The word ‘cryn’ was new to me when I visited Weston Woods at Weston-under-Redcastle in north Shropshire, to help the local campaign group with its path claims. According to Wright’s Dialect Dictionary ‘cryn’ is a Shropshire word meaning a small ravine on a hill, from the French cren (breach, notch or cleft).
The cryns are important in this path battle because it is likely that they are also public highways. Weston village is on the ridge of the fascinating old red sandstone lumpy hills which run in an east-west direction, mainly to the east of the A49 between Whitchurch and Shrewsbury. The ridge has a steep, south-facing wooded slope indented by cryns.
Just south of Weston and the hamlet of Weston Heath is Weston Heath Coppice (known as Weston Woods), and to the east Old Coppice, Top Moss and Bury Wood which surrounds the iron age Bury Walls fort.
Everyone was happy with the way Weston Woods were managed in the past, because they could wander freely without restriction. There is one definitive route, a restricted byway, which runs along the south-eastern edge of the woods from the A49 road, in a loop which climbs to Weston Heath, a hamlet to the south of Weston itself. That route, known as The Cryn, is part of an old road between Lee Brockhurst to the east and Weston. There is a house called The Cryn next to it.
Then the woods were bought by Mr Muhiddin, an absentee landlord, and he put up private signs on many of the tracks through the woods,
and even gates across the restricted byway. Shropshire Council made him to remove them.
Another road, known as Top Track, runs along the northern, top side of the woods, and the local people, led by Isabel Mathias and Christine Moodie, have claimed this for the definitive map as a footpath. No doubt it is a road, with its stone walls and paving.
Now it has a locked gate across it and off-putting signs but fortunately one can squeeze past the gate and locals ignore the signs.
They have claimed a couple of routes running down cryns from the Top Track,
but there are many more cryns and tracks to claim.
Long before the campaign began, local children had written poems about the woods which are published in Under the Redcastle, a history of the village to celebrate the millennium.
My Oak Tree
The tree, the tree in the woods.
It’s a special tree because it’s my home.
I have a key; I have a key to my home.
It’s a small home, but cosy.
It has a fire, an open fire.
I have visitors—a few.
You can come … I’ll take you there.
Harriet Brown (aged 6)
Biking in Weston Woods
Slogging up the steep hills, crashing over ferns.
Skipping down the leafy slopes, jumping over mounts.
Slashing through the puddles and slithering through the mud.
These are the things that bring delight when I’m biking in the woods.
Samuel Brown (aged 13)
I visited on 5 March to speak at a rally in Weston village hall, with Keith Ridland, vice-chairman of the Shropshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Weston is an attractive village with a lovely, red sandstone church.
A local botanist, Dave Evans, took me for a walk, in part following walk 18 in the Shrewsbury and Mid-Shropshire Ramblers’ excellent book, 20 walks in and around Shrewsbury. I had presented the group with a Ramblers’ president’s award in 2014 for Best Team Achievement for producing this book which encourages people to explore their local paths.
We followed walk 18 west from Weston Heath on a path which took us past Warden House Farm. We met the owner, John Edwards, who is a friend of Dave’s. John explained how the house had been scene of a 17-day siege in 1968 (the longest recorded siege in Britain), when a man had kept his wife and daughter locked up at gunpoint. Fortunately, they all got out alive.
We walked down to the A49 and followed it south for a short distance before we picked up The Cryn to the south of Weston Woods. Later I walked Top Track and part of another of the claimed routes down a cryn. So I got a good idea of the extensive use which is made of these woods and their importance to the community. At the well-attended rally in the village hall I was able to witness how strongly local people feel about their access to the woodlands.
I urged them to study the historic evidence and to put in claims for more routes through the woods, bearing in mind that the definitive map will be closed to claims based purely on historic evidence on 1 January 2026. They cannot afford to wait. But they have done a great job so far, and are a good example to others who want to protect their treasured access.