A walk around Welford-on-Avon

PUBLISHED: 09:15 06 January 2011 | UPDATED: 08:49 09 October 2012

I remember visiting a country pub in Dorset at the end of a rather damp November walk. There was one of those characters that have almost disappeared from the rural scene. He was hunched on a corner settle, observing the smoke room scene and espec...

I remember visiting a country pub in Dorset at the end of a rather damp November walk. There was one of those characters that have almost disappeared from the rural scene. He was hunched on a corner settle, observing the smoke room scene and especially my dripping cape. "Aye," he pronounced after taking another inward puff on his pipe and emptying his glass of a rather powerful cider. "I call this month an edgy old month not really deciding what way to jump. Could go any way."

How right the old sage was for I remember walking these steps one November around Welford-on-Avon in glorious sunshine with just a nip in the air to keep one walking briskly. Welford (when so many rural hostelries are closing down) is also fortunate to still retain three excellent inns that are full of character.

I recall coming out from the town to The Bell many decades ago for a splendid curry meal. In those days the best one could expect from a country inn was a rather tired looking sandwich or a packet of crisps with the salt ration in a little blue paper wrap. The landlord of The Bell could see the potential in providing simple meals (only curries!) to attract the customers.

Welford has a glorious grouping of buildings around Church Street. There is an assortment of old houses and thatched cottages with lovely names like Ten Penny and The Owl Pen, all overlooked by the tower of St Peter's Church.

The church has an interesting history. In 1059 the Earl of Gloucester gave Welford to the Saxon priory of Deerhurst which was a cell of the great abbey of St Denis in Paris. The monks of Deerhurst built their church on the present site in the village. It was no doubt built with much timber and was soon replaced by the Normans with their sturdy stone structure, much of which we can admire today, We can still see the font set in place by the monks. The church could once boast that it had the oldest lych gate in England from the 14th century but as the structure was unsafe and (although it resembles the old lych gate) it was replaced with a new one 50 or so years ago.

We walk some steps near the River Avon where there is a mill which was working until comparatively recently and is now skilfully converted to a fine residence. The river round Welford has over the centuries been subject to flooding. The damage was severe in the storms of last year. This is nothing new; we read that in the church records there is a page that tells of the flooding of the river in the summer of 1588 due to the storm that far away wrecked the vessels of the Armada.

Welford is also famed for its lofty maypole. My guide book dated 40 years ago makes mention of it so it has seen many May Days. I really wonder with our 'elth and safety zealots today whether it could be built in these cosseted times! We note that the place was 'the best-kept village in Warwickshire of 1977' and its folk are still keen to keep it in good trim

Cleveland Green was the great benefactor of Welford and few remember now that the cottage on the green by The Bell Inn was (around 1900) the gymnasium with a 'circulating library and other institutions calculated to give man a taste for higher things than the pothouse kitchen....one penny a week constituting full membership.'

On our walk we also go through the tiny village of Weston-on-Avon. Like its larger neighbour it also has pretty cottages. I never ceased to wonder at the faith of little communities in past days. There can never have been a large population but the place of worship (called by Pevsner a remarkable church) is a gem with many treasures. There are medieval tiles around the pulpit, brasses from the 16th century and the remains of an ancient cross in the churchyard.

From the long main street in Welford walk towards the river bridge. Turn down Church Street by the Bell Inn. We go near the church. At the end of the road take a signed path left. Walk along a fenced way. At a vehicle way walk left then at once right to enter a caravan site Follow the way of vehicles to an obsolete stile. Enter a footpath and follow this near the river and continue to steps to a lane.

Here we continue left to reach a T-junction. Go left and right to walk along Chapel Street by that celebrated maypole and a chestnut tree that was planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of 1935. We pass the Shakespeare Inn which is 16th century.

After about 300 yards go right along Pool Close. Ignore the signed path after a step or two and stay on the road. After about 200 yards and just before the end of the road look for a bold footpath sign on the left. Follow the fenced way around a garden and continue to a field. There is now a well-used track over the field to a lane. Turn left.

Go past a road junction and continue to a sharp bend and a signed path on the left. Follow the indicated direction to a vehicle way. Turn left but visit the lovely little battlemented dedicated to All Saints. Follow the same direction along paths (the Avon Way) and vehicle ways to emerge on the road at Welford. Turn right to our starting place.

November is perhaps not the greatest month for a country ramble but sometimes in this 'edgy month' there are exceptions. Thirty years ago the November was the mildest and driest for over a hundred years and a drought was proclaimed in the West Country! Perhaps this year the rains by now will have all been spilt over our land.

BOX: Map; 1;50,000 Landranger Series No. 151. Stratford-upon-Avon.

Distance: 4 ½ miles.

Parking: In quiet streets or at The Bell Inn but ask first!

Refreshments: Welford Inns, The Bell, The Shakespeare, and Four Alls.

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