Upper Duffryn to Bishop’s Moat. Heather and Highlands.
Stoned Tracks, lanes and cross field bridleways
Bishop's Castle, Clun
Lat/Long: 52.4331751172, -3.1398830867
An 11.5 mile linear route from Duffryn to Bishop’s Moat up and through areas heathland and along many ancient trails. The heathland once covered the Clun Forest hills but only fragments survive, the rest having been ploughed up, much of this happening as part of the WW2 war effort. The remnant of the heathland, amongst tracts of improved grassland, is surely the most remote spot on this route and the haunting call of a curlew increases the feeling of ancient wilderness.
Heathland once covered the Clun Forest hills but only fragments survive, the rest having been ploughed up, much of this happening as part of the WW2 war effort.
The land was then reseeded to improve the grassland or planted with conifers. The Blue Remembered Hills Bridleway passes two nature reserves where the natural heathland is being preserved along with its wildlife.
The haunting call of curlew over Rhos Fiddle increases the feeling of ancient wilderness. This remnant of heathland, amongst tracts of improved grassland, is surely the most remote spot on the Bridleway. This land is now owned by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Native breeds are used to graze the site. You may begin to think you are in Scotland if you see the herd of Highland cattle or glimpse a dark Hebridean sheep . These animals are able to endure the harshest of conditions and thrive on the grasses and herbs characteristic of the heathland vegetation.
Small scale peat cutting on Rhos Fiddle during medieval times left a legacy of pools which has attracted wading birds, particularly the curlew and snipe. Along with the heather, sphagnum moss and cotton grass are found in the wetter areas and there is a fine show of the yellow mountain pansy, a plant once common on Shropshire hilltops.
Where the surfaced forestry road comes to an end and the Kerry Ridgeway becomes a grassy track there is an area of heathland known as Lower Short Ditch Turbary. A turbary was a commoners right to cut peat for their own domestic use. It would have been a job for the hardy to fetch their fuel from this remote place. The Lower Short Ditch, is one of three defensive border earthworks along the Kerry Ridgeway thought to have been a control point for travellers.
The Blue Remembered Hills Bridleway follows many historic trails but the oldest of all such tracks must be the Kerry Ridgeway. Its origins are lost in the mists of time but it is certainly earlier than the Iron Age and Dark Ages earthworks that cut its line. Nearby are Bronze Age burials, stone circles and Offa’s Dyke. It has a history of use as an important drovers road in the 17th and 18th centuries. Imagine the gruelling journey for the drovers herding their stock from the depths of Wales across these exposed hill tops to the English markets. The Ridgeway never dips below 1,000ft above sea level and follows the crest of Kerry Hill which affords remarkable views over the Welsh Marches. Only part of the route is traversed by riders on the BRH bridleway but the entire Kerry Ridgeway is worthy of an expedition of its own. Travel the whole route of 15 miles following the distinctive fox waymark from The Cider House, on the Newtown-Knighton Road to Bishop’s Castle.
On Shadwell Hill you will pass by the Cantlin Stone. This commemorates the death of a travelling pedlar. A dispute broke out amongst the surrounding parishes over who should incur the cost of burying the stranger but finally Bettws y Crwyn gave him a resting place. 200 years later this act of charity paid off as, on the strength on the position of the stone, Bettws Parish gained several hundred acres of land.