Cycling The Burway, Church Stretton, Wales
Ride 1.9 miles gaining 929’ at 9.4% average grade.
The Burway hosted the British National Hill Climb Championships in 1989, the year Chris Boardman won the second of his four consecutive championships.
Photo: Cyclinguphill.com (Tejvan Pettinger’s internet treatise on climbing by bike in the UK)
Chris Boardman: 1992 Olympic gold; world hour record (3); TdF (3 stage wins)
The Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau that forms part of the Shropshire Hills.
The climb begins in at the western edge of Church Stretton (2011 pop. 4,671).
Nicknamed Little Switzerland in the 19th century because of its landscape similarity.
In 2018, we began our 30 Days/100 Greatest Climbs Challenge near London where most of the climbs are along routes bordered by trees blocking our views. GCC #39 is further north and approaching the eastern central border of Wales, in this region there are wonderful open views of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The climb is quite challenging at 9.4% average for three full kilometers, although that high average is significantly influenced by a brutal 15.6% stretch beginning at 500 meters.
Start of 0.5 km 15.6% segment.
We returned to the United Kingdom in June 2022 to further document the 10 hardest climbs in each country via the FIETS index and also to document each of the Top 10 Most Epic and Top 10 Hardest climbs the UK has to offer, per Simon Warren’s personal opinion. Thus, the Burway was on our list again, this time as Simon Warren’s selection for England’s fourth and the UK’s ninth Most Epic Climb.
Our views are of moors (uncultivated upland) and dales (valleys) with a purplish hue from blankets of heather covering much of the terrain. This is grazing and farmland and we do encounter livestock along the way (predominately sheep).
Open range for most of the climb.
A short and steep climb near England’s border with Wales, we begin our climb outside Church Stretton, nicknamed Little Switzerland for its resemblance to its nick-namesake. The town is centered around the outdoors and we saw tons of folks walking, riding, and enjoying the amazing views of the valley. The area is easily accessible for parking and seems to be a very patriotic and welcoming town, with lots of friendly residents and signs for local 10k races. This area offers plenty of trails for everyone and it gives you the best bang for your buck when it comes to road climbs and scenic views.
Cyclist.co.uk also has a nice summary of this climb:
“Church Stretton is also home to an evil climb and, like all good climbs on a bike, the one to the top of The Burway starts with a coffee and cake. The Burway, which scores 9/10 in Simon Warren’s book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, is the road that leads to the Long Mynd, a moorland plateau of heather and rocks and a popular place for walkers, geography field trips and cyclists.
Proof that using a large hill as an aid to digestion is stupid comes at the end of a pretty, unassuming lane. Flanked by trees and an old stone wall, the approach to The Burway is like a delayed hangover that gets steadily worse. What starts at 3% is soon 9%, and crossing a cattle grid to the foot of the climb proper is the bit where the proverbial tequila shots kick in. Here it hits 20% and it stays there for the
first 200m. My sensible head tells me that if I go too hard I’ll be crawling to the top just over 2km away, so I slow to pedestrian pace, feeling slightly nauseous.
The road hugs the hillside with a sheer drop to the right. For the first few hundred metres the views are hidden, but as we approach a beaten-up guardrail at the side of the road, the knolls and knots of the ancient English landscape come into view – a blanket of heather and lush grass laid over an upturned egg box scoured by the wind, rain and sun. To the east is The Wrekin, a fort-like mound from which I’m almost expecting the Teletubbies to appear.
A steep left-hand bend forces me out of the saddle once more and the little grim enthusiasm I have for drowning in lactic acid starts to wane. A small lip leads into a blissful downhill but it doesn’t last for long and there’s one last ramp to slog up before we are rewarded with a view that stretches across the border into Wales” (Read more here).
Views along the second half of the climb.
Cycling Uphill writes:
“A real difficult climb in Shropshire. This is like a classic British climb, but rather than go on for one mile, this extends the climbing to two miles, maintaining an average gradient of 9%. Leaving Church Stretton, heading north east, there is a gentle introduction to the climb, but then a real difficult kilometre, averaging 15%, which will have you out of the saddle. The last mile eases off a little, as you climb to the top of Pole Bank.
It was the venue for the 1989 national hill climb championship, where a young Chris Boardman won in a time of 5.01” (read more here).
This one also rates for mention on Dangerous Roads:
“The Burway is a very challenging drive in Shropshire, England. The road is pretty narrow, steep (up to 20%) and inexperienced drivers are cautioned not to drive this road in any condition as it is single track.
The road, located above Cardingmill Valley, is pretty narrow. Starting from Church Stretton, this ancient route leads up to the plateau on the Long Mynd, at 492 metres (1,614 ft) above the sea level. The ascent is 3.24 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 281 heightmeters. The average percentage is 8.6 %, but the maxim grade is over the 20%” (read more here).
Finish with broad views of of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This climb is in the heart of Shropshire Hill AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty):
“The Shropshire Hills area, in the English county of Shropshire, is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is located in the south of the county, extending to its border with Wales. Designated in 1958, the area encompasses 802 square kilometres (310 sq mi) of land primarily in south-west Shropshire, taking its name from the upland region of the Shropshire Hills. The A49 road and Welsh Marches Railway Line bisect the area north-south, passing through or near Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Craven Arms and Ludlow.
The Shropshire Hills, located in the Welsh Marches, are relatively high: the highest point in the county, Brown Clee Hill, near Ludlow, has an altitude of 540 metres (1,772 ft). This gives Shropshire the 13th tallest hill per county[clarification needed] in England. Titterstone Clee Hill, part of the Clee Hills, is nearly as high as Brown Clee, at 533 metres (1,749 ft), making it the third largest hill in the county. The Stiperstones are the second highest, at 536 metres (1,759 ft), and are notable for their tors of quartzite; particularly notable are Devil's Chair (SO368991) and Shepherd's Rock (SO373998).
More accessible hills are the Long Mynd, which covers an area of 5,436 acres (22.0 km2) and peaks at Pole Bank at a height of 516 metres (1,693 feet), is near Church Stretton. One of the most famous hills is the Caer Caradoc, at 459 metres (1,506 ft) which is just by the village of Leebotwood. It includes Carding Mill Valley, a popular recreational area which was developed as a honeypot to draw tourists away from the more sensitive/protected areas of the Mynd. The Wrekin (407 metres (1,335 ft)), located in the far northeastern panhandle of the AONB, is an extremely popular hill with a well-used trail. Located near Wellington, its position close to the major population centres of Shropshire, and good transport links (A5/M54) make it easy to access. Ercall Hill, a notable geological site, is located just to the north of The Wrekin.
Another prominent hill is Corndon Hill, whose summit is in Wales” (Shropshire Hills AONB).
That’s a wrap!
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