OLD St Bartholomew’s Church at Lower Sapey is a simple sandstone building of enormous charm, tucked away in a peaceful valley to the south-west of Clifton upon Teme.

Externally, St Bartholomew’s has survived almost unchanged for 1,000 years, apart from the addition of larger windows and a timber-framed porch in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In 1876, a replacement, New St Bartholomew’s, was built at nearby Harpley, and diocesan officials ordered the demolition of the old church.

Fortunately, the order was ignored, perhaps because local people realised that nobody in authority was going to come to this remote place to check up on them.

The church was used for various purposes, including storage, but inevitably fell into decay.

Happily, in the late 20th century it was rescued and restored, mostly through the efforts of dedicated locals. Its survival was assured in 1994 when the Churches Conservation Trust took over ownership. Today, Old St Bartholomew’s is still lovingly cared for by local residents. The door is always unlocked and while its uncluttered interior contains no furnishings, it is usually decorated with jars full of fresh flowers.

The walk to Lower Sapey from Clifton is delightful, with much of it following mossy dingles carved out by Sapey Brook and its tributaries. These narrow valleys are sheltered by mature trees and blessed with a relatively benign micro-climate, ensuring that some greenery is present all year. After months of rainfall, Sapey Brook is currently at its most impressive.

Clifton is a lovely village, with many fine buildings, including St Kenelm’s Church and the Lion Inn, parts of which are said to date from the 12th century.

It was originally a guild hall and court house but it is believed it may also have offered shelter and refreshment to travellers even then, though it did not officially become an inn until about 1600, when it was known as the Red Lion.


Start: Clifton upon Teme, grid ref SO713615.

Length: 7½ miles/12km.

Maps: OS Explorer 202, 203 and 204, OS Landranger 149.

Terrain: Pasture, paddock, arable, woodland, with a few slopes.

Footpaths: While many are problemfree, some are obstructed and waymarking is generally poor.

Stiles: 12. Parking: Clifton.

Buses: Astons 309/310, Mon-Sat; worcestershire.gov.uk/bustimetables or 01905 765765. Refreshments: Pub and shop at Clifton.


1 Walk down Hope Lane then take the second path on the left.

Go diagonally across two fields to the far left corner of the second one then continue along field edges, just above a brook. Don’t cross the brook, and ignore bridleways branching left and right. Eventually, cross a stile to descend steeply through woodland to a lane. Turn left, past a bridleway and a house, then take an easily-missed footpath on the left, just before a bridge. Follow Sapey Brook to a junction and turn right, crossing a footbridge and climbing to the lane. Turn left to Lower Sapey.

2 Pass the church and keep straight on along a bridleway, past Old Church House and Sapey Pritchard. When the path forks, go diagonally left uphill. Climb to a junction and continue along the bridleway. When the waymarking comes to an end, keep straight on by the right-hand field edge. When waymarking resumes, it points to the left-hand field edge instead.

Ignore a path branching right (because a broken stile, missing footbridge and rampant brambles, all in the first few metres, don’t exactly inspire confidence) and continue the full length of the field to the far left corner.

3 Turn right to join another bridleway. Go through a gate then turn right in the next field.

The right of way takes a diagonal line across the field but is not maintained and the waymarking suggests a field-edge route instead.

Whichever you choose, keep to the left of woodland and proceed to a metal gate in a fence about 50m from the bottom corner. Turn left in the next field and go straight on at a junction. The bridleway leads to a driveway where you turn left to meet a lane. Turn right to walk through Harpley.

4 Leave the lane when it bends sharp right, just as you’re about to draw level with the church. Go straight on along a track and straight on again a few metres further on, passing left of Church Cottage. Entering a field, keep straight on along a poorquality field-edge path.

Approaching the bottom of the field, look for a stile on the right.

Go diagonally across the next field to a footbridge and gate. Walk up the right-hand edge of another field and straight on to a lane.

5 Turn left, then right on a footpath, past Harpley Works.

Cross a stile to a field and turn right along the edge. Continue along the edge of a second field, ignoring a path branching right at a stile. Cross the next stile to a third field and go diagonally down to Sapey Brook. Cross it at a footbridge then walk uphill to pass to the left of Burton Court. Turn right on a track then fork left to bypass most of the farm buildings.

Go straight on at a bridleway junction. Keep to the right-hand field edge as the bridleway descends to cross a brook then go uphill along a line of trees.

6 A waymark points left across a field but the path is often blocked by crops (last year’s unharvested broad beans at the time of writing) and you may have to go straight across by the righthand edge then turn left at the other side. Keep straight on at all subsequent junctions to reach the road. Turn right towards Clifton then shortly take a path on the left which skirts past Steps Farm before offering a choice of waymarked routes to the village centre.