What’s the witchiest place in the UK? Well, according to an eminent Anglican cleric, certain ladies of the Long Mynd followed the old ways well into the twentieth century.
It could be pure fantasy of course – this green and unruly hill-country set in the English shoulder of Offa’s Dyke (the eighth-century earthwork border between Wales and Mercia) has long been a site of cultural projection. Go up to the barren, jagged ruin of Clun castle, mounted above the river which girdles it, for remains of the fist of stone with which the Normans gripped the Marches.
Thanks to global warming the once-protective rivers are now the area’s main threat, though the steeply wooded streams are a paradise for walkers. You could travel further and fail to find similar respite from man-made noise and, indeed, your fellow noise-makers. The ancient pre-Christian yew tree in the corner of Clun churchyard (where playwright John Osborne is buried) is also worth a look – I didn’t find any signs of a coven in its gnarly depths, but came away enchanted by this exceptionally quiet and beautiful part of the world.
Where to eat
Good pub grub and convivial front-room chats over local ale in the Bishop’s Castle area are recommended. See www.bishopscastle.co.uk for suggestions.
Where to stay
The Birches Mill B&B
This remote haven of reasonably priced elegance near Clun is my favourite. The damp traveller is greeted with steaming Victorian roll-top baths, tea, cake, port, a roaring fire in the guests’ sitting room, and unforced hospitality.
Birches Mill Country House Bed and Breakfast, Clun Craven Arms, Shropshire, England, SY7 8NL (01588640409, www.virtual-shropshire.co.uk). Rooms from £78, open mid-March to end October.