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Enjoy fine views from the country park and along the Coventry Canal.
Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Lanes, field paths, woodland tracks and tow paths, 3 stiles
Landscape Country park and rolling countryside
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth
Start/finish SP 317943
Dog friendliness Off lead in park and along tow path
Parking Hartshill Hayes Country Park
Public toilets Hartshill Hayes Country Park
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the car park enter the Hartshill Hayes Country Park at the back of the visitor centre. Take the path which arcs left (north west) along the top of Hartshill and enjoy the super view over the surrounding area. Continue ahead on the path that descends gently into woodland. At the bottom of the woodland go over the footbridge and then bear left to walk along a fine open path as you continue. In about ¼ mile (400m) the path bends to the right and you will ascend north east to the brow of the hill from where you can overlook the Coventry Canal and get a great view. Now the path becomes hedged as you progress northwards towards Quarry Farm. Go through the handgate to the left of the farm buildings on to Quarry Lane.
2 Turn right and stroll down the lane, bearing right at the junction until you come to bridge No 36 over the Coventry Canal. Cross the bridge and descend to the tow path, walking in a north-westerly direction and proceeding beneath bridge No 37.
3 Leave the tow path at bridge No 38 and cross the canal on to a quiet lane. Walk up the lane for about 150yds (137m) then, just before a private house, go left through a tall kissing gate into meadowland and on into pastureland. Cross over the footbridge at the bottom of the field, then walk across the next field and on to a second tall kissing gate and enter the woodland of Purley Park. Follow the footpath up the right edge of the woodland. The path arcs left into the trees and you will exit on to Quarry Lane again.
4 Go right and head up the lane, past the entrance to Mancetter Quarry. In a further 600yds (549m), go left over a stile.
5 Walk to the right of Oldbury Farm on a good bridlepath going south east. This lovely path crosses pastureland, but soon you will be following white marker posts across a golf course.
6 Exit on to a road and then go left. The road passes by Oldbury Grange and Adbury Gardens. Where there is a sharp right-hand bend in the road, go left up towards the rear entrance to the gardens and enter Hartshill Hayes Country Park via a gate. Once you are in the park bear right and join the park path that takes you back to the visitor centre.
In 1978, around 136 acres (55ha) of the hillside around Hartshill were made into the very fine country park which forms the basis of this walk. As well as straying into Warwickshire proper, it also embraces part of the Coventry Canal.
It isn't just local people you will meet here enjoying the freedom of this protected countryside and its wide and varied views. Wildlife thrives in the country park, not least some of our prettiest birds. Vigilance will be rewarded with the sight of a coal tit, a chiffchaff, a jay or a wren. The spotted flycatcher is also a frequent visitor and, if you are lucky, you may glimpse the low, swooping flight of a sparrow hawk pursuing its prey amid the hedges and woods. A sizeable area of woodland area has developed at Hartshill, refreshingly dominated by traditional broadleaved trees such as oak, beech, sycamore, hazel and alder. Elder and holly also thrive.
Hartshill village is an old settlement but there is little information to establish its full history. The Romans were here and may have built a military station on the hill. They would have appreciated the outstanding views which, on a clear day, embrace the faint peaks of Derbyshire and, today, you can count the spires and towers of some 40 churches across the border in Leicestershire.
Hugh de Hardreshull built a motte and bailey castle on the hill in 1125. Robert de Hartshill, who became Lord of the Castle, was killed alongside Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham in 1265. Perhaps it fell into disuse then, for all traces of the fortification have long since disappeared.
The village's most famous resident was the poet Michael Drayton, a contemporary and friend of William Shakespeare. He was born at Chapel Cottage in Hartshill Green in 1563 and in 1972 a bus shelter was erected in his memory. His poem A Fine Day suggests he drew considerable inspiration from the local landscape:
'Clear had the day been from the dawn
All chequered was the sky
Thin clouds like scarfs of cobweb lawn
Veiled heaven's most glorious eye.'
In Polyolbion he described the River Anker, which weaves its way past his birthplace to join the River Thame, as 'trifling betwixt her banks so slow'.
The Coventry Canal came long after Drayton's day. It winds its way along the valley below the village linking Atherstone and the Fazely Junction, where it joins the main canal system to connect with the Trent and Mersey. The canal reached Fazeley in 1790, happily coinciding with the completion date of the Oxford Canal and allowing it to improve a shaky financial position (under engineer James Brindley its construction had run massively over budget). It remained in a reasonably sound state until 1948 when nationalisation was followed by disuse and deterioration. In recent years, however, it has been successfully restored for pleasure craft to enjoy the pleasing scenery
The Stag and Pheasant pub in nearby Hartshill welcomes walkers and allows children in the lounge and on the patio - dogs are allowed in the bar and on the patio. Light refreshment may be obtained from the kiosk at the Hartshill Hayes Country Park visitor centre.
As you stroll around Hartshill Green, note Michael Drayton's cottage and find the bus shelter erected in memory of the poet who was born here. The shelter is built in the shape of a scroll and is made from local stone donated by the nearby quarry owners. Perhaps visit the nearby village of Mancetter. The village history embraces Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans. You may have seen its fine church tower from Hartshill Hayes Country Park.
As you return to the country park the walk takes you past Oldbury Grange which was built around 1904 by Garside Phillips, the first manager of Ansley Colliery. He bought it for his son Joseph who himself became 'The Boss' at the pit. The Phillips family became the leading gentry in the village. Joseph's grandson is Captain Mark Phillips, the renowned horseman and former husband of Princess Anne.