The Devil’s journey from Ireland to Stiperstones.

Our road from Church Stretton to the start of our Shropshire walk.
Our road from Church Stretton to the start of our Shropshire walk.

Shropshire’s one of England’s forgotten counties, and full of secret landscapes for the lucky traveller to discover.  We found a few ourselves this week, when visiting ex-Riponian friends Hatti and Paul.

Here's our route, as shown on the OS map.
Here’s our route, as shown on the OS map.

They took us on a walk along one of those characteristic long, narrow scenic ridges which offer easy walking, and wonderful long distance views to east and to west.  So there we were, rambling from Wentnor to Bridges along the ridge for a rather good pub lunch, and then back to Wentnor along the valley floor.

To the right of us was the Long Mynd, a gently sloping plateau.  To the left, and higher above us were the more rugged Stiperstones.  Both hillsides were covered with an intensely purple carpet of flowering heather.

You’ll want to know how the ridge of Stiperstones came to be covered with an untidy tumbling of large and rugged boulders.

The Devil's Chair (Wikimedia Commons)
The Devil’s Chair (Wikimedia Commons)

It was the devil who dropped them there.  He’d once noticed an old crone carrying her eggs to market by holding them before her, nursing them in her apron.  That was the way to do it! That was how he carried a large bundle of rocks all the way from Ireland to Shropshire, where he planned to drop them in the valley called Hell’s Gutter.  It was heavy work, and he sat for a rest at the very top of Stiperstones on a rock known since that day as the Devil’s Chair.

As he stood up again, his apron strings snapped.  Out those rocks tumbled, all over the ridge.  He didn’t bother to pick them up.  They’re there to this day.

Look carefully, just follow what the sheep are gazing at.  There, on the skyline are the devil's carelessly-lost rocks.
Look carefully, there on the skyline are the devil’s carelessly-lost rocks.

Climatologists and geologists have a different explanation, more credible but less fun.  If you get the chance, go to Shropshire, savour its varied and delightful landscape, and decide for yourself.