THIS is a very easy walk in a lovely part of the county.

You can tell how popular it is by how well used the footpaths are. It’s unusual to meet other walkers when out and about in most parts of Worcestershire, but that’s not the case here.

It’s a short walk, but with lots of scope for extension. For instance, it passes through the National Trust’s Hanbury Park, which you might want to explore more thoroughly, using any of the immaculately maintained footpaths which pass through the 162-hectare site.

The trust has produced a leaflet full of information about what you’ll see on walks through the park and this is also available for downloading from the website (

Hanbury Hall, which is full of interest, is only a few minutes’ walk from the route described below. It’s a William and Marystyle house built in 1701 by Thomas Vernon, who was a barrister and Whig MP for Worcester. There are eight hectares of formal gardens around the hall, and a lovely orangery.

On the way back to Astwood Bridge, a path is used which goes along the lower edge of Piper’s Hill Wood (also known as Piper’s Hill Common, Dodderhill Common and Hanbury Woods).

Any of the paths running uphill from the lower path can be used to further explore the wood, which has belonged to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust since 1995 and is designated as open access land. It has a large number of spectacular veteran trees, mostly beeches, oaks and sweet chestnuts, some of which may be 400 years old.

The common was formerly wood pasture; that is, rough grazing land with only a scattering of trees, many of them pollarded. It’s this history which gives Piper’s Hill its special character as the thinly wooded nature of the site allowed the trees to grow to a greater width than they would have achieved had they been closer together.

Since the cessation of grazing about 60 years ago, the site has developed into a more conventional type of woodland, but judicious thinning is helping to restore its distinctive character.

There are stunning trees in Hanbury Park too, including more sweet chestnuts. Not all of these are still alive, but even in death their skeletal remains are impressive, and dead trees do still support other forms of wildlife, though obviously not to the extent that living trees do.

The National Trust is very aware of the importance of parkland trees and is involved in a major programme of restoration and replanting at its West Midland sites – you can see evidence of this at Hanbury Park where there has recently been substantial new planting.

St Mary’s Church is another important feature of the walk. It’s unusual in that the exterior dates from the 18th century, but inside it’s clearly mediaeval.

For many people, its main attraction is its commanding hilltop position. It’s only a small hill but there’s not much competition in this mainly flat part of the county, so with nothing to get in the way it offers panoramic views, dominated by Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds, and enjoyed by many visitors from some well-placed benches in the churchyard.


START Astwood Bridge, Astwood Lane, off Shaw Lane east of Wychbold, grid ref SO941656.

LENGTH 4½ miles/7km.

MAPS OS Explorer 204, OS Landranger 150.

TERRAIN Pasture, arable, parkland, woodland; mostly flat, except for one tiny hill.

FOOTPATHS Hard to fault, except for occasional gaps in waymarking.


PARKING Off Astwood Lane, east of Astwood Bridge.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Diamond 141, Droitwich- Bromsgrove, Mon-Sat, travels along Shaw Lane, passing within 100m of Astwood Bridge; etables or 01905 765765.

REFRESHMENTS National Trust tea room at Hanbury Hall.


1 Walk along Astwood Lane, initially towards Astwood Fishery. Stay on the lane at all junctions, ignoring three footpaths and access to the fishery. Proceed to a junction with another lane and cross to a footpath opposite, which is easily followed across fields and then into Hanbury Park, where you keep straight on.

2 Pass through a gate by a tall, narrow oak tree, after which the path goes diagonally left through an area where young trees have been planted. Hanbury Hall soon comes into view on the right. Cross the access track and keep straight on. Pass between two pools and again keep straight on at the next junction. Walk through a band of woodland to a road and cross to a path opposite, which is easily followed straight across two fields then diagonally across two more.

3 Turn left at the far side of the fourth field, just before a plank-footbridge, so that you’re walking to the left of a brook. Go straight on at a junction, through a gate, and straight on at the next junction, about 80m further on, ignoring a stile on the right. Cross the next stile on the right, after a further 150m. It’s just after a fallen tree, before the field edge bends left. Go along the right-hand edge of the next field until you come to a junction at a gate. Turn left across the field, joining the Hanbury Circular Walk. Cross a road and go uphill to St Mary’s Church.

4 Walk to the far side of the churchyard and then downhill on a well-trodden path heading towards Piper’s Hill Wood. Go straight on along the lower edge of the wood until a fingerpost points left. Leave the wood and follow a path across several fields, keeping straight on at all junctions, to meet Astwood Lane. Turn right then immediately left on a path which leads across fields to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Turn right, following the towpath to Astwood Bridge.