Long Walks in September 2019

  4 Sep 2019 Long Mynd Leader: Stephen, Length of walk: 9 miles, Driving Distance: 55 miles, Number walking: 11

The Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau that forms part of the Shropshire Hills. It is about 7 miles long by 3 miles wide, and includes steep valleys designed to test the hearts of old people.

On route to the start can be seen signs to “Battlefield Church”, which was built as a chapel where prayers could be said for the souls of those killed in the Battle of Shrewsbury (21 July 1403). King Henry IV had promised property to the Percy family of aristocratic thugs from Northumberland in exchange for oppressing the Welsh or the Scots, but then changed his mind. Peeved by this insult, Henry Percy, using the alias Harry Hotspur, surged down to meet his uncle Thomas Percy – Earl of Worcester – to challenge the king. He collected some soldiers with longbows from Cheshire on the way

The king was at the time on his way north to ask Hotspur to join him in hammering the Scots in a return match, but, realising that relations had cooled, set out to do battle near Shrewsbury, where the place name Battlefield had been booked.

The battle started with some civilised negotiations but then descended into insults between the contending sides. In the absence of social media, this involved shouting at long range. After a while a barrage of arrows was unleashed instead and things became nasty. Hotspur died after the ord* of an arrow entered his face. In the confusion some Northumberland knights thought the king was dead and shouted “Henry Percy king”. Henry IV shouted back “Henry Percy is dead” and waited for an opposing view to emerge. The dead Hotspur said nothing and so the battle ended.

Many did not know who had won, but the King’s forces sustained greater losses than the rebels. Hotspur’s nephew buried his body at Whitchurch, but rumours soon spread that he was not really dead. The King decided to put an end to this fake news and dug up the corpse, salted it and set it up in Shrewsbury impaled on a spear. As the connecting tissue deteriorated, the body was quartered and put on display in Chester, London, Bristol and Newcastle upon Tyne. His head was impaled on the north gate of York. You didn’t mess with Henry IV. Nevertheless the King generously released the remains to Hotspur’s widow in November in time for the Christmas celebrations.

After the battle, the Cheshire rebels were “prosecuted” for taking some 7,000 horses and, given what happened to Hotspur, that wouldn’t have been pleasant.

The careful observer would also have noted signposts to Cardington but this is not the location of the giant airship sheds – they are in the Bedfordshire Cardington.

The three cars full of walkers parked in the National Trust site in Carding Mill Valley. A carding mill prepared wool for spinning by brushing the fibres to line them up evenly. The mill building has been converted to apartments.

Stephen set off to climb up to Long Mynd by walking down to the valley and climbing up further north. He promised that the worst would be over when the group reached the summit. Part way to the top he allowed a coffee stop on the path, where gaps in the heather allowed walkers to sit down and look at the size of the hills to come.

Having reached what appeared to be the summit, the group repeatedly took the gentle climb to the ridge only to find that there was another beyond it. The strong wind kept rearranging the clouds but generally ensured that the walkers were under a cloud but could see patches of sunshine in the surrounding countryside. Darker clouds rolled in later but the rain that fell was only slight.

Stephen selected for lunch the site of the only disc barrow in Shropshire. This Bronze Age burial place is called Shooting Box, because the Victorian shooting community built a hut on it. The space left after this was removed in 1992 gave some shelter from the wind.

The group detoured to the high point of Long Mynd at Pole Bank (1,693 feet), where a plaque helpfully points out where you should look to see various places. The distant places were obscured by water that had failed to form cloud but nonetheless effectively closed down the views.

Before leaving the plateau, Stephen scheduled another stop opposite the nearby hill of Caer Caradoc Heavy rain appeared to pass on the other side of Caer Caradoc but missed the walkers.

After the stop, the path was downhill mostly on a rocky path. There was some excitement when the group found a reservoir surrounded by a fence indicating civilisation and the return to Carding Mill Valley. Just after the reservoir one path led down and another went up. Even though the cars were parked in the bottom of the valley, the correct path went up. With the valley in view, the group strolled down with light hearts and the thought of drinks in the NT teashop. They also sell cake.

*ORD the point of a weapon (obsolete) [3 letter Scrabble word]