Ludlow’s Whitcliffe Common is all that remains of a once much larger medieval common, then used by local residents to graze livestock, gather fallen wood and quarry stone for many of the town’s historical buildings.
The 1821 Parliamentary Act designated the present 52 acres as common land in the ownership of Plymouth Settled Estates. A 1970s move by local residents led by then Mayor Bill Price ensured the land would remain a common in perpetuity.
By the early 20th Century the common was being cared for by local people – a tradition continued now by the Friends of Whitcliffe Common (Charity Number 1078639) in partnership with leaseholders Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
They ensure the common remains safe to walk, providing a leisure area open to locals and visitors alike with stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside.
As you walk the paths and open spaces of Whitcliffe Common you can admire the many views over the town, the countryside, the hills beyond and reflect on nature. Maybe sit a while on one of our memorial seats, to take it all in.
Wildlife is all around. Blackbirds and robins show no fear, Buzzards and Red Kite circle overhead, Woodpeckers are busy in the car park, Kingfishers fly along the River Teme where Ducks and Swans swim and Dippers enjoy their installed boxes.
Native trees include Oak, Ash, Sycamore, Horse Chestnut, Larch and Scots Pine. Look out for Hornbeam, the hardest wood used to make cogs for water wheels. Hawfinches have returned to these trees in recent years, giving much interest.
Wildflowers bloom throughout the Common. Shafts of snowdrops, native daffodils and bluebells and cowslips are all seen through their season. The latest wildflower survey recorded 135 species of wildflowers and ferns including Wild Solomon Seal, Small Teasel, Greater Butterfly Orchid and Green Winged Orchid.
A bryophyte survey showed 66 different liverworts and mosses present including one nationally rare moss of Red Book Status, found only in Britain from the middle reaches of the River Teme.
This is the town’s only riverside walk. It was built in the 1850s by unemployed supposedly paid in bread (hence the name) to ensure their families and not local pubs benefited!.
Visible on this walk are some of the rock faces for which Whitcliffe is internationally famous for the exposures of Silurian rocks. They are geologically entitled Whitcliffian by the work of Murchison. A family of otters are regularly seen playing around Mill Street Weir where a fish pass – a singular example of this design – is installed. Leaping Salmon can be seen here in November when returning to spawn upstream in Mid Wales.
THE DONKEY STEPS AND PACK HORSE PATH
This is part of the route stretching from the entrance at Dinham to the top of the common, It was established in the 1800s for transporting iron ore from the Clee Hill to Burrington where it was crushed for use at Blists Hill in Ironbridge. The original steps up the steep dingle are still visible. Restoration work has recently taken place along this path.
Situated at the top of the common alongside the road to Wigmore are some long trenches. It is thought they might have been dug by the Parliamentarian Army during its siege of the castle in the Civil War. Or they might just be part of an ancient carriageway.
This is sited on the large recreational area at the top of the common which gives the best views of town and countryside. Graphic design by Matthew Lloyd https://matthewlloyd.design
Shropshire Wildlife Trust support us as advisors through a management plan. In real terms, the present cost of management is well over £20,000 a year spread between fund raising events organised by the Trustees, the free hours of work provided by their volunteers, and the membership of the Friends.
BECOME A FRIEND
If you have enjoyed your walk – and we are sure you will have done! – please become a Friend and help us to continue to look after this marvellous place.