THE flamboyant and imposing Chateau Impney Hotel at Droitwich must be a familiar sight to most Worcestershire residents, but perhaps only from the road.

On this walk, you’ll see another side of the hotel, from a bridleway which runs through parkland just to the east of it.

Chateau Impney was built 1873- 75 as a private house for the salt magnate John Corbett, who had been born in Brierley Hill in 1817.

Corbett’s father Joseph operated a canal-boat business and John joined the business himself.

However, competition from the railways caused the Corbetts to sell up in the 1850s, and John used his share of the proceeds to buy a disused salt works at Stoke Prior.

Salt had been mined in and around Droitwich for 2,000 years but it was still basically a cottage industry. John Corbett found a more efficient means of extraction and revolutionised commercial salt production, amassing enormous wealth in the process.

Much of his wealth was spent on others and he is still remembered as a great philanthropist.

In 1856 Corbett married Anna Eliza O’Meara, who was of mixed Irish and French parentage and had been raised in Paris. She missed the city and it was for her that Corbett commissioned the Louis XIII-style chateau, which cost him £247,000 – the equivalent of almost £17 million today.

It was set in 155 acres of parkland, with lakes and follies.

More than 3,000 species of trees were planted and there were lovely views, especially to the west, as Chateau Impney stands on a slight hill. The Corbetts’ marriage was not a happy one, however, and Chateau Impney proved insufficient compensation. Anna eventually left her husband and moved to another of his properties, a more modest house at Tywyn on the Welsh coast.

In 1945, after a period of neglect, Chateau Impney was purchased by Ralph Edwards, who restored it and opened it as a hotel. It prospered for many years and was, in 1968, the venue for one of the earliest rock festivals, the Bluesology Festival hosted by John Peel.The two-day event was plagued by heavy rain but it would have taken more than that to dampen enthusiasm for a line-up which included Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, Geno Washington, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and local band the Move.

In 2009, both Chateau Impney and the Raven Hotel(also built by Corbett and part of the same group) went into receivership but were bought by Greyfort Properties.

A walking trail, the John Corbett Way, has been developed and is waymarked with a raven, the symbol of the Corbett family.It starts at Stoke Heath Arts Centre and runs to Droitwich via Stoke Prior (where Corbett is buried), Stoke Works, Wychbold and Chateau Impney. A short section of it is included in this walk.


Start: Hanbury Road/Bromsgrove Road junction in Droitwich town centre, grid ref SO902634 (or Gateway Park on Hanbury Road, grid ref SO915631).

Length: Five miles/8km.

Maps: OS Explorer 204, OS Landranger 150.

Terrain: Pasture and arable, no hills.

Footpaths: Mostly good, but some may be overgrown and waymarking is patchy in places.

Stiles: Six.

Parking: Droitwich town centre or Gateway Park.

Public transport: First 144 or train to Droitwich; visit the website bustimetables or 01905 765765.

Refreshments: Droitwich.


1 Take Bromsgrove Road, heading north out of Droitwich. After crossing the canal, turn right on Waterside, then left on Woodfield Road. Go under the railway, then pass the Freemasons Arms and a handful of houses to reach a junction.Turn right on Pridzor Road and keep straight on along a footpath at the end of the road, and straight on again at an unsigned junction. Follow a waymarked route past stables and paddocks before bearing right to pass under the railway again. Proceed to a street, turn right, then immediately left.Turn left again beside the river Salwarpe then shortly cross the river at a footbridge.

2 Turn left, climbing slightly to meet a bridleway, and then continuing in the same direction.

The bridleway eventually enters a large field close to the motorway.

There are several paths here but keep to the most obvious one, bearing left between remnant hedges to cross the railway at a bridge. Pass two brick industrial buildings then turn right beside a leylandii hedge. After passing a number of buildings associated with Chateau Impney Hotel you’ll enter parkland. Keep straight on.

On leaving the park, continue in much the same direction across a field towards Rashwood Farm, then go to the far right corner of a second field.

3 Keep to the left of the farmhouse, then turn right on a footpath. Walk to a junction and go straight on over a stile, to the right of a garage and along the remains of an old green lane. Follow this under the motorway, ignore a path branching left and keep straight on to meet the railway. Turn right alongside a hedge until you can cross the railway. Cross a large pasture to a footbridge at the far side and then continue across two more fields. Pass under the mainline railway and go straight on to the canal.

4 Proceed towards Summerhill Farm then take a path branching left across a small field.

Turn right to join a farm track at a stile. Follow the track to a junction and turn right, past the farmhouse then along the left edge of a field.

Go through a gate in the next corner, ignore a waymark directing you left and turn right along the next field edge. Cross the railway at a footbridge, proceed to the canal and turn left on the waymarked Hanbury Circular Walk. Follow it to Gateway Park then continue along the canal to Droitwich.

Worcester News recommends the use of OS Explorer Maps, your ideal passport to navigating the countryside. This walk is based on OS Explorer 204.