Climb up past a picturesque waterfall to another world, the Long Mynd. Where your only companions will be sheep and wild ponies, grazing as they have since the Bronze Age.
Long Mynd translates as Long Mountain in Welsh, which kinda makes sense as it’s less of a pointy jaggy kinda hill like you get at the Stiperstones to the west, it’s more of a large heath strewn plateau.
While it lacks a peak it doesn’t lack drama. The views from the Long Mynd down Carding Mill Valley over Church Stretton and across the Shropshire Hills, are spectacular.
There are routes and trails galore up and over the Long Mynd.
Depending on your time and energy levels you can leave the car and walk for days across the Shropshire Hills without getting bored. You can even join up with the Shropshire Way and find yourself away from home for a week or two.
We had a morning to kill so we opted for a relatively gentle hike known as the Long Mynd North Circular. It’s 8 miles (13km) in total so give yourself four or five hours or so.
Start at Carding Mill Valley, head up Lightspout Hollow past the waterfall, onto the Long Mynd plateau, carry on north east to Pole Bank and then back in an anticlockwise loop past the small hamlet of Small Batch and back to the start.
What’s nice is this hike frontloads the hard work, after the first mile and a bit (2km) to the waterfall you reach the plateau and after that, it’s a stroll with great views.
If you’re arriving by car there is a well-maintained car park run by the National Trust at the Carding Mill Visitor Centre, If you’re not a member it will cost you £5.50.
If you’re coming by public transport, Church Stretton has a train station with direct links to Shrewsbury, Manchester and into North Wales. The hike from the train station to the Long Mynd trailhead is about 30mins.
Bring a coat. This is standard hiking in the UK advice. Even on a hot day like today. You never know.
For footwear, I’d say you’d be fine in sturdy trainers. Ever since my Clarendon Way fail, I personally always wear my Vivo Barefoots nowadays. Sara has the Vivo Trackers which are sturdy and waterproof whereas I go for the more lightweight Magna Forest.
Silly name, good shoe.
I don’t work for Vivo. I just like the foot hugs their trainers give my feet. It makes them feel cared for and appreciated.
I think the Magnas are much better when the weather is nice like it was today. Not yesterday when it was wet and they were quite squelchy.
Find beauty, be still. This sheep gets it.
“What a difference a day made. Twenty-four little hours.” – Dinah Washington
People often complain about the changeable nature of the British Weather.
Well, it was currently working in my favour. Yesterday when I walked Lightspout Waterfall, it had been soggy and so misty the sky and the ground had felt connected, today there wasn’t a single cloud anywhere. The contrast could not have been starker.
It was also a Saturday. A sunny Saturday in early May. This means it was pretty much the first hot weekend of the year. And people were out in their droves.
So the car park at Carding Mill Valley was absolutely jammers, in contrast to yesterday when I was roaming around like the last man on earth.
So despite it being the same hike as yesterday, almost nothing felt the same. Apart from the fact I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to get lost for the first hour.
Fear not, you’ll find a space.
Fear not the Carding Mill Valley car park is ample. There is going to be room for your car even on a busy day like today. Admittedly it took us a minute to find one but we squeezed in.
When I’d arrived yesterday I’d pondered how some less technical people would’ve got on with the Paybyphone app payment system being the only way to pay for parking. Well, today there was an actual human car park attendant taking payment.
She was very nice. She explained that the app doesn’t always work as they don’t always get a strong enough signal.
Now you can only pay her by card (£5.50). So coin fans keep that shrapnel in your pockets for your ice cream.
It did lead me to think what a funny situation it was that they’ve turned off the ticket machine and replaced it with an app but then because the app doesn’t always work they’ve got a human parking attendant. Why didn’t they just turn the machine back on?!
As we walked up through the car park many smiley people had set up camp between their cars and the stream which flows down from Lightspout Hollow.
In terms of wayfinding for the Long Mynd, for the first hour, all you have to do is keep this stream in sight and you’re going the right way. Follow it up to the Lightspout waterfall and over the top and you are there. the Long Mynd plateau.
Even if you’re not going to climb Long Mynd, I highly recommend anyone visit Carding Mill Valley. It has excellent visitor facilities. A gift shop, well-maintained toilets and there’s even a tea room on the way up which was open today, unlike yesterday, so I’m going to presume it’s a weekend-only affair.
We didn’t go as we were already full of tasty breakfast grub (thanks Sara).
But there were many kids licking ice creams furiously as we wandered past and they seemed happy with life so it must’ve been alright.
From the car park up to the waterfall was busy. Which boggled my mind. Yesterday I hadn’t seen a single person on this stretch. Yesterday it had been me talking to the sheep. But today is festival time.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t crowded in an annoying way like it could be on the bank holidays or later in the Summer. It was busy in a fun way. Everybody has that look on their face of “Yay! Winter is finally over!”
The weather was shining and the people were shining too. It was a great big grin fest!
Now, I’m not going to go into the hike up to the waterfall in any detail as you can check out my beautifully written and potentially one-day award-winning Lightspout Waterfall walk article.
All you need to know is to follow the stream upward. There’s only one Y junction really, just make sure you take the left there.
If in doubt follow your Alltrails app and you will be fine.
Yesterday when I’d been the only person on the hill I had been struck by the feeling of arriving at another world once you make it past the Lightspout Waterfall and onto the top of Long Mynd.
I wasn’t expecting the same thing today in the sun, but hey it was still there. That same feeling of calm and serenity.
Maybe it’s the absence of sound after the tremendous rushing of the waterfalls, or maybe just emerging onto the Long Mynd plateau after being hemmed in by ever-narrowing walls of Lightspout Hollow Valley for an hour that has a mind-expanding effect. Most likely a combo of both.
Whatever causes it, it works. It’s a very calming change of state.
At this point the people became sparse, the waterfall seemed to be the main draw and after that, it was mostly just myself, Sara and my old friends from yesterday, the sheep.
There I go now, marching off like a true hiker hero. Look at that sky! Blue right?
Once on top of the Long Mynd things get pretty flat. The trail is either grass, heather or gravel underfoot. Your scrambling days are behind you with the waterfall. Now you are in a stroll or stride mode. Or saunter, it depends on your walking style.
We chose to saunter along arm in arm singing
However you choose to move, you can’t help but soak in those extensive views over the Long Mynd and just enjoy the feeling of being on top of the world!
World famous mini-world photo time!
If you were following the Lightspout loop I did yesterday you would veer away to the right/east and loop back lazily around in a clockwise direction back to Carding Mill Valley. Following the green trail markers.
But today we veered off to the left/north west toward a spot known as “The Shooting Box”. Which has its own free car park. The landscape here is expansive. At its widest point, the Long Mynd is 4 miles across, and 10 miles long. It’s basically a sea of heather.
In the Shooting Box car park, we saw no fatalities, gunshot or not.
There was one family here doing the sunny Shropshire Saturday in style. They had a dining table & deck chairs set up. I can’t imagine many more idyllic spots for a family picnic.
I also just learned you can go star gazing up there which is a very cool idea indeed.
Keep on walking and shortly after the Shooting Box car park, you’ll reach Pole Bank, the highest point on the Long Mynd which comes with one of my favourite things in the world, a trig point.
Sorry, a shocking photo I know.
“What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those?” – A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman.
I love trig points. They always remind me how lucky we are that the British Countryside is so well recorded and documented. Every single hillock has a name and history and maybe even a poem about them.
Sure this is the same everywhere in the world but we’re unique in how much of it is written and accessible to all.
In some countries, a hill might have a name and history but if the village granny pops her clogs it might be lost to the sands of time (or presumably the next eldest village granny just invents a new name).
From the trig point here I could see three of my recent notches on the hiking post, The Wrekin, Caer Caradoc & even Pen Y Fan away in the Brecon Beacons. As well as many hills I’d like to get to know more intimately in the future.
After topping at Pole Bank the trail continues. You’ll soon find yourself wandering on a small country “road” known as The Port Way. More of a track than a road. It’s very quiet up here surrounded by heath.
One solitary car full of smiley-waving kids slowly rolled past us and that was it. After ten minutes on this “highway” the route veered off onto a grassy path. We took this change of terrain as a nice opportunity to flop on the grass and change our hunger levels from hungry to full.
The Feast of Champions!
As you can see only the highest quality nutrition for us. Sara went for the Graze Smoky BBQ snack pack as she’s Lady Fancypants. Whereas I’m more your man of the people, so I went straight up Haribo Supermix!
While we were chilling out for a while a baby wild pony came strolling by with its mother and gave us a nod. We nodded back. Very respectful like.
Funny looking sheep they have up here.
A little later on as we started to hike again there was a herd of wild ponies blocking the track.
Them being wild we expected a bit of agro but they must’ve heard about the respectful nod as they didn’t act wild at all, these mild ponies let us walk through the midst of them with no bother.
Ponytail competition time
I read up on the wild ponies and the Common Land of the Long Mynd once back in Church Stretton and it’s all a bit fascinating. The land is owned by the National Trust but local farmers, or commoners have the right to use it respectfully as they have for hundreds of years.
The gentle nature of grazing here has led to the Long Mynd developing a special ecology and as such being recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. If you want to know more our friends at the National Trust can help you.
If you just want to get on with the walk, keep reading.
After turning off from the Port Way, the next 4km down to the village of Small Batch is all downhill. For the most part downhill in a gentle fashion.
The track snakes languorously downward in the valley between Round Hill (463m), Grindle Hill (459m) and Callow Hill (451m). It’s only as you start the descent toward Small Batch that things start to get a little steep.
My knees felt this one. Take it steady friends and remember Baz’s advice. “Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone”.
The view back up the Knee Cirppla we’d just descended. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s steep yo!
There might not have been a single cloud in the sky but the land was covered in landclouds, also known as grazing sheep.
They had been scattered on the plateau but since we’d started our descent the density of sheep cranked up a notch, I’d say there were 50 sheep for every hiker we saw. It was May so not long after peak spring lamb season.
We got to witness one little lamb searching for its Mum, bleating away pitifully. It was kinda heartbreaking until Mum came bounding over a bluff and we got to see a little mum lamb embrace. It was all very heartwarming.
As we reached flat land at the bottom of the hill we wandered along a narrow road through a very pretty campsite nestled in the lee of the hills.
There was a ford with a handy bridge over it for us hikers but it looked like a deep one if you were driving.
It would’ve been no bother in a big farmer’s jeep or a Chelsea Tractor but maybe a bit of bum squeaker in a Ford Mondeo or a Smart Car! Eek!
Challenging some serious Miley Cyrus energy there Sara!
The Ford at Little Batch is about the three-quarter mark of the hike. You’re now into the home stretch and you’ve done (most) of the hard work. Soon you will come to a forestry area with a very nice rope swing.
You would of course be crazy not to have a swing. Sara channelled her inner Miley Cyrus and went full-wrecking ball on it for ten minutes. I gave it a miss. I’d gorged on a few too many Haribos earlier and was worried the rope couldn’t handle my mass.
The final climb.
Keep on after the forest swing zone and you’ll come to a set of steep steps. This is your final bit of hard work (I promise). We flung ourselves up at high speed and unleashed a Rocky-style two fists in the air jump at the top.
This is the type of thing you tend to do when you hike with your girlfriend. When you’re on your own you tend to be more sensible and conserve energy.
The Great British Countryside people, why would you go anywhere else?
I’ve spoken before about Peak End theory in my review of Sungai Pisang waterfall trailhead, and how the end of an experience such as a hike has so much more power than what comes before. Well, what’s great about the Long Mynd North Circular hike is it’s got a sweet finish.
What’s great is you come off the hill high above the car park and look down Carding Mill Valley ahead. It’s such a nice feeling knowing you have an 8-mile (13km) hike under your belt and that your car hasn’t been stolen.
This final flourish was just the flake on the delicious ice cream that had been our Long Mynd hike.
We thought about a quick detour to Carding Mill Reservoir for a bit of wild swimming but our bellies were rumbling and we had a well-deserved date with some lunch at Berry’s Coffee House back in Church Stretton town centre.
It’s not going to come as a surprise to you that we loved our Long Mynd hike experience.
The fact that I’d walked the first half of the hike yesterday as part of the Lightspout Loop turned out to be a blessing rather than the curse I had worried about.
Doing much of the same hike back to back with completely different weather meant I had effectively A/B tested the hike (so you don’t have to). I’d gathered real data (like a hike scientist).
And I can confirm hiking the Long Mynd is great under blue skies AND mist so thick you think you’ve got a sheep on your head.
If you’re in Church Stretton, Shropshire or anywhere in the Northwest then get yourself to Carding Mill Valley and hike the Long Mynd.
Don’t worry if the car park is full most people disappear once you top out past Lightspout Waterfall. Then it’s just you, the heather, the sheep, the mild ponies and those views.
Until next time hiker heroes, be good to yourself and if you’ve got anything left then be good to someone else too! Share the love.
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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