Born in Yorkshire, raised in Shropshire, travelled the world. Live in Adelaide and currently in UK. Love travel, ancient history, horses, cello playing, the unusual and obscure, and pottering in my own back yard. Visit my website www.wadders.co.uk
Published September 5th 2013
Rising out of the Shropshire plain, south west of Shrewsbury, the double peaks of Pontesford and Earls Hills are a distinctive landmark. Known locally as the 'Sleeping Dragon', as the two summits somewhat resemble a coiled sleeping dragon, the strange shape is actually the result of layers of lava which burst out of the earth's crust around 650 million years ago. But this fact should never get in the way of a good story, and like most of Shropshire's hills, these entwined hills have their share of myths and legends.
If you're in any doubt as to which hill is which, Pontesford Hill is the one which is covered with conifers, having been leased to the Forestry Commission in the 1960s, and the Earls Hill covered with grass with the odd bit of bracken.
Iron Age settlers took advantage of elevation and built a hill fort on the summit of Earls Hill, and on Pontesford Hill in around 600BC, and the earthworks of the strategically located forts can still be seen today. The hills were also the site of a Saxon battle which gave rise to the legend of the 'golden arrow'. Apparently one of the warring Saxon kings shot an arrow made of solid gold, and it got lost in the battle. Legend has it that whoever finds the arrow is assured of great wealth and fortune. There are also variations of this legend which assure lovers of a lasting relationship and/or the finder must be the seventh daughter of the seventh son!
The author Mary Webb, who lived for a while in nearby Pontesbury and apparently used to walk up these hills, based her novel The Golden Arrow on this Shropshire legend. She also described Earls Hill in her novel Gone to Earth.
Pontesford Hill apparently has a haunted yew tree, although it's not exactly sure which one it is. Traditionally young people from Pontesbury used to pick a branch from this tree on Palm Sunday and race down the hill to be the first person to dip the fourth finger of their left hand into the brook. If they were the first person, apparently the next person they met of the opposite sex would be their future spouse.
The crags on south east side of the hill are regularly used by rock climbers, and in certain circles, there was a rumour that the 'Pontesbury Archers', an undiscovered race of little men known only to the locals, lie in wait to shoot arrows at the unsuspecting climbers walking down the paths at dusk too.
To get there from Shrewsbury, drive along the A488 towards Pontesbury, and at Pontesford it's signposted to the left. About half a mile up the lane, there is a small tarmacked car park on the left hand side at the foot of the hill.
There are several different walks of varying levels; green is the easier walk around the hill and purple the harder with a steep hike to the top. I'd say allow at least two or three hours to climb and walk round the hill if you really want to enjoy the stupendous views and take in the wildlife.
The hills are teaming with wildlife. Buzzards can often be seen and peregrines sometimes nest on the crags in spring. Plus the deciduous woodland and other habitats attracts other birds, butterflies and dragon flies galore in the summer months.
My suggestion is once you've finished your walk, you enjoy a well-earned drink in one of the local pubs!