A magnificent Georgian mansion, set in three acres of grounds, YHA Stratford-upon-Avon is ideal…
This walk starts in the delightful village of Charlecote, about 5 miles (8km) from Stratford-upon-Avon. There is an opportunity to visit the superb Charlecote Park house (now managed by the National Trust), which has been the home of the Lucy family since 1247. The route passes along the banks of the pretty River Dene to the edge of the village of Wellesbourne and then crosses farmland and farm lanes on its return to Charlecote, passing close to 19th-century Charlecote Mill.
Charlecote Park is an Elizabethan mansion that is largely hidden from the road by a fine parapeted gatehouse with an oriel window above its arch. The hall was rebuilt in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy, in the shape of the letter E, and is surrounded by a wonderful deer park. For more than 200 years fallow deer have been bred from stock and have roamed freely in the large park. Until recently some 250 fallow deer and 150 red deer (introduced by Henry Spencer Lucy in the 1840s) shared the park. Sadly, during 2001-12, an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis forced the estate managers to cull the entire herd. Thirty beasts were reintroduced in November 2002 and, while numbers have increased, the 100 or so Jacob sheep currently seem to have much of the huge park to themselves.
It was at Charlecote Park that a youthful William Shakespeare is alleged to have been arrested for deer poaching. This is often cited as being the reason for his departure from Stratford for London in the mid-1580s. The legend continues that the Bard got his own back on Sir Thomas Lucy and made him the butt of the world's laughter by depicting him as Mr Justice Shallow in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor. Whether there is any truth in this story is debatable. Doubters will always point to the fact the deer park had not yet been developed at Charlecote in Shakespeare's day. What is certain is that Sir Thomas Lucy was locally unpopular as a Justice of the Peace, and the subject of several mocking ballads being sung in and around the pubs of Stratford at the time. Shakespeare would certainly have known of these and could easily have adopted the caricature for his play.
By the roadside on the edge of the grounds of Charlecote Park is St Leonard's Church. It stands on the site of an earlier 12th-century church which was demolished in 1849. Originally the church was part of the estate, paid for by Mrs Mary Elizabeth Lucy who laid the church's foundation stone. Inside the church is the Lucy Chapel which holds the 17th-century tombs of three Sir Thomas Lucys.
From Charlecote Park car park, go left along the grass verge and cross over the River Dene. In about 100yds (91m), go left along a wide track that arcs left onto a clear fenced path by the side of the river. Follow this for about 1.5 miles (2.4km), passing a sewage farm, via a kissing gate, towards the village of Wellesbourne. You will pass a pleasant weir and go beneath the A429 before you come to a footbridge near St Peter's Church.
Go left over the footbridge and up a fenced path into the churchyard. Keep to the right of the church until you reach the village through the churchyard gates. Continue up the road to the left of house No. 21 – The Kings Head pub is on the left – then cross the main road in the village and walk up Warwick Road opposite.
In about 300yds (274m), just after passing Daniell Road, go right along a tarmac path alongside modern houses. Cross a footbridge and, going through a kissing gate, continue ahead over a cultivated field. Through another kissing gate, continue ahead to cross a plank footbridge. Continue ahead along the left side of a hedge. Bear left across the field to go through a hedge gap and continue uphill to the left of the copse of trees. At the top of the rise, turn right and then go right into the woodland. Turn left along the clear track through the trees. You will emerge from the trees for a short distance and then re-enter. As the trees to the right thin out, look for a hedge gap to the left.
Go through the gap and cross a cultivated field to a hedge corner. Continue ahead alongside the hedge to a field corner, then bear right to Middle Hill Farm.
At a waymark post go left, between the farm buildings, then go to the right of the farmhouse and walk along the farm access lane for about 0.75 miles (1.2km), passing the entrance to Coppington Farm on the way to the A429. Cross the road with care and go over the stile opposite onto a fenced footpath. After crossing another minor road, continue ahead along a concrete driveway to farm buildings.
Bear left between the buildings and then bear right through the gateway to follow the field boundary on the right. Turn left at a kissing gate (don't go through it) to a second kissing gate which leads into a large cultivated field that you walk around by the field hedge, initially alongside a long lake. Go right, through a further kissing gate, and continue to the right of the field hedge until you go through a final kissing gate onto Charlecote Road. Go left along the footway past a delightful thatched cottage into the centre of Charlecote, then turn right along the grass verge of the main street past the half-timbered houses and The Charlecote Pheasant Hotel, with St Leonard's Church opposite, to reach the Charlecote Park car park.
Field paths and farm tracks
Gentle rolling countryside
Under control at all times
OS Explorer 205 Stratford-upon-Avon
National Trust visitors car park for Charlecote Park (closed at night)
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
The sparkle of sunlight on a gentle river as it meanders through beautiful countryside; the reflections of sailing boats on a lake; relaxing with a pint in the garden of an old English pub in a picturesque village; brightly coloured narrow boats making their way through a flight of lock gates; the imposing silhouette of an historic castle. These are the scenes that make Warwickshire a delight.
There may be few seriously high hills in this fertile plain, but it is an area full of attractive walking in rolling countryside, blessed with a fascinating history and wonderful places and buildings to visit. This is Shakespeare’s county, and the footprint of the famous Bard appears almost everywhere. He was born and brought up around the beautiful Warwickshire town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and many of his plays draw upon his own experiences in the area.
Warwickshire has a history that embraces the Civil War, castles and large country houses are scattered over the county. Warwick Castle is the home of the Earl of Warwick, Kenilworth Castle was a stronghold for lords and kings of England in the 11th and 12th centuries, and so the list goes on.
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