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The Wrekin, Shropshire, UK

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The Wrekin

The Wrekin is a hill near the town of Telford in Shropshire. Standing at 400 metres, it dominates the surrounding area and is a very popular spot for walking and family picnics. The hill is such a landmark that the local council is called Telford and Wrekin.

The History of the Wrekin

The Wrekin has always been important to the people living nearby. Starting in the Bronze Age, the Cornovii tribe of the Celts used the hill as a hill fort, only giving it up with the Roman invasion of the 1st Century. The Roman army defeated the last owner of the fort, Virico, and called their own fort (built four miles to the south) Viroconium to honour their enemy.

In Saxon and Norman times, the Wrekin became part of the Royal Forest. The Normans tried to change the name of the hill to Mount Gilbert (after a local hermit); however, locals persisted in calling it the Wrekin and the new name never took hold.

During the 19th Century, the Wrekin provided trees for use as charcoal in the local glass industry; later on, JRR Tolkien enjoyed walks on its slopes when he lived in nearby Penkridge. It has been claimed that the hill and surrounding countryside provided Tolkien with inspiration for the 'Shire' of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit novels.

Nowadays the Wrekin is very dear to the hearts of the locals. For many a homesick traveller, the Wrekin is the first sign that they are nearly home. It is also the root of two Shropshire sayings: 'Going all round the Wrekin', which means taking a lot of words to say something simple, and the Shropshire toast, 'all friends round the Wrekin'.

The Wrekin has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the ancient woodland that clings to its lower slopes which contains bluebells, wood anemone, wood sorrel, toothwort, yellow archangel and golden saxifrage, along with ancient yew. Plenty of birds can be seen on the hill, including tawny owls, woodpeckers, ravens and buzzards to name but a few. Even fallow deer can sometimes be seen in the woods.

The Wrekin is also the site of a television and radio transmission mast that, although some want it removed, makes the Wrekin distinctive and instantly recognisible.

The Geology of the Wrekin

Although made of layers of volcanic rock and ash nearly a mile thick, the Wrekin is not actually a volcano. The actual vent that formed the hill has long since disappeared; however, the hill is close to the Church Stretton fault which, when active, would have caused numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the area. The locals still experience minor earthquakes once in a while as the fault shifts slightly. The Wrekin can boast the best preserved Uriconian1 exposures in the country and ripples of sandstone that once formed a beach can also be seen on its slopes.

The Myth of the Wrekin

Most large local landmarks have legends surrounding them and the Wrekin is no exception. The legend concerns the creation of the Wrekin. The story tells that a Welsh giant held a grudge against Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, and decided to take his revenge on the people there. He took a huge shovel full of soil, with which he wanted to dam the river Severn and so drown the inhabitants of the town, and set off walking. On his way there, he met a cobbler and asked him how far he still had to go to get to Shrewsbury. The cobbler, realising the giant's intentions, showed the giant his bag of shoes to be mended and said 'I've come from Shrewsbury and I've worn out all these shoes walking from there to here.' The giant decided it was too far to walk, and so dumped his soil where he stood, turned round and went home. That pile of soil is now the Wrekin.

Getting There

First, you need to get to Shropshire. That part is very easy - both Telford and Shrewsbury have good railway links to the rest of the UK and the A49, A5, A53 and A458 all make the county easy to get to by car, along with the M54 which links to the M6. Once in Shropshire, make your way to Telford on the M54. Turn off the M54 at Junction 7 and follow the signs for Little Wenlock, until you find the Wrekin car park.

The slopes of the Wrekin are gentle and it is a nice walk to the summit, suitable for the whole family.

1A geological group, which is 600 to 700 million years old and which includes basalt.

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