Last weekend on Saturday 18th June 2011, I was part of a team which walked 36 miles over the six highest summits in Shropshire to raise money for the local search and rescue team known as the Severn Area Rescue Association, Wyre Forest Station. Along the gruelling journey we passed over some astounding geological formations.
0315 off goes my alarm. 0400 jump in the car to travel to the start point of the 36 mile Shropshire Six Summits Challenge 2011. By 0545 the team of four is ready to go. At 0600 we had reached the first summit of Corndon Hill (513m), this is a frozen granite magma chamber across the welsh border. A short walk across the valley is the Ordovician aged Stiperstones (536m). These hills form a long craggy ridge of steeply dipping sparkly sandstone deposited on the southern hemisphere in a shallow ocean. Local mining for Galena and Sphalerite has been a way of life at Snailbeach since Roman times until 1919 when the mines finally closed.
As we pushed onwards towards the Long Mynd we climbed upwards to the third summit of Pole Bank (516m). The Long Mynd contains rocks from the Precambrian period when the land was 60⁰ south of the equator. Sediments such as sandstone and muds were laid in an estuarine environment, and even preserved ancient raindrops! Distant volcanoes occasionally created ash clouds over the estuary forming bands of ash in the sands. We continued to drop down into the fantastic Cardingmill Valley by midday to meet up with the support crew.
At 1230 the team reached the fourth and arguably the hardest summit of Caer Caradoc (459m). This climb is not for the faint hearted due to the incredibly steep flanks on this Precambrian volcanic outcrop. The vesicular (bubbly) rhyolite is part of the Uriconian Volcanics. The rocks have bubbles because they were erupted from a nearby volcano, now eroded away. The reduced pressure during eruption causes gases to fizz just like opening a bottle of pop. This volcanic activity caused huge cracks in the crust, for example the famous Church Stretton fault which is still very active today. A line of hills marks the fault, best viewed from the summit. Caer Caradoc was once a hill fort said to be the last stronghold of Caradoc or Caractacus who led a revolt against the Romans.
Finally lunch was upon us and we had a well deserved rest, but as they say ‘no rest for the wicked’ we had a challenge to complete! The team continued towards Wenlock edge, unfortunately losing a team member through injury. We attacked the dipping beds of the Silurian aged tropical reef of Wenlock limestone…sadly with no time for fossil hunting.
By 1700 we had began the accent to the highest point of summit 5, Brown Clee (540m). Brown Clee is composed of Devonian Sandstones, deposited on the southern shore of a huge continent with winding rivers bringing the sand from the mountains to the north. Once, this hill was Britain’s highest coalfield leaving a legacy of mining scars on the landscape. The harder dolerite rocks were also taken creating the many depressions across the hill.
Finally in a stones throw of the finish we dropped down into the valley steaming towards Titterstone Clee (533m). I became increasingly conscious of completing the walk in less than 14 hours, so summoning the last of my energy I began to run up the last summit. Titterstone Clee’s Carboniferous coal deposited in equatorial swamps was mined for hundreds of years. Today quarrying concentrates on the hard volcanic dolerite used as road stone which was injected into the sediments. This protective volcanic cap has slowed the rate of erosion allowing the Clee’s to be the highest hills in Shropshire.
I eventually completed the walk in less than 14 hours with the remaining team members finishing 25 minutes later. So far we have raised £500 for the Severn Area Rescue Association to help Wyre Forest Rescue Station purchase essential life saving equipment. If you would like to support us please visit this link at Justgiving.
SARA Wyre Forest Crew