Leaving our bunk house early we set off up the Burway, an old drover’s route leading directly out of Church Stretton to the Long Mynd. It was a challenging start – steep and with a 600’ drop-off on the right. Half-way up the climb the words of a local we’d met in the pub last night echoed in my head – “There ain’t no easy miles in Shropshire”.
Rides on the Mynd are defined by tough climbs, short periods of respite and rapid descents. Tarmac, gravel or grass, single track and fire roads – it’s all there. For this kind of terrain you need a tough, light, responsive bike with decent brakes. We’d brought along the Camino Ti and a prototype bike for testing. Reaching the trig point at Pole Bank we stopped for a breather. We’d been told that we’d be able to see across to Cheshire, Herefordshire and maybe even Snowdonia – but the typically claggy British weather had other ideas.
Threading our way along the top of the Mynd we watched a peregrine falcon fighting a vicious turf war with two ravens – their anger at odds with the peace of the day. We turned to descend Asterton Bank, infamous amongst roadies for being one of the UK’s top ten hardest climbs. The descent was followed by a ride across the valley to Stiperstones along a mix of byways, farm tracks and deserted tarmac lanes. No people, no distant traffic noise. Shropshire is wonderfully quiet.
Stiperstones is a bleak, wild place so we pressed on south until we found a more sheltered spot for our bivvy. The day’s mileage was probably less than forty but it felt much further – after stove cooked food and brews sleep came pretty quickly. Waking early to clear crisp skies and low sun we packed our bikes and set off, eager to get some circulation back into our weary limbs. As the sun slowly rose we sped along deserted lanes and through tiny villages, our legs coming slowly back to life.
Our final loop took us along the foot of Caradoc and back towards Church Stretton. There we found a picture postcard cafe; it even had a parlour complete with local gossips and doilies. Suddenly feeling slightly feral we sat near the door – this was a world away from last night’s wild camp. Over coffee we mused that if we’d been in the Lakes or Peak this cafe and it’s surrounding hills would have been crowded. Shropshire seems strangely undiscovered by the masses.
“Be aware not all biking routes on the Long Mynd are marked on the OS map. Pop into the bike shop in Church Stretton or the National Trust cafe in Carding Mill Valley and ask for the map of approved trails. Also, Shropshire miles can be hard miles - Be realistic and don’t get over-ambitious.”
Or check it out online - Mountain bike map for Long Mynd
Heading out for a couple of days is surprisingly easy and it doesn't have to weigh you down or hinder your riding too much. Below is a rough idea of what can be loaded onto your bike.