A few years ago and a cold and sunny day in early April sees Alsager's Explorer Walkers setting off for Shropshire. The aim is to climb the prominent hill of the Wrekin preceded by the adjacent smaller hill of The Ercall. On a clear day, the Wrekin is visible even from our local hills such as Mow Cop. This is partly because of its distinctive shape and because the surrounding countryside is flat which makes such a steep and striking eminence stand out from a long way off. To a keen walker, it sends out a clear message: "come and climb me" so, on a spring morning of clear blue sky we set off for Shropshire.
These hills take no prisoners and the climbing begins straight from the car park as we ascend the steep path taking us to the top of The Ercall, the Wrekin's little sibling. The temperature when we left Alsager was low, but it still surprises us to find snow on the ground down south in Shropshire when there was none at home.
As we climb higher the views open out to reveal how much of the surrounding countryside has received a covering from the white blanket. But the effort of climbing warms us up nicely which gives us a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery. Getting our breath back, we continue on to our first top, the summit of the Ercall.
Reaching the top of our first hill is an excellent reason to gather and enjoy the extensive views back north towards Cheshire as well as south and west over the Shropshire countryside.
From the top of a hill the only way is down so we descend to the col between The Ercall and the Wrekin. This is an area of outstanding international importance to geologists, but we are more concerned with what turns out to be the steepest climb of the day up to our highest point: the Wrekin summit. The view from the top must be one of the finest in Eng-land including much of Shropshire and the midlands and extending westward to the hills of mid Wales beyond, sparkling in their new white coats.
The Wrekin is steep on all sides so our descent is as sharp as our ascent. Descending on icy ground can be trickier than ascending, but we are fortunate that the wind has blown enough of the snow clear to give us a good path all the way down to the base of the hill. From here all we have to do is walk round the sides of both of the hills we have just climbed to return to our starting point.
The route back to the cars is a mixture of footpaths on old lanes and minor roads, all at low level, so we do not anticipate more excitement. So it comes as a surprise to discover that one old track following a sunken lane is full of snow up to head height. This can happen when snow is blown horizontally and then accumulates in the bottom a trench. We even find that some of the minor roads on our route had filled with snow before being ploughed.
Sunshine, snow, exercise, scenery, views, laughter and companionship, all are in abundance on this walk. When, eventually, we complete our circuit and return to Alsager we do so with a treasure trove of memories of a glorious day Explorer walking.
Roger, leader, Explorer Walks Group