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First published in The Potter February 2005
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2005

Maer Hills

Geography

I do not know why the area is called Maer Hills since it is basically one hill. It lies some 5km west of Swynnerton Old Park. It appears to lie on a three pronged watershed although as with Swynnerton there is no surface drainage. Most of the rainwater soaks through the porous rocks below. The River Tern and its source runs east to west about 500m south of the forest and this joins the River Severn near Shrewsbury and then into the Bristol Channel. To the north some of the small streams join the Tern, but towards the west they lead to the River Weaver at Nantwich which flows into the Irish Sea at the Mersey estuary. To the south west the Meece Brook flows into the Sow which flows into the North Sea via Stafford and the River Trent.

The area is highly contoured, relatively big reentrants cut into the south and west slopes whilst the east and north east slopes are very intricate. The bigger reentrants are however broken up by large numbers of deep gullies and earth walls.

A transmitter/receiver tower is sited on the summit of the hill in the north east corner of map, this is owned by a university (I think Manchester). Very close to it is an ordnance survey pillar without a view of any other pillars.

Vegetation

The main central chunk of the area is forestry plantations managed by Tilhill Forestry the concern that also manage Weston Heath. There is a patch of deciduous wood on the western edge which is owned by a local farmer. There is an area on the north east side that is a series of complex reentrants with mixed woodland on the upper slopes and mostly impenetrable rhododendron lower down. The main drawback with Maer Hills is the undergrowth (the forthcoming local event is timed to coincide with the minimum levels). At the end of the growing season the bracken and brambles are high. There are also small areas of slightly tricky bilberry, heather and young rhododendron. In the autumn of 2003 extensive thinning took place which for a while reduced this undergrowth.

Event History

In 1974 a person named R.Birch drew a black and white map of the area for Walton Chasers. I know nothing after that until we held our Badge Event on there in 1998. It was in 1996 that Nathan Townshend started to write to the landowners to seek permission for events on the area and then in early 1997 a photogrammetric base map was produced by Harvey Maps. Peter and Christine Roberts (Robert Mapping) then used this to produce our first map of the area which was also the first map to be produced with funds from our Lottery Grant. The following events were then staged.

10th May 1998 - Badge Event
17th April 1999 - Local Event
19th November 2000 - Badge Event (Organised by Deeside O.C.)
We then failed to get permissions for a few years because of protracted changes of ownership.
16th November 2003 - Colour Coded Event
24th April 2004 - Local Event

The next event will be a Local Event this March [March 2005].

Local History

I have already written about this topic in earlier Potters in respect of the connection with Charles Darwin. The village of Maer lies 2km to the south east. There is a small parcel of woodland not on our map (the busy A53 is a barrier) between the village and the main body of forest which comprises two small hills. Perhaps this is where the plural in the title comes from. One is called Berth Hill and is an earthwork fort. The other is called War Hill which together with the name given to the summit of the hill in the main body, Camp Hill, give a connection with a nearby battlefield. The Battle of Blore Heath was fought on 23rd September 1459 about 10km to the west. This was the first major battle in The War of the Roses and it is reputed that the victorious Yorkists camped here the night before the battle. The 3000 Yorkists routed the 6000 Lancastrians, killing 2000 and converting 500 as they were intercepted on their march to Ludlow from Yorkshire.

Maer Hall was the home in C19th of the Wedgwood family. Charles Darwin was resident here for a number of years as a young man. Locals are attempting to raise funds to erect a monument somewhere in Maer Hills.

Studying the 1890 map I can see very little has changed in the shape of the forest. It was however given the name Maer Heath Woods. The 20m hill on the south east section of the map (the one I used as a final control for the longer courses at the recent C4 event) is marked as an antiquity called Kings Bank and there is an antiquity reference to "site of camp" further north.

John Heaton

Update (June 2009)

Maer Hills is now either completely overgrown with rhododendrons and bushes or rough felled, so is now useless for orienteering and very depressing just walking through it.

John Pigott