Church Stretton is an attractive and old-fashioned market town at the foot of the Long Mynd. An excellent base for walking holidays, the town has a railway station, a good selection of shops, and is the starting-point for many good walks.
Church Stretton railway station is on the line between Shrewsbury and Craven Arms. Trains are run by Arriva Trains Wales. Most trains on this stretch of line are operating a Manchester-South Wales route. Ludlow is a fifteen-minute train journey away. As you can change onto this line at various stations, the best route will depend on your starting point and time of travel – search for up-to-date timetables at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/. From London you can travel with a change at Crewe (a journey of approximately three hours). The station is very close to the heart of Church Stretton.
Since Church Stretton is a good base for walking, and it is easy to visit Ludlow and Shrewsbury by train, a car is not vital for an enjoyable holiday here. Since the region in general is not well-served by public transport, though, a car is helpful if you want to explore a wider area. If you do drive, be aware that roads over the Long Mynd can be narrow, steep and are best avoided in severe weather.
Between April and September there is a useful shuttle bus service for the Shropshire Hills AONB which operates on weekends and bank holidays. Buses run from Church Stretton and the Long Mynd to Bridges and the Stiperstones. Despite the timetable’s limitations, this is a good way – with some planning – to travel further without a car, or to enjoy a linear walk.
Things to see and do
Church Stretton is a small town, with just a couple of central streets. Along these you’ll find an array of shops including a small supermarket – useful for preparing picnics – and several specialist food shops. There are also antique shops, charity shops (for lovers of vintage), a bookshop and tea rooms, so it is easy to spend a pleasant couple of hours just pottering and browsing in the town. There’s a market on Thursdays.
The town has an unpretentious atmosphere and appeal. The most picturesque spots are around the church, St Laurence’s, which dates to the twelfth century. On an external wall of the church is one of the town’s most interesting sights, an ancient fertility symbol or sheela na gig.
Just outside Church Stretton is Carding Mill Valley, once a popular destination for Victorians and Edwardians seeking recreation in this ‘Little Switzerland’. Today there is a National Trust tea room, shop and visitor centre in the valley along with ample parking. Footpaths lead up attractive valleys onto the Long Mynd’s highest points, and families enjoy picnicking here alongside little streams where children can splash and play.
The heather-covered upland of the Long Mynd is criss-crossed by footpaths and is both a fascinating and picturesque place to explore. On the other side of Church Stretton are the Stretton Hills, greener volcanic hills which can be reached on foot from Church Stretton and which offer extensive views as well as good walking.
Five miles from Church Stretton is the fascinating Acton Scott historic working farm, which recreates life on a Victorian farm and offers demonstrations and workshops of traditional agricultural techniques and skills.