Sunshine at the top of the Wrekin
Find out more about one of Shropshire's most cherished landmarks - the Wrekin.
The Wrekin, although only the 15th highest peak in Shropshire, is arguably the county's most distinctive landmark. It rises to only 1,334ft (406.6m) but the surrounding countryside is flat enough to allow the hill to dominate the landscape.
From the top of the Wrekin you can see the hills of South Shropshire - including Caer Caradoc, the Long Mynd and beyond - as well as the River Severn snaking through the flood plain towards Ironbridge and Buildwas (look out for the chimney stacks of the power station). On a clear day the toposcope points out the distant hills amid a stunning 360 degree view.
It's also easy to understand why some people declare an almost spiritual connection with the hill. Along with the Iron Bridge, the Wrekin is one of Shropshire's most potent symbols, and climbing it has become a rite of passage for people across the county. Travelling home on the A5/M54, the sight of the Wrekin reminds many that they are almost home.
So what do we know about the Wrekin?
It's formed from some of the oldest rock in the area (Cambrian period, 545-510 million years ago), including lava and volcanic ash. However, it isn't an extinct volcano, as popular belief would have it.
The Cornovii tribes established a hill-fort on the Wrekin in the 1st Century AD, before the Romans arrived and drove the Celts from their stronghold.
After the demise of Viroconium (now Wroxeter) as the Romans' capital of the area, Saxons established a new administrative capital at Wrockwardine and a spiritual capital at Wellington. Historians suggest that Wellington was originally called Weoleahington, meaning 'the settlement by the temple'. Although nobody knows the exact location of the temple, it is often suggested that the Wrekin itself bore a spiritual significance to Saxons.
Later on, the hill was part of a huge Norman hunting forest, which originally stretched as far Newport and Shrewsbury. Today, ancient woodland on the Wrekin and the Ercall are all that remains of a forest once inhabited by wild pigs and other quarry.
The Normans referred to the hill as Mount Gilbert, after a local Hermit.
During the 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution, wood from the Wrekin was converted into charcoal for use in the glass industry.
More recently, JRR Tolkein, author of The Lord of the Rings, used to enjoy walking on the hill when he lived in nearby Penkridge.
It is claimed that the Wrekin provided the inspiration for Middle Earth - the view certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to The Shire. Who knows you might even spot a Hobbit or two from the summit!
Unsurprisingly, legends and folklore abound. One of the most popular is the tale of the Wrekin giant, who set out to flood Shrewsbury but was foiled by a cunning cobbler.
last updated: 30/04/2008 at 13:37
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