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  • Julie Muller

KINVER EDGE (DY7 5NP)- Hobbit Holes And Heathland Homes

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

I first visited Kinver Edge in Staffordshire with Zak on a beautiful September morning we visited Kinver Edge a ridge of land located about an hours’ drive away from our home in Malvern, Worcestershire

The ridge comprises a vertical red sandstone cliff which separates the heathland at the top from the woodland below - hence the word ‘Edge’.

Julie knows this place very well because she grew up in Stourbridge and, as a teenager, she used to walk all the way to here with her Cairn Terrier, Tiger.

Today it was our turn for a walk and Julie decided that we should take the longest marked trail around the Edge so that we could take in all of the characteristics which make this place so special.

We started our walk near the National Trust warden’s cottage which abuts on to an area of heathland. We were surprised just how many dogs were out with their humans. There were lots of families with young children too.

The ground was soft and sandy to our paws as we walked Although it was mid-September, most of the trees were still in full leaf so it was cool walking through the woodland.

Soon we happened upon Kinver’s famous rock houses – houses cut into the hillside. It is incredible to think that there were families living in these houses until the mid 1960’s .

No one knows when they were first built into the rock, but some people think that they were the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit Holes – and that means comfort!!

Over the years the houses were abandoned to rack and ruin. But with a lot of hard work from the National Trust and its band of determined and diligent volunteers the houses were renovated and opened for the general public to enjoy in 1997.

Now they are a welcome breather to the many walkers that come here. Although we are welcome in the garden, Julie did not stop today, and we continued on our walk along the side of the cliff through the woodland. A tractor was busily cutting the path edges as we walked drowning out some of the birdsong. But it was doing a. very important job.

Clearing the plants along the edges of the path creates wide sunny ‘rides’ where shorter plants can grow. Further away from the path, taller shrubs grow and then finally proper woodland. This subtle change in habitats will allow a greater diversity of wildlife to grow.

Kinver Edge is a wonderful place for butterflies and moths including the rare white admiral butterfly. The caterpillars feed on honeysuckle and the adults sip the nectar from brambles.

So, although everything may look untidy to humans for a short while, the work will benefit everyone in the future.

The moths and butterflies that live in the woodland are different to those that live on the heath, but they all have intriguing names like red necked footman and waved back whilst the heathland boasts archer’s dart which is normally found in coastal sand dunes.

There were few butterflies flying today in spite of the warm weather although Shep was buzzed by a few small white butterflies as he investigated the last of this season’s bramble flowers.

In places the path was a smooth sandstone pavement where the wind had blown the top sand away. In others the path was littered with crab apples, beech mast and prickly green sweet chestnut seed cases which prompted us to walk just a little faster

Rounding one particular corner we came across an intricate cave system hewn into the rock. I think they call it Nanny’s rock. We scrambled up inside to investigate and found that the walls were etched with writing and carvings – a permanent record of past visitors. The ground beneath our paws was smooth and cool to the touch.

We continued and slowly inched our way back to the top of the ridge. As we trotted along, we noticed mushrooms and toadstools - one of the signs of autumn. Some of these are edible but whether they are or not they all do the essential job of recycling all of the nutrients from the from the dead and dying vegetation. The views at the top were amazing even to us collies. I told Shep not to look down, but he never listens. The toposcope at the top marks the highest point of the edge. On one side was the steep scarp slope festooned in trees and vegetation. On the other was the open ground of the heathland and the site of an Iron age Fort dating from at least 200 years BC. Anyone who lived here would have had an incredible view of possible invaders. They wouldn’t have needed fierce guard dogs.

The heathland is so different to the woodland . The ground beneath our paws was warm and soft and dry.

This kind of area is quite challenged because it supports an enormous variety of different organisms but, without management, it will just turn to woodland and would reduce the biodiversity of the area. As we scampered along the path, we could hear a cacophony of insect chatter coming from vegetation. Stands of gorse interwoven with blankets of ling and bell heather covered the ground. Ling flowers are much smaller than the bright purple flowers of the bell heather. In order to stop the trees from growing up and shading out the smaller plants, Highland cattle are employed here. Although we found evidence of their presence on the ground, we did not see them today. I admit that I am a little bit scared of them, but they are completely harmless, and they take no notice of the likes of me and Shep. I am glad that they aren’t here but Shep gets a bit excited and pretends to be a comic character from years ago called Gnasher.

Julie is always very careful if there are livestock about. It is so important that we don’t bother them. After all this is their home.

As we came to the end of the walk, we saw the notice boards warning of the dangers of forest fires. One moment’s inattention - a spark from a barbecue or a cigarette can have devastating effects on both the woodland and particularly on the heathland because it is so dry. We noticed groups pf picnickers on the heath enjoying the glorious day and hoped that they had read the notice boards too.

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