A wonderful 3.8 mile circular walk from The Discovery Centre at Craven Arms into Sallow Coppice to see the Bluebells. As Housman said: “And like a skylit water stood the bluebells in the azured wood.”
Across fields and woodland walks. Gentle with a few rises and fall. Can be wet underfoot.
The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre
Parking is available at the start at The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre
Lat/Long: 52.4374482343, -2.8323826708
Walking the Sallow Coppice Circular Walk takes you on a wonderful little journey of discovery.
Craven Arms has a picture frame to match any in Shropshire. Nothing can rival being on foot for really looking at what’s around us. This circular walk is a constant invitation to stop and smell the flowers. Do that and you’ll experience something the poor motorist has no idea exists. A roman road, perhaps the prettiest castle in England and a railway made for sheep.
Far from gradually evolving over the centuries, Craven Arms was a brash product of the railway age. Like some town in the American West or the Australian outback, there was an inn, the Craven Arms, and a crossroads. Steam and sheep – celebrated in a sculpture – have created an outspokenly working town as the gateway to the Shropshire Hills. Marking a real change in the town’s development, the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre has reversed the process. The countryside has taken root on its roof – 70 tonnes of turf, 1,000 sq. metres of grass.
Sallow Coppice (Sally Coppy to locals) has survived the loss of its sallows (willows) and large scale felling of other trees in World War II. This broadleaved woodland is a delight to visit at any time. In spring the scent of the bluebells is almost overpowering. You’ll also find primroses, violets and wild cherry, whilst in autumn it’s the tints of oak and ash. If you are there in April or May, ‘stop and smell the flowers’. Take your time from the bluebells – from seed to flower takes five years. To advance, say, 70 of your paces can take 35 years. With 1,000 bulbs to the square metre there must be millions here, but mind how you go as, once removed it can take 100 years for bluebell woodland to regenerate.
In the lane we fall into step with the Romans who 2,000 years ago would pass this way between Wroxeter to Leintwardine when it was Watling Street. Now called Park Lane this was possibly the western boundary of Stokesay’s medieval deer park.
Before you reach Stokesay you will have been greeted in summer by the swallows. ‘They have been coming to the castle for hundreds of years and because nothing has changed since it was built in 1250, they keep on coming.” When they arrive in late April they build their nests in the castle from the mud around the pool and feed their young from the insects hovering over the water.
The castle itself nestles in the peaceful countryside. It is one of England’s great views.
Like Craven Arms six hundred years later, we owe it to Shropshire’s sheep. A grim fortress was replaced by this elegant fortified manor house – the finest and best-preserved in England. Wales had been conquered, the risk of invasion had receded, the greatest wool merchant of his day could begin to relax.