I love walking in Shropshire as the area is rich in medieval history and rolling rural countryside. For this walk, the weather wasn’t exactly at its best but it was a day with rapidly changing conditions which made the walking interesting.
Arriving at Craven Arms I am greeted by a biting easterly gale coupled with frequent snow showers which is reducing visibility from many miles to a couple of hundred yards within minutes. My parking is in the deserted car park at the Secret Hills Discovery Centre in the town which incidentally is closed on a Monday.
Having donned boots and warm gear I’m setting off through a largely deserted Craven Arms however there is a steady flow of traffic on the A49. Walking east from the town, I follow the B4368 for a short distance and cross the River Onny then turn left on the lane leading to the small village of Halford. My second port of call will be the small village of Strefford. Leaving the lane I branch right onto a field path above the River Onny. The fields are frozen and so walking is good but it is so bitterly cold with the occasional snow flurry interspersed by fleeting glimpses on the sun. By some woodland, I stop for my morning break where there is some shelter then continue north on a field path parallel with the Quinny Brook which I later cross via a footbridge.
Strefford is a quaint old village with many old dwellings but there is virtually no one about. In the village, I turn right and descend to re-cross the Quinny Brook via a footbridge with a parallel ford. A left turn then a fork right takes me up through Strefford Wood and here I encounter some mud. At the top I veer right to join a track passing close to Moorwood Farm. After crossing a lane I have a longer and steeper ascent ahead of me to gain Callow Hill. I opt to take the easier way up by taking the track up through Frizland Coppice then doubling back to gain Callow Hill crowned with its tower known as Flounder’s Folly. Built in 1838 by Benjamin Flounder’s, the tower stands some 80 feet high and is occasionally opened to the public. By the early 1900’s it was falling into disrepair but was rescued recently by the Flounder’s Folly Trust and has been restored to its former glory.
Reaching the top, I come across a small group of rambler’s taking a break. Being so cold, I don’t linger long and head southwest in search of the trig point which lies a little distance away from the summit and involves scaling a fence. It is a quick visit as the weather is quickly deteriorating from the east.
Heading alongside the upper edge of Callowhill Plantations I later turn south with a biting wind. The first flakes of snow from the next shower are now falling and over the next half mile it gradually became heavier resulting in a full blizzard. This next section of the walk means a bit of trespassing as I want to join the path at Buck House. Leaving the path, I follow a good enclosed track but there is no sign to say it is private. Now I am walking in blizzard conditions but soon blue sky returns making a complete contrast from minutes earlier. Buck House is no more, just a few mounds in a field and no sign of my intended path. Instead, I decide to press on towards Marsh Barn but this will mean more trespassing, and in full view of farm buildings but at least I am still following a good track. Luckily today there is no one about and I follow the good track downhill and later opt to walk beside a field boundary to avoid a field of restless horses.
At the B4368 I turn right and have no real option but to follow this road for nearly a mile. With no pavements I have to watch for fast traffic but thankfully there isn’t too much about. Beyond Whettleton Barn I turn left across a field but there is no footpath sign leaving the road. After crossing two fields I reach Whettleton Woods at a gate and thankfully beyond, a good path leads up through woodlands. I am expecting problems here but am pleasantly surprised. Ascending, I later turn right and made my way up towards Norton Camp. There are many paths to choose from and I think that some of the way I not on the official right of way. I opt to investigate Norton Camp and scale its two well defined embankments. The camp dates from the Iron Age and is well overgrown by vegetation but I have read that in the spring the banks are full of bluebells and wild garlic. The interior of the camp consists of a round field and I decide on following it round to the north western side before searching west for the path that runs southwards. I find it with ease and it is way marked at frequent intervals. The embankments at the south western end of the fort are again well defined.
Heading south I find a sheltered woodland spot at a stile for lunch and the limited sunshine is most welcomed. The fine weather isn’t to last as another blizzard is bearing down to give a temporary covering of snow as I head south joining the track known as Rotting Lane. A steady descent takes me down passing Lower Park and Park Farm to reach the A49 by which time the sunshine has returned. I cross the main road for the last leg of the walk along the valley to Craven Arms.
A ploughed field is crossed which passes beneath the railway and soon joins the Shropshire Way. It is now a walk parallel with the railway and later crossing it via a level crossing to reach the fortified manor house at Stokesay Castle. The castle is one of the finest and best pre preserved fortified medieval manor houses in England and has remained unchanged since the 13th century. The castle was built by Laurence of Ludlow who at the time was one of the richest men in England. The property is in the car of English Heritage.
With the light being right, I wait on the far side of a pond to get some photographs before continuing with the Shropshire Way. Crossing fields, a blizzard is bearing down and this time it looks as if it will be a heavy one. A right turn takes me on the last path towards Craven Arms into the teeth of driving snow. Before long the ground is turning white as I make the last few steps into the town and the end of my walk.
Flounders Folly will be open on certain dates during 2018 and the website is as follows;- www.floundersfolly.org.uk
Details on Stokesay Castle can be found on the following website;- www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stokesay-castle