A gentle walk around picturesque Henley-in-Arden, The Mount and the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 180ft (55m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field paths, farm tracks and tow path, 4 stiles
Landscape Rolling countryside
Suggested map OS Explorer 220 Birmingham
Start/finish SP 152658
Dog friendliness Off lead along tow path, otherwise under control
Parking Prince Harry Road car park, Henley-in-Arden
Public toilets Station Road, Henley-in-Arden
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1 After leaving the car park at the rear, walk through the gardens, cross the footbridge and go left into Alne Close. At the end you come to Beaudesert Lane, opposite Beaudesert Church. Go right through the kissing gate to the right of churchyard, and follow the Heart of England Way for a steep but short ascent to the top of the Mount. Continue over the old earthworks of the former castle of the de Montfort family until you reach the corner of the top far field. Go right over the stile and continue along the footpath that runs to the right of the hedge.
2 In about 220yds (201m), cross a stile and go left over another stile. Diagonally cross the next field to a stile, then follow the path to gate leading onto a lane in Kite Green. Turn right, then go left along the lane for about 0.25 miles (400m). Just past Barn View, turn right through a handgate and shortly through a kissing gate onto a footpath, following the left-hand edge of a field. At end of the field go through two kissing gates and proceed in an easterly direction towards Church Farm.
3 After three kissing gates, go through the gate to the right of the farm buildings onto a lane. Turn right and follow the lane, passing by Manor Farm to reach the A4189 Henley-Warwick road. Go left along the road for about 220yds (201m), then cross it.
4 Immediately before the canal bridge, descend onto the tow path of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, via two gates, and take this back towards Henley-in-Arden. Continue past canal bridge No. 49. Leave the canal at bridge No. 50 and go right along lane. In 180yds (165m), this bends sharp left, bringing you to a road near the Pettiford Bridge. Turn right over the bridge.
5 In 50yds (46m), go left through a kissing gate into pastureland. The path arcs right, diagonally over a field. Over a plank footbridge and through a kissing gate in the far corner, you reach the banks of the River Alne. Take the riverside path then, at a hedge gap junction, bear right and shortly take the right-hand footpath and proceed ahead, passing to the right of Blackford Mill Farm buildings via a kissing gate and a handgate. Continue on field paths to the left of Blackford Hill to reach the A4189 road in Henley-in-Arden via a kissing gate. Cross the road going left, then right onto Prince Harry Road which leads back to the car park.
Henley-in-Arden has a superb mile (1.6km) long street which offers a glimpse of the medieval world. It is lined with mostly 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century timber-walled buildings, with roofs at every level, ancient windows and a wide variety of old doors. It has often been described as a museum of English domestic architecture. The church tower dominates the middle of the town and the impressive crest on the timbered walls of the 15th-century Guildhall will catch the eye.
Peter de Montfort was Henley's Lord of the Manor until he fell in battle on Evesham Field in 1265. Following the battle, the town was burnt to the ground, but a new Henley rose from the ashes. The town maintains a Court Leet that has jurisdiction over petty offences and civil affairs. While this has been abolished in most towns, the Henley-in-Arden Court Leet has survived and each year the Burgesses elect a High and Low Bailiff, a Mace Bearer, a Constable, an Ale Taster, two Brook Lookers, a Butter Weigher and two Affearors (assessors). These ceremonial roles were dying out by the early 20th century, but were revived in 1915 by the Lord of the Manor, W J Fieldhouse. His title was later bought by the Pittsburgh millionaire Joseph Hardy, who established a charitable trust which now runs the heritage centre in the town.
Peter de Montfort lived at the castle that used to stand behind Beaudesert Church, and the hill is known locally as The Mount in his memory. The church has a memorial tablet to the Revd Richard Jago, father of the poet Richard Jago.
In medieval days the horse ruled the world of transport and coaching inns became a feature of many towns. Three very old inns remain in Henley - the Three Tuns, the Blue Bell and the White Swan. The White Swan is opposite the Guildhall and was a haunt of local poets, possibly even Shakespeare. It is thought that the 18th-century poet William Shenstone wrote the following verse here:
'Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
Wheree'er his journey may have been
Must sigh to think he still has found
His warmest welcome at an inn.'
This fine walk takes you over the top of The Mount for a fine view over Henley-in-Arden and then descends on country lanes past Preston Bagot Manor House on the way to the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
There are a number of good pubs in Henley-in-Arden. Why not try one of the three superb old coaching inns? The White Swan, a restored 16th-century coaching inn opposite the Guildhall, is a regular stop-off for walkers completing the 100-mile (161km) Heart of England Way that passes through its archway. Well behaved children and dogs are welcome in the bar and the large rear gardens.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was completed in 1816 to link up with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at King's Norton. It became derelict, but was saved by a group of canal enthusiasts and has since become a fine leisure facility for boaters, walkers, anglers, canoeists and artists. Note the cast-iron split bridge on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal - there are not many of these in the country.
Make a short detour to see the Norman All Saints Church in Preston Bagot. Enjoy the fine view from the seat by the church which carries the message 'Rest and be thankful'. On a summer's day the altar cross becomes ablaze with light as the sun sets behind the hills to the west.