Horses for courses
Roads, tracks and cross field bridleways.
Pine Car Park, Hopton Hill
Lat/Long: 52.773424594, -2.9116507914
Horses have been a part of the Nesscliffe Hills for centuries. They would have clattered up to the ancient Hillfort and to Oliver’s Point with its commanding view of the valley below. Wild Humphrey Kynaston, the Robin Hood of Shropshire, is reputed to have lived in the cave up 24 steps cut into the rock face on the west of the hill with his horse, Beelzebub, stabled alongside. Here, he could watch out for rich travellers on the road below. Horses would have been used to pull the huge stones along the tracks from the quarries to build many of the area’s churches and buildings, including the Thomas Telford designed Montford Bridge. Horses brought Lord Bradford and his family to the Archery contest, held on the once open spaces on the top of Nesscliffe Hill. Horses also pulled the Milford Mill dray, driven by Mr. Ratcliffe, the Miller, which brought the Baschurch Sunday School outings to the ‘Tea Tents’ picnic area. They travelled through the Shrubbs Common, as the slope on the track from Valeswood up to the Pine Car park was too steep.
The old Startlewood Lane takes us to Ruyton-XI-Towns and on to Five Ways where it is thought that the Roman road, now a bridleway, went on to the Platt Bridge. We turn to the Cliffe Common, lowland heathland with sandy tracks, where heather and whinberries grow. The ridge and viewpoint give panoramic views of Shropshire and the Welsh Hills.
Returning to Nesscliffe Hill, we pass by Shrubbs Common, and Shruggs Coppice, and cross the gallops, used by racehorses from the trainer’s stables in Great Ness.
Look out for the Californian Redwoods planted by the Bradfords which now tower over the woodland bridleways on Nesscliffe Hill, interspersed with many species including douglas fir, larch, oak, beech, and birch.
Author, Peter Davies, who lived in Little Ness, in his book ‘Mares Milk and Wild Honey’ recounts tales of the Gipsies who camped at the north end of the Cliffe Common, whilst doing seasonal work on local farms. He rode his pony Topsy on the sandy Cliffe tracks.