The Wrekin Hill

The Wrekin is a prominent landmark located near the center of the county of Shropshire.  According to ‘The handbook of the Wrekin’ (a small definitive guide to ‘The Wrekin’ by R.E. Davies a well known local historian), published in 1895 ‘the Wrekin’ is considered to be the highest mountain in Europe in proporotion to the circumference of its base. It is situated in beautiful countryside and from its summit you can see for miles.

The Wrekin is a  Scheduled Monument and as such is an example of a nationally rare monument type. At its summit is a large and prominent hill fort that possesses two lines of ramparts which follow the countours of the hill, although they are very much eroded now. The oldest of the Wrekin’s geology was formed 680 million years ago and fossils such as trilobites from the Precambrian and Cambrian periods have been found nearby. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of Bronze and Iron Age domestic occupaton spanning several hundred years. The handbook of the Wrekin states the outer vallum measured at least a mile and was capable of housing twenty thousand men. The entrance to the outer vallum is known as Hell Gate and the inner entrance is known as Heaven Gate.

It is thought that the Roman military campagin forced the hill fort’s abandonment in the mid first century AD. The Romans finally settled in Viriconium and the settlement spread for miles including parts of what now is the Attingham Park estate. One third of the Roman city of Viriconium whose public baths have been excavated can be seen at Wroxeter which is close to the Wrekin.

Local folklore tells us that a giant had a grudge against the people of Shrewsbury and how he set off to flood the town and kill off its inhabitants. He collected a spade full of earth and headed towards the town. When he arrived near the town of Wellington he met a cobbler who was returning from Shrewsbury market with a sack full of shoes that needed repairing. The giant asked the cobbler for directions to Shrewsbury and told the cobbler of his plan. The cobbler advised that it was a long way to Shrewsbury and said that he had worn all the shoes out in his sack on the way from Shrewsbury. This caused the giant to abandon his plan, so he dumped the earth on the ground beside him, where it became the Wrekin hill. The giant then scraped the mud off his boots and this formed the smaller Ercall (prounounces Arcle) hill.

A local phrase “all round the Wrekin to get to the Ercall” is used to express that you are going “the long way round”.  Another local phrase is “to all friends around the Wrekin” which is used as  a toast especially at Christmas and New Year.

Some claim that the Wrekin is the inspiration for Middle Earth, it certainly has that feel about it and J.R.R. Tolkein did enjoy walking on the hill.