Happy Earth Day From The Shropshire Hills, Some Of The World’s Oldest Rock Formations


Not so much Monarch of the Glen as Sheep on the Long Mynd,  a hill so old that it has some Pre-Cambrian geology named after it. I’m talking here of Longmyndian shales, siltstones and sandstones (sedimentary rocks) that were laid down in shallow seas at a time when this part of the earth was moving up the planet from Antarctica.  This would be around 560-550 million years ago.

The Long Mynd (mynd means mountain in Welsh) lives up to its name too. It is a very long plateau with steep valleys, and was formed by a very big CRASH when sea levels fell and the seabed deposits collided with a plate of volcanic hills to the east. The result was the folding, tilting and compressing of the Longmyndian shales, siltstones and mudstones along the Church Stretton Fault. This was around 550-400 million years ago.

The Longmynd then continued to be knocked into the shape we see today by the following Ice Ages when glaciers shunted around its flanks, making it an island amongst frigid wastes. When the ice finally began to retreat around 30,000 years ago, rain and melting snow fed streams that cut steep valleys or ‘batches’ into the Mynd’s sides.

Isn’t geology wonderful when you forget about the hard words, the mind-boggling quantities of time, and just admire the consequences?


One of the Mynd’s best known features is Carding Mill Valley where these photos were taken. Since Victorian times it has been one of Shropshire’s most popular countryside resorts. Generations of Salopians (Shropshire folk) will have fond childhood memories of spending Bank Holiday Mondays picnicking there, feeding egg sandwiches to the sheep, getting soaked in the stream, and going home with green bottoms from sliding down the hillsides.

Today both valley and Long Mynd are in the guardianship of the National Trust that not only manages the landscape, but provides very excellent homemade refreshments in the Edwardian Pavilion tea-room  that’s coming up next.  If, while you are looking at that, you also scan towards the top of the hill, directly above the pavilion’s main roof, you might just discern the verge of a very hair-raising single-track road that takes you over the top of the Long Mynd to the small village of Rattlinghope, known locally as Ratchup. I have a grim memory of driving down there in a car with dodgy brakes, and only intermittent passing places beside precipitous drops.


Unlike the geology, the landscape you see in the shots is not natural, but man-made. The valleys would once have been wooded. Archaeological finds from c 3,500-2000 BC indicate that Late Stone Age (Neolithic) people were travelling along the open top of the Long Mynd ridgeway, an ancient trade route between Cumbria in the north, Wales to the west, and Cornwall in the south-west. Earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers came this way too. But the main clearance probably took place during the Bronze Age (c.2,000-1,000 BC). These people farmed in the Shropshire Hills and buried their dead in cairns and burial mounds all along the ridgeway.

In the next photo you can just see the green ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort Bodbury Rings. It is lying right along the hilltop skyline towards the summit, and ending directly under the moon. This was a summer herding camp of the Cornovii people, and dates from around 400 BC.


We may not know very much about the past peoples who lived and died in this landscape, but they did leave behind clues that showed us that they honoured it in significantly sacred ways. That would be a good thing to remember on this Earth Day. Much of the world is in dire need of loving care. We are lucky in Shropshire to have so many people, and charitable bodies who do take care of the place for everyone’s pleasure and inspiration.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell


Earth  Daily Post Prompt

I’m also linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk for when she’s regularly back with us. I think she would like this walk up Carding Mill Valley.

#ShropshireHillsAONB  #NationalTrustShropshire  #CardingMillValley

42 thoughts on “Happy Earth Day From The Shropshire Hills, Some Of The World’s Oldest Rock Formations

  1. As we live on the prairie, our landscape is much, much flatter and not as stunning. But it’s beautiful in its own way and we’re very blessed to have a wonderful park system that preserves so many area for us to enjoy. In fact, I’m off now to meet a friend and walk with her and her two dogs.

    Happy Earth Day to you, too, Tish.


    1. I just loved those books too, Debbie. I believe there is still a fervent Malcolm Saville appreciation society. In fact I read a Lone Pine book quite recently, and it still charmed me.

  2. Ah, lovely….brings back memories of walks in the Carding Mill Valley many years ago! And I read all the Lone Pine books years before I ever clapped eyes on the region…. 😀

  3. Oh, you’ve done geology so beautifully both with photos and words (have I said that before??) By 500 million years ago you’re moving into the time zone of home, and you do it with such grace. I love Rattlinghope and green bottoms and ridgeway and cairns and the way you describe the glacier and the way you people the landscape. An honouring post for earth day: both earth the creator and our human relationship with it.

      1. I had trouble with my email last August, and my service was cut off. I’m back online, but it took awhile to fix, and I was out of touch for quite awhile. It’s good to be back in touch!

    1. You are most welcome, Sylvia. I’ve only just been grasping this geological stuff myself, and felt I needed to pass it on while I was still grasping it 🙂

  4. A beautiful post to honour Earth Day Tish and a place I know and love well. Even before I moved to Shropshire (the first time) I fell in love with Carding Mill Valley on my first visit. Once, and only once, did I make the mistake of missing the road to the valley and ending up on the Burway, with a very shaky, vertiginous OH beside me. He was extremely pale when I was forced to reverse as another car approached me at the top of the hill. Fortunately I had a nifty little Corsa in those days and she tucked into the hillside nicely. And I am another Lone Pine fan too 🙂

    1. Isn’t that just fab, all us Lone Piners. We ought to have a web convention. I think I’ll go and find more volumes to read, bound to be some in Wenlock’s second hand bookshops.

  5. yes, Tish I can enjoy the folds and curves of the land and have a vague idea about the cause but I can’t do all the technical stuff. Anyway what a lovely post, happy Earth Day!

  6. FABULOUS!!! Thank you so much, Tish! 🙂 I’m brand newly arrived home and admiring the Amelanchier in our garden in all it’s Spring glory, when yesterday I was on an Algarve beach. And now you take me down Memory Lane in such a delightful fashion. We ambled up Carding Mill Valley with a small boy, many long years ago. What a lovely way to come ‘home’. 🙂

    1. I had a thought that you’d been there, Jo. Welcome home, and yes, spring has come though we may be in for some chilly winds this weekend and will still need woolly hats and vests!

      1. I’m off hunting bluebells in the woods at Durham with a friend this morning. Then I really must get to serious things like boarding passes for me and Dad for next Thursday. Hugs, Tish! 🙂

  7. Most beautiful post for Earth Day, Tish! Your historical reference makes for a fascinating read. But what I love most is that people who lived in this place ‘honoured it in significantly sacred ways’. How lucky you are, to have a community that takes care of the place for everyone’s pleasure. Images are beautiful and enticing too, and I can only imagine the joy of hiking up and down those giant mountains. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Cocoa. Our National Trust is a brilliant organisation. It not only manages historic properties, but protects some of our most striking landscape, and then thinks up ever more enticing ways to get people to go out and enjoy it. Not exactly sacred activities these days, but certainly things to lift everyone’s spirits whatever our beliefs.

  8. The Carding Mill valley photo is stunning, reminds me of the SW of Scotland, driving there, mesmerized by it. Had to stop a few times and take pictures, no one else on the road. Happy Earth Day to you and G! Bill

    1. Cheers, Bill. We’ve been doing nothing but move earth as well as giving it a loud hurrah – me at the allotment, recycling a big heap, and G in the garden where we’re dismantling a raised bed. A small glass of wine is definitely called for. Or even a large one…Wishing you well Tx

  9. Love those round mountains and deep valleys, those charming Welsh names, the mystery of the past inhabitants. An enchanting land indeed.

    1. It often does seem enchanting, Julie. After years of displacement and abroadness, we’ve lately been putting our minds to seeing the magic of where we are 🙂

  10. I think it was Wegener who introduced the word and concept of universalism: that the forces of erosion and accretion we see today were the same ones that formed the early earth. It’s just the expanse of time that is hard to grasp at first. Universalism underlies biological theory, and in physics, the ball got rolling with Newton’s and Galileo’s universal laws of motion. And the rocks are so beautiful too…

    1. Thank you for all those thoughts, Stephen, and not ones I had encountered before -i.e. the concept of universalism. Am still struggling on and off with Quantum Mechanics – even with the help of one of the UK’s top theoreticians in the field Jim Al-Kalili. He does some great BBC programmes if ever you can pick him up in the US.

      1. I’m taking beginners’ physics at the college to little avail. Always useful to know what the heck is happening.

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