The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 27 June 2016

Wapley Hill and Shobdon Hill


Unless my memory is selective and is doing that ‘it was always sunny when I was young’ thing, I think it would be true to say that I enjoy well over 99% of my walks. Probably over 99.9% in fact. Today’s walk fell into the very tiny minority. In fact, it fell so far down the scale of enjoyment, that there isn’t even a glimmer of it transforing into a ‘good walk in hindsight’ (you know, like those outings where something happens that’s really trying at the time, but looking back on it it becomes either fun or funny).

It wasn’t entirely bad as an outing. The first bit, from the Wapley Hill Forestry Commission car park, whilst a bit muddy in places, was perfectly pleasant and very straightforward as I simply followed the red way-markers uphill. The evidence of the hill fort atop my objective was the undisputed highlight of the day, with more banks and dips than I ever recall seeing at a hill fort before. I even easily located the correct ‘oak tree on a mound’, which is the summit feature of this top.


Oak tree on a mound, otherwise known as the Marilyn summit

There were snippets of views to be had in a few directions too:


It was in between Wapley Hill and Shobdon Hill that the wheels started falling off my day. It all started with me missing my path and merrily skipping onwards, almost back to the car park, before I noticed. I could have just continued back down and walked along the road (in hindsight, that would have been a good plan) or even driven to my next objective (in hindsight, that would have been a *really* good plan), but the Mortimer Trail, which follows a byway along the ridge, looked pleasant on the map so I went back uphill to find it. No wonder I missed it on my first pass:


For the next mile, I battled through overgrown 6’ bracken, intertwined with spikey, grabby and stingy things. Seldom have I been so pleased to reach tarmac as I was when the awfulness of it came to an end (also, seldom have I been so pleased, on such a warm day, to have chosen to wear trousers. They’re not nettle-proof, but they’re more so than bare legs).

At the village of Byton, finding no evidence of the footpath I wanted (which would have lopped off a bit of road walking), I stuck with the Mortimer Trail and went the slightly longer way around, taking an extra detour for a quick look at the pretty little church, the name of which I have already forgotten:


After another short backtrack for another missed turn, the bracken/brambles/nettles nightmare started all over again. Wet bracken too, even though it was a nice day. I would have been pleased to get to the top, if it hadn’t been for the knowledge that the only sensible way back was to repeat the last mile of overgrowth.

I’m pretty sure that the place where I’m standing in the next snap is the top, although ‘ground by oak tree’ isn’t a massively helpful clue in an area of oak trees! It’s also difficult, in tall bracken, to spot where the ground might be higher, but it seemed to me that this was the highest spot, and it tied i with the 10-digit grid reference I had noted. And there was a trodden line which dead-ended nearby.


With no views to admire…


…I didn’t tarry on this one, but strode off back the way I’d come. Or, at least, I tried to. Then came the point when I realised that I wasn’t heading in the right direction (something I tried to deny for a while, until the compass proved the point). Then came some more backtracking and back-and-forthing until I eventually spotted my overgrown trail.

It was at a positive march that I took the last mile and a half of road back to Colin, desperate to get the outing over with. It was perhaps a tiny bit funny, after such an unpleasing afternoon that two agressive dogs legged it the whole length of the car park to try to tear me limb from limb as I got within sight of my destination, particularly as the owner didn’t even acknowledge my presence, much less apologise for her lack of control over her beasts in a public place. The icing on the cake really.

The stats came in at 8.3 miles with 1500’ of ascent and arms and legs covered in nettle stings and bramble scratches.


  1. Oh dear, no, not fun, nor funny!

    1. I could optimistically say "At least it wasn't raining", but if it had been wet, then I probably would have given up on the overgrown route almost as soon as I found it, and the day would have been happier as a result.

  2. I was impressed with Shobdon and its fort. My route was all on tracks, apart from an initial ploughed field, albeit a bit muddy in places. My blog post says, "Wapley Hill was dull."

    1. I wonder if you took a different route to me, or whether the difference in time of year (I see you did these in April) meant that you beat the overgrowth?

      (Incidentally, I think you may have your hills names mixed up in your blog post. Wapley Hill is the one with the impressive hill fort, whereas Shobdon Hill was a bit dull.)