siblings together

Siblings at Bury Ditches picnic area. Picture by Hilary Midgley.

Each year one of my great delights is to go walking in Shropshire with my sister Hilary for a couple of days (posts passim). This year’s annual sibling saunter did indeed take place last week, but with one important change: our brother Andrew was able to join us for the first time on Thursday evening (after Hilary and I had done our inaugural afternoon walk) and take part in Friday’s walk.

After meeting up in the late morning in Craven Arms and some light refreshment, Hilary and myself set out on a 6 miles circular walk to Flounders’ Folly on Callow Hill and back, following an excellent route provided by the AA. The folly was built in 1838 by Benjamin Flounders – a prominent English Quaker and local businessman originally from Yorkshire – and fell into disrepair in the 20th century, but was restored in 2004-5 by the Flounders’ Folly Trust with aid from the National Lottery. It’s now open to the public one day per month so people can climb to the viewing platform at the top of the 78 stairs and enjoy wonderful views of the Malverns, the Black Mountains, Cader Idris and much more. The route up to the folly consisted of a steep climb through active forestry workings, but the view from the top was well worthwhile.

image of my sister at Flounders' Folly

Flounders’ Folly

The route back from the folly was through pasture along the Quinny Brook and the River Onny. Our return to Craven Arms was perfectly timed; we’d just arrived back when the rain started. 🙂

As with last year, we stayed at Clun Youth Hostel, a converted water mill with most of the mill machinery still intact. The remains of the millpond can still be seen just up the road by the Memorial Hall and there are rumours that it is to be restored. The volunteer wardens at the hostel were most helpful and hospitable, whilst fellow hostellers didn’t snore too much!

The following morning after breakfast we set out from the hostel to visit the motte and bailey at Lower Down and the Iron Age hill fort at Bury Ditches on a circular route measuring somewhat over 8 miles. The route out to Lower Down meandered through farmland, including a couple of sunken lanes reputed to have been used by monks, and woodland. Towards Lower Down, some splendid views were had of the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill, high point of one of last year’s walks.

Lower Down’s motte and bailey can be viewed by going through the kissing gate next to the telephone box and pillar box. The field in which they are sited is also reputed to contain medieval settlement remains.

plan of Bury Ditches hill fort

Plan of Bury Ditches hill fort on the toposphere

After Lower Down there followed a long climb (during which the rain commenced. Ed.) up to the Bury Ditches picnic area where lunch was taken, followed by the long, gradual ascent up to the hill fort itself. The entry into the hill fort is from the north east through 3 sets of concentric earth bank defences. When the fort was originally constructed about 2,500 years ago, these earth banks would have been surmounted by wooden palisades. In the steady drizzle, we wandered up to the toposphere in the centre of the fort to admire the views and get our bearings as we had to leave hill fort via its south west entrance/exit. As we approached the exit, the rain eased off and out came the cameras to record our visit.

image of Andrew admiring the 3 defensive banks at the SW entrance to Bury Ditches

Andrew admires the defensive banks at Bury Ditches

Descending from Bury Ditches, we then dropped down through woodland a giant sequoia to skirt Steppleknoll to return across the fields (where red kites were seen) to Clun and a welcome couple of pints in The Sun Inn. We can recommend the restorative properties of the Three Tuns Brewery’s beer, as we all sampled the Porter and found it excellent, whilst your correspondent also savoured the very hoppy IPA.

Both days’ walks included a ford too, although neither was particularly deep, as shown by the one through the Quinny Brook on the Callow Hill walk.

image of author standing in Quinny Brook ford

The author testing the depth of the ford. Picture courtesy of Hilary Midgley.

Planning has already started for next year for a visit to another hill fort near Craven Arms and returning via Stokesay Castle, as well as an exploration of Offa’s Dyke south of Newcastle on Clun.

By now, you are probably asking what all this has to do with the testicle legs in the title. Well, the title of this post originates from a snatch of conversation when we were negotiating some rough, muddy ground. I remarked that one needed ‘festival legs‘ to cope. When I repeated my remark since it hadn’t been heard clearly, back came the reply: “I thought you said testicle legs!”

Happy days! 🙂