Gorse bush in foreground with yellow flowers. Stream stretches away from it between two hills with another hill in the distance
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Carding Mill Valley dog friendly day out

Carding Mill Valley is a National Trust attraction just outside Church Stretton in Shropshire. With 10 miles of tracks and bridleways, it is the ideal place for serious hikers. Shorter walks with some accessible paths make it ideal for families as well. However, this description doesn’t do it justice at all. Breathtaking landscape, wild ponies wandering the hillside, a small reservoir that welcomes wild swimmers and a cafe serving light refreshments all add up to a wonderful day out.

Waterfall between rocks with blue sky behind
Waterfall at Carding Mill Valley

About Carding Mill Valley

With nearly 5000 acres of hillside covered in heather, there is plenty to explore at Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd.  Walk, cycle or horse ride. Head to the top of the ridge for views across the Shropshire and Welsh hills. Follow signs from the visitor centre and they’ll help you to find the part of Carding Mill Valley you want to see. There’s far too much to manage it all in one day. 

Path between hills with gnarled tree on right hand side
Path between the hills

Parking at Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd: Car parking charges vary according to the time of year. In summer holidays, it’s £7 all day. In the main season it’s £5 all day and in winter it’s £3.50 for 2 hours or £5 all day. National Trust members park for free. There is quite a lot of parking but it got ridiculously busy during the summer and people were being asked to leave if there was not space in the car park, rather than block the roads.

Opening hours: The car park and countryside are open from dawn to dusk and the toilets are open from 9.30am to 4.30pm. The tea room is currently showing as closed on their “opening hours” tab. However, it was open for takeaway food when we went so it’s worth checking before you go.

Dogs: Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd is dog friendly but there are livestock everywhere so dogs need to be on leads.

More information: To check details and opening times on the day of your visit and for more ideas of things to do at Carding Mill Valley, head to the National Trust website.

Things to do

If you’re heading to Carding Mill with children, I would strongly advise going without a plan in mind. There are opportunities for running, playing, paddling in the reservoir or messing about in the stream. You might want to watch the wild ponies and take some photos, or run to the top of a big hill to see the view. There are lots of way-marked paths to different features but there’s also plenty of open space to just play.

Wild ponies on green hillside with one large tree in centre of photo. Blue sky and white clouds.
Wild ponies graze on the hillside

For a more structured, short walk, I recommend heading for the Lightspout waterfall. It’s small but beautiful and there are plenty of small, off the beaten track paths from there into the hills. Sturdy shoes are definitely required, it is very slippery and uneven at some points. Look out for birds, sheep and of course the beautiful wild ponies. The walk to the waterfall and back takes an hour to an hour and a half. It’s only about a mile and a half long, but some of the terrain is quite tricky.

Portrait orientation photo with tall waterfall between rocks into a shallow pool
Lightspout waterfall is about a mile and a half walk across tricky terrain

Advice on where to go is available from the visitor centre.  You will also find a children’s quiz and trail there. Head to the Pavilion for a family room with children’s activities. Do check the National Trust website before visiting to see what is open. At present, the shop and visitor centre are closed but the car park and toilets are open and the cafe is serving takeaway food.  

Wild swimming at Carding Mill Valley

Set a little way from the visitor centre at the foot of a hillside is a small, peaceful reservoir surrounded by trees. Many people visit Carding Mill just to swim in the calm, cold water all year round. There are no changing facilities so come ready to swim and with plenty of warm clothing to put on afterwards.

Park in the main car park and head to the visitor centre. From there, you can follow the path to the waterfall. It’s about a five minute walk from the visitor centre and cafe. Ideal for getting a hot drink after a swim. Whilst the reservoir is popular, it wasn’t overcrowded when we went. There were a few people sitting by the water but I was the only one swimming. The signs beside the reservoir advise having somebody with you when you swim even if it’s just as a spotter. They also tell you not to jump from the water tower.

Reservoir with metal water tower situated in valley between tree covered hills
Carding Mill Valley reservoir is popular with open water swimmers

Food and drink

During the current coronavirus pandemic, the cafe is open for takeaway food and drink only. When we visited, they were doing some rather fabulous curried cauliflower pasties, as well as a selection of sandwiches, crisps and snacks. They also sell hot and cold drinks and there are some benches outside the cafe to sit down and eat and drink. On busier days it’s probably best to bring a picnic blanket. There are plenty of places around for a picnic too. On a longer day out it would be easy to head into the hills and enjoy a picnic away from the crowds.

Gorse bush in foreground with yellow flowers. Stream stretches away from it between two hills with another hill in the distance
Beautiful valley with stream running through

What I thought of Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd

Carding Mill is about an hour and a half drive from where I live. I’d heard people talking about it in the past, particularly in relation to swimming in the reservoir but I’d ruled it out. It was such a long way to go just for a swim. I finally decided to visit because it was a convenient half way point to meet a friend.

As soon as I arrived, I realised that putting it off for so long was a mistake. The landscape is spectacular. I hadn’t even got out of the car before spotting wild ponies. It’s an ideal place to take dogs and children with plenty of space to run around and lots of fun things to see. It’s one of those places that is difficult to put into words but there is something a little bit magical about it. It won’t be long before I’m back there again.

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  1. Being Church Stretton born and bred, the Carding Mill Valley was my childhood playground in the 1950’s and 1960’s . Now I’m retired I still walk up there , the views are still magical to me. During the lockdown many people disobeyed the stay local rules and travelled here to go walking despite the police handing out penalty notices. These actions go to show just how popular the Stretton hills on both sides of Strettondale are. Also during the lockdown, the litter levels , especially takeaway coffee cups and lids increased . As a message to all visitors , please take your litter with you or use bins provided locally , please wear appropriate footwear as some paths are tricky underfoot , the local fire service have had to carry several unfortunate walkers with broken ankles mainly , remember boots offer more support than trainers. Most of all , enjoy your visit , stay safe , don’t let your dog chase sheep no bbq please and be considerate to all so everyone can love the experience. See you there .

    1. Thank you for your informative comment. It is such a beautiful place and so sad to hear that the litter there is increasing. I know a lot of wild swimmers are organising litter picks in their local area so hopefully some of the Carding Mill swimmers will do one there. Although nobody should have to pick up anyone else’s litter it is sadly necessary and creates a better environment for them all.

    2. Good advice Paul, I’m planning a trip with my sister and niece soon it’s an area I’ve barely explored and looks beautiful,the waterfall and Reservoir will be welcome sights walking the routes as I’m an outdoor swimmer, litter trashing has sadly been a casualty of lockdown behaviour the last couple of years with heavier then usual footfall in our local beauty spots. My sis usually brings her litter pickers whenever I go for a swim so will remember to take them when we go