Looking for a family day out in Shropshire? The streams, trails and heather-covered hills of the Long Mynd may be the answer. It's also a centre for sports, from riding and golf to hang-gliding
The Long Mynd, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Shropshire hills, is little known compared to other tourist spots in the area. Most visitors to Shropshire think of Ludlow, Bridgnorth or Iron Bridge, not a heather-covered valley. The name Long Mynd means Long Mountain – and it is indeed seven miles long and, in places, three miles wide, covering an area of more than 8.5 square miles. Just an hour from Birmingham and 10 miles south of Shrewsbury, Long Mynd is accessible from most of the Midlands and ideal for a day out.
The area is perfect for walking; cross-country routes are well marked for hikers, horse riders, mountain bikers and naturalists. The area is renowned worldwide for its geology, with some of the oldest rock formations in existence. The Long Mynd is also well known for its gliding, paragliding and hang gliding. If a leisurely game of golf is more your sport, the second-highest course in England is at the top of the Long Mynd.
Carding Mill Valley
At the southern edge of the Long Mynd is Carding Mill Valley, the perfect place for a family day out. Streams run throughout the valley, ankle-deep for the most part – making it perfect for young children. A morning can easily be spent paddling, building dams and collecting small stones. Waterproof sandals or wellingtons are definitely needed. It does get cold when the sun goes in, so a change of clothes would be preferable to swimming gear. The stream weaves down the hillside, heathers growing on both sides. After lunch in the café or a picnic on the water’s edge make time to walk up the valley. The views across Shropshire are wonderful. Take the well-maintained path as it crosses the stream back and forth. The children will love choosing the best way across. A decent off-road buggy would manage the path, but I wouldn’t like to try it with a standard pram and definitely not a wheelchair.
National Trust facilities
As with most National Trust sites, the area is spotless and well maintained. The toilets are clean and free of charge. There is a lovely café serving drinks, snacks and meals. An information centre provides details on the surrounding areas and there are guided walks. A leaflet about the Carding Mill Valley Trail is available free of charge, containing a map and 26 questions for children to answer along the way. The questions are an easy and enjoyable way for children to learn more about the area, its history and wildlife. Clipboards can be borrowed from outside the shop.
The family trail follows the stream up into the valley and then through the heathers down to the reservoir where wildlife can be spotted. The sheep are very friendly and will happily follow walkers in an attempt to get some lunch. The walk starts and finishes at the shop which sells knick-knacks, snacks and walking attire. For more information on Carding Mill Valley, please see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-cardingmillvalleyandlongmynd
There is plenty of car parking, both along the stream and in the large car park after the shop. The cost to park is £4 a day, free to National Trust members. Due to Carding Mill Valley being an area of scientific importance, there are strict rules about dogs. They are welcome but must be kept on leads.
Carding Mill Valley is well sign-posted from its nearest town, Church Stretton – which is also worth a visit. This beautiful market town at the foot of the hills has an excellent range of accommodation, restaurants, pubs and shops. It is well served by public transport: the main Manchester to Cardiff railway line runs through the town, which is also on several bus routes. Church Stretton is also accessible via the A49 trunk road. Carding Mill Valley is about one mile from the town. For a list of accommodation and information about events, please see www.churchstretton.co.uk
The Long Mynd hike
On the first weekend of every October, the Long Mynd hike takes place. The strenuous, 50-mile competition hike is open to everyone over 18, and takes in the whole surrounding area in a figure-of -eight route. There are awards for under-20s, over-60s, groups and individuals. For more information, please see www.longmyndhike.org.uk
Where to stay
There are literally dozens of places to stay in and around the Long Mynd. There is a quiet, family-run campsite called Small Batch Camping in the village of Little Stretton, which is at the foot of the Long Mynd. At the other end of the scale is The Long Mynd Hotel, which has 50 bedrooms and two restaurants. In the middle price range are several b&bs. One to be recommended is Mynd House, an imposing Edwardian house with outstanding views. For longer stays, try Eaton Manor with its five individual properties available to hire, sleeping from two to 14 people. Eaton Manor boasts a heated indoor swimming pool. Church Stretton Cottages offers three self-catering holiday cottages for hire.