A walk in the beautiful countryside surrounding the ancient parish of Berkswell.
Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 115ft (35m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Field paths and parkland footpaths, 13 stiles
Landscape Gentle rolling farmland and parkland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 221 Coventry & Warwick
Start/finish SP 244791
Dog friendliness Off lead through Sixteen Acre Wood, otherwise under strict control
Parking Free car park near church in Berkswell
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the car park, near the church in Berkswell, follow the Heart of England Way to Meriden Road. Go left along the road for 300yds (274m), then cross over and go right up a farm lane, passing Blind Hall Farm.
2 At the end of the lane/track cross the stile by the farm gate, bear left and walk along the field edge to its left corner. Go left over a pair of stiles and continue ahead by the hedge. The waymarked footpath weaves in and out of the hedge. After going through a wide hedge gap, walk to the field corner and go left past a small pond until you come to some houses in Four Oaks. Bear left, cross the large cultivated field diagonally and exit on to Meriden Road. Cross the road and continue down the driveway to the right of Wilmot Cottage opposite, going through a gateway on to farmland. The path goes to the right of the hedge, offering a clear view of Home Farm to the left, then crosses a field diagonally. In about 625yds (571m) you will reach the corner of Mercote Hall Lane.
3 Go left along the lane for about ½ mile (800m), passing the Park Farm complex. Walk along the lane past the large enclosed sand and gravel pit.
4 At the end of the pit area go left along a footpath and over footbridges, ascending to the left of a hedge on the approach to Marsh Farm.
5 Just beyond the farm, turn left and follow the farm track towards Sixteen Acre Wood. Cross the stile into the wood and take the track along the wood edge for some 700yds (640m). Continue by the hedge and go through a strip of trees into parkland. Follow the path for some 650yds (594m) and you will enjoy a magnificent view of Berkswell Hall Lake before entering trees and going through a kissing gate to rejoin the Heart of England Way. Cross the track and a stile on to a planked area with Berkswell Hall to your left. Continue through gates back into Berkswell. Just after going through the church gate, bear left to return to the car park.
There are few nicer places to visit in Warwickshire than Berkswell, with its red-roofed, white-timbered cottages, the beautiful church, intriguing five-holed stocks and two historic pubs.
The old Saxon village was mentioned in the Domesday Book and has been variously called Berchewelle, Berkeswelle, Bercleswelle and finally Berkswell. It is believed that the village took its name from the 16ft (4.8m), square well that is situated behind the almshouses. The 12th-century Church of St John the Baptist displays a wonderful two-storeyed, gabled and timbered porch which dates from the 16th century. Inside this lovely building is an old crypt probably dating from Saxon times, some 800-year-old stone seats along the walls, a Russian flag which was brought home from the Crimean War and magnificent choir stalls decorated with poppy heads and the figures of three saints - Wulfstan, Dunstan and Chad.
Although the nearby five-holed stocks were probably originally built with six holes, it is more fun to believe the local legend that they were specially made to accommodate a one- legged man and his two drunken companions.
There are two 16th-century pubs in the village - the Brickmakers Arms and the Bear Inn. The Bear has often been described as 'the perfect example of the old English Inn', and the fine half-timbered building was once part of the Berkswell Estate and carried the coat of arms of the Earls of Warwick. It has links with the Civil War - some of Cromwell's troops were stationed at Berkswell and would have undoubtedly drunk here. A 19th-century Russian cannon, which was captured during the Crimean War in 1855 by Captain Arthur Eardley-Wilmot, the lord of the manor, stands on the front terrace of the inn. It was last fired in 1897 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Apparently several windows in the village were shattered by the noise.
Set in beautiful farmland on the far side of the lake is Berkswell Hall, once the family home of the Eardley-Wilmots. John Eardley-Wilmot went to school with the English writer, biographer and critic Dr Samuel Johnson in the 1720s. The hall has now been converted into private residential apartments.
There are two popular pubs in Berkswell. The Bear Inn, near the junction of the Meriden and Coventry roads, has a large car park and fine gardens. Children are allowed in the pub, but dogs are restricted to the large garden area. The nearby 16th-century Brickmakers Arms is a smaller, cosier pub with a children's area. Dogs are only allowed in the bar.
Take time to visit the beautiful Church of St John the Baptist. Can you spot master woodcarver Robert Thompson's 'signature' (carved mice) in his fine woodwork? There are 17 of them in the church. Look out for two of the churchyard's unusual gravestones. James Owen was beheaded in 1898 in a bizarre sawmill accident and his gravestone is a broken pillar. Carved bread, eggs and bacon appear on the memorial to a villager who died of over-eating.
The Tsarist Russian flag in the Church of St John the Baptist displays a double-headed eagle. It was captured by Captain Eardley-Wilmot of Berkswell Hall at Kertch during the Crimean War in 1855, and now hangs in the room above the south porch.