- Start: Middleton
- End: Middleton
- Country: England
- County: Warwickshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Inn Middleton or Middleton Hall.
- Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 139 Birmingham
- Difficulty: Medium
Richard Shurey guides us on a walk around Middleton which he described as an oasis - and perfect for a June walk.
June is surely the most glorious month for a walk in the English countryside? I remember the lines of the poet James Russell Lowell: 'and what is so rare as a day in June; then, if ever come perfect days.'
The wild flowers are a delight. In my youth we used to see how many different species of blooms we could collect, press them between the leaves of a book then add them to the collection in an album. This all seems so far away from today's amusement centred on the computer.
It is now that the long warm days, when the rays of the sun are reluctant to give way to the night, are an excuse
to dally along our route and feast on the view or to linger awhile outside the inn of a pretty village.
The walk is centred on the village of Middleton; it is a little oasis surrounded by many major highways. There has also been substantial quarrying for the essential building material of sand and gravel (perhaps for the construction of these great roads) but the resultant pools do attract a myriad of wild fowl.
Middleton - probably named because it was halfway between the major old towns of Sutton Coldfield and Tamworth - was listed in the Norman's Domesday Survey of 1086. It also featured in White's Directory of 1850 and described as 'an extensive and well-built village'. It is, of course still well-built but has grown as it is a popular residential place in easy reach of Birmingham.
The Church of St John the Baptist traces a history back to Saxon times. No trace of the place of worship from that era remains but there is plenty of work by the Norman masons to see probably dated towards the end of the 12th century. There was once a steeple on top of the tower. When I was last here a few years ago the church clock was permanently stopped but now looks fine and gleaming and in good fettle.
The church has monuments to the Willoughby family who lived at the great Hall from the 15th century. The great Hall was crumbling for many years but was rescued and skillfully restored in recent times. We read that Queen Elizabeth came here to knight Francis Willoughby. She stayed for a week and her court consumed '68 beeves, 128 sheep and more than 2,000 chickens with other provision in
proportion.' Some Party! For the opening times phone 01827 283 095.
The water supply for Middleton came from the ancient cast iron pump and the village stocks were situated next to the Green Man Inn. The building was once a farmhouse. The inn has had many rural connections with Morris dancing and there is talk here of the village ghost, a figure dressed in black silk walking at Hallowe'en from the church to an old
From the centre of the village and the church walk along the main street. We reach the A4091. Take care to cross the busy road to the drive of Middleton Hall. We go by a pool where swans glide and highland cattle graze. We walk along the drive to the moat of the house. Do not go through the gates unless visiting the lovingly-restored Hall but bear left to a bungalow and a junction of vehicle ways go right. On our right is a magnificent timber-framed building that now houses a craft centre.
We follow the way of vehicles past buildings that once comprised a farm. About half a mile further there is a fine avenue of poplar trees. Turn right off the vehicle way and walk along a path and by the left hand side of field and turn a corner right. Follow this path to the main road. Again take care to cross and turn right. Within a few yards is a sign marking our next path. In the field cross straight over to climb stiles. Keep ahead to a lane. Turn right to a road junction. Take the sighed path opposite. Follow the way by the hedge and continue to a wood.
To the left the path is clear through the trees. When there is a junction of ways veer right and continue to an exit of the wood and walk by the left hand edge of a field to a bridge over a stream. Keep the same direction over the field to a stile. Take the indicated direction to a corner stile and continue to the road. Middleton village and the inn are to the left.
The country sages were very keen on writing about June and the beauty of the English countryside. They loved their monthly mottoes too with several based on St Barnabas Day which is on June 11th. There is 'St Barnabas, now mow your first grass' or 'Barnaby bright, all day and no night'. (This of course is because Midsummer Day is less than a fortnight later on June 24th). I rather like 'Mist in May and heat in June, Brings all things into tune'. It is certainly a magnificent month to enjoy the English countryside.
Richard has been enthusiastic about the English countryside all his life. For over 30 years without a break he submitted a weekly walk for the Birmingham Post. He has had almost a score of books on the country scene published. (Two fiction books remain unpublished!) He lives in Warwickshire with his wife and counts as his other interests singing, tennis, the Church, morris dancing - and many grandchildren!
Map; 1;50,000 OS Landranger Series
Number 139 Birmingham
Parking: Roadsides near church.
Distance: 3 1/2miles (5.5 kms)
Time: 2 hours
Refreshments; Inn Middleton or Middleton Hall.