Middle East). There are places I’d like to go abroad but I’m going to wait till I’ve finished here first I think…

Liked by 1 person

15 11 2016
underswansea

Wonderful post, enjoyed the the photos. Liked the green path up the hill. Bob

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15 11 2016
mountaincoward

it turned out to be a very nice walking area – I’m pretty sure we’ll be back sometime

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15 11 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Nice photos. I started off, many years ago now, with the HF where I met many of my first friends and did over 100 Munros then got into rock climbing, kayaking, and scrambling so joined other clubs as the HF were mainly a hill walking club. Had a good time though. These days I like my sunshine and clubs with a set programme have to take whatever weather they encounter on the day which is the only reason I haven,t joined them again. I did find them a good group though with loads of interesting people.
That area seems a popular hill-walking venue as the National MBA had a big meet there recently.

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15 11 2016
mountaincoward

that’s why we went ‘self-guided’ as we wanted to pick what walks we did – but it turned out this was better than the one I’d planned!

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14 11 2016
RyanR

Thanks so much for this post.i didn’t really read but the pictures brightened a rubbish day.

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14 11 2016
mountaincoward

you must be at work?

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15 11 2016
RyanR

Yes I was and having a bad week

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15 11 2016
mountaincoward

ours isn’t going great today!

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13 11 2016
tessapark1969

Interesting post. This is an area which my parents visit loads and have done plenty of walking in but I haven’t really gone near.

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14 11 2016
mountaincoward

Nice easy walking and some quite lovely hills. I’m glad I left it till later though…

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