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Upper Norton

Shropshire, England

Walking with a purpose in Shropshire

Posted by Jonathan Broom on May 09, 2018
Walking with a purpose in Shropshire

The best way to discover any area is to walk it – and nowhere is this more true than in Shropshire. Holidaymakers go to Upper Norton for the peace and quiet, the beautiful views, and the food – nearby Ludlow, John Betjeman’s “loveliest town in England”, has long been a mecca for gourmets (and possibly gourmands) – but overwhelmingly to indulge in the sheer pleasure of putting one foot in front of the other.

And serious walkers fortunate enough to be holidaying at Upper Norton during the first half of September might want to mark their diaries for Saturday 8th: it’s the Wistanstow Challenge Walk, also known as the Tour des Marches – a must (apparently) on the long-distance circuit.

Now in its 12th year, the Wistanstow Challenge Walk is organised by the Marches chapter of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA).

The name – both names – imply that the Tour des Marches is some kind of race; which it is, and (confusingly) isn’t. It’s as competitive as you want it to be, and attracts walkers and runners from far and wide; but participants can go at whatever pace they wish. The distance, too, is whatever you’re comfortable with – the full course is 26 miles long (marathon length) but ‘competitors’ (the organisers’ word) can choose to complete 12 or 18 miles if they wish.

The Old Packhorse Bridge at Clun

Beginning at Wistanstow Village Hall, participants will wend their way west to Clun, before heading north to Bishop’s Castle and then east on the homeward leg back to Wistanstow. In addition to following well-trodden paths, including sections of The Shropshire Way, entrants will discover less well-known parts of the rights-of-way network. Overall the route celebrates the diversity of the local countryside, taking in hills, woodland and river valleys, and for much of the journey walkers (and runners) will be in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

To take part in the Tour des Marches, there is a £10 entry fee for LDWA members and £15 for others. The fee includes a detailed description of the route including a colour outline map; breakfast; refreshments at checkpoints along the way; and a meal at the end, plus “possibly some beer” say the organisers, coming over all coy. For those as wants it, one would certainly hope so – you’ll have earned a pint or two.

Those who decide to do the 12 or 18-mile options will be given a ride back to the start/finish; and all participants will get a certificate for the distance they achieve. Men completing the course in less than 6½ hours will receive a gold certificate – as will women who make it home in under 7½ hours.

In addition to making a donation to The Fire Fighters Charity, every year the event raises funds for a local good cause. Previous beneficiaries have been the primary school, the under 5s group and the village hall.

You can enter the event online by clicking here and scrolling down the list of events, or you can download an entry form by clicking here.

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Jonathan Broom
Author: Jonathan Broom

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