By Eddie Smyth
For a day ride in the West Midlands you only need a little knowledge of escape routes from the cities and ring roads and before you realise it you are chomping along lovely quiet roads with vistas to the west promising verdant hills and vales, tucked away villages with more character than modernised towns have speed bumps.
Starting off with a good breakfast at the Food Stop café, a mecca for bikers, in, Quatford just short of Bridgnorth seems a good enough reason to straddle your saddle on any day and this, easy on the eye, trip will fill up your senses as much as a big fry up does your stomach.
Village of Clun
The first target on this clockwise circuit is the quirky named village of Clun. Take the A442 south to Kidderminster and follow the signs for Bewdley, grab the by-pass and aim the headlight for Ludlow. It’s been a pleasant enough ride already but the treats come thick and fast now. Turn right at Callow Hill and the real fun begins, twisting the throttle and dabbing the brakes through heavily wooded stretches, steep declines, sweeping inclines and the jewel in this decorated tiara; the section across Cleehill to Angelbank. If the road is clear of traffic and sheep on this part, it never fails to please.
There’s plenty of distraction in Ludlow, including a castle, if you’re that way inclined, then ride the short dap up the A49 and head left at Bromfield on to the A4113 towards Leintwardine: another photogenic village. Just before Leintwardine you could cut a few miles off the journey by turning right onto the B4385 to Purslow and then the B4368 (left) to Clun. Or take the longer route looping right after Leintwardine on the B4367 which does much the same thing. Having covered around 50 miles thus far, it’s time for a coffee break and the Malting Café, right next to the Sun Inn is the perfect place, rustic and cosy. There’s parking down the hill about a hundred yards away but I managed to park my bike directly opposite today.
Back down the hill and turning right, which is still the B4368, there’s a snapshot opportunity in the gravel lay-by on the right, of the remains of Clun Castle. You don’t even need to step off the bike.
Clun Castle, Newcastle and Anchor
The next juncture is Newcastle where I was welcomed by a sheep. Maybe it’s a village tradition.
We’re now heading to Anchor. Which is not the most aptly named hamlet. The road to here outscored the sorry looking eponymous pub by 100 to nil. It looks like it’s been scuttled and run aground since the ice age took the ocean away. Hope you booked ahead.
For the xenophobic you might need to take a moment to choose which route you prefer from this point onwards. If you stay on the B4368 you will flounder into Powys at the bottom of the hill. And if you’ve an adventurous devil may care streak you could take the unmarked road at the crossroads by the pub and head over the hill instead of round it. My wife is Welsh, so I know better. I took the unmarked road. Going up, its fabulous. Never met any traffic, the views are spectacular and the road although narrow stayed in one piece. Heading down is another matter; the hedgerows and sharp bends hide what might lurk beyond and the gravel, mud and detritus insists you focus on keeping the rubber side down. But since it all ended well by the time I re-joined the B4368 it was brilliant fun. Oops, we’re in Powys whichever route we take as the Welsh/English border can’t make its mind up whether to go north or east round these parts. At least I saw no border guards.
Heading east now on the A489 I reached another favourable watering hole: The Kerry Vale Vineyard and café, Pentreheyling.
No greasy spoon here either but very ‘osh posh nosh’. Home-made minestrone soup and a hunk of bread the size of a horse’s knee, served with a smile and a wine bottle filled with drinking water. Perfect. We’ve covered less than 20 miles between refreshment breaks but the scenery is far too distracting to hurry.
Bishop’s Castle to Crossways
Set off for the homeward half of the journey now and take a right to Bishop’s Castle, a good move, as the countryside splendour continues with lush meadows framing the grey strip of undulating tarmac. The House on Crutches museum might attract your attention in the town but so might the road to Church Stretton via the A489 again. This is one of my favourite roads and my bike seems to agree. It’s fast, clear, testing in parts and a highlight for pure motorcycling pleasure. However, you can have too much of a good thing so just before Horderley, take a sharp left on the B4370 which has very different terrain all the way to Marshbrook and the A49. Tunnels of trees, silvery streams below and steep dirt slopes down to waterside houses in this natural forest. There’s not many overtaking stretches but if you get to use one you may not require a second. It’s another deserted road.
At the Crossways traffic lights, take the right turn onto the B4371 and your final ‘B’ road blast through some delightfully named villages all the way to Much Wenlock. The A458 from there to Bridgnorth awaits to take you blissfully full circle. Both towns have something to offer by way of country delights or you could even take in Ironbridge just to make your cup runneth over.
If you didn’t start your day at the Food Stop café in Quatford, you might be in time for a cuppa before they close. Who said the West Midlands has little to offer for a day’s ride?