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South Shropshire - A view from our expert author


Here are the ‘blue remembered hills’ of AE Housman’s poetry; the country that for Mary Webb ‘lies between the dimpled lands of England and the gaunt purple steeps of Wales – half in Faery and half out of it’.

For many people, south Shropshire is the definitive Shropshire. Here are the ‘blue remembered hills’ of AE Housman’s poetry; the country that for Mary Webb ‘lies between the dimpled lands of England and the gaunt purple steeps of Wales – half in Faery and half out of it’. Much of this region is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), designated in 1958 to protect and enhance the region’s celebrated hills, farmland, woods, valleys and batches, richly varied geology and diverse wildlife. From this natural geography we are given walks and views and abundant opportunities for quiet contemplation. From its conservation we enjoy fresh produce from local farms and smallholdings; the chance to see birds, butterflies and plants whose numbers elsewhere have diminished in the wake of development. 

Ludlow © PHB.cz-Richard-SemikAnd from the human lives overlaid on the countryside’s natural beauty we have castles and market towns, striking black-and-white Tudor buildings, country houses with generations of intrigues. Going back earlier, we have ancient earthworks such as Offa’s Dyke, and the ‘sleeping war’ with Wales, sensed by the children in Sheena Porter’s 1964 Carnegie Award-winning Nordy Bank (named after the Iron Age hillfort on Brown Clee where they camp).

Here are the ‘blue remembered hills’ of AE Housman’s poetry; the country that for Mary Webb ‘lies between the dimpled lands of England and the gaunt purple steeps of Wales – half in Faery and half out of it’.

Major attractions in south Shropshire are Ludlow, a strikingly wellpreserved hilltop town popularly known as a foodie destination, Church Stretton, an excellent base for exploring the Shropshire Hills and Bishop’s Castle, home to Britain’s oldest working brewery. Clun is a favourite too, with a ruined castle and a literary heritage that punches above the town’s villagey character. Look beyond the obvious, and you’ll find a near-perfect Norman chapel in an ‘abandoned’ village, the disused workings of Europe’s most productive lead mine, and a late-Victorian mansion which took a starring role in a Hollywood film.

An excellent place to start your adventure would be the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms, where you can make a virtual balloon ride over the AONB, a panoramic film narrated by one of Shropshire’s beloved adopted sons, the late Pete Postlethwaite who spent his last years at Minton near Little Stretton.

When deciding where to shop, eat and drink, look for the Shropshire Hills Sustainable Business Scheme sticker. Businesses displaying it have pledged to take action to reduce their impact on the environment; enhance wildlife and landscape; involve local people and visitors; and support the local economy.

(Photo: Ludlow is picturesque, with a majestic church, castle ruins, rivers and bridges and around 500 listed buildings © PHB.cz-Richard-Semik)

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