NORTH Worcestershire used to be an important centre for the manufacture of agricultural tools.

It was best known for scythes but many other types of blade were also produced.

The streams which rise in the Clent Hills provided the means of production, powering numerous mills and forges, most of which have long since been demolished or converted.

But many of the former mill ponds remain, greatly enhancing the landscape around villages such as Belbroughton, Broome, Drayton, Churchill and Blakedown.

One forge does still survive, and you can see it at Churchill, on the route of this walk.

Built in the 17th century, on the site of a 13th-century watermill, it was for many years worked by the Bache family, who specialised in making edge tools, such as spades, shovels and hoes, though they also made ladles for use in die-casting.

The forge was in operation until the 1970s, when it was believed to be the only working forge of its kind remaining in England.

You’ll find it tucked away out of sight, at the foot of a flight of steps near the English Heritage sign by the former mill pond at Churchill.

The door to the forge has been replaced by a grille so you can look inside the building, where there is a range of machinery dominated by two impressive water wheels.

There is more industrial archaeology to investigate at Norton Covert, where woodland now fills a deep, steep-sided pit formed by sand and gravel extraction in the 19th century.

Owned and managed by Dudley Council, it’s important for nature conservation and is of geological interest too. The pit was worked in phases, so different areas are at different stages of regeneration, resulting in a varied structure and a range of habitats.

Different ground levels within the pit add further variety.

Oak is the dominant tree, but birch, sycamore, ash, wych elm, holly, beech and Scots pine also occur in significant numbers.

For well over a mile of this walk, from Brake Mill Farm to Norton Covert, you will be following the line of a Roman road, which survives here as a bridleway.

This does deviate very slightly from the original line of the road for a short distance at Palmer’s Hill, but for the most part the bridleway faithfully follows the route surveyed, built and walked by the Romans 2,000 years ago.

Elsewhere, the Roman road is often hard to find on the ground, but with the aid of OS Explorer maps 204 and 219 it’s possible to trace its original course northwards from Droitwich, where it survives as Crutch Lane.

It then disappears, only to re-emerge near Chaddesley Corbett, from where it can be traced to Greensforge, near Kingswinford.

The Romans built a fort at Greensforge, where the road bifurcates, with one branch petering out nearby, while the other branch can still be traced a little further, to Long Common near Wombourne.

FACTFILE START Blakedown Station on Mill Lane; grid ref SO880787.

LENGTH 7½ miles/12km.

MAPS OS Explorer 219, OS Landranger 139.

TERRAIN Woodland, pasture, arable; undulating but not steep.

FOOTPATHS Excellent.


PARKING There is a car park off Birmingham Road, opposite the Belbroughton turn (B4188).

A track leads from the car park to the station.

Roadside parking may be possible near the station.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT London Midland trains, daily; Whittle’s 192 from Stourport and Kidderminster, Mon-Sat; or 08457 484950; visit page bustimetables or 01905 765765.

REFRESHMENTS Blakedown and Iverley.

ORDNANCE SURVEY WorcesterNewsrecommendstheuse of OS Landranger Maps, your ideal passporttonavigatethecountryside.

This walk is based on OS Landranger 139.

DIRECTIONS 1 Walk along Mill Lane to Churchill Lane. Turn right and then right again at Churchill, ignoring Waggon Lane. Take the next footpath on the right, near Bridge Cottage.

Walk beside a brook then past houses to a pool. Turn left, soon passing Churchill Forge.

Cross the brook and turn right.

Follow the path through fields to rejoin the lane.

Turn right, then left on a footpath at Stakenbridge Farm Fishery. Walk to Brakemill Farm.

2 Turn left on a bridleway, passing to the left of Brakemill Farm Cottage.

Go straight on at all junctions, eventually crossing Norton Road, where the bridleway continues opposite.

Norton Covert is soon on your right and there is an unsigned access point to the wood, but you may prefer to keep going until you come to the main entrance, where you’ll see a map and information panel.

If you want to explore the wood it will add no more than half a mile to the walk, at the most.

3 Turn left on a bridleway opposite the entrance to Norton Covert. Keep straight on at Iverley Park Farm, then climb to a T-junction below a mast.

Turn left to meet Norton Road at Iverley and turn left past The Crown.

Take Crown Lane then turn right on the North Worcestershire Path (NWP) after about 500m, by a sign marking the Staffordshire border.

Climb to a junction and turn left on another bridleway, leaving the NWP.

Walk to a lane then cross to a footpath opposite.

4 Approaching Churchill, you will see two stiles close together. For the easiest route, cross the nearer stile, follow the path to the village and turn right to join Waggon Lane.

However, if you don’t mind another hill at this stage in the walk, it’s much pleasanter to take a path which climbs uphill from the other stile.

Keep straight on when the path meets a bridleway and then turn left at the next junction.

Walk to Waggon Lane and turn right.

5 Take the next bridleway on the left and walk to Blakedown, going straight on at all junctions and crossing the railway to reach Birmingham Road.

Turn left to find the pub, the shop, the bus stops, the car park and the track which leads from the car park to the railway station.