A stroll around an estate park, with an opportunity to visit a rejuvenated country house, its outbuildings and its gardens.
Distance 4.8 miles (7.7km)
Minimum time 2hrs 15min
Ascent/gradient 250ft (76m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Meadows, tracks and easy woodland paths, 17 stiles
Landscape Parkland, woodland, country house
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa
Start/finish SO 957652
Dog friendliness Not good; not allowed in Hanbury Hall's garden (or house), lots of sheep
Parking Piper's Hill car park, on B4091 between Stoke Works and Hanbury (fast road and no sign)
Public toilets None on route
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1 From the bottom of the car park, follow the driveway to Knotts Farm. Go ahead on the left-hand one of two seemingly parallel paths. About 350yds (320m) after the farm reach a gravel track at a fingerpost.
2 Go straight ahead, with a field boundary on your left. Ascending towards the church, reach a stake with two waymarkers.
3 Fork left, soon passing a spinney, then losing height across a meadow. Take care as the stile and steps here spill you straight on to a minor but fast road. Across this, go beside the school. Ahead, when 20yds (18m) before a stile out of the third field, turn right, aiming just to the left of a young, fenced oak. Cross a wobbly stile. In 70yds (64m) cross a footbridge on the left. Two more stiles lead to Pumphouse Lane.
4 Turn right. Take a stile and gate close to the black-and-white Grumbleground Cottage. In 40yds (37m) cross a three-plank footbridge. Ascend slightly, in line with electricity poles. After two fields turn right, alongside a wire fence. Reach a road.
5 Cross the road to the footpath opposite. At a stile go half left, guided by a solitary, fenced conifer. Pass close to Hanbury Hall's entrance, easing away from the perimeter wall to cross a large field to a corner. (Autumn leaves hanging over the pond here are a picture.)
6 Ignore the minor road, turning immediately right. Hug the boundary fence of the coppice. Continue down the right-hand field edge. At a junction turn right at a National Trust sign, into this former deer park. After just 50yds (46m), at a small drainage ditch, edge right, along a slight green hollow. After another 110yds (100m), where it curves right, leave this hollow to keep your line. Aim for a stile about 300yds (274m) away, to the left of a clump of fenced trees, which hides a round pond. Maintain this line going up the incline - Hanbury church is seen on the left - to reach a tarmac driveway.
7 Turn left. When it curves right go straight ahead to walk in an oak avenue. Keep this line for 700yds (640m), to a minor road. Turn right, then left up to the church. In the churchyard walk round the perimeter, down to a kissing gate. Shortly rejoin the outward route at Point 3. Remember to go left, into the woods, at Point 2.
To my mind, the contraceptive pill, the motor car and the television were the three most socially influential inventions of modern times. Further down the list, but a candidate for a top ten position, would come the domestic refrigerator. The commercial exploitation of the refrigeration principle was not realised until 1877, when the world's first refrigerated ship, equipped with a system designed by Frenchman Ferdinand Carré, brought frozen meat to France from Argentina. The now ubiquitous fridge-freezer did not begin mass production until much later, at a General Electric factory in 1939.
Prior to this refrigeration, the only way of keeping things cold was to use ice. It was stored in ice wells or ice houses. When ice was not available, salting was the primary method of preserving meat. Records show that Britain imported ice by ship from Scandinavia right up until 1921, a trade that had begun about 100 years earlier. Before that time it was collected in the winter from any practicable place - ponds, rivers and canals, and even by crushing snow. The ice house at Hanbury Hall is a wonderful specimen. It's a shame that there aren't enough volunteers around to bring it back into use once more.
Built in the mid-18th century, it was sunk 11ft (3.5m) into the ground and topped with a mound of earth. Internally it is 20ft (6m) high and over 15ft (4.6m) across, making it roughly egg-shaped - clever brickwork of which Stephen Ballard would have been proud. The dome has a hatch in it (now covered with perspex, providing a useful skylight) and the entrance is a corridor nearly 28ft (8.5m) long. Melted ice drains through a grid in the brick floor.
To some extent it was possible to manufacture ice. Close to the ice house, two deep pools with sluice gates served as reservoirs and, on frosty nights, water would be released into a third, shallow pool, yielding an ice 'crop' to be cut the next morning. Additionally, after heavy snowfalls, all available hands were put to shovels. The snow was compressed using feet, and then flung down the hatch.
The Orangery at Hanbury Hall is a wide, nine-bay building, with a lot of glass at the front - sufficient to protect oranges and other frost-sensitive plants from all but the harshest of winters. Architecturally, its highlights are the intricate carvings of fruit and foliage. Built in the 1740s, it was on its own until the 1770s extension to the gardens embraced it. Over the past ten years the gardens at Hanbury Hall have been, not restored, but largely recreated in their original design, using detailed documentation and, when necessary, best guesses.
Hanbury Hall is open from late March until late October, on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday only (plus Good Friday). The gardens open at noon and the house at 1:30pm.
The Country Girl, just ¼ mile (400m) north of the start at Sharpway Gate, has lunchtime food, including a daily special. Children are welcome. Dogs are restricted to the beer garden. For visitors to Hanbury Hall and/or gardens, the tea room serves soup of the day, jacket potatoes and afternoon cream teas. The cream teas are home-made but, sadly, the chilled orange juice is not.
Near the start, some interesting agricultural artefacts adorn the front of Knotts Farm, including a buggy, a butter churn and a cider press.