Pontesford and Earl’s Hill
Why two names for one hill? To local people, the Hill as a whole has always been known as Pontesford Hill. When Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) acquired its first reserve in 1964 it adopted the name Earl’s Hill Reserve after the nearby farm. At that time, the Forestry Commission had already taken a lease on the northern (Pontesford) end of the hill and planted conifers so drastically changing the appearance of that side of the hill. Both names appear on the local Ordance Survey maps although there is only one common summit. In recent times, ‘Earl’s Hill’ came to be applied to the grassy summit itself whilst ‘Pontesford Hill’ was used to refer to the former Forestry Commission land. An article written in 1974 by David Pannett for the Shropshire Conservation Trust bulletin sets out the background and history in much greater detail
In August 2015, the Friends of PH and SWT agreed that in future the reserve will be managed as a single entity known as “Pontesford and Earl’s Hill Reserve”.
Whatever the name, the Hill with its distinctive hump backed shape rising abruptly from the surrounding land has been a notable feature in the landscape for millennia. It was probably used as a navigation aid by Neolithic and Bronze age people and it was the site of not one but two Iron age hillforts!
Yet the hill has a history of its own which can be traced much further back than that. Some of the volcanic rocks from which it is formed are around 600 million years old. One of two significant cracks in the Earth’s crust that run NE-SW across Shropshire starts in the village of Pontesford. The Pontesford – Linley fault follows the NW side of the Hill and then runs on to Linley and far beyond.
Today the Hill is much used by people who enjoy the tranquil beauty of the countryside hereabouts and especially the spectacular views from its summit. The existing Earl’s Hill reserve encompasses two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one covering the acid grassland around the summit and the other the rich woodland and ant hill meadows near the Habberley Brook. It is a haven for plants and wildlife including the uncommon Bloody Cranesbill that grows on the scree slope and the Grayling butterfly that can be spotted near the summit.
The land acquired in 2015 was mainly planted with conifers in the 1950s but there are extensive areas of older mixed woodland and some more open areas particularly around the two Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs). Ecological surveys carried out during 2015 show that there is already a variety of wildlife present. A management plan is being devised and both SWT and the Friends hope to start to implement this in 2016. Over many years this will see the steady creation of new habitats and the enhancement of others aimed at encouraging greater biodiversity. The plan will also seek to better protect the two SAMs whilst opening up long lost views to make the Hill an even better place for people to enjoy.