The Long Mynd derives its name from mynydd, a Welsh word for mountain. It's not a mountain, though, but an undulating plateau cut by steep-sided valleys known as batches or hollows, forming one of the most distinctive and individual upland ranges in Britain. Clothed in heather, whinberry, bracken and wiry moorland grasses, with a scattering of stunted, wind-contorted hawthorns and the occasional holly or rowan, it constitutes our most southerly grouse moor. While the grouse skulk in the heather, exploding into a frenzy of alarm calls and occasional flight if you venture too close, the skies above are regally patrolled by species such as raven, buzzard and kestrel.
The Mynd is a wonderful place, sometimes referred to as the last wilderness in the Midlands. However, this is no wilderness. It has been subject to human use and, to some extent, human occupation, since the earliest times. It is liberally dotted with prehistoric remains, including Bronze Age tumuli and dykes, with an Iron Age fort on Bodbury Hill. The Portway runs along the top of the Long Mynd and has been in use for at least 4,000 years. There are more than 40 tumuli beside it or close to it, and stone tools have been found. It was probably a trading route ('port' means market) and part of it was later used by cattle drovers coming from mid-Wales.
The Mynd is an upland heath today and this may be how it was when Neolithic people first came here. During the Bronze Age, upland oak forest spread across the plateau, but this had been cleared by the Iron Age, when the Mynd was the home of a pastoral community practising transhumance - the movement of stock into the hills for the summer months. By the Middle Ages, parts of the Mynd had become permanent sheepwalk and this pattern of land use persists. Most of it is common land, owned by the National Trust, and farmers in surrounding villages retain rights of common, allowing them to graze sheep and ponies on the hill. Nowadays, there are few ponies, but very many sheep. The Mynd is seriously overgrazed, which means the glorious mosaic of heather, whinberry and other heathland plants is in retreat before a tide of bracken. The Trust, long concerned about this, has finally secured what may be a solution. In 2002, the government announced grant assistance to compensate farmers for reducing the numbers of sheep on the Long Mynd. The Trust has also closed car parks that shouldn't have been there in the first place, and is helping to fund shuttle buses. The car parks are already returning to heath.
Walk up Lion Meadow to High Street and turn right. Turn left at The Square, go past the church and straight on into Rectory Field. Walk up a broad swathe of green then turn right near some houses and enter Old Rectory Wood. The path descends to a junction, where you turn right, soon crossing Town Brook. Turn left and climb to a gate on to the Long Mynd.
Go forward beside the brook to meet iron railings around a pool, then continue in the same direction with the brook on your left. After an almost imperceptible height gain, the path begins to climb more steeply before curving leftward around the head of the valley.
At a Pole Bank Way marker post, bear right. Just follow these posts now, gaining height very gradually again. Ignore branching paths and, after ascending a slight rise, you'll see the summit ahead on the left.
Meet an unfenced road. Turn left, ignore a path to Little Stretton, and go straight on when the road bends left, joining an obvious stony track. Cross the Portway (just an indistinct groove here) and continue to clear cross-tracks. Turn left to the summit then straight on down to the road. Bear right and follow it past trees surrounding the site of Pole Cottage.
About 100yds (91m) further on, bear left on a wide green path. Soon bear left again, joining an even clearer green track. In a dip, fork left to follow a narrower path contouring around Round Hill. Go straight on at a junction, then descend to Cross Dyke (a Bronze Age earthwork). After the dyke the path ascends briefly, but soon levels out, then begins its descent, eventually following a brook. Pass some houses and a campsite.
Cross a footbridge by a ford. Keep on down the lane for Little Stretton and its pubs; otherwise take a footpath on the left after a few paces. It climbs by a field-edge to the top corner, then turns left, following the top of a steep slope to a pasture. Follow the right-hand edge of this until the path enters woodland. Descend to Ludlow Road.
Turn left and immediately left again on a bridleway. It climbs into woodland, emerging at the far side to meet a wider track, which soon becomes a road. As it bends to the right, go left through a car park to Rectory Field. Descend to The Square, turn right on High Street and left on Lion Meadow to the car park.
Mostly moorland paths and tracks
Moorland plateau with extensive views
On lead between March and July on the Long Mynd
OS Explorer 217 The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge
Easthope Road car park, Church Stretton
At car park
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.