THE SHROPSHIRE HILLS offer endless opportunities for cyclist, either along quiet country roads and lanes or mountain biking in the forests. The Six Castles Cycleway is a 58-mile linear route between Shrewsbury and Leominster and forms part of the National Cycle Network. It features six very diff erent castles, from the romantic ruins of Bishop’s Castle and Richard’s Castle to the stone buildings of Shrewsbury, Ludlow and Croft Castles and the elegance of Stokesay Castle. For mountain bikers Hopton Wood, Mortimer Forest, Eastridge Woods and Bury Ditches are all owned by the Forestry Commission and include a series of cycle trails along the forest tracks, which vary in length and diffi culty. Hopton Wood includes family trails and a competition route for experienced mountain bikers.
 THE OLYMPIAN GAMES
THESE GAMES ARE HELD in the town of Much Wenlock every July and attract visitors from throughout the country. First held in October 1850, the games were a mixture of classical athletics and traditional country pursuits like quoits and cricket. Famous competitors throughout the years include Harold Langley, winner of the Wenlock Pentathlon Gold in 1923. He went on to represent Great Britain in the Paris Olympics alongside Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle. More recently, in 1981, 10-year old Alison Williamson won silver in the archery competition. She went on to represent her country at the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
WENLOCK EDGE IS not only one of the best known geological sites in Shropshire, but also one of the most famous in the world. One of the sections of the Silurian Period is even called the Wenlock era (there’s also a Ludlow era). The area is made up mainly of limestone – a rock originally formed from crushed shells, salt water and ancient, tiny sea creatures. These formations were established when this area was about 25/30 degrees south of the equator under a shallow, subtropical sea. At this time, around 425 million years ago, Shropshire was about level with the Seychelles. It’s amazing to see the clear remains of Wenlock Edge’s reef and you can still pick up pieces of coral as you walk along the Edge.
THE LIMESTONE OF Wenlock Edge makes this a rich area of biodiversity, with wild flowers – including a variety of rare orchids – fl ourishing. The woodlands of the Edge are teeming with grey squirrels and birds and the dramatically declining dormouse has made Wenlock Edge something of a fortress.
Words and photos: Cameron McNeish