Admire those blue remembered hills
Walk of the month: On this walk you can see the landscape that inspired Shropshire lad A E Housman, writes Mark Rowe
Sunday 07 June 2009
Alfred Edward Housman has contributed several phrases to the lexicon of English poetry. The poet, whose 150th anniversary has been overshadowed by that of another Shropshire lad, Charles Darwin, memorably described the rolling mounds in the south of the county as the "blue remembered hills". Those same hills are visible on this walk, including Wenlock Edge, which features in Housman's cycle of poems, published as A Shropshire Lad.
The hike starts from the car park at the Acton Scott Working Farm Museum, which will be familiar to viewers of the BBC's Victorian Farm series. From here, go left on to the lane. You come to a crossroads with a large boulder. Turn right, signposted for Ragdon, and keep on the lane passing Castle Hill Cottages. Ragleth Hill, on the route of this walk, suddenly looms ahead.
Keep on the lane passing Hough Farm, bear right, and then take the stile on the left in the hedge. Continue up the field edge to cross a stile in the fence ahead, then drop down the field to cross another stile. Bear right uphill, crossing another stile, and then begin the plod up Ragleth Hill, its summit lying 400m (1,300ft) above sea level.
From the top the views are superb, and include the Long Mynd to the north-west and, behind the ridge, the jagged ridge of the Stiperstones. Far below lies the town of Church Stretton, ahead lies the rugged shape of Caer Caradoc. You can also see a fortification associated with Caractacus, who fought the Romans in AD51.
Follow the clear path as it undulates over the backbone of Ragleth Hill. Once you have passed the northern peak, descend the hill, following the path as it curves to the right. Cross the stile by the gate to join a track. Here, turn right along the lane and then left, signposted for Chelmick.
Once you reach Chelmick, pass the farm on the left and take the first track on the right, next to the small, triangular village green. The route now follows the Marches Way, which links Cardiff to Chester.
To the left is Wenlock Edge, a long wooded limestone escarpment, singled out by AE Housman, though he depicted it in gales and snow rather than the early summer glows you can expect. After 300 metres, pass through a gate ahead and keep on following the edge of the field around to the right. With the hedge on your left, keep ahead to descend into Rag Batch, a small wooded valley where you ford a stream.
Go through the gate on the left and bear half-right uphill to join the hedgeline ahead of you. At the bottom of the field go right, then left, dropping down to cross a bridge and go through a gate. Continue up the sunken path and field, keeping the hedge on your left. You descend on another sunken path, and pass through a bridlegate and then take the stile next to the second gate on the left. Follow the track uphill and go through the gate ahead, turning left to return to the museum car park.
The museum is well worth an exploration. It opened in 1975 and features medieval fishponds, Victorian kitchens and plenty of rare breeds of pig, sheep and horses to interest the children, as well as demonstrations of working life in an uplands farm at the turn of the last century. The old schoolhouse has been refurbished and converted into an excellent café – the perfect place to end the walk.
Distance: Five miles
Time: Three hours
OS Map: 217
Mark Rowe travelled to Acton Scott Museum by train to Church Stretton, using a combination of First Great Western (firstgreatwestern.co.uk) and Arriva Trains Wales (arrivatrainswales.co.uk). For bus services from the station to the farm, go to traveline.org.uk. Acton Scott Museum (actonscott museum.com) will host a Housman Day on 13 June.
The Bishop's Castle walking festival, close to Acton Scott, runs from 9 to 11 June (shropshirewalking.co.uk).
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