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The Legends of Stiperstones Ridge

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The Legends of Stiperstones Ridge
Author: Claire, Published: 20 Aug 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Shropshire, Shropshire Hills
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
The Legends of Stiperstones Ridge
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 3 mile circular walk taking in Stiperstones Ridge in Shropshire, a quartzite ridge formed around 500 million years ago. The walk is a must if you are in the area on a clear day, revealing spectacular geology, impressive panoramic views, wildlife-rich upper heathland and a wealth of myths and legends.

The walk up to the ridge is a decent, fairly steep climb and the ridge-top path is awkward terrain being an uneven rocky surface that will test the strength of your ankles. However if you are fit enough, it's worth the effort to get up close to the quartzite tors and for the amazing view. The top of the ridge is very exposed so please do not attempt the walk in fog and make sure you wear appropriate clothing. There are no stiles on route, just a few single gates. Dogs are welcome within the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve but must be kept on leads to protect the ground-nesting birds. The return path crosses two large fields that are likely to be holding cattle, so take care with dogs. (When we walked one of these fields held cows, calves and a bull; the path is well walked and the cattle seemed relaxed with our dog – but do take the usual care). For those who can't manage the climb, there is also an all-ability wide, level and wheelchair-friendly path from the car park which still gives great views – simply follow the iFootpath map in reverse, heading ‘there and back’ to Waypoint 4. Approximate time 1.5 to 2 hours.

Stiperstones is a distinctive hill in West Shropshire, close to the border with Wales. The walk starts and finishes from the free Stiperstones National Nature Reserve car park (sometimes called The Knolls car park), a very remote and isolated car park within the hills. Signposted roads lead up from the A488, south of Minsterley (south-west of Shrewsbury). The easiest way to get to the car park is first to reach The Bog visitor centre (Post code SY5 0NG). From here it is just a short drive up the hill (following the brown tourism signs) to reach the National Nature Reserve car park, the entrance for which is on the left just before a cattle grid.

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Walk Sections

Start to Shropshire Way
Start to Shropshire Way

Start point: 52.5735 lat, -2.9319 long
End point: 52.5788 lat, -2.9361 long

Standing in the National Nature Reserve car park with your back to the vehicle entrance, take the first gate on the left (which sits alongside an information board about the reserve). Walk directly ahead on the obvious grass path climbing through the heather, a blaze of purple in the late summer months. If you need to pause to catch your breath on the way up, be sure to turn round to take advantage of the views opening up behind you.

This is one of the best surviving areas of upper heathland in England. Managed by Natural England, a recent project called Back to Purple, has helped to restore the heathland, removing encroaching woodland and allowing the spread of the heather and whinberries. Some of the UK’s rarest and most enigmatic species have responded well. The Stiperstones red grouse population, the UK’s southern-most naturally occurring population, exceeded 100 birds in 2014, a record number since surveys began. Snipe, common lizard and emperor moths also seem to be bouncing back in numbers.

About half way up, the path swings right to reach a fork. Take the left-hand branch, still climbing. At the top you will come to a small pile of rocks, at which point the views also open up ahead. This marks the junction with the Shropshire Way which runs across the top of the Stiperstones Ridge.

Shropshire Way to Devil's Chair
Shropshire Way to Devil's Chair

Start point: 52.5788 lat, -2.9361 long
End point: 52.5858 lat, -2.9336 long

Turn right and follow the rocky path along the top of the ridge, still climbing steadily. Take care on this uneven (sometimes slippery) awkward surface, making sure you watch your step. The path leads you past a large rocky cairn on the left. Pause here to enjoy the expansive views and discover more about this geological wonder.

The remarkable ridge of the Stiperstones is made of quartzite, an extremely hard, crystalline rock which sparkles in the sun. Often used as ballast and also as a decorative stone, quartzite is also becoming a popular choice for kitchen work surfaces, being harder and more stain resistant than granite. The freezing and thawing cycles of the last Ice Age shattered the rock, building up layers of scree and creating the jagged outcrops that we see today. With such breathtaking and spooky scenery, it is hardly surprising that the area abounds in legends and myths.

The earliest tale relating to the mysterious Stiperstones is Arthurian in origin. The story goes that two great dragons, one red and one white, fought a terrible battle over the lonely forests and bogs of south Shropshire. Finally, locked in the embrace of death, they fell to earth and became the two mountain ridges, the Stiperstones and the adjacent Long Mynd. Could these sparkling rocky cairns be the spikes of a fossilised dragon spine?

A little way along, you will come to a particularly tall rock outcrop on the left, Manstone Rock. Manstone Rock is the highest point on the ridge sitting at 536 metres above sea level and is topped with a trig point. Some adventurous explorers climb up the rock to the trig point (please take care if you choose to do so) from where it feels like sitting on top of the world.

Manstone Rock is one of six principal quartzite tors along the ridge. One legend says the Devil chose to build himself a mighty castle on these hills, from where the bitter cold was respite from the fires of hell. He employed six giantesses to bring the stones from Wales and build his new pad. However, a young local lord saw the giantesses arrive and committed to stop them. The first he tripped with a rope, the second he lured into a stream and the third he drugged with sweet berries that grew wild on the hills. One-by-one the giantesses were tricked into abandoning their loads. When the Devil came to see his new castle he found only six great piles of rock, the tors we see today.

Continue ahead on the rocky path, which now very steadily descends. Further along the path leads you through the next tall formation, known as the Devil’s Chair.

Devil's Chair to Stone Wall
Devil's Chair to Stone Wall

Start point: 52.5858 lat, -2.9336 long
End point: 52.5911 lat, -2.9248 long

The Devil's Chair is the largest and most imposing of the tors and attracts the most myths. According to legend, the rocks of the Devil's Chair were brought here by the Devil himself. Carrying a load of stones in his apron, the Devil was actually planning to use his load of stones to fill in the valley on the other side of the Stiperstones, which is known as Hell's Gutter. As he reached Stiperstones, the Devil fancied a bit of a rest. Unfortunately for him, as he got up after his rest on the highest rock of the Stiperstones, his apron strings snapped and the rocks tumbled out. Instead of picking them up, the Devil left the rocks scattered all over the ridge – such a litter lout - and the legend has it that you can still smell the brimstone on them in hot weather. This isn't the end of the Devil's involvement on this rocky outcrop. The evil guy is also said to use the Devil's Chair as... you’ve guessed it...a chair. On the night of winter solstice, according to legend, he sits on his chair and summons all his local followers – witches, the undead and evil spirits - and they pay homage to the King of the Damned.

Continue along the obvious ridge-top path and follow it meandering steadily downhill. Before you reach the next large rock tor, you will come to a crossroads. Turn right here and follow the path swinging steadily left downhill. At the bottom you will reach a gate set within a stone wall.

Stone Wall to Viewpoint
Stone Wall to Viewpoint

Start point: 52.5911 lat, -2.9248 long
End point: 52.5795 lat, -2.9284 long

Pass through the gate (NOTE: This large field and the next one may be holding cattle), and walk ahead on the obvious path (still part of the Shropshire Way) which bears slightly right down the hill. You will come to a gate ahead, pass through this to enter the next pasture.

Walk down the hill, between 1 and 2 o’clock. As you reach the dirt track at the bottom of the field, turn right along this. Where the track swings left, keep ahead across a stony ford through a gap in the hedge to join the bridleway signed to The Knolls. Keep ahead following the line of the gorse hedgerow on the right and the bridleway leads you to a gate in the field corner.

Pass through the gate and follow the stone path through the small section of woodland, climbing steadily to reach a gate alongside a cattle grid. Pass through this to re-enter the heathland nature reserve. NOTE: This section is sometimes grazed by Exmoor ponies and sheep. Keep directly ahead on the main stone path, climbing steadily and then levelling off. Further along you will come to a wider gravel section with benches on the right, a viewpoint which marks the end (or start in our case) of the all-ability trail.

Viewpoint to End
Viewpoint to End

Start point: 52.5795 lat, -2.9284 long
End point: 52.574 lat, -2.9316 long

Continue along the surfaced bridleway, taking time to enjoy the views across the valley to your left and keeping your eyes peeled for signs of the Exmoor ponies in the heath to the right. The low wooden barrier running on the right-hand edge of this path is a tapping rail, allowing partially sighted people to use a stick to navigate the trail.

Along the way you will pass a few benches and information boards giving details of the vast array of insects that the heath supports. In the summer months you won’t have to look for long to see a wide range of butterfly species. The surfaced path leads you through another single gate and then on to reach the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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3 gallery images for "The Legends of Stiperstones Ridge"

4882_0Richard1440099568 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 20 Aug 2015
There are wonderful views along the whole route (if the weather is good). In July/August the heather is out too.
4882_1Richard1440099568 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 20 Aug 2015
The forest is a welcome change to the wide open expanse of the moor.
4882_0clairesharpuk1441565286 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Claire
Uploaded: 06 Sep 2015
The iFootpath photographer and his trusted companion at work...

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