From a country park into open countryside surrounding Halesowen Abbey and along a feeder canal.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 394ft (120m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Road pavements, field paths and tow path, 13 stiles
Landscape Nature reserve and open countryside around urban area
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 219 Wolverhampton & Dudley
Start/finish SP 975839
Dog friendliness Off lead along tow path, otherwise under control
Parking Leasowes Park car park
Public toilets None on route
1 Leave the car park at the Leasowes Park Centre by walking past the Warden's Base building along a tarmac driveway. At the junction, near a couple of houses, bear right through a gateway and continue along the driveway past a small pool, then between the greens below Halesowen Golf Club clubhouse. The tarmac track arcs to the left near the clubhouse; turn right here into Leasowes Lane and a residential area.
2 At the end of the lane, go right along Manor Lane (B4043). After passing Stennels Avenue, the lane bends sharp right. Go left up a narrow public footpath to the right of No 61. Follow this fenced footpath into Hiplands Road; go right, then right again into Manor Abbey Road. In about 20yds (18m), go left down Longlands Road and continue as it bends right. After passing Lavina and Christopher roads, go left through a public footpath barrier to reach the A456 Halesowen bypass.
3 Go over the busy A456 at the pedestrian crossing, taking care, and proceed down Lapal Lane opposite. After about 275yds (251m), go right over a field stile and into open countryside. Follow the direction of the fingerpost signed to Illey and take the path up along the left edge of a large field. At the top of the field, by the hedge, pause to enjoy the view to the right that embraces the Wychbury, Clent and Clee hills. Now go left over a second stile and bear right to the hedged path heading southwards. Where another path (Lye Close) joins from the left, the path becomes a track and the views continue through gaps to your right. At a junction of paths, continue ahead, then walk through trees to the left of Cooper's Wood. At the end of the wood, go right, through a gate and over a stile, then bear right through a hedge gap to cross pasture. The path arcs right and then left on to a track.
4 Follow this track and in about 25yds (23m) go right over a pair of stiles (if you walk to the end of the track you reach a road and will find the Black Horse pub on the corner opposite). Continue to the right of a field hedge with Bartley Green football pitch on the other side. At the field corner, go left over a stile and walk around the bottom end of the football field, leaving via the football club gate on to the farm drive near Illey Hall Farm. Go left along the farm drive for 20yds (18m), then right over a stile and take the path to the left of the field hedge. Follow this path (part of the Monarch's Way) over several fields and stiles, later crossing to the other side of the hedge where there is a stream to the right. The path arcs right to a footbridge and becomes a farm track leading towards Manor Abbey Farm. Bear right and walk away from the farm, going over a field corner stile and continuing across a large cultivated field towards an area where there are fish ponds in former quarry pits.
5 Cross the stile and go left, then bear right over a footbridge to a pair of stiles that take you back to the side of the A456. As you walk up to the road pause to enjoy a fine retrospective view of the remains of St Mary's Abbey, near Manor Abbey Farm. Go right for 25yds (23m), then over the road at the crossing. Go right again, then left to follow the tarmac footpath at a sign, 'Leasowes Park and Breaches Pool'. This path passes along the back of residential properties and becomes the tow path of the Lapal Canal, with houses up to the right. After about 400yds (366m), a bank of grass crosses the canal. Go over this bank and head along the tow path, now to the right of the canal (there is visible water here), with Leasowes Park to your right. In 150yds (137m) stop to enjoy the fine view over Breaches Pool, then continue up the tow path and return to Leasowes car park.
This is a pleasant walk with some lovely views of the Wychbury, Clent and Clee hills along the way. You can also visit the remains of St Mary's Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1215 by monks of the Premonstratensian Order who were granted the Manor of Hales by King John. In 1538, the abbey surrendered to the Crown. It was demolished and granted to Sir John Dudley by Henry VIII. Near St Mary's Abbey, earth mounds and breached dams mark the place where it is believed there was once a flight of five fish ponds. These were originally built by the monks to breed fish to supplement their diet.
Later we follow the tow path of the Lapal Canal - more formally known as the Dudley Number Two - which is covered with water plants.
A local favourite with walkers is the Black Horse pub in Illey. Try the excellent lasagne or perhaps a steak - the steak sauces are a speciality of the pub. It also offers a great Sunday roast. Alternatively, there is usually a mobile fast-food vehicle at the Leasowes Park Centre where you can get snacks.
Beneath the road, close to where the route leaves Lapal Lane South, is the site of Lapal Tunnel. Over 2 miles (3.2km) in length, it was once the fourth longest canal tunnel in England. Because it had no tow path, boats had to be 'legged' through the tunnel, which could take as long as four hours. The bargees would lie on their backs on the top of their boats, so that their feet could reach the tunnel roof. Then they would walk, upside down, slowly pushing the barge forward as they went.