Shropshire "on the rocks"
The delightful scenery of our quiet County depends entirely on what lies beneath. For millions of years Shropshire was the setting for violent upheaval and, as the land mass slowly moved from south of the equator, the mineral rich Stiperstones and the escarpment of Wenlock Edge were created.
The Meres and Mosses in the north of the county, the valleys of the Longmynd in the south and the Ironbridge Gorge in the east were carved out by glaciers during the ice age.
If you think about it for a minute, you’ll realise that the scenery and landscape of any region depends on what lies beneath. Well Shropshire rests on the most extraordinary geological foundations.
Shropshire is built on rocks from 11 out of the 13 known periods of geology – the smallest area in the world to boast so many.
It is difficult to believe that 420 million years ago, a good deal of what is now Shropshire was 4,000 miles away, south of the Equator, several fathoms down beneath the sea. This is when the mineral-rich Stiperstones and limestones around the south were created. The clay, gravel and sand in the north were deposited by the glaciers.
In the shallow subtropical waters, the skeletons of corals, sea lilies and sponges formed a reef. This reef became Wenlock Edge – the finest escarpment in all England, and a popular walking venue for those who like to get amongst nature. If you like orchids, Wenlock Edge grows nine.
To the north of Wenlock Edge, you’ll find the Wrekin; a curious legendary hill that dominates the landscape around central Shropshire. For the Shropshire natives it is a symbol of home. From the top you can see fifteen counties.
With the sound of redstarts, buzzards and skylarks for our walkers, cyclists and riders to enjoy, you'll want to discover the romantic beauty of Caer Caradoc, the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones. The hills of South Shropshire are one of the few remaining rural idylls and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty(A.O.N.B.).
"In valleys of springs or rivers, By Onny and Teme and clun, The country for easy livers, The quietest under the sun."
A Shropshire Lad - Housman.
As the Ice Age reluctantly gave way to global warming, the melting glaciers cut the Ironbridge Gorge with the River Severn, and gave Shropshire our own little Lake District around Ellesmere – a haven for wildlife.
The River Severn, Britian’s longest river, meanders its way from over the border in Wales, through Shrewsbury, our almost-an-island county town, through the world heritage site of Ironbridge, to picturesque Bridgnorth, perched on top of a sandstone cliff, which Charles I called “The finest view in all my Kingdom”.
It is on this heady cocktail of rock and fossil, pre & post-Cambrian, Carboniferous and Silurian, Red Sandstones and more, that Shropshire blossoms and blooms with such diversity and intensity.
In the 9th century Offa built his Dyke – a vain attempt to quell the marauding Welsh and now the longest monument in Britain . You can enjoy lots of short circular walks taking in the hills, forts and castles on the way.
Speaking of castles, Shropshire has always lived in interesting times. Our stormy history has left us with a wonderful littering of castles and abbeys, put to the sword again and again.
If you want to find out more about our geology then check out the Shropshire Geological Society.
Maps covering Shropshire's rocks can also be obtained from the British Geological Survey. Map's include:
E122, E137, E138 - North Shropshire
E151, E152 - Shrewsbury, Welshpool, Ironbridge
E165, E166, E180, E181 - South Shropshire
E167 - Bridgnorth
Wild about Shropshire
The miniature lakeland of Meres and Mosses around Ellesmere are a haven for wildlife and provide just one habitat for a County that has a rich and distinctive wildlife. Otters and dormice, hares and bats, dragonflies and waterfowl and scores of flowering plants all call Shropshire home. The Shropshire Wildlife Trust has over 30 nature reserves to explore. Discover the variety of wildlife on English Nature's Mosses Trails around the north of the county.
Languid canals contrast with babbling trout streams but all are overshadowed by the majestic River Severn, as it meanders through the County, linking the towns of Shrewsbury, Ironbridge and Bridgnorth with a patchwork of fields, wooded valleys and heather clad hills.
There are fine ecclesiastical buildings, from Shrewsbury Abbey to the tiny black and white Melverley Church on the banks of the River Vyrnwy.