Scenic Shropshire

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Shropshire_Greenlaning Our final lane was one of the best of the day : credit: © Patrick Cruywagen

Our ten favourite lanes from a recent winter trip to this rugged and beautiful part of the UK

Most people don’t like camping in the winter but we at LRM heard about a spot in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border, that was fast developing a reputation as a top spot to escape the rigours of regular life.  So, we decide to check it out for ourselves, while at the same time take in some nearby lanes.

The campsite is called Nash Oakland Wild Camping and it definitely did not disappoint. For starters it is set in a massive private forest and even though there were other campers in attendance on the same weekend, we did not see them or anybody else for that matter. The place is absolutely pristine, except for the tracks, the rest all looks as nature intended. It has no facilities but I took along my Jimmy’s Thunderbox and a spade. I dare you to Google that... Or to save you the bother, it’s basically an Australian flat pack toilet sent to me by my good mate Richard Bennett from Perth. It works a treat and I had a poo with a view.

One of the best private campsites we have ever been to   

We were still under the rule of six at the time so we had to restrict the numbers on the Friday night camp out. As we were in his patch, Stu Pickering, the local GLASS rep  was at the top of my list. As this was his anniversary weekend, his partner Gaenor Kelly came along for the ride and bromance. Stu knows how to treat a lady. Then there was Russ Hales in his beefed up P38. Despite all that is going on in the world at the moment, that night as the owls hooted and the fire crackled, all seemed okay in our little world.

This is a peaceful spot and a good place to come and recharge your batteries. The campsite is run by friendly farmers Rick and Shirley Hughes; you need to be totally self-sufficient and bring everything with that you might need though the shops are not too far off. Shirley will also kindly point you in the right direction as there are some superb meat suppliers in the area.

Rick and Shirley Hughes of Nash Oakland wild camping

After a quick camp stove breakfast we are ready to start our day of laning. As I will be taking photos I jump in with Stu and Gaenor in their Discovery 3, it was a recent purchase and has all the off-road bells and whistles including a winch. Prior to the D3 Stu used to be a Jeep Wrangler man but after it blew up he saw the light. We are also joined by Harry Shipton in his Defender 110 and Stan Scrooby in a tricked-up Defender 90. They drove up from just north of London this morning. Stan has more accessories and gear than everyone that went to the last Billing Off-Road Show. Bringing up the rear is the friendly Andy Taylor in his tasty V8 Defender 90. Andy will be responsible for closing all the gates that I will be opening as Stu will be leading the convoy of five vehicles. 

Stu Pickering leads the convoy with gusto  

Just after turning out of the campsite the action begins as we have to cross the Hindwell Brook that runs in the valley below the forest we slept in. I bet that on hot days the campers come here for a swim. As I try and read the signs next to the road I sound like a man who is clearing his throat, we must be in Wales.

Lane 1 starts near Water Break Its Neck waterfall   

Our first lane is Water Break Its Neck  (POWYS BOAT SO 19365 59211 –  SO 15711 65510). Stu tells me that it was only recently re-opened up after a lengthy closure for repairs. We plan on driving it from south to north and as we pass a car park near the start, I’m told that this is where people stop and park if taking a walk to the nearby waterfall. If you are feeling active and have the time to stop, definitely do so.

We follow the red byway signs and climb up the hill via a track that takes us slap bang through the middle of a farmer’s field full of young crops. Yes this is the right way as we are not allowed to take the easier track adjacent to the field. That is a private track. Fortunately for us the track is relatively dry but this red soil won’t be easy to drive through after a sustained period of rain. More gates follow and soon the cultivated hills are replaced by grazing ones. I’m glad that the lane is open again because the views are just incredible on this lane of seemingly endless hills.

There is a big wooden animal rubbing post at the top of Shepherd’s Tump, so if you have an itch that needs scratching this is the place to stop. We are all in agreement that this long lane is definitely one of the most scenic in all of the UK.

Lanes 2 and 3 start near Llanfihangel Rhydithon

To get to our second lane, Old Hall, we follow the short Tarmac track from the end of our first lane until we reach POWYS BOAT SO 15418 66141. We drive it from west to east, it too is a scenic and longish lane. The lane’s surface is firm and easy to negotiate but do keep a look out for the black cows who like to form meaty roadblocks. Just before you reach Old Hall there is a lovely bridge that will take you over the stream, from here the track continues next to a pond for a short bit. The tracks can get a little confusing in the second half of the lane. Just keep left and follow the track in front of you, don’t turn right towards the woods.

Scenic social distancing became a serious thing in 2020

Lane 3 continues on from lane 2 and runs through the scenic Graigs Hill.  It drops down into some woodlands but just like all the lanes we have driven so far you could do them in any Land Rover, even a 2WD Evoque. From the end of the lane we make our way towards the hamlet of Monaughty.

Lane 4 starts near Monaughty   

Our fourth lane Monaughty (POWYS BOAT SO 23897 68598) looks as if it has had loads of repairs done to it recently and so it poses no significant challenges at all, just a scenic drive along the ridge line before we finish off near Hendregenny farm. Our morning Welsh raid is a thing of the past and the time has come to head back into Shropshire for the afternoon. Not before stopping off at the Co-op in Knighton for some lunch, supplies and fuel.

Andy Taylor takes his V8 for a cool-down splash

For our fifth lane Offa's Dyke (POWYS BOAT SO 26405 76982)  Stu turns on the anniversary charm and asks Gaenor if she wants to drive. She has to navigate around two cars that have parked badly near the entrance of the lane but she handles it like the expert she is. Just like all the other lanes we have driven so far there is zero chance of you damaging your Land Rover on this one. There are lots of  walkers about as it is on the Jack Mytton way. If travelling the route from north to south please make sure you go straight on through the gate at SO 259780 and don’t follow the more obvious track round to the right.

For those that don’t know, Offa’s Dyke is the long linear earthwork that forms the current boundary between Wales and England. Its construction was ordered by Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia, many moons ago. Even today this 20 metre wide trench is rather impressive. Though I am not sure how it stopped any advance or movement. Unless they filled it with scary Welshman?

Lanes 5 and 6 start at Garbett Hall

We continue following the Dyke for our sixth lane (SO 24909 79854) thanks to the silky smooth driving skills of Gaenor, which are ever so slightly assisted by the air suspension of the D3. As we are also filming a video of the day Stu has really gone to town by picking the most scenic lanes in the area. I ask is there not something a little more challenging or technical? I know that he is worried about Stan and Harry’s shiny Defenders with their Front Runner tents and awnings on the rack, but he decides to go for it anyway and so we detour to our seventh lane (Whitcott Keysett BOAT SO 28910 82631).

Lane 7 is the toughest of the day

Things did get a little tight on this sunken section

It starts out all innocently with a gentle ford crossing, then past a couple of houses before taking us around the edge of the field. Then the fun and games begin. It drops down into a tight and overgrown sunken lane. This is more like it. Everyone selects low range. There is a big, rock step about halfway down the lane. It gets even tighter and so I take a branch cutting device and exit the D3, time to open up the lane for those behind us. At one stage it looks as if Harry might rip off the Front Runner awning but we place a rock in front of his front wheel and it lifts it up just enough to clear the thick branches. I would highly recommend making use of a spotter when driving this lane. Still, it is a fun to drive as it tests both man, woman and Land Rover.

The lanes were not too technical but the scenery made up for it

Lane number eight is Cantlin Stone (UCR Cantlin Stone SO 20365 85876) and initially it is nothing more than a drive across a grassy field with good views. Stu tells me that they used to have big music festivals here in the 1980s. The flat open fields are just perfect for it. We stop at the Cantlin Stone, which marks the spot where pedlar William Cantlin was allegedly robbed and murdered. There is a deep muddy crossing at the end of the lane and Stan snaps a shock as he bumps his way through the deep bit. The free shock rips out his fuel pipe as he will only later discover.

Lanes 8, 9 and 10, starting from Crossways up towards Cantlin Stone 

We join our ninth lane, Long Plantation (SO 20246 87234 to SO 1654 88184), about halfway down and turn right. It forms part of the Kerry Ridgeway, Wales is now on our left and England on our right. We don’t do the whole lane and instead turn right towards our final lane of the day, Masons Bank (SO 22420 87857). We drive the lane from north west to south east but leave Stan behind to do repairs on his 90.

Deep ruts are no problem for Harry

Once again the landscape turns it on and the views are out of this world at the start of the lane. It then drops down dramatically and there is a small bridge that will take us across the gulley. Do get out and check the condition of the bridge before driving over it. The next section of the lane is deeply rutted on one side.  You need good ground clearance to drive this part or else just straddle lanes if the ground conditions are dry.

We head back to check up on Stan. Luckily he has the tools and knowledge to fix the fuel line and after about 30 minutes we are good to go again. Stu, Phil and Russ head for home while Harry, Stan and I head back to the forest for another night under the stars. It has been the perfect weekend of off-roading. Shropshire has it all when it comes to laning: ford crossings, scratchy, tight overgrown areas, scenery and mud. The people aren’t that bad either, especially old Stu. We really recommend you go.

Nash Oakland Wild Camping

Camping costs £10 per person per night. Bring everything that you might need. There are no facilities, just a large, unspoilt, natural woodland. One of the best wild campsites we have ever stayed in. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to get away from it all. A great base for a laning trip in Shropshire, too. For more information take a look at their Facebook page. They are quick to respond to messages via Facebook, too. Postcode for the campsite is LD8 2LG.

GLASS

The Greenlaning Association continues to flight on our behalf to keep greenlanes open to 4x4s. As a member of GLASS you will have access to Trailwise 2, the up-to-date mapping system of all the greenlanes in the UK. There are also a host of other benefits.
To find out more see glass-uk.org. Annual membership costs £44.

Want to see more Greenlaning? Go to our travel section, featuring the best greenlaning and overland adventures, both here in the UK and abroad.

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