Mythstories Mythstories

The Giant & The Cobbler

The Wrekin

photograph by Gordon Dickins The Wrekin is a very distinctive 400m hill which dominates the views of mid Shropshire near the new town of Telford. So strong is its presence that it has entered the language of the Midlands people. "All round the Wrekin" means 'going the long way' or 'not explaining something clearly and directly', ("He went all round the Wrekin").

The Wrekin in history

From the Bronze Age to the 1st Century the Wrekin was the hill fort headquarters of the Celtic Cornovii tribe. The last ruler of the hill fort was Virico when the conquering Roman army arrived. The Romans built their fort 4 miles to the west but called it Viroconium in honour of their defeated foe.

Although no longer a fort the Wrekin became part of a Royal Forest during Saxon and Norman times. The Normans tried to rename the hill Mount Gilbert (after a local hermit), but the name refused to stick and the people all around insisted on still calling it the Wrekin.

Wrekin Stories

There are a good many stories about the Wrekin involving giants and devils. There is even a tale of a mermaid in one of the pools. The story of the Giant and the Cobbler is told substituting the devil for the giant but the giant version is the older legend.

Another ancient fable tells of two exiled giants trying to build a new home. They pilled up soil to make a massive hill leaving a great, long trench, which filled with water and formed the River Severn.

When the hill was finished they argued over who should live there. One giant raised his spade to hit his brother, but up flew a raven and pecked his eyes so he missed. The spade came down hard and left a cleft in the rock (this feature is now called the Needle's Eye). The raven's attack had caused the giant to shed a massive tear which burned into the hill forming a pool (nowadays this pool is known as the Raven's Bowl or the Cuckoo's Cup - no matter how hot the summer, it never dries up).

The other giant knocked his brother over and piled earth on top of him to imprison him under another hill (the Ercall), at dead of night you can still hear the trapped giant moaning, or so local people say!

The Wrekin's Geology

The Wrekin is made of volcanic rock but is not a volcano. No-one knows exactly where the vent was that deposited the molten rock and ash that made up the Wrekin many millions of years ago.

It is, however, very close to the Church Stretton Fault, a dormant fault in the earth's crust. When this fault was active there would have been many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the area. The fault reminds us of its presence occasionally. At 14.50 on 2nd April 1990 there was a small earthquake in Shropshire due to a slight movement in this fault. Only minor damage was caused but a stone did fall and lodge itself in the Needle's Eye.

Ercall Hill (also known as The Ercall)

Ercall Hill is a smaller, wooded hill next to the Wrekin with pleasant way-marked paths. It bears the scars of much quarrying so if you go walking there don't stray from the paths.

The River Severn

In the picture it looks like the Severn runs by the foot of the hill, but actually it is about two miles away at its nearest point.

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