Know your Unk from your Onny: rivers en route

There is plenty to love about the Shropshire Hills – hills, hill-forts, market towns and villages, castles, wildflower-lined lanes, wildlife and woods – but spare some room this year to appreciate their many fast-rising and fast-falling rivers. 

2021’s route starts and ends by the Teme at Ludlow Rugby Club, which it frequently floods. Like most Shropshire rivers the Teme flows west to east, rising on the Kerry Ridgeway in Wales. After draining most of south Shropshire and a chunk of Worcestershire, it joins the Severn at Worcester at the site of Charles II’s final defeat in the Civil War. The Teme in Ludlow hosts otters and, in autumn, salmon leaping upstream to breed. The river itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

But this year, you won’t actually cross the Teme on the route! 2021 is about crossing its tributaries, the Corve, Onny and Clun (and some of their tributaries in turn), which flow into the Teme upstream of Ludlow. 

First up is the Corve, which you cross as you leave Ludlow. You are then in Corvedale for the first dozen or so miles, crossing a couple of the ‘baches’ (small stream valleys) which descend from Wenlock Edge into the Corve. Corvedale is a lovely valley of agricultural villages and pubs nestled between Wenlock Edge and the Brown Clee.

Underneath Flanders Folly you switch to the River Onny catchment, and you cross the Onny by a bridleway footbridge in Craven Arms. Long before arriving in Craven Arms, the West Onny (draining much of Corndon Hill and the Stiperstones) joins the East Onny (draining much of the Long Mynd).

Then after Wart Hill before the first stop at Edgton, you switch to the Clun catchment, where you remain for most of the ride. At Bishop’s Moat on the Kerry Ridgeway just beyond Bishops Castle you are on the watershed, rain to your north draining into the Camlad which flows west to join the Severn, rain to the south draining into the the Kemp (a Clun tributary), and rain ahead of you draining into another Clun tributary, the Unk, whose delightful valley you follow for a few miles. Then at Whitcott Keysett you start following the main Clun river itself up its source at the Anchor. On the way, past Newcastle, you cross Folly Brook, a Clun tributary with its own wonderful valley. The whole upper Clun valley, and Clun Forest to the north, together comprise some of England’s remotest and quietest countryside, a sort of Wild West in terms of terrain, wildlife and vista.

After climbing a little south-east from Anchor, you follow the wonderful ridge between the Clun valley (north, on your left) and the Teme valley (south, on your right). After crossing the River Clun in the town of Clun by ford or footbridge, you follow it downstream until the little rise after Aston-on-Clun, when you return to the Onny catchment. Here you remain until Ludlow Racecourse, from which you arrive into Ludlow town betwixt Teme and Corve, crossing the latter on the same bridge as at the start, before returning to the Rugby Club beside the Teme.