24/03/2015 - Starting from Church Stretton, we took the lanes then fields north east to the start of the steep climb up Caer Caradoc Hill. Took the route straight up via Three Fingers Rock with its impressive view down to the village and beyond. The ramparts cover a fair amount of the top of the hill, with each step along them offering even better views. We had lovely weather at the start and after a brew at the top made our way to have a nosey at The Lawley. Looping back over Hope Bowdler Hill, after the sunny weather up Caer Caradoc, it started to snow. I love the ever changing weather. This really is a fine hill and fort, well worth going to. Top site.
What a fantastic place .
I parked on the main road through Church Stretton and took the footpath that goes almost straight up. It was real steep sometimes but the view across to the Long Myndd more than compensates for any pain. It was very cold and windy but was otherwise sunny, I ended up staying longer than I intended missing out on Barbury ring. I'd driven past a dozen times so made the effort to come here and was really glad that I did.
The rocks on the eastern side reminded me of a mini Quirang on the isle of skye, this hillfort is one of the best, awesome views all around .
This hillfort lies on a very steep sided and impressive hill about 2 miles NE of Church Stretton. The hill is about 1500 feet above sea level and can be seen as a very obvious landmark from many miles away. The fort itself occupies the entire summit of the hill and consists of two levels where habitation may have occured and is almost entirely surrounded by two defensive ramparts and ditches. An ancient trackway cut into the side of the hill leads up to the fort on the east face of the hill from the nearby hamlet of Willstone. There is quite a noteable feature on the west face of the hill, a cave that has quite a famous legend associated with it. The cave is located a few feet below the outer rampart and can be fairly trecherous to reach. Also there is marked on the map two tumulii on the approach to the fort, though I have not been able to locate either of them myself.
Perhaps it was rather as the octave of Whit Sunday than as an independent festival, that Trinity Sunday was chosen for the celebration of 'Caradoc Wakes,' one of those ancient hill-feasts which form a marked characteristic of Shropshire folk-custom. The Caradoc - in the folk-speech the 'Querdoc' - is the grandest of the beautiful Stretton Hills, rising to a height of 1600 feet above the sea-level, and commanding a glorious distant view north, east, and south.
Standing one day at the upper end of the Stretton Valley, in full view of the peak of the Caradoc, I was told that it was the abode of an imprisoned fire-demon, and that when a solitary cloud rests on the summit of the hill, there may be seen the hand of the captive monster, struggling to get free. My informant had received this strange tradition from her grandfather, who, like herself, was a native of the spot.
The Trinity Sunday Wake, held upon it, was one of the great events of the year in that neighbourhood. William Homes, wheelwright [..] gave me a vivid description of it, September 8th, 1884. It was held, he said, on the level ring at the top of the hill, which is surrounded by the battery for the cannon [it is a British entrenched camp!]. There 'standings' were erected for the sale of refreshments, and 'a barrel o' drink,' or probably several, was tapped. Old women went in and out among the crowd hawking baskets of gingerbread, and the unfailing spring on the hill-top supplied water for the tea-kettles.
Games there were in plenty; foot-races for the young men; rolling cakes down the steep side of the hill, 'and who could get 'em, had 'em;' rough jokes and horse play at times. He remembered, when quite a boy, being penned into the dark cavern called King Caractus's [sic] Hole, by some elder lads, who kept him there for fun till they were tired out. Then there were fiddlers and plenty of dancing, but the special feature of the 'Querdoc Wakes,' which attracted the young men from far and near, was the wrestling for a pair of huge leathern gloves for hedging or harvest-work, which were the prize of the best man- a prize for which my old friend, now in his seventy-eighth year, had often contended, and the struggle for which gave rise to much excitement, and now and then to the exchange of a few blows, when a worsted combatant would not quietly submit to be laid on his back.
And all this on Trinity Sunday, while 'the good church bells are loudly ringing down [in the vale] below'! 'And when was it done away with?' I asked another ancient sage, James Coles of Leebotwood. 'Oh, it died out on itself,' he said: 'It had ought to a bin banished lung afore it was.' But down to the present time parties of young people may be met on the evening of Trinity Sunday returning from the Caradoc, where they have been spending the day on the hill in remembrance of the old custom.
The local folklore is that king Caradoc (or Caractacus) made his last stand against the romans here, and after he was defeated, hid from the romans in the cave on the west face of the hill. This is a very well-known legend in the stretton valley. Similar tales have been connected to the other Caradoc hillfort near Clun. But having lived next to the Church Stretton Caradoc all my life I am naturally inclined to believe that this fort is the site of the last stand.