Monday, 5 January 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Stiperstones

02.01.15  Minton Hill (SO 414 919) and Knolls (SO 403 902)   

Minton Hill (SO 414 919)
The Long Mynd stretches for approximately 11 km (7 miles) from north to south with its western land rising steeply to the plateau above, but it is the eastern ridges and enclosed valleys that is of most interest.  I’d visited parts of this range of hills with Charlie Leventon in February of last year and I now wanted to investigate the easterly ridges at the south of the range.

The small community of Minton was only just waking up as I parked my car, however three dogs were ready for a bark and as I joined the right of way that heads straight up toward Packstone Hill, one of the dogs decided he wanted a hill scamper and led the way upward on the green track that rises at a steady gradient above Minton.

Every minute or so the dog would come scampering back to me as if I was a long lost friend; he would then run off uphill.  At one stage he went to investigate a few sheep, I turned my head expecting the worst, but he stopped a safe distance from them and then ran back toward the main path.  I imagined the dog would be with me for my entire walk and wondered if I could teach him how to stay away from the Trimble when it was gathering data.  The last time something like this had happened to me was on Skye when along with John and Graham we visited Ben Tianavaig (NG 511 409) and were accompanied by a young cat who playfully followed us all the way to the summit of the hill, then sat with us as we had a bite to eat and admired the view, and then happily came back down the hill with us.

Graham descending Ben Tianavaig with our surveying cat close behind
As I approached the upper part of Minton Hill, two mountain bikers sped down the track, I flagged them down and explained about the dog, they kindly offered to hold it enabling me to continue, it easily escaped and then spent five minutes wanting to play this new game of us, with us trying to catch it and him teasing us before running away.  As we chatted it suddenly ran down hill disappearing over the horizon back to Minton.  As the cyclists headed the same way I continued uphill occasionally looking behind wondering if the dog would re-appear, thankfully it didn’t.

As I headed toward the summit of Minton Hill the wind strengthened blowing across and down from the higher plateau, to north-east the distinctive shape of Caer Caradoc Hill stood out above the town of Church Stretton with the eloquent gradient of Yearlet framed through the col of Grindle.  The easterly ridges were bronzed with cropped bracken, almost autumnal like their colour accentuated by an early morning and still low sun. 

Caer Caradoc Hill rising above Church Stretton
Bronzed ridges
Yearlet framed through the col of Grindle
The summit of Minton Hill is just off of the green track, it consists of a heathery tumulus.  Once the Trimble was set up I retired into the heather and waited for five minutes of data to be collected.

Gathering data at the summit of Minton Hill
Minton Hill is listed as a 400m Sub-Four with 22m of drop and as its connecting and critical col was on my continuing route I thought it rude not to stop and get more data.  I walked down through the heather to the col and walked up and down on the valley to valley traverse as well as gaining height on the opposite hill to hill traverse, all done to try and find the position of the critical col.  I then went to the position where the ten figure grid reference for the 431m spot height appears on the Ordnance Survey map, its position proved to be slightly uphill of the valley to valley traverse.  Finding the critical col by eye is not ideal, but it always proves a good test of judgment, all one can do is assess the ground from a variety of angles and chose a spot that looks the best.

Once the Trimble had collected col data I continued on a green track that contoured around the upper part of the valley known as Minton Batch, ridges descended toward the stream at its base, one after another, all dulled in colour by having a direct sun behind them.

The view down Minton Batch
The green track led to the main hill ridge and the narrow paved road that climbs steeply from the west, which heads north from where I encountered it and only just misses running over the high point of the Long Mynd by about 300 metres, before it dips eastward down to Church Stretton.

Leaving the road behind I walked toward a gate which gave access to a track and the gliding club.  The Midland Gliding Club has been established on the Long Mynd since 1934, as today was clear the gliders were being prepared for their flights.  Before visiting the gliders I wanted to get a data set from the first of two possible col positions for Knolls, which was my next hill to visit.  When I stood on top of Minton Hill I looked out toward each possible col position and had visually dismissed the second as being the higher.  The first position has a large pond on it, I walked to its western tip and judged that the land at its eastern tip was probably slightly higher, I then walked back to this and judged that as the adjacent track leading to the gliding club was on the hill to hill traverse and that land hereabouts would be difficult to judge if the natural col was under the track I decided to place the Trimble on the edge of the track.

Gathering data at the first option for the col of Knolls
Once the Trimble was gathering data I stood up the track to its south and soon had to flag two mountain bikers down, I quickly explained what I was doing and they kindly diverted through the heather, another three mountain bikers soon followed, they also diverted from the track.  Just as the five minutes of allotted data collection was nearing its end a van appeared at the gate leading to the track, a couple of the cyclists waved toward me to see if it was OK for the van to proceed, I checked the Trimble; 300 points collected, I switched it off, the van passed as I stood beside the Trimble and I put it back in its case and headed up to the gliding club.

All manner of activity was happening with gliders being towed into position awaiting their turn to drop off the western edge of the Long Mynd and soar on the thermals.  I chatted with a couple of people; both commented how chilly the wind was.

The Midland Gliding Club
Leaving the gliding club I headed toward the second possible position for the critical col of Knolls, this was beside what looked like the landing strip for the gliders.  I chose my spot next to small puddles of standing water and gathered another data set.

Gathering data at the second option for the col of Knolls
As I continued up another track toward the last summit of the day I looked back on the ridge of Minton Hill which was deep in heather brown with the sun highlighting the greens in its foreground. 

The whole of the Long Mynd seems to be an outdoor play ground as its many tracks and ridges are frequently used by horse riders, two of whom I’d spotted on Knolls as I left the gliding club, as well as mountain bikers, walkers and the clientele of the gliding club, all happily going about their business.

The track led toward the tumulus atop Knolls, soon the Trimble was set up and I stood in the heather admiring the summit area of the hill.  About 100 metres south of the tumulus is the hill’s trig pillar, it is positioned on ground that is lower than that of the tumulus but it seemed to be on a slight high point all of its own.

Gathering data at the summit of Knolls
After collecting data on the tumulus I did likewise on the highest ground immediately beside the trig pillar.  By now bulbous clouds were skimming their way across the sky with the sun suddenly brightening the land as it re-appeared.  As the last data set of the day was collected I took a few photos of the trig position in relation to that of the tumulus.  Once data were collected I packed the Trimble away and headed back to the tumulus and the adjacent track that headed into the large conifer plantation that swallows up the western land of Knolls.

Gathering data beside the trig on Knolls with the hill's tumulus in the background on the right
The forest track led down toward open lower hillside, across Minton Batch the sun shone on the ridge I’d walked up earlier in the day, with the greens of grass and gorse and the dulled browns of bracken adding depth to the scene.

The view across the lower section of Minton Batch
I followed footpaths down to the valley and listened to bird song in the warmth of the sun as I reached the narrow lane on the outskirts of Minton; it was almost a heralding of spring even before true winter sets in.    

Survey Result:

Minton Hill

Summit Height:  455.4m (converted to OSGM15) (significant height revision)

Summit Grid Reference:  SO 41456 91920

Col Height:  432.0m (converted to OSGM15)

Col Grid Reference:  SO 41233 92118

Drop:  23.3m (400m Sub-Four status confirmed)

Dominance:  5.13%


Summit Height:  457.6m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SO 40332 90241

Col Height:  421.8m (converted to OSGM15)

Col Grid Reference:  SO 40464 91788

Drop:  35.8m (Four status confirmed)

Dominance:  7.83% 


For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}

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