These stories were popular amongst young teenagers in the 60s/early 70s & were the way I first heard about Shropshire. They were teenage adventure stories based around the Long Mynd & Shropshire. They seem a bit dated now – but have a cult following (try the Malcolm Saville Society) and are still enjoyed by younger teenagers – especially if they can visit the area. Our family has had lots of fun trying to find the Lone Pine & Witchend on the Long Mynd.
You can trace the route of all the stories by bike (its how the characters in these books got around) on our Shropshire Castles Tour. This cycle tour gives you an extra day at Church Stretton (Onnybrook) to explore the Long Mynd by foot too. Try “Mystery at Witchend” as your first Lone Pine club story. Or you can follow the story of the “Secret of the Gorge” on our Ludlow Country Estates Cycle Tour. The Books are available on Amazon etc. Introduce them to your kids this christmas – then come on a cycling holiday in summer to solve the mysteries yourself!
The Daily Telegraph had a good review of the appeal of Malcolm Saville’s books & their appeal…Here’s the extract – but you can read the whole article here
Shropshire: Adventures over the hills
Sally Varlow visits the hidden corner of Shropshire that inspired the prolific author Malcolm Saville
‘MARY gulped back a sob. `We can’t go back that way now. The water is still rushing out of those rocks. It’s as if the Mynd has burst. Dickie! What shall we do?’ Dickie had no answer.”
With the 12-year-old twins scrambling for their lives up the side of the Long Mynd, Malcolm Saville brought his final ripping yarn to a classic climax – and the intrepid Lone Pine Club back to the Shropshire hills where they first set up camp in the shade of a solitary tree.
Nineteen volumes and 35 years had passed since Mary, Dickie and big brother David arrived at “Witchend” farm as wartime evacuees, formed a secret club with Petronella, aka Peter, and solved their first mystery.
Biking, riding, gathering chums and adventures like moss as they roamed the country during the school hols, the Lone Piners had uncovered The Secret of Grey Walls on Offa’s Dyke near Clun. They had foiled Christmas tree thieves in the Mynd forests, recovered long-lost diamonds from Downton Gorge, scotched a jewellery scam in Ludlow, and survived certain death with feline frequency in the old lead mines beneath the Stiperstones……..
Much as Saville loved his native Sussex, where a plaque was placed on his Winchelsea home last year, it was the Mynd, the Stiperstones and the Clees that “have drawn me, and my family, back to them again and again”. They were “a solace and an inspiration” and the cause of “any modest success I have achieved as a writer”, he explained in an unfinished guide to The Silent Hills of Shropshire (since completed by Mark O’Hanlon, co-founder of the Malcolm Saville Society).
The modesty was entirely Saville’s. When he died in 1982 his book sales were nearing three million. Countless youngsters had grown to love the Lone Piners on radio’s Children’s Hour. His mail reached 2,000 letters a year, all personally answered, and today the society spans three generations.
The ancient trackways along the top of the Mynd are the key to the Saville world and if, as Saville prefaced each story, “you explore it for yourself” and are “lucky enough to climb these hills”, you may still hear the cry of the curlew: though not a peewit unless it’s a Lone Piner in trouble again, using the club’s secret call……..
Closest is Carding Mill Valley and the reservoir that served as “Hatchholt”, home to Peter and her fuss-pot father. He will insist on feeding her hot milk and bread at times of stress, though he’s not a real baddie (they’re the ones with lank hair, “unsuitable clothes”, and a horrid habit of kicking the twins’ dog when no one’s looking).
At Carding Mill, the National Trust runs a tea shop, information centre and weekend minibus that circles Church Stretton station, the valley and the Portway along the top of the hill. Drop down the west side of the Mynd and your reward is the Inn at Bridges, cast as the “Hope Anchor” in The Neglected Mountain……
When the Lone Piners came this way, they biked it. If you fancy a ride on gentler ground, go to the Teme and Clun valleys where Saville set two of the most thrilling adventures. Wheely Wonderful cycle hire company, at a former farm west of Ludlow, does day and longer tours on quiet lanes and hybrid trail bikes (that means comfy saddles). The latest route is a pleasant jaunt around The Secret of the Gorge and “Bringewood Chase”, in real life Downton Gorge and Leintwardine.
Reality seems to get left behind as you carry on along the Clun Valley. In Saville’s words: “There is no other place in England quite like hidden, mysterious Clun.” Certainly not when the Lone Piners pitch up one Christmas and Clun’s ruined castle becomes HQ while they solve The Secret of Grey Walls.