|Visited 11 August 2010 via a short bus-ride from Ludlow to Farden and then a walk up to the hill. This is the part of the country I grew up in, the Clee dominating the view from the garden I played in as a kid. The radar station, marked by large white "dinosaur eggs", was a source of childhood interest from the RAF jets roaring supersonically overhead, trying to get below the radar. I remember coming up here in summer, aged about 9, for a picnic that was memorable only for being so windy that we all stayed in the car. In later years I came up with my Dad, as he tried (largely unsuccessfully) to encourage me to follow in his trials-riding footsteps in steep-sided quarry pits. But it's been a long time now since I last came here and I've never been to look at the hillfort and cairns.
The wind of that far-off picnic isn't in evidence today, replaced by warm August sunshine and a gentle breeze. Approaching the hill up the road from the SW, the first thing that becomes apparent is the scale of scarring caused to the hill by quarrying. The two cairns are already visible from here, right on the edge of the quarry workings. The line of hillfort ramparts that would have encircled the hill here is gone however. Most of the quarrying itself is now gone, although some smaller scale workings still continue off the hilltop itself away to the south. The quarrying has left the hill as a series of terraces, and it is up these that the road zigzags before reaching a car park and signpost for the Shropshire Way long distance path. This in turn continues as a rougher track up onto the hilltop next to the station. Following the edge of the unnatural cliff round takes me to the two cairns.
The first cairn is a low, flat-topped mound of sizeable diameter but little height. Some stones are visible around its perimeter, perhaps the remains of a kerb. The second cairn, to the NW, is better preserved but has been damaged by an OS trig mounted on its mound. Rather more depressingly, a walker's shelter of stone blocks has been built into the lee of the cairn. I suspect this has used either material from the cairn itself or from the hillfort rampart, the remaining sections of which are constructed from such blocks. Part of the rampart, escaping destruction by quarrying, can be seen on the slope below the cairn.
The views that have now opened out to the south are extensive, to say the least. The proximity of this place to my childhood has already dug into a buried vein of memories and the way these views link my past to the landscapes of my present, gives me an almost overwhelming sense of euphoria. To the southeast there's the spine of the Malverns, further south the unmistakable tree-topped May Hill that is visible from so many Cotswold viewpoints, and over to the southwest the Black Mountains' northern escarpment fills a chunk of the horizon. Most excitingly, just visible as a light blue shape further still to the southwest, are the twin summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du. The jigsaw of my little world is laid out before me.
Carrying on past the NW cairn, a rocky outcrop at the western end of the hill, known as the Giant's Chair, forms the highest point (and the third highest in Shropshire at 533m). Looking to the north, the neighbouring Brown Clee comes into view, also crowned by an Iron Age settlement. To the northwest, the ridge of the Long Mynd, another place of childhood memories, lies invitingly close. And Mid-Wales is beyond, fading into the blue.
The rampart of the fort, on its northern side, is interesting. Unlike most Marches hillforts, this rampart is formed from a ribbon of dolerite (I think) blocks. Think Chun Castle and you'd not be far off construction-wise, although this rampart surrounds a much larger area. I suspect that much has been robbed away so that only a low bank remains. The main aspect of the defence in truth is the natural slope of the hill. The wind is keener here and I make my way back to the cairns and take in that wonderful view again.
Posted by thesweetcheat
19th December 2010ce