Sunday, 23 August 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – The Wrekin

03.08.15  The Wrekin (SJ 628 081)  

The Wrekin (SJ 628 081)

The Wrekin stands dominantly above the fertile flatlands of the Shropshire Plain with its distinctive profile on view from miles around.  It is a hill that I’ve travelled past on many an occasion and also looked out toward from countless Welsh summits, but up until today I had never visited.  The opportunity to do so was suggested by Charlie Leventon who is fast becoming my personal Shropshire hill guide.  Charlie knows these hills extremely well and suggested a circular walk taking in the hill’s north-eastern and south-western ridge.

We met at Charlie’s house in Shrewsbury and drove to the south-western end of The Wrekin where we found a number of minor roads closed due to road work.  This scuppered us using the normal ascent route that Charlie prefers, however all was not lost and within a few minutes we were parked beside a gate giving access into part of the extensive forestry that dominates the surrounding land of The Wrekin.

The initial part of the walk was on a freshly made forest track past conifer plantation, this soon joined one of the many earthen paths that criss-cross the forestry, by now the tree cover was mixed with deciduous greens adding complexity to the regimented conifers previously walked past.

On the new forest track on the lower part of the hill

This part of the hill is on the lands of the Raby Estate with our route on a mixture of public and permissive waymarked paths.  Our forest walk headed around the eastern side of The Wrekin toward a path that joined the hill’s north-eastern ridge.  This route is the favoured ascent for many thousands of people as it has a large parking area and ease of access onto the hill’s lower slopes.  By the time we joined this ridge the tranquil surrounds of the eastern path had been replaced with a horde of people slowly making their way up one of Shropshire’s most distinctive and popular hills.

The forest track joined a path which then joins the main northerly route to the summit

As we continued up the ridge the path widened and beyond the trees we had glimpses of expansive views down onto the Shropshire Plain and farther afield to the mid Walian hills and the hills of south Shropshire.  The summit area of The Wrekin has a large TV mast on it which caused local controversy when first planned; this can be seen from afar and was on full show as we neared the summit.

Charlie on the upper section of the hill

Approaching the upper section of the hill we met a friend of Charlie’s; Philip Steer, who is 81½ years young.  This is an apt description for Phil as he chatted away with anecdote after anecdote; he’s still going strong around the hills having recently completed another strenuous test on the 50 mile Longmynd Hike to bring his total up to around 20 completions.  Phil was a competitor in Shropshire hill races well into his 70’s and set the over 60’s record at the Little Stretton to Stiperstones Time Trial in 1995.

The irrepressible Phil Steer

As we waved our goodbyes to Phil we continued up toward the summit passing through the ancient Heaven Gate, which is the northern gateway to the old ring fort that once stood upon the hill.  Beyond was a narrow path that led through fern and a small copse of trees to the northern summit of The Wrekin.  This position is seldom visited as the throngs of walkers usually head for the trig pillar and panoramic viewfinder about 100 metres further south.  However, its high point vies for being the summit of the hill and we hoped by Trimbling both that the summit of The Wrekin would finally be determined.

An artist's impression of the hill fort atop The Wrekin

Charlie found the spot for Trimble placement and as it gathered data we sat and ate a sandwich and chatted as a procession of walkers headed toward the trig pillar.  By now I was a little concerned as to how I should hold back this continuous horde from the surrounds of the trig when the Trimble was gathering data beside it.

Once five minutes of data were collected from the northern top we walked to the trig and assessed the lay of land from a number of directions.  The trig pillar atop The Wrekin now sits in a slight depression with the land immediately beside it forming a small bowl as it encircles it.  On one side a plastic mesh matting had been laid to protect the land, this had grass growing under it as its highest point, we judged this to also be the highest ground beside the trig.

Gathering data from the northerly summit of The Wrekin

As I placed the Trimble down on this high point I stood back and watched as a number of people and their dogs wandered upto the trig to admire the view and to take photos, this procession continued for a number of minutes until there seemed to be a lull in activity which coincided with the Trimble achieving its 0.1m accuracy before data can be logged, I quickly pressed ‘Log’ and stood back and asked one or two people if they wouldn’t mind also standing back from the equipment.  A number were interested in what I was doing and as I explained the fineries of hill surveying and the whatnot of satellite signals and data collection Charlie was contentedly exploring a rock outcrop to the east, out of view of the goings on beside the trig.

Gathering data on the high ground beside the trig pillar

Charlie on the rock outcrop on the eastern side of the hill

Thankfully only a dozen or so people approached the trig area when the Trimble was gathering its data, all kindly refrained from getting too close when I explained what I was doing.  Once five minutes of data were collected I quickly closed the equipment down, took some photographs and with relief I packed it away, thanked some of the people for their patience and joined Charlie for our descent of the hill’s south-western ridge.

The Trimble on the high ground beside the trig pillar with the northerly summit in the background

As we walked over the southern part of the upper section of The Wrekin, Charlie showed me the Needles Eye, which is a small but impressive rock structure split away from the sides of a larger rock outcrop.  The summit area of The Wrekin is quite expansive and pleasing to the eye with a number of rock outcrops and with extensive views in all directions.

The Needles Eye with the hills above Church Stretton in the background

Looking back toward the summit area of The Wrekin

Our descent down the south-western ridge proved rather steep and somewhat unrelenting.  However, it was also rather beautiful as the slight breeze blew through the trees and the tranquillity of the hill returned.

Charlie on the descent

The path led us over the small bump and aptly named Little Hill which is a spur on the lower section of the ridge; we walked over the route of our inward track and continued to descend to where Charlie normally parks when visiting this hill.  By now the forested trees were behind us and all that remained was a five minute walk back to the awaiting car on quiet and undisturbed Shropshire lanes.

Survey Result:

The Wrekin

Summit Height:  406.9m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SJ 62832 08197 (summit relocation confirmed)

Drop:  310m

Dominance:  76.19%

For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}

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