• Graham

There has been some discussion within hill-bagging circles recently, around the confusion caused by hills bearing the same name. The number of Scottish Ben Mors, for example, demonstrates the parochial nature of the problem. As far as the locals are concerned, the loftiest prominence around is “The Big Hill” and they have no reason to believe it could be confused with any other Ben/Bein/Bheinn Mor/More/Mhor. The serious ticker, however, is not so easily fobbed off and apparently the particular acclivitous homonym that is currently stirring interest is Beacon Hill. I have it on good authority that in the UK there are no fewer than 38 summits bearing this name.

So, it cannot come as a surprise that Offa might have collected the odd one when planning his defences. The Beacon Hill in question is also known as Long Ridge perhaps to stop any confusion with the other Beacon Hills in the area and, although you can get quite near to the top by road, it is better to start at the village of Forden and follow the Offa’s Dyke Path through the Leighton Estate. On the way through you might see the occasional remnant of nineteenth century ingenuity. John Naylor, a Liverpool banker, was given the estate as a wedding present and he put the gift to good use. Like those other great industrialists, William Armstrong at Cragside and George Bullough at Kinloch Castle, he embraced modern technology, not only developing hydro electricity for light and heat but also constructing his own gasworks and light railway to power the farm’s machinery and enhance its profitability.

The actual summit of Beacon hill is a curious combination. The Beacon Ring was originally an Iron age hill fort with rampart and ditch. Somewhat later it was the site of a beacon, lit to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and finally, to mark the coronation of the present monarch, the crown of the hill was planted with pine and birch trees to pick out the lettering E II R, a configuration still visible from the air. The trig point, however, hides itself rather modestly among all this pomp and circumstance, but once it has been found the ideal conclusion is to continue over the ridge to Buttington and finish in the 17th century surroundings of the Green Dragon.

Your gathering in of the other mid-dyke Marilyn is a similar hill traverse. This time over the Hergest Ridge. The outing gives delightful walking over springy turf and offers extravagant views to both east and west. The going is easy and the nature of the terrain can be guessed from the fact that, like Cumbria’s High Street, it was once used as a racecourse. Hill traverses please me. I have always felt there is more of a sense of purpose to be found in routes that go from A to B rather than those that go around in circles and for those who delight in unexpected coincidence, you can, as an added bonus, both start and finish at the Royal Oak, first at Gladestry and finally in Kington.

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