It’s all in the Mynd!
Wind round both Clee hills, go over the Edge, flank Caer Caradoc and tackle the Long Mynd haul to Ratlinghope.
On Sunday June 9th, 2024’s 65 mile Shropshire Highland Challenge again does what it says on the tin. We maintain Danny Mason’s 32 year-old legacy of introducing hidden corners and climbs in our beautiful Shropshire Hills National Landscape to keen cyclists from near and far.
After leaving Ludlow round the Castle and passing thorough the town’s last remaining mediaeval gate, you head east through Caynham under its hill-fort. Taking quiet and often steep lanes through Whitton, Coreley and Hints, you ascend the southern flank of Titterstone Clee Hill, with stunning views west, south and then east. After Doddington you traverse Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Catherton Common and Cramer Gutter sites before reaching the first of the three famously friendly refreshment stops, at Oreton. As before, the Challenge will be raising valuable funds for the important work of the Wildlife Trust in providing habitats for a rich variety of local wildlife.
You ‘up-and-down’ your way via Stottesdon towards Shropshire’s highest hill, the Brown Clee, which looms ever grander in front of you. Skirting its north side via Ditton Priors, you descend to Stanton Long and Corvedale before climbing over Wenlock Edge by Wilderhope Manor, an Elizabethan manor house now run as a Youth Hostel. Descending to Longvile-in-the Dale, you are in the Stretton Hills. The lunch stop is in the lovely village of Cardington, nestled under the mighty Caer Caradoc.
‘Mynd over Matter!’ Skirting Caradoc’s massif, you soon start the biggest climb of the day over the Long Mynd from All Stretton. On the Inwood climb to Robin Hood’s Butts you have little choice but to take it slowly and enjoy one of the most scenic routes in the area. You descend dramatically to follow Darnford Brook to Ratlinghope and the Bridges before a rarely used lane under Norbury Hill delivers you to a well-deserved final refreshment stop at Norbury.
The final stage takes you down the Onny valley, including a section of A road to Craven Arms. You return to Ludlow Castle via Vernolds Common and Ludlow Racecourse. You will have ridden 65.6 miles (105.5 km) and climbed 5,305 feet (1,617 metres) and seen the Shropshire Hills National Landscape at its finest.
The Wild West
After 2022’s rare but successful venture north, in 2023 we returned to a westerly route, including one real beast of a climb. There were stunning views in all directions and no dull sections. Particular 2023 themes were:
- An exploration of the remote Clun Forest, once a royal hunting forest – although this doesn’t mean it was all once covered by trees!
- Fine ridge riding: an unusually high proportion of miles feeling on top of the world
- Riding through or past three important Shropshire Wildlife Trust sites: an ancient oak coppice, a precious high wet heath and a famous common.
- Bridging the main rivers of the Shropshire Hills, some of them several times: the Corve, Onny, Clun, Unk and Teme.
- Riding through history: starting and finishing under Ludlow’s great Norman castle, past a partially Anglo-Saxon church, around an Iron Age hill-fort, along a Roman road, criss-crossing the 8th century Offa’s Dyke and close-up views of the ancient Kerry Ridgeway drovers’ road. The route also went right past Everest Hall (in honour of Lord Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine, the leader of the 1953 expedition to 1st climb Mt Everest)
- The usual mixture of long or steep (or both!) climbs, exhilarating descents, lanes with grass in the middle and blind bends – with a few linking stretches of A and B roads to enjoy 😊
The route was 65 miles (km) long and climbed 5,348 ft (metres).