Follow me now as I take you on a nice ramble up a rocky path to the picturesque Lightspout Waterfall and onto the misty Long Mynd plateau.
Warning folks, this walk should come with a “slippery when wet” label. It should also come with a certified scenic stamp. Cos it’s hella scenic.
A great hike for waterfall fans, but not such a good one if you’re scared of sheep.
Your woolly friends for the next two hours.
Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd are crisscrossed with all manner of routes and trails, it’s a truly great area to explore.
Take a sneaky look at all the options here. There is truly a great hike to match any fitness level with Pole Bank being the highest point at 516 metres.
I opted for the Lightspout Waterfall via Carding Mill Valley route, which took me from the National Trust car park up Lightspout Hollow to the falls, and then in a loop over the plateau and back down Dr. Motts Road.
You can’t get lost on this hike on the first section just follow the flow of the water. On the plateau follow the obvious green trail markers.
Thrown in for good measure is a side loop that takes you to the very picturesque Carding Mill Reservoir. A great spot for a wild swim.
The trailhead for the Lightspout Waterfall Hike is at Carding Mill Valley about a 5 min drive from Church Stretton or a 30 min walk.
Fear not there’s very ample parking available. God, I love ample parking so much. It’s an NT car park so it’s free for National Trust members but £5.50 if you’re not.
Chances are you’re not staying in Church Stretton. Fear not. Carding Mill Valley is just 30 min drive from Shrewsbury. Or if you’re coming by public transport, Church Stretton also has its own train station with direct connections to Shrewsbury, Hereford and Manchester. Very convenient altogether!
Basically, you’ve no excuse not to come. For more transport options check out this useful site.
I hiked up to the Lightspout Waterfall one cloudy weekday in May and I was the only person on the hill. Just me and the sheep. I started worrying I’d missed some kind of disaster back in civilisation. Serious The Last of Us vibes going on.
That said I’ve also been here on hot days in Summer when it’s bananas busy, same as Long Mynd hike in Shropshire. So busy you need a stick to beat your way through the hordes of school groups.
So, if you want the hills to yourself come on a wet weekday and avoid bank holidays. If you want a fun festive atmosphere, come when the sun is out.
A giant car park with space for many motorised chariots is waiting for you. My little car was one of the only ones there but again the capacity is a sign of how busy the Carding Mill Valley can get on a glorious blue sky day.
There are also free-to-use toilets and a well-reviewed cafe.
A sample of the ample parking.
Church Stretton isn’t as you might assume a church. It’s, in fact, a pretty town in the heart of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It does have a church, a lovely one too.
It’s also where I’ve been house-sitting for the last week looking after a friendly pack of doggos. A great arrangement altogether, dogs get fed and walked, and I get a nice house surrounded by great hikes.
Yesterday I wandered out my front door and up Caer Caradoc. Today’s hike is another close one. Just a five minutes drive from Church Stretton to the trailhead at Carding Mill Valley.
Actually, I could’ve easily walked to the trailhead, it was only 30 mins from Church Stretton but I also wanted to test out the car parking facilities so I can pass on this knowledge to you, my loyal reader.
And if you believe that you’ll believe anything. I was just feeling lazy. I know. I’m a bad person, forgive me.
Fender bender risk is very minimal in this car park.
Those of you who know me know I love a good car park and this one did not disappoint. There’s space for hundreds of cars and it gets well used during those sunny Saturdays in the summertime.
It’s a National Trust car park so it will set you back 5.50GBP, but that’s for the entire day. I arrived at 8 am on a soggy weekday, so I had the entire place to myself.
My first challenge was paying. The machine was “not in use” and there wasn’t a human ticket person in sight. So it was all down to the PayByPhone app.
Now, I’m one of those Millennials you hear about, so I’m pretty handy with a smartphone but I can imagine some more advanced-in-age technophobic folk might get ticked off about this system.
Yeah of course you can, the National Trust is a great organisation. One of the best. But can you trust a National Trust cafe to be open when you want a bacon sarnie? No!
But fair enough, it definitely would’ve been a waste of resources to be open at 8 am on a damp Tuesday in May. The cafe here looked nice, the display board had a range of very tasty-looking options and the reviews online said very lovely things.
There were also free toilets! National Trust wins again.
What’s lovely is running past the cafe is Lightspout Stream, you will be following this same water up to the waterfall.
The Long Mynd is not just a haven for hikers, it’s a very popular spot for mountain bikers as this map with all the available routes confirms.
In my former life, I was a cyclist before I realised how much more relaxing going for a hike is. But my Dad is a big-time cyclist, always has been and it’s through him I know the name Long Mynd.
His cycling group the Wild Wednesday Wheelers have been roaming the Shropshire Hills for years and years and they often find themselves on top of the Long Mynd. So I’ve seen many a photo of my dad’s cheesy grin from the top of the hills here.
Strange place to advertise a car brand, but ok. Mondeo anyone?
That is the question. Follow the path up past the cafe and within a minute you will be in the glorious nature you’ve been looking for. Your first point of interest/obstacle is a ford across a babbling brook.
There’s an option to the right that takes you clean and clear over the water, as a brave adventurer I ignored that instead of making the foolish decision to ford the ford.
I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking here. Maybe that my soles were high enough to keep me out of the wet, or that I’d hover Jesus-like across the surface.
Well, it turns out I’m not the messiah, I’m just an idiot.
I got very soggy feet indeed. And had to listen to the squelch for the next two hours.
The Long Mynd massif is quite long and massive.
Good Hike = Happy Mike.
This motto makes more sense if you know my name is Mike. Which it is.
I was only ten minutes into the hike, I already had soaking feet but I didn’t care a bit. I already knew it was the right decision to get up early and out into the hills. It always is.
The combination of the babbling waters that ran along the side of the path and the hills ahead had already cleared my mind of all worries. Bliss.
It was a heavy-kinda morning and the mountains ahead looked very dramatic shrouded in mist. I love these kinda days to hike. Sure it’s nice when the sky is clear and you get those long views but I find misty hikes much more atmospheric.
I was a little worried that rocking up in my shorts was going to be a mistake but after a few minutes of leg pumping, I was happy with my choice.
Can you hear the babbling? It’s a very babbly brook indeed.
You will need to get across the stream a few times on your way up. It’s usually pretty easy to find a way to do so without getting your feet wet.
My feet were already fully signed up members of the Squelch Squad so I wasn’t too bothered but it was still fun leaping from stepping stone to stepping stone.
I wonder what age jumping from stone to stone like a mountain frog gets boring? Cos it isn’t 32.
Less than a mile into the hike you will come to a Y junction. Take the left-hand folk to follow Lightspout Hollow to the falls.
Fluffy sheep friends, or land clouds as I like to call them.
I’m not much of a nature expert. But as you wander up Lightspout Hollow you can spot all kinds of local creatures. Well, ok, that’s a bit of a stretch. You will mainly see sheep. Actually, I only saw sheep. It’s a very sheep-heavy walk.
I love sheep, their blank comedic faces and their bleating. They are real hike enhancers for me.
But if you are an Ovinophobic then this might be a hike to skip.
The babbling gets more frantic as you get higher. See the sheep? I think it’s following me.
As you climb and the path gets steeper, the walls of the valley start to narrow and close in on you. The water gets less babbling and more rushing.
There are more bridges of the stream as you get higher. I assume the National Trust has determined the risk of hikers leaping from rock to rock is too high and they want to cover their backs.
I continued to leap as I’m crazy like that. But it’s also nice knowing I could’ve brought my nan with me if I wanted.
Yep. That sheep is definitely following me.
As I climbed closer and closer to the falls I was lucky enough to feel the sun on my back as it crept out from behind the shroud of mist.
It was one of those moments where you feel incredibly present. I was on my own – apart from the sheep – completely immersed in nature. I could hear running water in my ears, feel the squelch of my socks on my toes, and sense the sun on my skin.
If the mindful monk Thich Nhat Han was here now, (which he would say he is, in the wind and the air), he would have for sure given me a nice knowing smile.
Hiker fam, I highly recommend you read his brilliant book “How to Walk”.
The Light Spout Waterfall in all her glory.
The stream started to look more and more waterfally. As I walked on, the top looked very craggy indeed. I wasn’t sure if there would be an actual route up past the waterfall.
Was I meant to now climb up through the water?! I mean I would because I’m badass, but it seemed a bit risky. Had I missed a turn? Nope. Hmmm.
And then bam! The falls were there in front of me. Very nice.
It wasn’t a light spout today! Heavy spout more like.
Now, in the past couple of months, I’ve been blessed by a few waterfalls. Lightspout wasn’t quite on the same scale as the ones in Kuala Lumpur where I could dip in the plunge pool.
But I’m comparing apples with oranges here. Sure they are all waterfalls but Lightspout had something the others didn’t. It had solitude and drama. And I loved it.
Follow the steps and you can’t go wrong.
After sitting on a rock for five watching the water rush past while munching down a celebratory Milky Way bar, I set off again in search of the top.
Closer to the water it was more obvious to see the final ascent. There are rocky steps that will take you past the falls, up and over the top.
It was a little slippy so careful where you step, If you topple over here, you are going to be reliant on the sheep to raise the alarm.
The sounds of the falls quickly faded as I topped out onto the Long Mynd Plateau.
Everything went still. There was no wind whatsoever. All I could hear was the gentle squelch of my shoes in the soft grass.
The sun which had teased before the falls 15 minutes earlier had gone completely, it was all mist, mist and more mist.
I think that’s a sheep in the distance, maybe a Gruffalo, probably a sheep.
I think that’s a sheep in the distance, maybe a Gruffalo, probably a sheep.
The silence, the lack of people, the absence of wind and the mist made the plateau very eerie indeed. I walked on as though I was walking through somewhere that for a brief moment had stopped in time.
I’m sure on a clear day I would’ve seen glorious views of the Long Mynd, Pole Bank peak, and the Shropshire Hills to describe to you.
But I mainly saw the mist. And sheep in the mist. It was ethereal and quite unforgettable.
Looks a bit like a booty, right?! And I’m stood in the crack. Yep, once you see you can’t unsee it.
After walking in a clockwise loop over the plateau, the track started heading back down and eventually, I came to the Y junction I’d been at an hour before.
It was at this point that I realised I’d completely forgotten to do one of my trademark mini-world snaps I do on every hike. What a plonker. Naturally, I had planned to do it at the falls themselves but alas I had to make do with this green hilly section instead.
Still. Pretty nice I’m sure you’ll agree!
At this point if you wanted to call it a day and head straight back down to your car. Or if you’re following the AllTrails route I recommended earlier you’ll swing by Carding Mill Valley Reservoir which I recommend you do, as it’s very pretty.
Pretty as a postcard.
At the reservoir, as with the entire hike, I was the only person there. It was blissful.
But be warned, I was here last summer too and there were hundreds of people splashing about and frolicking in the waters. Quite a few of the younger braver ones were jumping off the tower thingy having a jolly old time.
This would have been a good time for a wild swimming spot if I’d remembered my trunks.
I thought about going skinny dipping but it would’ve been just my luck to dive in when there was nobody around and then a bus full of grannies rock up.
Then I’d either have to emerge out to shrieks and likely get beaten by an army of handbags and arrested. Or have to stay in the water for hours catching hypothermia while I went for them to leave. Those were the only two options.
I think I made the right decision about the skinny dipping, as the last leg back from the reservoir to the Carding Mill Valley car park was suddenly alive with walkers.
It felt weird after being on the deserted plateau 30 minutes before in the mist thinking I was the last person on the planet to now be sharing jolly hellos with dog walkers.
I hopped back in my car and as I was leaving the car park, I passed an elderly lady weaving up the hill on a rickety bicycle, she was wearing some lovely wellies and had some panniers on the back. Poking out for the panniers was a little dog with the happiest look on its face.
After my morning hike, I felt like that dog. Not a care in the world.
From start to finish I loved my Lightspout Waterfall hike experience.
The hills around Church Stretton are hikers’ dreams. The Long Mynd has trails galore and if you’ve got the time you can join the nearby Shropshire Way to explore even further.
I was blessed by almost empty trails from start to finish, which when combined with the mist turned what I thought was going to be a pleasant two-hour hike into a real atmospheric treat.
I can’t guarantee you will have the mist, or the trail to yourself. But I’m fairly certain you will love this hike.
Until next time hiker heroes, and remember, if in doubt, just strap on those boots and get out the door. Everything feels better after a walk, all choices are clearer after a mile or two in the hills.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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