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Eathorpe and Wappenbury

A riverside stroll into the countryside.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mainly field footpaths and farm tracks, 7 stiles

Landscape Gentle countryside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 221 Coventry & Warwick

Start/finish SP 392689

Dog friendliness Under control at all times

Parking Near Plough in Eathorpe

Public toilets None on route

1 From the Plough go left down the lane into the village of Eathorpe. Go right along the main street, walking past the village hall and a lovely pair of thatched cottages called Myrtle and Thyme. At the end of the village the road bends left and goes over the River Leam.

2 In 80yds (73m), go right over a stile into pastureland and follow the footpath to the left of the river. After crossing a couple of fields you will come to a fence with a distant view of Princethorpe College with its fine turrets. Aim for the stile in the left corner by a farm gate and follow the waymarker direction (north) until you reach a footbridge over a stream.

3 Don't cross the footbridge but go sharp left towards the two farm gates in the corner of the field. Go through the metal gate to the left (there is a waymarker on the back of the gate post) and continue along the farm track to the left of the hedge. Follow this track over several fields. Cross a further stile and go through a series of farm gates until you come to the road in the village of Wappenbury, to the right of the walls of Wappenbury Hall.

4 Leave Wappenbury by heading left along the village road until you come to the front gates of Wappenbury Hall. Go right here towards the Church of St John the Baptist - to its left you will see a fine thatched cottage called Garden Cottage. Walk along the lane to the right of the church and continue right, by a laurel hedge, passing to the right of a country cottage. Head back into the open countryside on a footpath going over a stone and concrete footbridge and through a series of handgates. After about ½ mile (800m) of easy walking you will come to the road in the village of Hunningham - to the right is the Red Lion pub.

5 At the road, go left and walk up the farm drive towards Hunningham Farm. Continue between the farm buildings and along an unclassified county road, which becomes no more than a good stone farm track. After following this road for about 600yds (549m), you will see that it bends to the right ahead of you. Look out for a stile here, leading on to a footpath going off to the left towards the River Leam once again. Cross the stile and walk along the footpath close to the river bank once again. From the river the footpath veers left over three stiles until you come back to the road on the edge of Eathorpe. Go left along the road, passing the entrance to Eathorpe Hall and its fine lodge to return to the village. Turn right up the lane and back to the Plough.

This is a pleasant stroll through the attractive hidden villages south east of Coventry. The route starts at Eathorpe, going near to the River Leam over pleasant Warwickshire countryside to the historic village of Wappenbury, then crossing the river to Hunningham before returning to Eathorpe. The name is derived from 'ea' relating to water and 'thorpe' which is a common Old Norse suffix that usually denotes a farmstead.

Early records show a variety of names for the village but it is likely that it means 'Wappa's fortified place'. It was certainly once fortified and the great earthworks can still be seen here - they are believed to be the largest in the Midlands. During excavations four kilns dating to about ad 350 have been found and a few items of Roman greyware. We have no reason to doubt that the village thrived into the Middle Ages, but then, like so many others in the area, the plague came, taking the lives of some 200 villagers. Wappenbury has never recovered its original size. The Church of St John the Baptist has a 15th-century tower and two coffin lids are the oldest stones in the village. Gravestones and murals make fascinating reading and the mural tablet inside the church reads:

'A lingering sickness did me seize

And no physician could me ease

I fought for help but all in vain

Until the Lord did ease my pain.'

What to look for

Explore the village of Wappenbury. As well as some idyllic thatched cottages, impressive Wappenbury Hall was once the home of Sir William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar Motors. In the Church of St John the Baptist see the canopied wall monument of a woman sitting sadly in a harvest field - this is in memory of Thomas Urnbers a patron of 19th-century scientific agriculture.

Where to eat and drink

The Plough in Eathorpe is a regular haunt for walking groups. Good food and good ale are the order of the day. At the Red Lion in Hunningham, chicken cranberry and other delicious home-made foods may appeal. Children are allowed in both pubs, but dogs are restricted to the large gardens.

While you're there

Just 4 miles (6.4km) to the north of Eathorpe is the 100-acre (40ha) Ryton Pools Country Park. It's a fine place to spot water birds - look especially for great crested grebes, swans, moorhens and Canada geese on the 10-acre (4ha) Ryton Pool. Pagets Pool attracts dragonflies and there are often 17 species around the lake. Look out for the common blue and emperor dragonfly and the black-tailed skimmer.


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