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UK ride: Wyre Forest, Shropshire

Matthew Page
10 Mar 2017

Just west of Birmingham, Wyre Forest makes a great base to escape to the quiet rolling lanes of Shropshire

Where: Wyre Forest, near Kidderminster
Total distance: 61km
Total elevation: 1,126m
Difficulty rating: 5/10

Shropshire is the westernmost part of a largely flat area that stretches from Lincolnshire in the East Midlands through to the Welsh border, where the topography starts to become more interesting.

This makes it an ideal choice for a ride in the wintry depths of January, when the weather is liable to provide quite enough of a challenge without adding hills to the mix.

Armed with a trio of ‘all-rounder’ bikes designed to cope with variable British conditions, we headed out to the Wyre Forest, just west of Kidderminster.

This National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest is one of the largest semi-natural areas of woodland left in Britain, and the Forestry Commission visitor centre makes a handy base from which to start our outing, with a cafe and toilets on site.

A popular dog-walking area as well, there is even a self-service dog wash – a new sight for us all! From here, we’ll head in a loop that takes us west to explore the rolling lanes.

It’s a damp and chilly January morning when we set off , and we’re immediately onto a busy A-road – perhaps not the best way to start a ride, but thankfully it doesn’t last for long as we soon turn off the A456 towards the historic town of Bewdley.

Heading northwest, we follow the edge of the Wyre Forest on a road that seems to undulate constantly, without ever becoming too stressful.

Local rider and racer 17-year-old Max Gibbons – fresh from competing in the National Cyclocross Championships the previous day – almost floats up the rolling climbs, disappearing off the front and pushing us to the limits just to keep him in sight!

Warming up

Through Button Oak to Button Bridge, the undulating road gets us warmed up nicely, even if it is a little busy for a B-road.

As we head towards the village of Highley, we find ourselves on a quieter stretch of road, but it’s no less hilly as we drop quickly over Borle Brook before climbing all the way back up and into the village.

Reaching the edge of Sutton village, we hook left onto a smaller lane and clock a sign that many cyclists will love to see: Unsuitable for Goods Vehicles.

While the road surface is far from immaculate, the quieter routes are most welcome, giving us our first real chance to ride and chat without having to constantly watch out for vehicles approaching from behind.

The heavy rain that was forecast seems to be holding off too, for now and while the low clouds still dominate the sky, we are at least all still dry.

The meandering lanes head southwest towards the Clee Hills, with other bigger Shropshire hills in the distance – we’ll save those for another day when the sun is out.

Soon after passing the village of Stottesdon, we hit Loughton Lane, which might not be an extremely tough climb, but is the longest sustained hill on today’s route.

The briefest of B-road sections follows before we’re back onto the narrow country lanes, heading towards the peak of Titterstone.

Obscured by clouds

On a clearer, less cloudy day, the view would be fantastic, but unfortunately for us the peak is hidden by the clouds.

The section to Cleeton is great, although rather punishing for our tiring legs, especially with Max still pushing the pace.

Never flat, the road dips and dives before climbing up, often steeply, without ever seeming to ease off.

Passing through Cleetongate, the road opens out with no hedges and even with weather conditions starting to deteriorate, it is still a highlight of the ride with a gentle but quick downhill into Foxwood.

From here we pick up the A4117 and while the traffic is instantly busier, the steep, fast drop down Hopton Bank gives us a chance to really test the descending prowess of our bikes and leaves us all grinning.

With the rain starting to come down creating some grim road spray, we are all glad that the road feels almost all downhill and the kilometres are ticking by at quite a rate.

Passing through the town of Cleobury Mortimer, we start heading back into the forested roads of the Wyre.

A few short, sharp climbs provide a testing sting in the tail of our ride, but it isn’t long before we’re back in the car park and relishing the chance to grab something warm to eat and recover.

 

The route


To download this ride, go to cyclist.co.uk/30wyre

1 Starting from the Forestry Commission car park, turn left onto the A456, then take the first left at the roundabout towards Bewdley. From the town centre take the B4194 towards Bridgnorth, through the Wyre Forest.

2 Continue along the B-roads through Highley and towards Billingsley. From here you start to pick up smaller, unclassified lanes, where traffic will be less busy.

3 Continue to the B4364, which you ride only briefly before turning off left towards Cleeton. This undulating section continues for 10km through Cleeton to Foxwood.

4 From Foxwood, take the A4117 and continue for another 10km until the A456, for the final 2km section back to the Wyre Forest.

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