Books, Falcons and Bombs. A 9.5 mile ride from Hill End Farm near Wistanstow.
Hilly, grass and stone tracks
Hill End Farm
Church Stretton, Craven Arms
Lat/Long: 52.484034713, -2.9070828986
The Long Mynd has its ancient tracks and Bronze Age works but the most fascinating history is far more recent. This ride is shrouded in tales of the Second World War, spies and secret bases, the Home Guard and own goals!
In the War Minton Hill was used by the Germans as a landmark for their bomber raids on the Mersey. Pathfinder planes dropped flares setting the hill on fire so it could be used as a beacon for the bombers. The Home Guard dug small pools all over the hill to collect water which they used to extinguish the fires.
As you ride up to Minton Hill and over the Bronze Age cross dyke look to the north. On the next hill there was a gun emplacement and it’s said that after a late night at the local pub Minton was shelled by accident. Just north of the route is Pole Cottage. It’s not very much now but in the war it was a secret base where people trained in the art of falconry. The falcons killed the carrier pigeons used by German spies. Perhaps the most famous WW2 connection is with the books of Malcolm Saville. He set his popular children’s book “Mystery at Witchend” here on the Long Mynd. A group of children, who lived at Priors Holt, formed a club called “The Lone Pine Club”. They went on to foil a German plot and capture the spies.
Malcolm Saville (1901-1982) based his ‘Lone Pine Club’ childrens books on real locations in and around the Long Mynd. He came to know the area well when his family were evacuated there during World War II. He encouraged his readers to visit and explore the landscape in which his stories unfolded.
You may spot a red grouse as you cross the Long Mynd. These game birds are in decline but if you are lucky you may see one as it rockets up out of the heather then flies low with fast whirring wingbeats. It makes a distinctive staccato “go-back, go-back, go-back” call.
In the days when most travel was by horse these routes over the Long Mynd were drove roads from Wales into England. The story goes that reaching this rocky outcrop the drover would stand on this stone in order to adjust the load , or packets, on the pony’s back before commencing the descent to Minton.