Church Stretton (circular - via Cardington)
This walk of nearly 11 miles begins and ends at Church Stretton and takes you via Hope Bowdler Hill, Willstone Hill and Cardington Hill to Cardington for lunch before returning to the starting point via Wilderness ridge and Caer Caradoc.
You can download the route in GPX format (suitable for use with a Garmin GPS), by clicking here.
Shown below are some computer-simulated 3-dimensional views of the map area as "seen" from the air, with the route marked in blue as above. Altitudes are somewhat exagerated for visual effect, so the hills are not actually as high or steep as they appear, although when you are climbing them you may doubt it.
A "view" over Hope Bowdler Hill looking northward towards Caer Caradoc,
which is in the centre of the image:
A "view" over Caer Caradoc looking back eastward toward Cardington.
Willstone Hill and Hope Bowdler Hill are on the right of the image:
If you are arriving by train leave the railway station by the south-east exit, cross the A49 and take the road straight ahead. At the junction turn right and then take the first turning on the left which is Snatchfields Lane. After a few yards you will come to the sign-posted bridleway on your right. Follow it until you emerge into Chelmick Close which leads into Chelmick Drive but you need to take the footpath which leads to the left instead. Following this path you will come to a gate beyond which sheep are grazing. Beyond a second gate further on you will come to some farm buildings and you are on the path leading up to Hazler Hill with its radio mast.
The path now leads into a wood and you will see and hear a stream running alongside you on the left. Immediately after passing the next gate turn sharp left, stepping over the stream, and follow the northward path which curves to the right, around the base of Hazler Hill. The second gate you come to opens into Hazler Road. Turn right here and follow the road a short way until you reach the junction with the B4371. Cross the main road, ignoring the sign-posted foot-path ahead of you, and turn right (heading south). After a very short distance you will come to a lay-by on the left. Concealed in the hedge behind the lay-by you will find a stile.
At this point the rock prominence you see ahead of you is called the Gaer Stone.
Over the stile head diagonally to your right (south-east) to the corner of the field with another stile and a sign warning you not to go up the hill itself. The path goes straight ahead, skirting the hill. Three stiles further on you come to a wood and then another stile leads you into a narrow path with a high fence on the left, at the end of which a gate opens onto a paved track which you should follow to the right until you reach the B4371 again, and the village of Hope Bowdler.
Turn left on the main road and follow it up the hill past a hedge on your left behind which is a row of houses, at the end of which there is a road junction on the left and a lay-by on the right. A few yards on, passing the first gate on the left, you will come to a second gate on the left and the path is sign-posted.
Going through this gate, you will now be climbing Hope Batch which leads to Hope Bowdler Hill itself. Three gates further on, you will be entering Open Access land where you legally have the right to roam at will without sticking to Rights of Way. Take care though, that you notice when you are leaving, as well as entering, Open Access land.
Passing the summit of Hope Bowdler Hill on your right, you come to a saddle with Willstone Hill also on your right, and on a clear day you will have a spectacular view of Caer Caradoc ahead of you. A stile on the right leads to a rocky prominence which is quite a good place to stop for a morning tea-break and to take in the view.
At this point you will be leaving the Right of Way for a short distance, but being on Open Access land you needn't worry on that score. Normally I would advise you not to leave the marked path unless you are very confident of your navigation skills, but on this occasion the detour is only a short one and I wouldn't want to deprive you of the views from Willstone Hill.
So, ignoring the second stile which was just on your right near the one you climbed before your tea-break, continue eastward to the summit of Willstone Hill, just beyond which you will come to some large rocks known as Battle Stones. Then descend the hill in a south-easterly direction, passing more rocks, until you reach the stile where you will be rejoining the Right of Way as well as leaving Open Access land. In fact there are two stiles here. Take the one on the left. The other one leads back along the Right of Way to the point where you departed from it.
Continue eastwards, crossing several fields and passing Motts Plantation on your left. You will come to a large iron gate which may be open but behind it is a stile which you must go over instead.
You will eventually come to a gate leading to North Hill farm. As you go through the gate you are likely to be greeted by several friendly spaniels from the farm-house. Have no fear, although energetic they are not aggressive, and after giving you an inquisitive sniff or two they will leave you alone (unless of course, you give them reason to do otherwise).
Continue down the paved track and after about 300 yards look out for a telegraph pole on your left and a green grit-bin on the right. This is where you need to find the stile which is on your right. Take care not to continue instead on the paved track which bends to the left. After a few yards you will go through two gates, and after crossing two fields you will reach the Sharpstones rocks.
Continuing north-east cross the field and go over two stiles next to gates directly facing each other on either side of the paved road. Across the next field and through another gate, bear right, keeping Hill End on your left. Avoid the temptation to go over it. You have no right of access.
A paved track takes you north and then north-west past Hill End Farm until it turns westward and this is where you need to take the gate on your right. It leads into a field containing some caravans which have seen better days. Trust me, they are unoccupied. Just past the first caravan and on the left is a stile next to which is a lavatory bowl that now serves as a plant-holder. On the other side is some carelessly placed barbed wire which actually isn't too difficult to negotiate. You should be able to get under it without harm to yourself or clothing after first removing your rucksack.
Continue roughly north across a wide field to a little woooden bridge which takes you over a stream, and then bear right to a stile from where you can see the tower of Saint James Church Cardington. To your right will be a stone wall and at the point at which the wall is obscured by a hedge you will see a way-marker which is what you should head for to find the path into Cardington vilage.
Cardington is a convenient place to break for lunch. Eat your sandwiches in the grounds of St James' Church, or have a drink and a hot meal at the Royal Oak just a short way down the hill.'
After lunch you need to find a little gate in the north-west corner of the church-yard. Directly opposite is a cul-de-sac with a no-through-road sign. Walk up it and turn right past the Old Rectory into a field and carry on straight ahead. After the first gate go straight ahead again until reaching a track which is marked on the OS Explorer map but which is not paved and is barely visible on the ground. Bear left along the track and carry on over several stiles until you come to a paved road flanked by a stile on your side and a gate on the other. Cross the road and continue ahead and after a short distance you reach the ridge of the feature known as the Wilderness.
Turn left and follow the ridge south-west until just before it meets a farm track and bear right until you come to a stile and join the track which you follow to your right (westward), and after 250 yards a stile on your right will lead you up Caer Caradoc Hill. The path is tricky to find at first but keep climbing north-west and you will come to a field boundary. On the other side is Open Access land and the track is quite broad and visible, curving to the left where the hill is steepest before climbing to the ridge.
On reaching the ridge you will not need me to tell you that you turn right to climb to the summit which is a convenient point to take an afternoon tea-break, enjoy the view, and explore the rock formations. Look for the cave which is just westward of the summit.
After enjoying your tea break continue north along the ridge and down the hill. Ahead of you is the smaller hill of Little Caradoc. Where the path begins to level out turn sharp left to join the path which crosses from your right. Follow it south-west round the hill until after it bends round the southern end and at a point just to the south of Three Fingers Rock descends to the valley bottom and the base of Helmeth Hill opposite. Cross the stream and turn right, joining the path westward which curves left and skirts the edge of a sheep-field, at the corner of which the final stile takes you to a paved road. Continue south-west past rows of houses, until you reach the B4371 once again and turn right, back into Church Stretton.
Enjoy the walk. If you find a brand-new Highlander waterproof glove (right-hand), it's mine and I'd like it back please. Thank you.