Shrawley Wood is justly famous for its bluebells, but the bluebells are preceded by another spectacle which fewer people seem aware of. This is the sight of hundreds of thousands of wood anemones blooming across parts of the woodland floor during March and April.

Shrawley Wood is known to be an ancient wood, and the presence of wood anemones is one of the things that confirms this, for the species is a prime indicator of ancient woodland.

However, it doesn't only grow in woodland, but also in ancient meadows, limestone pavements (in the Yorkshire Dales) and hedgebanks.

It requires a lot of light so when growing in woodland it must complete its flowering before the leafy canopy shuts out the sky. It won't grow in deep shade and will open its blooms fully only if the sun is shining.

According to Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), author of the Complete Herbal, the wood anemone cures a variety of ailments, including lethargy, for which it is necessary to stuff the crushed leaves up one's nose or to chew the root, both of which "purgeth the head mightily. . . for it procureth much spitting, and bringeth away many watery and phlegmatic humors".

Bathing in a decoction made from the leaves was recommended as a cure for leprosy, while an ointment made from the plant would deal with eye inflammations and ulcers.

The wood anemone can thrive in much warmer conditions than the bluebell.

Even so, it is already being affected by climate change.

It's almost 20 years since scientists first warned that climate change could lead to the eventual extinction of woodland flowers in Britain because it would allow more robust species to swamp them.

Only a few of us were listening to the scientists then, but anybody who has visited Shrawley Wood regularly over the last two decades can't fail to have noticed the rapid spread of brambles.

Tough enough to keep growing throughout the recent mild winters, they are already proving detrimental to the anemones and bluebells, which no longer produce quite the same massive unbroken sheets of colour which were so much a part of Shrawley Wood only a few years ago.

FACTFILEStart: New Inn, Shrawley, grid ref SO799663.

Length: 5 miles/8km.

Maps: OS Explorer 204, OS Landranger 138.

Terrain: Woodland and pasture, gentle gradients.

Footpaths: Mostly excellent, but one is partially overgrown with nettles and brambles.

Stiles: 17.

Parking: Walkers' car park, New Inn.

Buses: Worcester-Stourport/Kidderminster services 293/294/300 daily, stopping at the New Inn; or Traveline 0879 608 2608.

Refreshments: The New Inn is open from 8am for breakfast for walkers keen to make an early start on their day.

PLEASE NOTE This walk has been carefully checked and the directions are believed to be accurate at the time of publication. No responsibility is accepted by either the author or publisher for errors or omissions, or for any loss, accident or injury, however caused.

DIRECTIONS1 Walk along New Inn Lane, then take the second footpath on the left, which runs along the right-hand edge of a field, skirting a property. Turn right in a second field, going uphill to a gate. Go straight on across a third field to a junction at a redundant stile in a fourth field. Turn right and cross a stile at the far side.2 In the next field the waymarking indicates that there is only one path, running straight across. There are actually two paths, so walk forward for 20 paces then turn left to find a stile beneath an oak tree. Follow the right-hand edge of the ensuing field, then go diagonally right to the top corner of the next. Go through a gap in a fence and skirt a morass to find a makeshift stile in a fence, to the left of a corrugated-iron building.3 Turn left along a field-edge track and then turn right on another track in the next corner. Go through the left-hand gateway in another corner and diagonally left across a field to meet a line of oak trees. Follow the trees up the field. When they come to an end continue across the field to a stile. Cross an orchard to an overgrown stile close to a house and turn left along the driveway. Go straight on at a junction, along a no through road'. Pass Eastgrove Cottage Garden Nursery and East Grove Farm. Ignore a path branching left and keep straight on to meet Shrawley Brook. Turn left.4 Bear left by a large oak tree and enter a field. Walk along the lower edge then turn left in the corner and walk up to a waymark which indicates a well-made path running diagonally across the field. Turn right at the far side, along a grassy track. Fork right at a junction, passing stables. Meeting a driveway, turn left until a waymark directs you into a field on the right. Walk uphill along two field edges to a junction. Cross the left-hand stile and follow an overgrown path to a lane.5 Cross to a path opposite and turn right past an orchard to a lane. Turn right, then keep left to reach St Mary's Church. Walk through the churchyard and to the right of the church to find a path descending left to a field. Walk down to the road and turn left. Take the first path on the right, which leads to Shrawley Wood.6 Turn left on entering the wood and soon leave it for parkland. The path is easily followed across the park and you then re-enter the wood to the right of a pool. Proceed to a junction marked by a Forestry Commission sign. You're on public access land now, so the following route is only a suggestion: turn right, ignore branching paths and walk to a cross-path marked by a memorial bench. Turn left, keeping straight on at the next two junctions, then go left when the path forks, for the most direct route to the New Inn.