The Wrekin

Hopefully I won't "go all around the Wrekin"* with my account of this particular antiquity. It is an impressive hillfort, with a commanding view towards Wales across the flat arable land of Shropshire; the fort was probably first used during the Bronze Age. At the south-west end there are the remains of a barrow. later it was used by Iron Age peoples, and then again during the Roman occupation, when it was possibly the tribal capital of the Cornovii, who then settled four miles away at Viroconium Cornoviorum by the Romans.

The fort takes up much of the hill, about ten hectares. An inner inner defensive position was built first, followed by surrounding earth banks. To add to its impregnability, these Celts then set about scraping away the hill to create an artificially steep incline. There is evidence of permanent occupation on the site - post holes and the remains of hut flooring have been found, along with evidence of storage pits and guttering.


The Wrekin is one of the few hillforts that, with little change, still retains its original name: Oriconion. It is said however that the Normans did attempt to rename the hill Mount Gilbert after a local hermit, but the locals still insisted on caling it the Wrekin and Mount Gilbert was forgotten.

Giants abound on the Wrekin and they had much to do with the formation of its slopes. In a tall tale from my childhood a great Welsh giant had a greivance against the good people of Shrewsbury and planned to destroy the town by daming the River Severn. With his shovel in hand the fearsome giant lifted a great clod of soil, earth and stone and marched on Shrewsbury. The giant walked all day carrying his great shovel load of dirt until he was exausted, so he lay his load of earth next to the road and rested a while. Soon a man, a cobbler, approached along the road carring a sack of shoes that he was to repair that week.


The cobbler asked the giant what he was doing and the giant revealed his heinous plan to flood the town of Shrewsbury. Thiking quickly the cobbler emptied his sack of broken and battered shoes before the giant and remarked, "I have come from Shrewsbury and worn out all these shoes in my journey, you'll not reach there today, tommorrow or even the day after that."

The tired giant groaned, picked up his shovel and returned to Wales along the road on which he came. Shrewsbury was saved by the wit and guile of the cobbler and the mound of soil that the giant left behind became known as The wrekin.


As if one fable isn't enough there is another, the giants again are by tradition Welsh but this time they have been exiled from their home and attempt to build a new one. Together they pilled shovel after shovel of earth to form a great hill, the long trench from where the earth had been dug became the River Severn.

When the hill was finished the two great giants argued over who should live there. The argument became a fight and one giant raised his spade to hit the other, but up flew a raven and pecked his eyes so he missed. The spade came down hard and left a cleft in the rock, a feature now called the Needle's Eye. The raven's attack had caused the giant to shed a massive tear which burned into the hill forming a pool, the pool today is known as the Raven's Bowl or the Cuckoo's Cup and is said to never dry up.


Taking advantage the other giant knocked over his blind companion and quickly piled earth ontop of him, imprisoning him under a mound that has become known as The Ercall and at dead of night you are able to hear the trapped giant moaning!

And of the victorious giant? I guess he still lives atop The Wrekin.

* A figure of local speach, "All round the Wrekin" means 'going the long way' or 'not explaining something clearly and directly'.