When driving west along the M54 just before it morphs into the A5 near Telford, it is impossible to miss the hill to your left that stands out all on its own. Some how it looks out of place, as if it is one of the Welsh hills in the distance that has lost its way.
If you believe the legend about a giant who dumped a shovel full of earth there when he could not be bothered to carry it any further to Shrewsbury, on a particularly vindictive mission. Then the Wrekin’s strange position on the Shropshire Plains might make some sense. However there is a more believable reason for this rocky outcrop, and that is that it is volcanic in its origin.
Standing 407m above sea level makes The Wrekin a fantastic viewing point over the levels that surround it. To the west the mountains and hills of Mid-Wales can be easily seen, and on a clear day I can easily believe that it is almost possible to see The Offa’s Dyke Path. To the south-west can be seen the Stiperstones and The Long Mynd of the Shropshire Hills.
It is a popular place
I had heard that The Wrekin was a popular place for walkers, runners and families on days out, but I was really surprised by how many people I met on the main path up, and at the top. It was a week day when I went and the weather was chilly and overcast, not the kind of day I was expecting to meet many people. When I arrived at the main car park at the northern end of The Wrekin it was almost full, and all the surrounding roads had cars parked on them – on both sides. There was almost a constant flow of folk (and dogs) on the path all who proffered a cheery “good morning” (not the dogs!)
The path up the northern side of The Wrekin was wide, winding and muddy. It passed up the wooded slopes of deciduous trees naked in the late winter offering views of leaf strewn slopes and the route ahead. It was a surprisingly steep climb and it did not take long for me to start feeling warm and start puffing and blowing, I am a ‘hardened walker’ right – so I was even more impressed that so many folk were on the path with me. Some needing the aid of walking sticks, but even so! (I do not want to talk about the ones running up it!) Half way up there is a cafe which I suspect probably does great business in the summer, on my day though it was closed.
There is a hill fort on the top
On the top of The Wrekin there are the earthen remains of an Iron Age fort believed to have once been the capital of the Cornovii tribe. I can easily understand why they built a fort to live in on this hill. If you wanted to attack the fort you would have had first to climb up the steep incline, which is pretty tiring with a sword and shield I would think. Also the folk at the top would have seen you coming a long time ago, giving them plenty of time to prepare some nasty surprises for you – best not bother eh?
The lower gate of the fort is called hell’s gate and the upper one heaven’s gate, apt I thought!
There are great views from the top
The views from the top do not disappoint. It was slightly misty when I arrived at the top but even so I could see for miles, I would imagine in the summer when the sky is really clear the views must be almost limitless. It was chilly on the top a biting wind was was coming from the west but even so, I wanted to simply stand for ages on the top drinking in not just the views but that sense that hill tops can give you of being on top of the world. I understood why The Wrekin is so popular, I would love to come up here for a picnic on a hot day.
Going down the other side of the hill
My path down was on the southern slopes of the hill. This was a much less trodden path winding it’s thin way through the trees. There were more coniferous trees on this side the path which was just as steep as the one on the northern side.
The path over The Wrekin is part of the Shropshire Way a circular long distance path that runs from Shrewsbury. This made it an easy path to follow most of my route I simply had to look for the Shrewsbury Way markers.
Coming out of the woods at the southern most tip of The Wrekin I turned left to walk along Spout Lane. An incredibly quite lane that dipped and rose through the fields on either side of it, sheltered by hedgerows. It was a gentle and peaceful walk out of the windy slopes of the hill. After about a mile I came to a track heading north back towards my starting point that passed through some fields and woodland. Here on a stile at the edge of the woods I sat and had my lunch, not the most spectacular of spots but I enjoyed it’s tranquillity
Back to the car
It was a very restful walk back to the car park and I enjoyed the contrast of the plains at the eastern base of the hill from the windy top of The Wrekin. The last part was mainly through a colourful winter woodland which very sadly was spoiled at one point by a load of full bin bags dumped among the trees. It is so annoying when people do that I hate rubbish lying anywhere, but especially in the countryside.
When I arrived back at the car park it was as full as it had been at the start of my walk. The Wrekin is a popular place and I can understand why.