Choose a clear day for this walk, because the stunning view from Abdon Burf, the higher of Brown Clee's twin summits, extends from the Cotswolds to Cadair Idris. At 1,770ft (540m), Brown Clee is Shropshire's highest hill, overtopping its sibling, Titterstone Clee, by 23ft (7m), and Stiperstones by just 13ft (4m). Brown Clee may be high, but it's not wild, though it appears so in places. It is a perfect illustration of just how intensive rural land use can be. There's hardly anything this hill hasn't been used for at one time or another in its long history.
Settlement and land use
Nobody knows when people started making use of the Clee Hills, but forts were built on Brown Clee in the Iron Age. Those on Abdon Burf and Clee Burf have been destroyed by quarrying. A third, Nordy Bank, still stands on Clee Liberty. Iron Age people hunted on the hills, and the tradition continued for centuries, with the Clees part of a royal forest for a time.
Brown Clee Hill must have been used for stock grazing since the hill forts were built, or even before that. More recently, in the Middle Ages, all of the hillside above the encircling roads was common land, divided between several parishes, while an outer ring of parishes also had grazing rights. Stock from the outer parishes was driven to and from Brown Clee on tracks known as outracks or strakerways, most of which are now footpaths or bridleways. Many are deeply sunken through long use, and commoners' sheep and ponies still graze Clee Liberty.
Mineral extraction also has a long history in the Clee Hills. Brown Clee is riddled with shafts and is said to be the highest ex-coalfield in Britain. Ironstone was dug from the coal measures from the Middle Ages onwards and fed a number of forges around the hill. More recently, a type of volcanic rock called dolerite (also locally known as dhustone) was exploited, mostly for road building, and the ruins of a stone-crushing plant still disfigure Abdon Burf. Wagons then transported the stone down a steep incline to the railway at Ditton Priors. Quarrying ceased in 1936 and the incline is now a footpath (though not a right of way), used in this walk to gain access to the hill. You can still see parts of the actual tramway in places.
By the north end of the picnic field, at a 'Forest Trail' sign', a footpath climbs to the right then swings back left. Follow it into woodland, with conifers on the left. Soon go right on a level forest track which runs along the woodland edge, soon with a field on the right.
There are two houses just below the field. As you draw level with the second one, there's a turning circle on the left, where a path rises diagonally through a plantation. Follow this to a steep straight track (the former tramway). Turn left, soon crossing a cattle grid into heathland.
Continue less steeply, past conspicuous mounds of quarry spoil. The track turns sharp left. It's easy now to Abdon Burf, with its ugly masts and awesome views. From the summit, a rough path descends southwest (use the view indicator to confirm the direction). Follow it down to a line of posts. Go through these and keep descending by a fence. The path swings right, becoming a hollow way.
Meeting a lane, turn right, then left at a junction and soon left again at a gate. The waymark points diagonally right, but go straight ahead along the left-hand edges of several meadows, and maintain the same direction as the path merges with the sunken remains of an old green lane.
As you approach Abdon, a gate gives access to a garden. Go straight through, with signs directing you past the house and down the drive to a lane. Turn left, go past farm buildings and continue to a collection of barns. There's a stony track opposite - walk a few paces along it to a bridleway on the left. Follow it uphill. Where it appears to come to a dead end, enter the field on the right and continue until a stile gives access to a boardwalk in the garden of Lane Cottage.
Meet a lane and go a few paces right to a stile on the left. Climb steep pasture towards a fence/ hedge on the skyline. Cross it at a stile, continue to the far corner of the next field, then turn left on a track. At Highcroft, the track continues as a hollow way.
Go through a gate into pasture and follow the right-hand fence to the top corner. Pass through a gate and continue to a line of beeches on the summit ridge. Go forward through the beeches, then straight on down a track, through woodland, plantation and bracken to a junction. Turn sharp right.
The track crosses a stream. Fork left on a narrow path descending near the stream. When you meet a concrete track, turn left. After 600yds (549m) you'll come to a junction. Branch right here if you want the pub or bus stop at Burwarton. If not, keep left and then straight ahead to return to the picnic site.
Generally good, but can be very boggy in places, 3 stiles
Hill, moorland, pasture and plantation
Excellent, but under strict control near sheep
OS Explorer 217 The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge
Verges by Brown Clee Picnic Area, on unclassified road west of Cleobury North
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Perhaps nowhere else in England will you find a county so deeply rural and with so much variety as Shropshire. Choose a clear day, climb to the top of The Wrekin, and look down on that ‘land of lost content’ so wistfully evoked by A E Housman. Peer through your binoculars and trace the course of Britain’s longest river as the Severn sweeps through the county, from the Breidden Hills to Wyre Forest, slicing Shropshire in two. To the north is a patchwork of dairy fields, hedgerows, copses and crops, broken at intervals by rugged sandstone ridges such as Grinshill or Nesscliffe, and dissected by a complex network of canals.
Spilling over the border into neighbouring Cheshire and North Wales is the unique meres and mosses country, with serenely smooth lakes glinting silver, interspersed with russet-tinged expanses of alder-fringed peat bog, where only the cry of the curlew disturbs the silence. South of the Severn lies the Shropshire Hills AONB. It’s only when you walk Wenlock Edge that you fully discover what a magical place it is – glorious woods and unexpectedly steep slopes plunge to innumerable secret valleys, meadows, streams and farmhouses, all tucked away, invisible from the outside world.