Warwickshires West

PUBLISHED: 11:12 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:46 20 February 2013

Warwickshire's (not-so) Wild West

Warwickshire's (not-so) Wild West

The villages of Coughton and Studley straddle a short stretch of Icknield Street, the Roman road. They are two very different places with fascinating histories and offer today's visitor a wealth of scenic country walks.


The villages of Coughton and Studley straddle a short stretch of Icknield Street, the Roman road. They are two very different places with fascinating histories and offer today's visitor a wealth of scenic country walks, a magnificent stately home and garden, traditional village shops and plenty of places to eat. Jennie Madden reports. Photographs by Stuart Purfield.




Sitting close to the western edge of the Warwickshire border with Worcestershire, Coughton and Studley lie adjacent, the former well-known for its fine Tudor Court and the latter for its success in the needle-making industry. For all their closeness, the two villages could not have developed more differently.



Studley is one of the largest villages in the UK - sometimes claimed (incorrectly) to be the largest but, even within Warwickshire, Polesworth and Bulkington are bigger.



Serving as a 'dormitory town' for workers in Redditch and Birmingham, Studley also benefits from employment on the small industrial estates in the surrounding area. These go some way to contribute to the demand for traditional village shops of which Studley has retained a good variety. There is a quality butcher for local meat and Bruno's bakery with its tempting bread and cakes. David's hardware store sells just about anything from string and clothes pegs to brooms and halogen lamps. The long winter months will surely have been good for business at both Synergy beauticians, who offer a fake tan amongst their services, and The Heat Store, where you can glean expert advice on woodburners. If there's the chance of a few days off, Elite Holidays have plenty of ideas for some genuine tropical sunshine and, if there's not, you can plan your own relaxation with a home spa with advice from Planscapes.



Many years ago you would have stolen down to Hill's little wood and tin building at the end of the week for the local fish and chip take away, wrapped in newspaper. Nowadays, Studley's numerous restaurants and takeaways suggest you need never have to cook again. From fish bars to coffee houses, the range embraces a diversity of international palettes including Nepalese, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai.



The village is noted for its numerous pubs - thirteen, to be precise, which apparently is second only to Blackpool as the highest number of pubs per head! Their abundance stems from its origins as three or four separate artisan communities, each one being served by their own drinking houses. Whilst many pubs have been thoroughly modernised to keep up with trends, most retain some historical features. At Washford Mill, for example, the river passes beneath the mill and its water wheel is visible through an encasement of glass in the centre of the bar.



The Barley Mow, the oldest pub in Studley, still has some of the original timber-framing and much of its original roof remains in place. In times gone by, its Bar Parlour was frequented by the elders of the village, who would smoke their pipes and discuss the local gossip or talk of the politics of the day.



Via a of choice of public footpaths, walkers can take a scenic hike across the fields to the contrasting village of Coughton to find the Throckmorton Arms, a traditional coaching inn set in the shadows of the renowned Coughton Court.



The village of Coughton has grown in a much more rural way, surrounded by farmlands with pleasurable views for country lovers. Coughton Court, with its links to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, offers an extraordinary journey in history. Whilst most come to see the house, more recent years have seen the development of the grounds which now draw a great number of garden lovers and horticulturists.



From Coughton, it is easy to pick out the bold outlines of the prestigious Studley Castle, now converted within the confines of a Grade II listed building into a unique hotel with elegant reception rooms.



Two further properties in the area are also noteworthy, both privately owned. Gorcott Hall stands half-way up Gorcott Hill and was occupied by the Yardley family in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Skilts, nearby, is the site of the Monastic Grange of Studley Priory and, later, the country house where later William Sheldon introduced the industry of tapestry weaving into England in the 16th century.



It is a fascinating area. Well worth more than a casual glance from Icknield Street, down to the River Arrow which meanders by both villages, and the recommendation to take your time here is nothing to do with the fact that, regretfully, these days a straight Roman road inevitably means speed cameras!


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