• Start: Stratford-upon-Avon
  • End: Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Country: England
  • County: Warwickshire
  • Type: Country
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Richard Shurey remembers harvests of the past while on his August walk.

Richard Shurey remembers harvests of the past while on his August walk.

An old Devon folk song tells us that 'August brings the harvest, the reapers now advance. With cheese and cider plentiful, the work won't stand much chance'. That was many years ago; nowadays the giant combines are into the fields at the end of June and by August we're back to ploughing and harrowing for the next crop.

'Croppy' was indeed the description given to August by Sir Gregory Gander in the eighteenth century. His rhyme, giving a name to each month of the year, goes thus: 'Snowy, Flowy, Blowy; Showery Flowery, Bowery; Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy, Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.'

But I am still the romantic! The memories of harvest in days gone by linger long in the memory. I recently journeyed back to the countryside of my youth in Surrey; the lanes where I recall I rode on the day's last horse-drawn load of straw back to the Mackie's Farm to await stacking were no more - swallowed by an exclusive housing estate.

This month I set out from Shakespeare's town of Stratford-upon-Avon. I often think how fortunate to have such a wonderful and beautiful town on our doorstep. Go to the town at any time of the year and you will see visitors who have travelled from the other side of the world to feast on the memory of the Bard. Sadly the town was in something of an upheaval with major works on the lovely Bancroft Gardens when I visited. Although it has caused much heartache to residents I am sure that the beauty will be restored before long - perhaps in time for your walk!

Beyond all else of course this is Shakespeare's town. In his classic Warwickshire book Arthur Mee wrote that 'here is the place where he was born, the very room. Here is the school in which he learned to write, the very room and perhaps the very desk. Here is the tower he looked upon as he sat in his garden, with the very metal of the bell still ringing out as it rang the precious hours for him. Here is the river he loved' and so on.

From the town take the car over the ancient bridge with its sixteen arches that was built by Sir Hugh Clopton a century before Shakespeare's time. I never cease to be amazed that a structure that was designed to trundle horse-drawn traffic over the river takes the enormous juggernauts of today. Alongside the river is a recreation ground with a large car park.

By the bandstand that was built in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day, we walk along the path with the river on your right. We have views of the famous Memorial Theatre (now undergoing an extensive rebuilding) and Holy Trinity Church with its beautiful spire. In is in this building that tourists flock to see the place where Shakespeare was buried in 1616.

Continue alongside the river to a road bridge. This once carried the LMS line from Stratford to London but has now been utilised as a bridge over the Avon for the by-pass.

Just before the rather fine bridge built of bricks, go over the water using the footbridge. (To the right is a block of flats that was once the site of Lucy's mill. The unemployed waters now race gleefully under the building). Turn left and go under the road bridge. Within a hundred yards take a signed path to the right.

Look carefully for a short stretch of railway line as a reminder of the old rail route. Continue to a car park - the start of the leisure track called the Greenway that was once a great escape railway route to the South-West of England. The pretty track is lined by bushes where there is much birdsong and we have a fine view across the racecourse.

Within a mile we come to a great iron bridge whose girders carried the trains across the river. Keep ahead for about two hundred yards then take a cinder path left to a join a right of way by the Avon. Turn left so the waters are on your left

We now have vast arable lands on our right side. The path is well used then we are directed through woods so cool on those hot days of summer. The path is high above the river and climbs up and down steps. We go by lush meadows then reach a main road. Just before take a signed path right that runs alongside the road to a roundabout.

Carefully cross to another wide track. This again was a railway route but this started as a horse-drawn route. This was opened in 1826 and ran from Stratford to Moreton-in-Marsh. It is said that the horse hitched a lift on the downhill stretches! The railway closed in 1869. The track leads back to the car park to complete the five mile ramble.

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