The Long Mynd
The Long Mynd in Shropshire, England, is a part of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is 10 miles (16 km) south of the county town Shrewsbury and has an area of over 22 square kilometres (8.5 sq mi), most of which takes the form of a heathland plateau. Most of the land on the Long Mynd land is owned by the National Trust.
The name Long Mynd means “Long Mountain”. The Long Mynd stands between the Stiperstones range to the west and the Stretton Hills and Wenlock Edge to the east. The eastern edge of the Mynd has many steep valleys, though its western slope rises in a steep escarpment above the wide valley of the River East Onny. North to south, it is approximately 7 miles (11 km) long by a maximum of 3 miles (4.8 km) wide.
The principal settlements surrounding the Long Mynd are the Strettons (Church Stretton, Little Stretton and All Stretton), Pulverbatch, Smethcott, Woolstaston, Asterton, Myndtown, Wentnor and Ratlinghope.
The highest point on the Long Mynd is Pole Bank at a height of 516 m (1,693 ft.)
The Long Mynd comprises many hills and moors. From the summit of nearly every hill, extensive views of the surrounding area and surrounding counties can be seen. North, you can see as far as Cheshire; West commands views over the Stiperstones, and the Welsh Cambrian Mountains in Powys, notably the Cambrian and Berwyn Mountains, and as far as Snowdonia on clear days. The views East are obscured by other areas of the Shropshire Hills, Caer Caradoc, The Wrekin, and the Clee Hills. However, depending on your location on the Long Mynd, views of the West Midlands can be seen. Views South show the Clun Forest, and towards the Craven Arms and Ludlow. Valleys Hollows and Batches.
There are dozens of valleys on the Long Mynd, many of which are named Hollows and Batches. The highest concentration of valleys is on the eastern edge of the Long Mynd, near Church Stretton town. The geography of the valleys has many of the larger ones adjacent to each other, running north west to south east. Though smaller valleys flow into these, the smaller valleys are hence named batches, dales, and brooks to distinguish them from the larger features.
The Bronze Age period is by far the most recorded period of time on the Long Mynd. There are dozens of tumuli on the moorland. Some are small, the remains of chamber tombs for example. Others are quite large, the sites on the Long Mynd, from the Bronze Age, include Dykes and Barrows.
Barristers Plain Cross-Ridge Dyke runs south-west to north-east, almost in a straight line for 170 m (560 ft). It runs across the narrowest area of a ridge between Grindle Hill and Round Hill. The remains of the dyke is now covered in heather, and is approximately 5.5 m (18 ft), and is 0.5 m (1.6 ft). On its western side, it is fronted by a 3 m (9.8 ft) wide ditch. At both ends of the Cross Ridge Dyke, it fades into the steep hillside. A gap in the dyke, 60 m (200 ft) from the south-east end, is thought to make room for a trackway along the ridge. Its purpose was to cut off Grindle Hill from the main plateau and to create a barrier for access from the west.
Devils Mouth Cross-Ridge Dyke lies between Cardingmill Valley and Townbrook Valley. The dyke is 140 m (460 ft) long but is cut through by the Burway Way and a small car park, 35 m (115 ft) of the dyke is now missing. Both ends of the dyke end on steep slopes! It was built with stone and earth and is 6 m (20 ft) wide, and 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high, with shallow ditches either side. It is roughly 1500 years old. It was probably built to control the access along the ancient east to west route, which still crosses the Long Mynd today by means of a modern road.
High Park Cross-Ridge Dyke, another dyke on the Long Mynd. At 380 m (1,250 ft) it is the longest on the Long Mynd. It is approximately 6 m (20 ft) wide, but in areas survives only as a crop mark. The highest point of the dyke, on the west side of the bank, stands at 1.2 m (3.9 ft) high and reaches its widest point at 8 m (26 ft). A trackway, like that found on Barristers Plain Cross-Ridge Dyke, cuts through the dyke.
Of the Long Mynd Barrows, over twenty scatter the plateau. The best examples are in the northern area of the Long Mynd.
Robin Hoods Butts barrow, near Duckley Nap, are two well known barrows, and the largest on the Long Mynd, being approximately 36 m (118 ft) in diameter and 4 m (13 ft) high.
The Shooting Box Barrow is named after a grouse-shooting hut that stood on the site until it was removed in 1992. It is the only known example of a disc barrow in Shropshire. 21 m (68 ft) in diameter and 2.3 m (7.5 ft) high, it is in the centre of a flat circular enclosure 54 m (177 ft) in diameter, the edge of which is defined by a 5 m (16 ft) wide bank, which has been partially destroyed by a modern path. It had been dated between c.1950-1700 BC.
The Port Way is an ancient trackway, which runs the length of the Long Mynd massif, and is the largest historical feature on the Long Mynd, at just over 5 miles (8.0 km) long. It is still walked today and is part of the Shropshire Way, and a road that goes to the Gliding Club. A common misconception is that it goes over Pole Bank, but instead it bypasses the hill, following its contours.
Very little Iron Age human activity has been recorded on the Long Mynd. However, this later period has a specific ancient site.
Bodbury Ring Hill Fort, a hill fort above Cardingmill Valley, and sits on the top of Bodbury Hill at 380 m (1,250 ft). This feature dates from the Iron Age, c. 500BC, and is therefore much later than other ancient sites on the Long Mynd. Another hill fort nearby sits on the summit of Caer Caradoc. Bodbury Ring is now looked after by The National Trust.
During the 18th century, Church Stretton began to grow in the wide valley between the Long Mynd and Caer Caradoc, as a Spa town. Historically the town was known for its textiles, specifically in Cardingmill Valley. Carding Mill was built in the 18th century and named after a stage in making cloth, the three stages being carding, spinning, and weaving. Carding would have been done by children and involved using a hand-card that removed and untangled short fibres from the mass of raw material. The cards were wooden blocks with handles and covered in metal spikes, which were angled, (to make it easier to untangle) and set in leather. When untangled, the material would be spun, and then weaved into the final product. The Mill is still in the valley today, but has been converted into luxury apartments.
The Long Mynd Hotel in Church Stretton was built in 1900, originally as the Hydro, at a time when the town was popular as a spa.
A large area of the Long Mynd (almost all its upland area) was bought by the National Trust in 1965 and was designated an AONB as part of the Shropshire Hills in 1958.
The geology dates back to Precambrian, and during the time would have been 60° south of the equator, the same latitude as the Falkland Islands. Shropshire would have been at the very edge of a large continent near the sea, which was being buckled by tectonic activity, causing volcanoes to form. The area had broad rivers; evidence of mudflats has been found. The rivers would have flowed out to sea, creating large estuaries; over time, the mudflats would have built up, and volcanic eruptions deposited ash in layers between the sand and mud.
The primary rock of the Long Mynd is sandstone, usually coloured purple or grey. The volcanoes created the nearby Stretton Hills and the Wrekin, and eruptions would have been frequent. There are layers in the rocks of the Long Mynd that have preserved raindrop marks recording a passing rain shower. The raindrop marks were created when rain fell onto a layer of firm dry mud and was then covered by another layer of mud, which filled them in and preserved them for 565 million years. Examples of these fossilised rain prints can be viewed today in the National Trust Tearoom Exhibition, in Carding Mill Valley. The layers of rock built up over the millennia to create an approximately 7,000 m (23,000 ft) thick layer composed of sand, mud, silt, and ash.
Towards the end of the Precambrian period, the volcanoes ceased their eruptions, and the rivers had dried up. Instead, the forces that created the volcanoes caused the new rocks to lift and fold, creating mountains and valleys in the area. Much of the rock was melted during this period, underneath the Earth’s crust, causing the mountains to continually change towards the latter part of the Precambrian.
The Church Stretton Fault line was created during this period and is still active today. The hill Caer Caradoc adjacent to the Long Mynd and from the same time is more volcanic in origin and is thought to be the remnants of the great mountain chain.
During the Cambrian, Shropshire was flooded by the sea, after the Global Ice Age ended 545 million years ago. Thick layers of beach pebbles and white sand were built up against the sea cliffs that were once molten lava. During this time, the shallow sea played host to the huge explosion of new life which occurred during the Cambrian. Shropshire has some of the most historically important evidence in the explosion of life and in the naming and dividing of the Cambrian period. Trilobites that are found in the county are internationally important for deciding how the Cambrian is divided into smaller segments of time.
The Ordovician had Shropshire back to volcanic activity and saw the county temporarily split in two, along the Pontesford – Linley fault line. Everything west of this line was an ocean, while the east was dry land. The Iapetus Ocean was closing, bringing the two halves of Britain towards each other, and volcanic eruptions created the Cumbrian Mountains and Snowdonia. Shropshire also saw volcanic activity. To the west of the Pontesford – Linley fault, volcanic rocks have been found. The other side of the fault line was quieter. The land was slowly eroded, and the sea gradually flooded it, so that only the tops of hills could be seen, such as the ancient Caer Caradoc. Towards the end of the Ordovician, the sea levels dropped, due to another ice age.
The Silurian period, occurring 439 million years ago, has been well preserved nearby, in Wenlock Edge. During this time, Shropshire would have been flooded again by a shallow sea. Wenlock Edge would have formed during this time, and the fossils of ancient corals and shellfish can be found all along the Edge, preserved in limestone.
Towards the end of the Silurian, the Iapetus would have fully closed, and England and Scotland were joined. The closing of this ocean was important to geology in Great Britain. It caused most of our hills and mountains to align along the fault, northeast to the southwest.
During the Devonian, the newly formed Scottish Mountains had rivers flowing all over the land. Shropshire was no exception; these new rivers caused thick deposits in the area. Most of the rocks from this era are red sandstones, caused by iron in the rock. The area was known as the Old Red Sandstone Continent. These river sediments have traces of fossilised fish. Shropshire would have remained above water until the end of the Devonian when the seas rose once again.
The Carboniferous was a time of great change for the area. Shropshire would have been near the equator, and the Old Red Sandstone continent had been eroded away; in the early part of the era, the county was under a shallow sea. However, tectonic activity pushed Britain out of the sea. South of Shropshire, this effect was felt greatly, though Shropshire was relatively quiet. Mountains to the north were being worn down by rivers, creating enormous deltas that were colonised by plant life. A tropical forest took hold all over Shropshire, with ancient tree ferns and horsetails. Shropshire eventually crossed the equator during this era, and became a part of Pangaea during the Permian; the area would have been very similar to the Sahara Desert and would have been in the vicinity, around 20° to 30° north of the equator.
The Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary were very quiet in Shropshire, and very little evidence can be found from these periods.
The last Ice Age during the Quaternary has its effect on all of Shropshire, shaping the landscape as we see it today. The Long Mynd would have been under a thick Ice Sheet, several hundred metres thick. As the ice melted, it carved out the valleys and hills of the Long Mynd massif we see today. The small rivers, streams and brooks still very slowly carve out the valleys. The springs and bogs play a part in Church Stretton’s economy, as the people bottle the mineral water that comes from the Long Mynd.
Today the steep and narrow valleys are covered in a thin layer of soil, with a low pH, able to support only strong grasses, rushes, and heathers. Beneath the soil, the evidence of the ancient and chequered past can be seen, and the rocky outcrops and scree slopes are excellent places to view the different layers of ancient rock.
Since 2006, Cambridge University has monitored seismic activity in Long Mynd. The broadband seismometer is connected to the internet, and real-time traces can be viewed online.
Tourism and Recreation
The area is popular with tourists, and there are many fine walks in the area. Two major walks are the Shropshire Way and the Jack Mytton Way. The Long Mynd is also used for horse riding and mountain biking on the bridleways.
Of the many valleys on the Long Mynd, the most popular is Cardingmill Valley, which has a road directly connected to Church Stretton and is the National Trust’s centre for the area.
The windward slopes are popular with glider, hang-glider and paraglider pilots.
During wintry conditions, some valleys are used as makeshift ski slopes. While highly attractive in good conditions, the Long Mynd can be treacherous in severe weather and has claimed many lives.
The Longmynd hike is a 50-mile (80 km) competitive hike that must be completed in under 24 hours. It takes place annually, usually in the first weekend in October. It crosses over the Long Mynd twice, taking in Pole Bank along its course. The hike has been running since 1967.
There is a golf course, the Church Stretton Golf Club, situated near the Cardingmill Valley, on slopes of Stanyeld Hill and Bodbury Hill. The clubhouse is at approximately 230 metres (750 ft) above sea level and the hilly links course rises up to around 375m (1,230 ft). It is the oldest 18-hole golf course in Shropshire, opened in 1898, and one of the highest in the country.
The Long Mynd has been home to the Midland Gliding Club since 1934. The club owns 136 ha of land on the south end and flies gliders there throughout the year. It runs residential training courses and offers trial lesson flights to members of the public. Many long flights have started from the Long Mynd, most recently one of 750 km during the summer of 2007. Midland Gliding Club is one of the last clubs in Europe to regularly launch gliders by bungee.
Flora and fauna
The typical plant life on the Long Mynd is heather, rushes, and grasses. The wildlife includes ponies, sheep, bats and wild birds including the rare Ring Ouzel.
The Revd E. D. Carr’s A Night in the Snow describes his experience, in 1865, of surviving a winter’s night on the Long Mynd when attempting to walk home after conducting a Sunday service and visiting an isolated parishioner. He spent 23 hours struggling to force a route back to civilisation.
The Long Mynd features in literature in the poetry of A. E. Housman, the novels of Mary Webb (in particular Gone To Earth), and Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine series for children.