Stand atop The Wrekin and you’ll be gazing out on a scene people have been admiring for at least the past three thousand years. Evidence suggests the building of roundhouses began here around 1000BC, while the huge defensive walls of the hillfort that encircle the area were begun around 550 years later.
The earthen ramparts of the hillfort were constructed by the Cornovii, a trading people whose kingdom stretched from modern day south Shropshire to the Wirral. Although The Wrekin appears to have been the Celtic tribe’s principal headquarters, quite what it was used for is less clear and it may have served as little more than an outward symbol of status. In any case, the site appears to have been abandoned in the wake of the Roman Invasion in AD47, when its inhabitants moved to the interlopers’ camp at nearby Wroxeter, which was known thereafter as Viroconium-Cornoviorum (Viroconium of the Cornovii).
While you still need to pass through the remains of Heaven and Hell gate (the outer and inner entrances to the hillfort) to gain entry to the hilltop, the earthen ramparts of this Scheduled Ancient Monument are by no means the only reminder of the past here. The Heather and Bilberry dominated lowland heath it encloses also speak of a time when Bronze Age settlers began to clear the land for agriculture and is now among our scarcest and most valuable natural habitats.
There is plenty of other evidence of humankind’s more recent activity, too, not least in the form of the 171-foot transmitter tower, which has been beaming TV and radio signals to Shropshire and mid-Wales since 1975. A relatively new addition to its glittering array of antennae is the reinvigorated Wrekin Beacon, whose homely red light once again blinks intermittently to the county on a nightly basis. Nearby, close to the ‘old top’ (the former summit of the hill), you can find the concrete base of the previous beacon (which was switched off in 1970) and, less surprisingly, the ‘new top’, which has a handy trig-point toposcope to point you in the direction of other promontories, both near and far. Don’t try looking for Snowdon though; it’s obscured by Cadir Berwyn!
Height: 1,335 ft (407 metres). The Wrekin is an officially designated as a ‘Marilyn’, a punning alternative to the Munro classification system devised for hills with a drop of 150 metres on all sides.
Geology: igneous bedrock that solidified from eruptions of silica-rich magma between 542 and 635 million years ago.
Habitat: heathland. Key species include: Common Heather, Bilberry (please try to avoid trampling them), Common Lizard, Meadow Pipit and Raven.
Visitors: 100,000 annually (which may be a significant underestimate!).