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Around the Roman Town of Alcester

An easy walk through an old Roman town, picturesque woodland and attractive villages.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 269ft (82m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Road pavements, field paths, woodland tracks and farm lanes, 6 stiles

Landscape Gentle rolling farmland, woodland and rural town

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 205 Stratford-upon-Avon & Evesham

Start/finish SP 088573

Dog friendliness Under control at all times

Parking Bleachfield car park, Alcester

Public toilets Bulls Head yard car park, Alcester

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1 From the car park enter Bleachfield Street and go left to the old Stratford Road. Cross the road and wander up High Street. Bear right past impressive St Nicholas Church and, at the corner of the road, turn right down Malt Mill Lane. At the bottom of the lane, go left through the public gardens and follow the tarmac footpath by the side of the River Arrow to reach the old Stratford Road again. Cross the road and go down the lane opposite into Oversley Green village, passing by Alcester football club's ground, then crossing the bridge over the River Arrow.

2 At the road junction bear left and in 80yds (73m) go right along a hedged footpath behind a row of houses and past a golf driving range. Soon you will bear right, then left to reach a junction of paths. Go right here across pastureland close to Oversley Hill Farm before coming to a Severn Trent sub station.

3 Go right, under the A46 road bridge, and bear right through the gateway into Oversley Wood. Take the stone track into the wood for about 400yds (366m), then go left. In a further 400yds (366m) the track arcs right and continues westwards, descending back to the main track. Now go left for 650yds (594m), then right to leave the wood over a stile.

4 Go right and walk along the edge of Oversley Wood to its corner. Continue ahead along the hedged track until you reach a farm lane, with Oversley Castle on the hillock to the left.

5 Go right along the lane and join the Heart of England Way. Walk up the lane towards some large grain silos by the side of Lower Oversley Lodge Farm. From the farm complex go down to the footbridge over the busy A46. Cross and walk down Primrose Lane, passing a beautiful thatched house. At the T-junction go left along Mill Lane for about 650yds (594m).

6 Just before reaching a mobile home site, go right, down a path and cross a footbridge over the River Arrow. The path becomes a lane by houses, with allotments to the right. Walk up Bleachfield Street back to the car park.

Alcester is one of the most delightful towns in Warwickshire. This former Roman settlement has sadly lost its ancient abbey, but the abbot's splendid ivory crozier, which was discovered in the rectory garden, is now displayed in the British Museum. From time to time new Roman relics also come to light, such as the Roman milestone commemorating the Emperor Constantine (ad 306-337), which was excavated in the town in 1966. The Romano-British town which flourished between the 2nd and 4th centuries ad, covered some 35 acres (14ha), and is now completely covered by the modern town.

Following the turnpiking of the Stratford to Alcester road in 1753, Alcester became a busy stopping point on the main stagecoach route linking London and Holyhead via Shrewsbury. Later there were regular services to destinations such as Aylesbury, Gloucester, Bristol, Leicester and, of course, Birmingham. Few of the town's old coaching inns survived the developments of the 1960s, but the Swan, Bear and White Lion are reminders of those days. Horse-drawn coaches gave way to trains, but today Alcester's old station is all that remains of the railway experience and fast roads have taken over.

Because the town centre is now thankfully bypassed, Alcester has had the space to spruce itself up. A national winner of the Britain in Bloom competition, the residents adorn its streets each year with beautiful flowers, making the High Street particularly attractive. The great tower of St Nicholas dominates the centre with its clock face set at an angle on the corner of its tower. The Market Hall was originally built in 1618, when it was simply a pillared edifice, but a timber-framed upper storey was added in 1641. In 1874 the arches were filled in and today it is occupied by the Town Hall.

The walk takes you through the old part of Alcester and down Malt Mill Lane (surely one of the most photogenic streets in Warwickshire) into Oversley Green. Beautiful Oversley Wood is a remnant of the original Forest of Arden and, if you walk through here in spring you will be greeted by a carpet of bluebells and may even spot a shy muntjac deer. The route goes close to the delightful villages of Exhall and Wixford, with their black-and-white buildings, then returns over Primrose Hill, which rises 350ft (107m) above the Arrow Valley, offering a fine view of Ragley Hall (PWhile You're There) to the left. Once over the busy A46 road you will pass several beautiful thatched cottages as you walk down Primrose Lane on the way back into Oversley Green.

What to look for

The lovely Church of St Milburga, on the edge of Wixford village, is tucked away up a high banked lane and is almost hidden from view by the oldest yew tree in Warwickshire. Look especially for the the 1411 Crewe brass which lies on top of a tomb in the south chapel. The 5ft (1.5m) long tomb shows Thomas Crewe, who looked after the affairs of the Countess of Warwick, wearing armour, while his wife is attired in a rich gown and mantel, with a dog resting at her feet.

While you're there

Take the opportunity to visit Ragley Hall, along the Evesham Road, set in 400 acres (165ha) of parkland. The home of the Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford, it was designed by Robert Hooke in 1680, and is one of the earliest and handsomest of England's great Palladian houses. The magnificent great hall contains some outstanding baroque plasterwork by James Gibbs and a large mural up the stairway. The stables house a carriage collection and the delightful gardens were designed by 'Capability' Brown. There is also an adventure playground for children. Open Thursday to Sunday, 11-6, daily during the school holidays.

Where to eat and drink

Alcester has a large number of public houses and eating places. The Bleachfield Street car park is at the rear of the Swan Hotel, a regular drinking hole for walkers. You'll be made very welcome and can enjoy great home-cooked meals at reasonable prices and a good selection of beers. Children and dogs are allowed in the bar area.

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