An easy ramble to see the charming den of 16th-century conspirators.
Distance 5.2 miles (8.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 70ft (21m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Meadows and field paths, tracks and lanes, 14 stiles
Landscape Gentle farmland, picturesque, historic house
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa
Start/finish SO 943543
Dog friendliness Mixed farmland throughout
Parking Grassy area beyond school or on streets, Upton Snodsbury
Public toilets None on route
1 Begin on the primary school road, south of St Kenelm's Church (1874). Go west, past the school then some bungalows. Go diagonally right, down to the A422, beside the French House Inn. Cross over. Turn left, then right after 50yds (46m). In 100yds (91m) go ahead. Walk a long field, scarcely gaining any height. Eventually leave by a narrow metal gate, not a wide wooden one higher up.
2 Now go straight ahead, joining a driveway. When 90yds (82m) beyond Bow Brook's bridge go half-right, crossing the drive to Manor House by stiles in wire fences. Later, at the stile close to Manor House, go well left, crossing three fields diagonally, to a minor road. Turn right for just 55yds (50m). Now follow a right-hand field edge (fingerpost). Just before the corner go through a gap to put it on your other side. At the next corner go through a gate and turn right. At an opening into a big field aim 10yds (9m) left of a two-poled power pylon ahead. In and out of woodland, take the right-hand field edge. At the bend ignore a double stile and three-planked bridge, going 20yds (18m) further to another stile. Go diagonally, to a waymarked stile 40yds (37m) before a metal gate. Emerge beside a black-and-white house and a greenhouse, beside Huddington Court.
3 Turn left, crossing a dam, to a minor road. In 120yds (110m) turn into the Court's driveway. When it swings right, stop to admire the house.
4 Back at the minor road, walk on to Mill Farm. Follow the fingerpost. In a big field aim for a prominent ash at a far woodland corner. Walk with the plantation on your left. At its second corner, turn left. At the end of this field keep within it, turning right. In 120yds (110m) go for 500yds (457m) diagonally towards trees, passing 50yds (46m) left of the first pylon. Through an aperture in the trees, reach a stile within 50yds (46m). Go forward, then veer left, briefly hugging the fence of Bow Wood on your right. Towards the brow ease left, near this edge for 400yds (366m) to a gate. A stone track leads to the A422 and thus Upton Snodsbury village.
Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed in the cellars of Parliament just after midnight on the night of 4-5 November in 1605. Historians cannot agree precisely why he was doing it. Was it a (misguided) attempt to spark the reinstatement of Catholicism, or a means of tarnishing the Jesuit movement by blaming them, thus strengthening the Protestant position? Guy Fawkes was born a Protestant, but converted to Catholicism in his early 20s. Aged 23, he went to the Netherlands to become a mercenary in the Spanish army-in-residence. He apparently believed that, given the right catalyst for change, Catholics in England would overthrow the King.
Thomas Wintour (or Winter) and his brother Robert, who both lived at Huddington Court (below), were two of at least 13 men involved in the conspiracy. Guy Fawkes was not the principal conspirator - just inept enough to get himself caught. It is claimed that he was found by people making a search, having received a 'tip off' in the form of an anonymous letter to a prominent Catholic, Lord Monteagle.
In his reign Henry VIII's Draconian dissolution of the monasteries had stripped them of their vast wealth, and he had established the Church of England, having broken away from the Pope. Later, Queen Elizabeth I introduced outrageous (but lucrative) fines for persons not attending Anglican services, so-called 'recusants'. A form of 'closet Catholicism' continued - almost literally, since harbouring a Catholic priest was punishable by death, and so some of them hid in priest-holes. Europe had also been incensed by Queen Elizabeth's execution of the fleeing Scottish Queen, Mary, a Catholic, in 1587. At the time of the Gunpowder Plot, James I, the Scottish King, had just inherited the English throne after the death of Elizabeth in 1603. Those who had not been killed shortly after the discovery of Guy Fawkes were executed for treason in early 1606. These included Robert Wintour on 30 January and Thomas Wintour and Guy Fawkes on 31 January. In fact, they were hung, drawn and quartered (having probably been tortured first), then sundry body parts were exhibited.
Huddington Court was built in the early 1500s, but greatly altered in 1584. Timber-framed, it has brick chimneyshafts. The surrounding moat, which adds to its attractiveness, was probably dug for an earlier property on the site. The house belonged to the Wintours until 1658. Significantly, inside is a most secure priest-hole. Huddington Court is now privately owned. I wonder what they do on 5 November?
Adjacent to the lawn of Huddington Court is the largely Norman and 14th-century Church of St James. Between his arrest and execution, Robert Wintour admitted that he had told the chaplain, a Jesuit priest, about the Gunpowder Plot.
There's a stores and post office in Huddington. Near the start is the French House Inn; with a beer garden. West a little, at the Peopleton turn, is the (residential) Coventry Arms.