• Start: Lapworth Church
  • End: Lapworth Church
  • Country: England
  • County: Warwickshire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: Landranger Series No.139 Birmingham
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Richard Shurey enjoys an April walk in and around the village of Lapworth and recommends dressing for the weather.

Richard Shurey enjoys an April walk in and around the village of Lapworth and recommends dressing for the weather.

There must be many contenders for the accolade as being the worst poet that England has produced. Some say that the title belongs to WilliamWatson but I do remember that he wrote a couple of lines about the month of April:

April, April, laugh thy girlish laughter, then, the moment after, weep thy girlish tears.

Certainly not Shakespeare who wrote of 'the uncertainty of an April day' in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

But one can rejoice with Watson in his picture of April's swiftly changing moods. Perhaps the answer for us walkers is to ensure you take your raincoat!

But spring is truly here and, with luck because of its declining numbers, the familiar notes of the cuckoo will be heard and there will be days of warm delight to enjoy the real beauty of the lovely countryside.

I invite you this month to follow in my footsteps around Lapworth, south of Birmingham.

This was once part of the vast sandy area of the Forest of Arden which again was a section of the tree area that stretched over so much of the Midlands. When Caesar invaded our lands he described the interior as: 'one great horrid forest'. Arden and its woods were to the north of Warwickshire with the arable clay area of Feldon to the south of the county.

The village is scattered because isolated settlements were established in clearings in the forest. We therefore find the church a few miles from the core of the village. This is a most interesting building. Originally the tower and beautiful steeple were detached from the nave because the lane ran so close to the church.

A place of worship has been on the site for 800 years and was given to Oxford's Merton College in the reign of Henry III. For centuries many of the college graduates have occupied the post of rector of the parish.

The church is dedicated to St Mary but some old records call it the Church of St Matthew. All is peaceful here today but when the M40 motorway was first mooted several decades ago there was great opposition from country lovers as it overlooks the beautiful Tapster Valley.

It was in the Canal Age before the advent of the railways that was Lapworth's heyday as two great waterways met here. The Grand Union Canal (which began life as the Birmingham and Warwick) dates from 1842 and nudges the picturesque Stratford Canal where the complete length was finished in 1846.

We start the walk by Lapworth's church where we can marvel at the work of the Norman masons. Opposite climb the stile to a rather muddy pasture. Keep the direction to climb a hill then drop down to a brook. There should be a plank bridge here but it was missing on my walk. Fortunately there are narrow crossing places of the water!

Safely over we are in a field where there is evidence of the medieval strip farming. Turn right so the brook is on your right side. Go over the corner stile and maintain the direction through pastures to pass by a farmstead. Walk along the drive to a canal bridge and continue to a road.

Cross the road and walk left for a few steps. Look for the next footpath signed on the right. We walk directly away from the road to an elongated field. Pass into the next field and walk beside the right hand border and through the next fields to reach the drive of a house. This leads to a lane. Cross to the opposite path and continue through parkland with a glimpse of the National Trust property of Packwood. Follow the arrowed route to a stile to a field.

Turn left and around the border to a way to a meadow and garden of a bungalow. Keep the house on your right and proceed to a lane. Turn left and bear right at a junction to a crossroads. Go right. We go over the canal bridge. At once gain the towing path and walk with the water on your right side. We soon have the water on our left and follow the Lapworth Flight which is hard work for the pleasure boat crews! We go by a cottage and again cross the water. Continue to the next canal road bridge.

Go under the road and go left to the road. Turn right. Immediately our next path is signed on the right. In the pasture follow the arrowed direction. We enter a cricket ground and maintain the direction with the scoreboard on your left. Again in meadows keep ahead to reach a lane. Lapworth church and the end of the walk are to the right.

April is such a happy month in the countryside. It was Sara Coleridge who wrote:

'April brings the primrose sweet, And scatters daisies at our feet' and one of my favourite writers, W. H. Hudson, reminds us that:

'here, with green Nature all around,...while that fine bird the skylark sings..... many a blackbird, thrush and sparrow sings sweeter songs that I may borrow.'

Map: 1:50,000 Landranger Series No.139 Birmingham.

Parking: Roadsides near Lapworth Church

Distance: 4 miles (7 kilometres)

Time: 3 hours.

Refreshments: Inns Lapworth.

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