- Start: Hay Wood
- End: Hay Wood
- Country: England
- County: Warwickshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub:
- Ordnance Survey:
- Difficulty: Medium
Richard Shurey is full of the joys of Spring as he takes us walking along some of Warwickshire's wonderful waterways
Richard Shurey is full of the joys of Spring as he takes us walking along some of Warwickshire's wonderful waterways.
For those of us who are countrymen (or are countrymen at heart) and admirers of the English rural scene, March is fascinating month and a time for optimism.
When we roam along the rural ways in Warwickshire on ever lengthening days we can see the continuing stirrings of that most hopeful of seasons - Spring. Winter may be lingering and reluctant to leave, but the buds in the hedgerows are at bursting point, the primroses have been around for a while in these warmer days; the birds chuckle a more cheerful note and the acres of winter grain have a lush green to please our farmer friends - all's right with the world!
Here and there these farmer friends complain that the winter has been too wet, too kind to insects and predators and the lack of sharp frosts has left the soil naturally unbroken. Our dogs Poppy and Meg revel in this milder but damper weather and get even muddier!
My steps lead you to one of the county's loveliest houses. Baddesley Clinton is in the care of the National Trust and was described by Pevsner, that great chronicler of England's buildings as 'the perfect late medieval manor house'.
He goes on to say that 'the entrance side of grey stone, the small creeper-clad Queen Anne brick-built bridge across the moat, the gateway with a porch, higher than the roof and embattled - it could not be better'. Inside the magnificent building are several clever hiding places that sheltered Catholic's during their secret worship. One was by the expert hide builder Nicholas Owen, who fooled the authorities by constructing his hide below the level of the moat.
Early on the walk and before a beautiful avenue of mature beeches we go by
the Church of St Michael. This place has a history that sounds like a Verdi opera plot. Inside near the door is an inscription 'Nicholas Brome in the Rayne of King Henry of King Henry the Seaventh' It was at this time that Nicholas Brome rebuilt the sturdy tower and the one for Packwood church . He did this good deed to expiate a crime of the revenge killing of a priest.
For a mile or so we walk alongside the Grand Union Canal. The 'Union' dates from 1929 when eight waterways were amalgamated to form the 140-mile 'motorway' of its day carrying vast amounts of freight between Birmingham and London. It was really thought there was a great future in waterway freight in the early 1930s when vast improvement with the rebuilding of locks was undertaken. However, traffic gradually declined after the Second World War and today the Grand Union is used, for the most part, for pleasure cruising and folk who want to escape into the countryside along the towing paths.
The walk starts at the car park of the nature reserve of Hay Wood. (Hay Wood is signed off the main A4141 at Chadwick End). Along the lane opposite the wood is the vehicle drive to Baddesley Clinton church. A few steps before the place of worship take a bridleway on the left. This fenced way is part of the long distance pathway of the Heart of England Way which runs around the east side of Birmingham from Cannock Chase to join (after about a hundred miles) the Oxfordshire Way at Moreton-in-Marsh.
Stay on the clearly marked way to a lane. Turn right. At the B4439 turn left for a few steps and cross the road to a signed path. This leads to another lane, proceed right to a junction. Continue left to pass an inn. This is the Tom o' the Wood which depicts fine windmill on the inn sign.
This hostelry has been here as a canalside inn since the seventeenth century and was named after woodman Tom - it was previously The Old New Inn.
Go over the canal bridge and immediately gain the towing path on the left. Turn left to go under the lane. We now walk through a lonely but beautiful countryside. We pass a junction of the canal with a link to another waterway - the Stratford Canal at Kingswood Junction. In the past days of freight canals it was a very busy place of commerce.
Gain the B4439 at the next road bridge. Turn right. Just past an inn go left along a wide track which is signed as a footpath. Follow the arrowed direction through fields and we soon have a view of the old manor house. Continue to the drive. Turn right and follow the way past the entrance to Baddesley Clinton. Follow the sign along a beautiful avenue to the church and then retrace steps back to the car park to end the March walk which has covered about four miles.
I hope that you will agree that March is truly a month of promises of the awaking of Spring. It was an American poet, Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote
'Ah, March, we know though art
Kind hearted, 'spite of ugly looks and threats,
And, out of sight, art nursing April's violets'.