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Walking in Warwickshire

Stratford-upon-AvonWarwickshire conjures up countryside images of an undulating farming landscape with mature hedgerows and an abundance of woodland and leafy lanes. Attractive red brick is a common building material typical of many villages and farmhouses and is even seen in much older timber framed Tudor buildings. Warwickshire is perhaps most famously known for Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and the countryside round about is undoubtedly beautiful, particularly along the willow edged river Avon. But there is much more to Warwickshire than Stratford-upon-Avon and most of the county can offer locations for very pleasurable walking, although the south has the edge.

Wilmcote, Stratford CanalIn Shakespeare’s day the area north of Stratford, known as the Forest of Arden, was heavily wooded and formed the setting for his play As you like It. There are places in the area which still provide pleasant woodland walks, such as Withycombe Wood near Wilmcote and Austy Wood near Wootton Wawen. A delightful and interesting waterside walk from Stratford-upon-Avon to Wilmcote and Wootton Wawen can be made along the Stratford-upon-Avon canal. This narrow waterway has more the feel of a quiet sleepy river than a canal, particularly once past the long flight of locks south of Wilmcote. Within the attractive village of Wilmcote, Mary Arden's house can be visited.


IlmingtonIlmington is a pretty village set at the foot of Ilmington Downs in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village, the highest in Warwickshire, has a real sense of place and is well worth exploring, including the12th century church that is worth a visit. The village maintains a tradition of Morris dancing, including some dances that are specific to the village. The Ilmington Morris Men dance on several days throughout the year, including at dawn on May Day on Ilmington Down.

Ilmington ManorThe village has a more technological claim to fame in that it was the location of the first radio broadcast of a Christmas message by King George V, relayed to the world from Ilmington Manor in 1934. The most memorable aspect of this event appears to have been the broadcast’s introduction by a local shepherd named Walton Handy who stole the show. Ilmington Manor is a fine Elizabethan house once owned by the de Montfort family. Hidcote Manor Gardens (National Trust) are nearby and are definitely worth a visit.

A Walk from Ilmington [SP 213437] OS Maps: Explorerâ„¢ 205

Ilmington ChurchThe walk leaves Ilmington along Frog Lane, not far from the churchyard. When the lane ends continue in roughly the same direction (south west) and after crossing a couple of footbridges climb steeply onto The Downs. On reaching a cross track at the top (GR SP204425) turn right and make for the radio masts. This is a ridge path along the top of the hills with outstanding views on both sides. Just after the masts cross a road and take a path following the hillside contour to reach a tiny lane (GR SP189429). Turn right and walk down the lane enjoying the panoramic view spread out at your feet. Take a signed footpath on the right, and you have now joined the Centenary Way which will take you back to Ilmington. About 4 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Howard Arms, Imington Tel: 01608 682226 (Good Pub Guide)
Howard Arms, WilmingtonThis beautifully kept golden stone inn overlooks the small village green and has won awards for its excellent food. The stylishly simple interior is light and airy with broad polished flagstone floors and there is a huge stone inglenook with a warming log fire in the winter. The garden is lovely in summer with fruit trees sheltering the lawn and tables on a stone terrace. The imaginative menu changes regularly to utilise fresh local ingredients. Like most good pubs the Howard Arms is popular and you need to book to get a meal.


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