Crowds gather at noon on Clun Bridge every May Bank Holiday Monday to witness a battle between the Frost Queen, with her entourage of Icicles, and the Green Man with his faithful May Queen. His leafy face represents nature, fertility and the cycle of death and rebirth – a pagan symbol that adorns many a pub sign and village church. The crowd cheers and jeers as battle commences – if the Green Man cannot defeat the Frost Queen, there will be no summer in the Clun Valley.
Of course, the Green Man wins, and in celebration he leads a garland-festooned parade to the grounds of Clun Castle, where he declares the craft fair and festivities open. There you can weave your way through blacksmiths, cloggers, leatherworkers, jugglers, jesters, and maidens with leaves and flowers in their hair.
But before you indulge in all the local food and real ale the fair has to offer, work up an appetite on this five-mile walk that unfurls the mesmerising beauty of the Clun Valley, which prompted AE Housman to write “Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun.”
Start the walk at Clun Bridge, where you can lean over and watch ducks and geese paddling in the river. This packhorse bridge is where the Green Man and the Frost Queen have their stand off. Go up Church Street, passing pretty stone cottages up towards St George’s church. Its graveyard has panoramic views of the surrounding hills. From the church, turn right on the Knighton Road, then turn left on the road signposted for Churchbank and Hobarris.
After a steep ¾-mile climb, take a bridleway on the right, which leaves the lane on a bend by Glebe Cottage and immediately goes left into a steep field. Climb and go through a gate at the top, pausing to look back over Clun. Carry on straight through two fields to meet a lane running across the top of Clun Hill.
Cross this lane on to the path opposite, along the muddy right-hand edges of two fields. At the end of the second field, go through a gate on the right and diagonally to the far corner of another field, and carry on towards a pool in the valley below.
Go through a gate and turn left on a lovely long byway that undulates into the distance. Turn right when you come to a T-junction, and at Hobarris Farm, take the muddy track back-left, just before the main farm buildings. Cross the brook and go left along a track lined with tall, overhanging hedges. When this bends right, go straight on instead, over a stile into a field. Continue uphill – to your left you’ll see three distinctive Scots pines and a prehistoric cairn marking the summit of Pen-y-wern Hill.
Turn left when you come to a lane and continue until you come to the second of two bends. Ignore the signposted path on the right and take the unsignposted path a few yards ahead, which leads into an eerie pine forest. After the track bends right, continue for 200m, then turn left onto a descending path. After another 200m, branch left again into oak woodland and descend until you come to a path at the bottom of the wood.
Back to Clun
Turn left on the path, which veers left through woodland and meets a lane. Turn right towards Clun. Continue on this lane until you come to a stile on right, which gives access to a field. Go diagonally left towards Clun, turn right when you come to a lane, cross the footbridge by a ford, then turn right to Clun High Street.
If the craft fair is still going on, head to the grounds of Clun Castle and quench your thirst in the beer tent.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the A49 to Craven Arms and turn left on B4368 to Clun. The nearest train stations are in Knighton, Craven Arms and Church Stretton – there is a bus service to Clun from all
FIND OUT MORE
Clun Green Man Festival
White Horse Inn
The Square, Clun SY7 8JA
Many of the Green Man festivities, including morris dancing, happen right on this traditional inn’s doorstep.
The Old Farmhouse
Clun SY7 OJB
This characterful former farm offers some fine views of the Clun Valley.