Alan Clawley on his ‘other’ pastime.
It might be thought that ‘hills’ in the countryside are remote from the trappings of civilisation such as railway stations and bus stops.
Hills haven’t been occupied by people since the Iron Age. Except for Bridgnorth, towns on top of hills are few and far between in this country. People don’t climb hills for purposeful economic activity so getting to the hills is not well supported by rural bus services or trains both of which are geared to getting people to shops, markets, schools and colleges.
However I’ve been working on the problem at the behest of inveterate vegan ramble-master Harry Eyles. Harry asked me to specialise in leading rambles, if that is what they can be called, up challenging hills in the West Midlands and further afield but all using public transport to get there and back in a day.
So far I’ve led groups up Dinas Bran, Lllangollen, the Malverns, along part of Offa’s Dyke, up the Breidden, the Long Mynd, Bredon Hill, the Wrekin, the Suckley Hills, Leckhampton Hill, Middleton Top, Derbyshire, the Stiperstones, the Roaches, and across Earls Hill to Pontesbury.
Getting to the start of the ramble (and home afterwards) can be more challenging than the ramble itself. The rambling group usually meets at New Street Station on a Saturday morning. The return journey is done in reverse. Most of the research into bus timetables can be done on the internet but local knowledge is always best. So, here is my brief guide to the logistics of getting to the foot of some of those hills:
Bredon Hill – 0849 New Street to Evesham; 10.48 bus to Ashton-Under-Hill. The Breidden – 09.23 New Street to Shrewsbury; 11.30 bus to Middletown.
Leckhampton Hill (Cotswolds) – 0930 New Street to Cheltenham; walk to city centre, 1105 bus to Seven Springs.
Long Mynd – 0924 New Street to Church Stretton.
Middleton Top (High Peak, Derbyshire) – 0903 New Street to Cromford.
Panpunton Hill (Offa’s Dyke) – O7.24 New Street to Knighton.
Roaches and Lud’s Church (Staffordshire Moorlands): 0831 New Street to Stoke-on-Trent; bus to Hanley Bus Station; 0945 bus to Upper Hulme.
Stiperstones: 0824 New Street to Shrewsbury; 1030 bus to Stiperstones village.
Suckley Hills (Worcestershire): 08.49 New Street to Worcester Foregate Street; 10.35 bus to Knightsford Bridge.
The Wrekin: 1024 New Street to Wellington.
Earls Hill (Pontesford) – 08.25 New Street to Shrewsbury; 10.30 bus to Stiperstones village; return to Shrewsbury by bus from Pontesbury village.
Some ramblers want more than a stroll along a canal towpath or a well made footpath. And the green bonus is getting there entirely by bus and train. I am now researching the less accessible hills such as Brown Clee Hill (Shropshire’s highest hill), and Corndon Hill, one of the Six Shropshire Summits despite being in Wales.
But rural bus services are very fragile. Timings can change and services can be withdrawn. If we don’t use them we will probably lose them. So put your walking boots on and get out there while you can.