Ancient Roads, Castles and Spies

Ride Shropshire Route 9: The Betchcott Ride image

Distance

8.5 miles

Terrain

Hilly, grass and stone tracks.

Start from

Womerton

Nearest to

Church Stretton

Parking

start or Picklescott VH

Map reference

Lat/Long: 52.5758692681, -2.8451404062

OS: SO428979

The route

Travel a track used for the last 6000 years, see the remains of Norman castles, he handiwork of a World War 2 German spy and some of the best scenery in the country on this ride.

When you reach the top of the Betchcott Hills you follow the Portway, a Stone Age axe trading route. Tools made from picrite rock found on Corndon Hill, just over the Welsh border, were carried along this route. But why a track on top of a ridge? 6000 years ago when the Portway was first used the surrounding valleys would have been forested, with river crossings, boggy land and fear of ambush. The ridge ways were easier and safer.

The mounds or tumuli that you see on the way are Bronze Age. The Portway was also used throughout the Iron Age and Roman times for transporting locally mined iron and lead. In the Middle Ages it became a drover’s road used to drive large herds of Welsh cattle to market. The unpaved surface was kinder to the animal’s feet and there were no tolls to pay.

At Smethcott and Woolstaston you will see the remains of Norman motte and bailey castles built in the 12th century and many medieval buildings.

One of the most fascinating places you will pass is Betchcott Hall. This was owned before WW2 by a German called Max Brenner. It is rumoured that the large fishpond, built just before the war, was dug as a landmark for German Bombers. Brenner disappeared mysteriously before the end of the war.

Ravens and Buzzards

This upland area is territory of ravens and buzzards. Buzzards are easy to spot with their wide outspread wings and mewing call. Listen for the ‘pruk’ call of the raven, the largest and rarest of our crows. Both these birds feed extensively on carrion.

Shropshire Hills AONB

Most of these rides are within the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The purpose of this designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape. The Shropshire Hills were one of the first areas to be designated in 1958.The AONB covers an area of 802 square kilometres, extending from the Wrekin to the Clun Forest and from the Stiperstones across to the Clee Hills.

Picklescott

The picturesque village of Picklescott lies at over 900ft above sea level. The settlement huddles around the Bottle and Glass a 17th century inn.