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WOOTTON Wawen has many fine buildings, including a 14thcentury pub and what is claimed to be Warwickshire’s oldest church.
St Peter’s was founded c730, and a substantial amount of Saxon masonry survives. Neighbouring Wootton Hall is a 17th-century mansion which once belonged to Maria Fitzherbert, George IV’s favourite mistress.
Sadly, Wootton Wawen suffers from its position astride the A3400, but it takes only a few minutes to escape the traffic – the key to this quick getaway being the towpath of the Stratford Canal, which runs past the village. A diversion from the towpath allows a look at Austy Wood before returning to the canal to cross Edstone Aqueduct. This cast-iron trough supported by thirteen brick piers is the longest canal aqueduct in England and the most dramatic piece of engineering on the Stratford Canal.
Leaving the canal again, you walk through fields to arrive at Aston Cantlow, a picturesque village, and far more peaceful than Wootton Wawen. The walk route only touches on the edge of the village but it’s worth a detour into the centre, where mellow brick houses mingle with half-timbered buildings such as the 16th-century pub and guild hall. There was formerly a castle at Aston Cantlow, built soon after the Norman Conquest, but only earthworks remain today, on a site beside the river Alne. It’s possible that stone from the decaying castle was used in the 13th century to build St John’s Church. Local people believe William Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, was baptised at St John’s, and that she married John Shakespeare there in 1557.
Leaving Aston Cantlow, you walk through an attractive stretch of the Alne valley before following Pennyford Lane back to the canal.
The final leg of the walk includes a crossing of Wootton Wawen Aqueduct, built in 1813. Less impressive than Edstone, it’s still an interesting structure.
There’s a wharf next to it, and a popular pub.
Start: Wootton Wawen, a village on the A3400, south-east of Redditch and north of Stratford, grid ref SP148631.
Length: Nine miles/14.5km.
Maps: OS Explorer 220, OS Landranger 151.
Terrain: Farmland and canal towpath, no hills.
Parking: Very limited roadside parking may be available in Wootton Wawen, or you could try asking at Yew Tree Farm, though only if genuinely intending to visit the café or craft centre. There is also some roadside parking on the walk route near Little Alne, where Bearley Road crosses a dismantled railway at grid ref SP142610.
Public transport: Worcester-Birmingham-Stratford trains serve Wootton Wawen – note that it’s a request stop (ie. you must ask the conductor if you want the train to stop). On Sundays/bank holidays go by bus – take the 166 to Stratford and then the X20 to Wootton Wawen (if you want to go by bus on weekdays it’s 550/551 to Evesham, then 28 to Stratford and then X20 to Wootton Wawen or 229 to Aston Cantlow); www.nationalrail.co.uk or 08457 484950; www.worcestershire.gov.uk/ bustimetables or 01905 765765.
Refreshments: Wootton Wawen and Aston Cantlow.
1 If arriving at the station, follow Wawensmere Road (B4089) to Stratford Road (A3400) and turn right through Wootton Wawen to Pettiford Lane. Turn left, pass Yew Tree Farm (café/craft centre) and take a track on the right (the access to Lucy’s Farm). Leave the track at the Stratford Canal and turn left on the towpath. Leave the towpath at Green Lane Bridge (51), crossing the canal to join a bridleway, Green Lane.
2 Approaching the far side of Austy Wood, take a waymarked path on the right.
After 200m turn left through Scots pines. The path soon leaves the wood and continues along its edge to reach a waymark directing you to the A3400. Turn left, crossing to a footway, then take the Silesbourne Rise access track to return to the canal. Re-join the towpath, turning left under bridge 56, and soon crossing Edstone Aqueduct. At Draper Bridge (57), cross the canal to a field and follow the right-hand edge. After 250m, go through a gap on the right and then diagonally across further fields to a lane. Turn left through the hamlet of Newnham.
3 Fork left by a grassy triangle, soon passing Lower Farm. The lane ends at a bridleway and footpath – take the footpath. Walk through three fields to meet a driveway, proceed to a lane and turn left. Join a footpath on the left when the lane bends right. Walk along field edges, turning right after passing Holmlea Farm. Walk to a lane and turn left into Aston Cantlow.
4 Take Chapel Lane and join a footpath at Meadow Furlong, proceeding to a marshy riverside field where the path forks. Go to the right and follow the hedge. In the next field, go to the far left corner to find access to a lane.
Turn right, then left when you come to a footpath. It uses a driveway at first but soon bears left and is easily followed through fields and young woodland before crossing a footbridge to a marshy pasture. Keep roughly straight on, about 80m from the river Alne, then straight on by a hawthorn hedge in the next field before bearing right to pass under the railway.
5 Turn right, then left after a few paces on an easily missed footpath. Follow the river to a field corner then turn right to Pennyford Lane. Turn left and walk along the lane to Field Farm.
Turn right to re-join the canal, turning left on the towpath. After crossing Wootton Wawen Aqueduct proceed to bridge 53 and turn left into Wootton Wawen.
Worcester News recommends the use of OS Explorer Maps, your ideal passport to navigating the countryside. This walk is based on OS Explorer 220.